LEMA AS A DIGITAL OBJECT MANIPULATION LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
GEOMETRIX, a strand line of CIDMA (Center for research and Development in Mathematics and Applications), is a research and development line, interdisciplinary-oriented, targeted at assorted target groups (running from primary to higher education level), committed to the study, use and creation of intelligent digital environments to promote knowledge and skills in mathematics, reflecting a transformation in the way they are grasped and applied. Under this scope it was developed the prototype LEMA, a digital Learning Environment on Mathematics for Autistic children. This prototype has been already evaluated with end-users and based in the analysis of the collected data the respective readjustments were made.
Training Sessions with special teachers highlighted the need to add new technologies to LEMA. In fact, besides the core difficulties associated with children with autism spectrum disorders (communication and social interaction, and, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities), taken into account in LEMA prototype, the sensory tolerance and motor ability levels are other important factors that had been neglected.
For those who have poor motor coordination, the traditional mouse and the keyboard setup act as another barrier that they have to overcome. As referred in the literature, the tabletop technology gives an answer to this issue bringing real advantages because is allows a personalized unmediated control over the objects to interact with.
Following this line of thought it would be of great educational value the incorporation of a tabletop technology in LEMA. Among several major tabletop hardware we have opted by the use of Kinects with a multi-touch tabletop system which can detect all the movements of the user, making the human body as a remote control to assist the human computer interaction allowing the manipulation of simple objects connected with the scope of the embodied learning activities.
Here we will explain the several phases to the integration of this new technology in LEMA, giving special emphasis to the pedagogical framework underlying the adaptations of the incorporated math activities, which, as we will see, strongly follow the Cain and Seeman principles: repetitive exercises; personalized flow of learning activities; combination of visual, auditory, and kinesiology stimuli and step-wise activities with frequent feedback and reinforcement. We have also planned regular session with end-users and training session with their teachers.