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Abstract

Education of deaf children in the developing world is very dire and there is a dearth of sign language interpreters to assist them with translation for sign language-dependent students in the classrooms. Illiteracy within the deaf population is rampant. Over the past several years, a unique team of Moroccan and American deaf and hearing researchers have united to enhance the literacy of deaf students by creating tools that incorporate Moroccan Sign Language (MSL) and American Sign Language (ASL) under funding grants from USAID and the National Science Foundation (NSF). MSL is a gestural language distinct from both the spoken languages and written language of Morocco and has no text representation. Accordingly, translation is quite challenging and requires representation of MSL in graphics and video.

Many deaf and hard of hearing people do not have good facility with their native spoken language because they have no physiological access to it. Because oral languages depend, to a great extent, upon phonology, reading achievement of deaf children usually falls far short of that of hearing children of comparable abilities. And, by extension, reading instructional techniques that rely on phonological awareness, letter/sound relationships, and decoding, all skills proven essential for reading achievement, have no sensory relevance. Even in the USA, where statistics are available and education of the deaf is well advanced, on average, deaf high school graduates have a fourth grade reading level; only 7–10% of deaf students read beyond a seventh to eighth grade reading level; and approximately 20% of deaf students leave school with a second grade or below reading level (Gallaudet University's national achievement testing programs (1974, 1983, 1990, and 1996); Durnford, 2001; Braden, 1992; King & Quigley, 1985; Luckner, Sebald, Cooney, Young III, & Muir, 2006; Strong, & Prinz, 1997).

Because of spoken language inaccessibility, many deaf people rely on a sign language. Sign language is a visual/gestural language that is distinct from spoken Moroccan Arabic and Modern Standard/written Arabic and has no text representation. It can only be depicted via graphics, video, and animation.

In this presentation, we present an innovative technology Clip and Create, a tool for automatic creation of sign language supported instructional material. The technology has two tools– Custom Publishing and Instructional Activities Templates, and the following capabilities:

(1)Automatically constructs customizable publishing formats;

(2)Allows users to import Sign Language clip art and other graphics;

(3)Allows users to draw free-hand orusere-sizable shapes;

(4)Allows users to incorporate text, numbers, and scientific symbols in various sizes, fonts, and colors;

(5)Saves and prints published products;

(6)Focuses on core vocabulary, idioms, and STEM content;

(7)Incorporates interpretation of STEM symbols into ASL/MSL;

(8)Generates customizable and printable Instructional Activities that reinforce vocabulary and concepts found in instructional content using Templates:

a. Sign language BINGO cards,

b. Crossword puzzles,

c. Finger spelling/spelling scrambles,

d. Word searches (in finger spelling and text),

e. Flashcards (with sign, text, and concept graphic options), and

f. Matching games (i.e., Standard Arabic-to-MSL and English-to-ASL).

(cf. Figure 1: Screenshots from Clip and Create)

The ability of this tool to efficiently create bilingual (i.e., MSL and written Arabic and ASL and English) educational materials will have a profound positive impact on the quantity and quality of sign-supported curricular materials teachers and parents are able to create for young deaf students. And, as a consequence, deaf children will show improved vocabulary recognition, reading fluency, and comprehension.

A unique aspect of this software is that written Arabic is used by many Arab countries even though the spoken language varies. Though there are variations in signs as well, there is enough consistency to make this product useful in other Arab-speaking nations as is. Any signing differences can easily be adjusted by swapping sign graphic images.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2016.ICTPP3257
2016-03-21
2020-11-28
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