From Beliefs to Practice: Students with Visual Impairments, Teachers and Their Perspectives on Assistive Technology

Project Number
OER 16/08 WME

Project Duration
April 2009 - February 2012

Status
Completed

Abstract
The proposed study is ground-breaking�it is the first study in Singapore that addresses a gap in the research on use of technology by students with visual impairments and the pedagogies, practices, and beliefs of their teachers. The proposed study is tightly aligned with and complements OER's goals, directions, and priorities and contributes to the vision of NIE as an ''institution of distinction.'' The project's purposes are most relevant to OER's priority to ''support the development of levelling up strategies to expand learning opportunities for low achieving students.'' The research study is aligned with the Ministry of Education's 2015 Committee emphasis on developing 21st century skills in order to ''produce a confident person, a self-directed learning, a concerned citizen and an active contributor'' (Ng Eng Hen, MOE Work Plan Seminar, 2008). While technology holds great promise to facilitate and improve educational attainments, careers, and community integration, little is known about the barriers and challenges to using specialized technologies in Singapore. This research study will provide baseline information about the use of essential specialized technologies by students with visual impairments and their teachers and will lead to additional research studies that focus on longitudinal uses of specialized technologies, innovative curricula and training approaches, and greater awareness of the use of specialized and assistive technologies by individuals with visual impairments. Visual impairment is a general term describing both partial sight as well as blindness, spanning a spectrum of varying degrees of low vision, to light perception, to total blindness. How visual impairments impact individuals in their daily lives differs even though the individuals have similar levels of visual loss. What may be presented as a formidable obstacle for one individual may be less overwhelming for another. The ways in which individuals adapt to vision loss are influenced by the availability of family support and the degree of intellectual, emotional, physical, and motor functioning and access to technology. In Singapore, education for primary-age children with visual impairments is offered at the Lighthouse School (formerly known as the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped). For secondary education, children have the option to enter one of four mainstream schools and are supported by resource teachers. As children with visual impairments are integrated into mainstream schools, and thereafter join society, they will enter an increasingly mainstream technologically intensive society. However, for the most part, Singapore's students with visual impairments do not participate in this technological society. Assistive technologies for persons with visual impairments include optical scanners; closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs); optical magnifiers; note-taking devices; and technologies that produce large print, Braille, or speech. These enable individuals who are visually impaired to write and edit papers, conduct research, gain access to information, and develop job skills (Abner & Lahm, 2002). Yet, access to and use of these technologies is very limited in Singapore. National initiatives are already in place to embrace the technological future for Singapore's mainstream students. Yet, no research has investigated the challenges and barriers to using assistive technologies by Singapore's students who have visual impairments.

Research Themes
Children at Risk (Disability/Disorder)

Funding Source
NIE

Related Links
SingTeach Issue 41 (Mar /Apr 2013): Working for Students with Special Needs
SingTeach Issue 55 (Dec 2015): Learning with Assistive Technology
NIE Research Brief Series 12-005: Assistive Technology use amongst Students with Visual Impairments and Their Teachers

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