Enhancing the Learning of Special Educational Needs children with Dynamic Content Annotations
Authors: Zainb Dawod, David Bell
Abstract: Communication is difficult for students who have little or no clear speech. Consequently, a range of communication systems, including symbols, pictures, or gestures, is used as an alternative to speech. Semantic web technology has had an impact in the educational field and offers the potential for greater engagement with a rich web of content. Students’ behaviour and learning engagement are among the significant problems in managing any group with special needs. Pupils with learning difficulties tend to be more off-task in class, are required to receive more teacher attention, off-task behaviour, ask fewer educational questions with shorter response times, and give less feedback than other pupils. Communication systems have been used since the 1970s to support face-to-face communication with children who have little or no speech ability. From the literature, teaching using communication symbols requires an adequate number of trained staff and an understanding of the complexity of young peoples’ disabilities and behaviour. Teachers often feel overwhelmed in preparing class resources, where more than one resource may be needed to explain each thought (O’Brien, 2019). A new evolution of the web is called the “Semantic Web.” The Semantic Web is an extension of the current traditional World Wide Web - adding semantic descriptions and ontologies. One benefit is that such characterization and modelling help provide additional meaning to the web content; making content machine-understandable (Berners-Lee et al, 2001). Although the Semantic web is applied in different fields including education, there is limited research in the field of mainstream education, particularly for those with special needs. This research was conducted to show the impact of applying semantic annotation techniques in improving the engagement, concentration, and behaviour of children with special needs. This study follows a Design Science Research Methodology (DSRM), a research process to discover practical solutions by evaluating the results in a set of iterations to design a SENTP model. The findings present a novel approach to teaching children with various needs by introducing educational prototypes using different semantic annotation content in an educational website. We investigated the impact of the annotation content using the symbol communication systems (Makaton, Widgit, and PECS), pictures, or audios, which are part of the current methods for teaching in UK schools. We selected an appropriate annotation editor to test the SENTP prototype for testing in the study after exploring different techniques. We collected the data from seven schools in the UK: two nursery schools; two special need high schools; one primary state school; and one preschool for children with language and communication difficulties. A total of 23 educators approved to participate in this study. The data are recorded, transcribed, and thematically analysed using NVivo 11. The findings from the in-school experiment indicated that annotated content using semantic annotations could have a significant impact on making the learning process more effective with better class management for students with special needs, including pupils with autistic spectrum disorders.
Keywords: innovative semantic annotations, design science research, symbol-based communication, special educational needs, Effective learning, inclusion
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