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Picture Books Come
to Life for Blind/VI Kids

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Special Projects
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ED/OSEP-funded Television Access Project

Game-based Vocational Digital Literacy

Development and Assessment for Persons with Disabilities A Collaborative Research and Development Project

American Institutes for Research
Access Technologies Group
Bridge Multimedia
Chimes, Inc.
New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program


Students with intellectual disabilities (ID) and students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face many challenges in transitioning from school to work. Tag It! is an online simulated workplace in which students can safely learn technology skills necessary for most entry-level jobs, along with traditional work related skills. Tag It! is part of a larger conceptual process for assessing and developing vocationally related technology skills and other workplace skills such as social interaction skills. Tag It! is the second stage of an overarching plan that involves three stages of vocational digital literacy training and assessment for students with ID and ASD. See Section B for an overview of the three stages.

Tag It! is a comprehensive game-based vocational training experience. Using graphic representations (i.e., "virtual" or "simulated") of real –world job sites, such as a supermarket, students navigate the environment through zoom-ins, close-ups, and 3D touch screen technology.

A handheld controller, built on the popular open source Android platform, communicates with the "virtual" environment represented on the touch screen. Androids are full-function mobile devices that contain full bar code scanning capabilities which can be applied to multiple simulations. Through interactions with these devices, students train for real-world jobs, within a simulation that closely models actual experience.

The best way to explain Tag It! is through a prototyped example. In this example, the student is placed on a realistic simulated job site, a supermarket. The studentŐs assigned task is to inventory boxes of Grape Nuts. To begin, the student "virtually" navigates the store aisles and locates the cereal section.

Illustration 1: The student "virtually" navigates the store aisles and locates the cereal section.

Illustration 2: The student locates the Grape Nuts, and touches the product image. Note that the bar code is not exposed on the face of the product. She/he will need to turn the box to find the bar code.

Illustration 3: The student presses the touch screen to simulate turning the cereal box. This innovative use of touch screens in our job simulations provides users with a tactile interactions, which are much closer to real-world experience than the thumb/keypad manipulations standard on game controllers.

Illustration 4: Once the correct product panel is visible, the student clicks on the handheld Android scanner. The device scans the bar code and signals that the product data has been accepted.

Illustration 5: If the scanner is unable to fully recognize the bar code due to smudges, scratches, rips, etc., the bar code image appears on the screen of the mobile scanner, and the user manually inputs the bar codeŐs alphanumeric information.

Illustration 6: Finally, if the scanner is still unable to fully recognize the bar code, the user can use the hand-held device to conduct an image search and then can visually match up the image with the product.

By the end of the project development, Tag-It! will be a game-based multi-level simulation experience. As the student progresses through the levels, the game will also incorporate work-related communication and skills training as well as simulations of other common tasks.

The skills to being assessed and developed by Tag It! are critical, because workplaces have become more technology-driven. Workers at all levels are expected to enter jobs with the basic levels of technology literacy needed to navigate the environment and to use increasingly ubiquitous computer-based machines, equipment, and devices. Vocationally-focused digital literacy (also called "technology literacy") training for individuals with ID and those with ASD is a growing area of need. However, there has been little research or scientific evaluation conducted. What we do know is that, in fields commonly entered by people with ID and people with ASD, workers are expected to demonstrate basic computer and technology skills.

Clearly, games and simulations are growing in their legitimacy as dynamic, interactive mediated environments where students can experiment with, manipulate, and explore digital representations of concepts, constructs, and phenomena. Two burgeoning areas are design of these environments to cultivate learning, and research into the cognitive, affective and behavioral outcomes of interaction and engagement by learners.

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