UTech software to boost learning at school for deaf

Thursday, March 13, 2014    

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THE University of Technology recently presented a copy of its recently developed e-learning software — U-Touch — to the Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf at a ceremony held on the grounds of the school in St Andrew.

The multimedia software uses Jamaican Sign Language and Standard English to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students two basic components of grammar — prepositions and conjunctions, which are not currently used as part of their Jamaican Sign Language. The software was developed with the involvement of students and administrators at Lister Mair Gilby and other members of the deaf community, including the Jamaica Association for the Deaf.

UTech said the groundbreaking U-Touch software was developed by Associate Professor Paul Golding, dean, College of Business and Management, along with his team of researchers who included other members of faculty and students. Students and administrators at Lister Mair Gilby and other members of the deaf community, including the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, also played a role in the development of the software.

Dr Golding told the launch that he was motivated to develop the computer programme following a visit with colleagues, in 2009, to the Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf for a special event. His rapport, with students and administrators of the institution, he said, unearthed the finding that one of the major problems was the students' lack of understanding of prepositions and conjunctions. This made it very difficult, he said, for them to pass CSEC English which is important for matriculation into further studies.

He noted also that despite years of research and an attempt to incorporate English in the teaching methodology, deaf people do not understand the English Language as well as their hearing counterparts as deaf students are generally at least three years behind their hearing counterparts in academic progress, he said.

Dr Golding explained that the software should assist deaf and hearing-impaired students to understand prepositions, which in turn would enhance their reading and comprehension skills. He noted that in this regard the software is far-reaching as it goes beyond Jamaica.

Chair of the Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf, Carole Fox, in expressing gratitude to UTech, said the software would make a difference in the lives of the students at the institution.

"We are grateful for the interest in our school and the community at large, and applaud the team at UTech; we are hopeful that this is only the start of greater things to come in the field of deaf education from UTech, she said, adding that the deaf "share the same dreams, goals and aspirations as the hearing community".

President of UTech Prof Errol Morrison told the gathering that he was happy to see the nexus at work between the university and the Lister Mair Gilby School. He assured the gathering that the collaboration was not a "one-off effort", but part of UTech's ongoing thrust to "offer solutions to challenges of national importance".

Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, who delivered the keynote address at the launch ceremony, commended UTech for the groundbreaking research. "This is a sign that you are fulfilling your mandate to use knowledge of science and technology to innovate useful products that can improve the quality of life for the Jamaican population," the minister said.

The minister noted that the software had the potential to be used to instruct another 35,000 students who are slow learners under the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme. "That linkage will draw many others into the field of achievement. The Ministry of Education is anxious to facilitate the widespread training of Special Education and other teachers in the use of this methodology," he said. .

Based on the country's population census, there are 12,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people another 63,000 mild hard-of hearing persons. The software has the potential to assist all 75,000 to learn prepositions.





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