Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)
Senior high school meeting

Internet use in Education for the Handicapped
—Pros and cons of Supporting Home Study—

Mamoru Ito and Katsuhiro Kanamori, KOMEI School for the physically handicapped
Tatsunori Ono and Toshiyoshi Fukamachi, Kinryu School for the Physically Handicapped

1. Introduction

Part of a CEC-initiative project within the 100 School Networking Project (Phase II) involved improving Internet access for handicapped children and students. Since the start of the Networking Project, we have examined this issue, in part through operating the edhand mailing list. Here, we'd like to report on our experience with edhand and outline the pros and cons of our home study support system for physically handicapped students.


2. The edhand mailing list

The mailing list edhand was set up on December 14, 1995, to promote a joint usage program for special education within the 100-School Networking Project. At its inception, the mailing list had fifteen members, including teachers from special schools participating in the 100-School Networking Project and project advisors. edhand objectives and activities were as follows:

Purpose

edhand is meant to provide an opportunity for teachers from eight special schools participating in the 100-School Networking Project to discuss problems and help each other with Internet usage. The teachers exchange information and ideas to help students realize their goals.

Activities

1. An open symposium, "Education for handicapped students, and network use."

Theme 1: Ideal accessibility (seeking a network user-friendly for handicapped students)
Theme 2: Communication and privacy (distributing information while protecting privacy)
Theme 3: Networking systems within the school and within the curriculum (the process of setting up a school networking system)
Theme 4: Distribution of information by students (encouraging student independence)
Theme 5: Free talking (what we expect from networks, etc.)

2. Joint projects: Maintain projects that encourage student participation. Encourage students to suggest their own project ideas.

After numerous ups and downs, the mailing list membership as of February, 1998, had grown to about a hundred, including people unrelated to the 100-School Networking Project. The membership came to include teachers of elementary, junior high, and senior high schools, school board supervisors, researchers in the fields of handicapped education and rehabilitation science, system engineers, technical volunteers, and workers from various local community organizations.

Members conducted an active exchange of ideas and views on various matters concerning the Internet and handicapped students, such as the best way to provide Internet access for handicapped students, technical information on Internet use, techniques, special education, activity reports, appropriate training for teachers, reports and information on training and seminars, and reports on handicapped education abroad. The mailing list served as a mutual support system for Internet use among people involved in special education.



3. Supporting home study for physically handicapped students

(1) Planning a project for home study with Challenge Kids at Kinryu School for the Physically Handicapped

<Student M's case>

An eleventh-grade student, whom we will refer to as M., underwent a tracheotomy in May. Physically unable to return to school even after being released from the hospital, M. obtained an Internet ID from the Saga Prefectural Education Center. He now has access to the Internet, using a Macintosh PowerBook and a special input device. Over the past year, teachers visited him twice weekly, providing instruction in five basic subjects on Tuesdays, and in computer communications on Fridays. A review of his computer activities over FY 1997 follows.

To become familiar with the computer, he first started with word processing. But this procedure taxed his interest, due to the time required for data input (with scanning) and the physical exertion of the aspirations he required once every twenty minutes. (unit: letter entry)

He showed little interest in home pages recommended in computer magazines, but expressed interest in art work and self-introductions done by students from other special schools, as published in their home pages. (unit: viewing home pages)

Teachers sent him e-mail, which they would open and read to him during visits. He appeared to enjoy this at first, but expressed sufficient interest to respond only to e-mail sent by classmates. However, his initial interest in corresponding with friends, if not teachers, also waned, due to the help required from teachers in order to use the e-mail system. (unit: using e-mail)

<Participating in Challenge Kids>

In the case of M., we continued to try out various methods of computer communications. But M. remained essentially unable to initiate communications by computer. At this point, we gave him free access for about a week to the Challenge Kids (operated by Special School for the Mentally Handicapped, Affiliated Faculty of Education, Shiga University). We also played a videotape of the TV program "Media and education," televised on October 3, 1997, and introduced the activities of the Challenge Kids. We also gave him the "Challenge Kids Digest '96" to read. He appeared to understand the idea of the Challenge Kids, and began to access it frequently on his own. According to his mother, on one occasion when he experienced trouble accessing Challenge Kids, he spent two hours attempting to resolve the problem on his own. Asked by a teacher if he would like to introduce himself to Challenge Kids members, he had written an introduction about himself to send by e-mail by the teacher's next visit.

A nice thing about Challenge Kids is how quickly one gets responses. Student M. was delighted to get so many responses to his first attempt at e-mail.

(2) Using CU-SeeMe at KOMEI School for the physically handicapped

After upgrading its access line from a 28.8 k analog line to a 64k digital line, KOMEI School for the physically handicapped undertook an experiment to support student home study using the CU-SeeMe video conferencing system. One teacher participating in the experiment reported enthusiastic student response.
Equipment used;

School side: Apple Macintosh LC630/Enhanced CU-SeeMe•Color Qcam/64 k digital leased line

Student's home: PowerBook 5300 cs/Enhanced CU-SeeMe•Color Qcam/Pardio 312S 32K Pardio data card DC-1S


4. Conclusion: Difficulties and current status in regard to home study support for physically handicapped students

Trial attempts to conduct education for the physically handicapped students through home visits have been undertaken throughout Japan, with the most practical solution so far involving a notebook-type of personal computer, PHS, and the Internet. The Komei School experiment made use of a teacher's personal PHS—very few schools can afford to purchase PHSs with school money. Widespread implementation of such a project will require additional funds for this equipment.

But even more important that equipment in home study support is providing students adequate communication with others. If we can keep this in mind, we can achieve significant results with minimal equipment. The Komei School experiment suggests just that.


CEC HomePageConference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)