Campus News

$1.2 million grant will be used to develop iSkills application

UGA education researchers have received a $1.2 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences. They will use it to develop an application for hand-held communication devices to provide individuals with autism and developmental disabilities a self-prompting tool that they can use in their homes and communities to assist with daily living tasks.

Based on the premise that people tend to use technology that is easy to access, familiar and helpful in their lives, iSkills will synthesize the existing research literature on video-based ­modeling and prompting in order to establish a user-friendly protocol providing individuals with access to curriculum materials to support post-school transition, said Kevin Ayres, principal investigator of the project and an associate professor in the College of Education’s department of communication sciences and special education.

“It might be thought of as a handheld video cookbook for everyday tasks,” said Ayres. “In addition, because the handhelds are ‘geographically aware,’ the application will be able to help prioritize videos that are most likely to be used in a given location. All videos will be downloadable from an online repository.”

iSkills will be designed to assist with direct instruction, and more importantly, self-instruction in such areas as independent living, employment, leisure safety, community involvement and community navigation. This application will allow individuals to have greater freedom to pursue their own educational interests and independently seek assistance with those skills or situations that are important to them, said Lloyd Rieber, co-principal investigator and a professor in the department of educational psychology and instructional technology.

The end result of iSkills will include a system that provides users access to a searchable database of video formatted for computer access as well as iPod; protocols for using video in direct instruction; protocols for using videos as self-instructional tools; protocols and videos for teaching and learning how to use iSkills as a self-instructional tool; and a podcast feed through iTunes.

The three-year cross-disciplinary, collaborative process will involve UGA faculty members specializing in fields from special education to speech pathology to educational/instructional technology and artificial intelligence.

iSkills will be prototyped, evaluated, refined, deployed and then field-tested in its final form. Individuals with disabilities, service providers, teachers and parents will be involved at each step of the process to ensure quality, usability and that iSkills is effective at teaching useful and meaningful skills.

A team of academics, educators, parents and students will work together to develop the iSkills system. Students with intellectual disabilities and autism in rural and urban schools in Georgia and Tennessee will be involved in testing aspects of iSkills. These evaluations will involve formative assessment in terms of usability testing as well as single-subject experiments that will serve to evaluate how iSkills influences learning.