Signing Earth Science: Accommodations for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Whose First Language Is Sign

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:45 AM
Judy Vesel, TERC, Cambridge, MA, United States and Jason Hurdich, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, United States
TERC and Vcom3D used the SigningAvatar® accessibility software to research and develop a Signing Earth Science Dictionary (SESD) of approximately 750 standards-based Earth science terms for high school students who are deaf and hard of hearing and whose first language is sign. The partners also evaluated the extent to which use of the SESD furthers understanding of Earth science content, command of the language of Earth science, and the ability to study Earth science independently. Disseminated as a Web-based version and App, the SESD is intended to serve the ~36,000 grade 9-12 students who are deaf or hard of hearing and whose first language is sign, the majority of whom leave high school reading at the fifth grade or below. It is also intended for teachers and interpreters who interact with members of this population and professionals working with Earth science education programs during field trips, internships etc.

The signed SESD terms have been incorporated into a Mobile Communication App (MCA). This App for Androids is intended to facilitate communication between English speakers and persons who communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed English. It can translate words, phrases, or whole sentences from written or spoken English to animated signing. It can also fingerspell proper names and other words for which there are no signs.

For our presentation, we will demonstrate the interactive features of the SigningAvatar® accessibility software that support the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and have been incorporated into the SESD and MCA. Results from national field-tests will provide insight into the SESD’s and MCA’s potential applicability beyond grade 12 as accommodations that can be used for accessing the vocabulary deaf and hard of hearing students need for study of the geosciences and for facilitating communication about content.

This work was funded in part by grants from NSF and the U.S. Department of Education.