ERCIM News No.44 - January 2001 [contents]

Signware - A Learning Platform in Biology for Pupils with Hearing Difficulties

by Kathrin Bolits

The project Signware is developed in conjunction with a diploma thesis at GMD and the University of Cologne to implement concepts and realisation of a learning platform. Signware is aimed to form a part of the regular curriculum, at secondary high school level for pupils with hearing difficulties. The content subject of the learning tool is biology with the main theme focusing on ‘blood’ in general.

Signware in a nut shell is an interactive software tool which enables pupils with hearing difficulties to learn about ‘blood’ at large. The main element of Signware is the visualization of the German Sign Language (DGS), coupled with computer animations to motivate the user. It is well known that interactivity greatly enhances the level of reception. To cater for the special requirements of the users and their limited abilities through audio perceptions, the visualization as well as cognitive, motoric and social-emotional aspects are the constituting the essential parts of Signware.

To understand the communication problems of individual with hearing difficulties, it is essential to know that they have to keep their attention on three aspects during a discussion:

Listeners with adequate hearing receptions only require to concentrate on language processes, whereas people with hearing difficulties need much more effort to follow and to participate in a communication. Hence for the latter group a higher degree of concentration is required when comprehending some discussions.

When teaching pupils with hearing difficulties, it is generally recommended to provide some additional information such as visual representations to enhance comprehension.

The programme is designed in such a way that the learning modules are based on some logical didactically structured units. The latter are divided through a number of single visual sites which are created through the integration of data formats such as graphics, videos and animations. Moreover the visual sequences are coupled with spelled words of the German Sign Language which may be activated through interaction.

The content is prepared using didactical principles of reduction and reproduction. Guiding through the programme is catered for using a cartoon character in the form of a blood drop, which leads the user through different sections of the tool. In this way, the concentration and hence the comprehension of the learner in question increases dramatically.

Practical Example
To test the efficiency of Signware, some practical examples are also available in the programme. One such example is simply say to describe the word ‘blood’ to the user. By clicking on a respective button identified by the word, one may not only receive information about ‘blood’ in general but also observe the German Sign Language spelling of the word.

When clicking on a drawn pencil it is possible to receive further information in the forms of graphic and text on the subject extending the pupil’s knowledge and capabilities. In addition it is possible to define words’ meanings in appropriate situations. For instance in the case of ‘blood’, an animated sequence defines how blood could drop from a finger tip, when it is cut.

Further Developments
The present version of Signware comprises of three completed learning modules, namely: ‘Introduction to the Programme’, ‘Blood Channels’ and some extracts on ‘Blood Functionalities’. Further development in the part of multimedia representation of the tool is underway. This include visitation of more scientific signs like ‘erythrocyte’ and ‘carbon dioxide’ to facilitate using the German Sign Language.

Please contact:
Kathrin Bolits - GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 2132