Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Educational Games for Sign Language Learning-A SignWriting Learning Game: Case Study

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Using Educational Games for Sign Language Learning-A SignWriting Learning Game: Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

As for any other group, education is critical to expanding the life prospects of people with hearing disabilities since it helps them to gain knowledge they need to succeed in today's communities and the world of information and communication. Unfortunately, despite serious efforts to date, many deaf students continue to experience difficulties in achieving normative standards of literacy. The most recent available data provided by the World Federation of Deaf indicate that the enrollment rate and literacy achievement of deaf children is far below the average for the population at large and that there is at least 80 % of the world's 70 million deaf people are illiterate or semi-literate.

How literacy is taught, utilized, and potentially mastered is, in fact, one of the most discussed, researched, and highly contentious topics in the field of deaf education and deaf studies (Harris & Marschark, 2011). Among the most notable results which have been drawn by different researchers in this field is that high levels of illiteracy and low academic achievements among these hearing impaired students are associated to the discrepancy between their incomplete spoken language system, and the demands of writing and reading through a speech-based system (Geers & Hayes, 2011; Nussbaum et al., 2012; Zamfirov & Saeva, 2013). It is important to know that reading and writing require two related capabilities; firstly you must be familiar with a language and secondly, you must understand the mapping between that language and the printed word (Chamberlain & Mayberry, 2000). Deaf and Hard of Hearing learners (DHH) are disadvantaged on both counts. For example, learning to read requires DHH learners to learn the mapping between the spoken language and the printed words, and this is not easy for them because they do not have access to phonological code and many do not know the language well since it is often considered as a second language for them (Goldin-Meadow & Mayberry, 2001).

Actually, providing these learners with a suitable writing form in their first language could be a help to them. It has been demonstrated that an appropriate sign language written form can offer deaf learners the possibility to process written linguistic information provided in a syntactic structure that reflects the structure of the corresponding sign language. Moreover, such written form can be very useful to improve the ability of these signers to comprehend and acquire the written versions of oral languages (Vendrame et al., 2013; Guimaraes et al., 2014). At present, SignWriting (SW) is already one of the best known writing systems which are currently being used as an educational tool in several pilot projects around the world. This system deemed adequate to transcribe the visual nature of signing through highly iconic symbols and its practical usage in literacy education has had a great impact on the education of deaf children (Kato, 2008). Nonetheless, it's fair to say that a training to learn to interpret such static transcriptions is needed for novice readers, who are accustomed to the use of their preferred language in a visual-gestural modality.

Fortunately, the emergence of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has brought new hopes and opportunities for these learners. The rapid evolution of a vast range of newer digital technologies has made the role of such assistive technologies, in educating deaf children, even more crucial than ever before. For instance, the adoption of visual forms of ICTs (e.g., immersive multimedia, 3D animation, virtual reality and video conferencing) within educational settings can facilitate the acquisition and absorption of knowledge, increase learner motivation and engagement, and enhance teacher training (Hameed, 2007; Haddad & Jurich, 2002; Passey et al., 2004).

Another promising and interesting alternative to reinforce learning experience, today, is the use of educational games. …

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