Earth science web site: A new tool for deaf students (and others)

October 28, 2002

BOULDER--An online library of Earth-system science resources could help upgrade science education for deaf students and keep them interested, says a researcher involved with the project. The Digital Library for Earth System Education (www.dlese.org) fits the unique educational needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students because of its visual, conceptual, and interactive nature. Jennifer Mangan, a postdoctoral researcher at DLESE, will present her findings Wednesday, October 30, in a poster, "Digital libraries as a visual tool for enhancing the science education experiences of deaf and hard-of-hearing learners," at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Denver.

The use of the library last spring by a small group of hearing- impaired middle schoolers suggests that its Web resources may help level the learning field for deaf students and enable them to keep pace with others. The students' experience with the library provided an opportunity for a rare observation of how deaf students use the Web.

DLESE, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), describes itself as "a community-centered resource for anyone interested in learning more about the Earth." Researchers, educators, and students have contributed over 3,000 sites to the library, which users can search by topic, grade level, resource type, and other criteria.

"If you search on the Internet for 'tornadoes'," says Mangan, "you get 330,000 results that are all over the map in credibility and usefulness. If you search within DLESE, you get 17 reliable sites."

To enhance that reliability, the Lamont Earth Observatory of Columbia University is developing a peer-review system for the library's resources. Because DLESE is a community effort, other library-related services and collection development efforts are actively under way in dozens of universities, schools, and informal science education venues. The DLESE Program Center, housed at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, develops tools to support the library's infrastructure.

Last May five girls and one boy, all hearing-impaired seventh or eighth graders from Monarch Middle School in Louisville, Colorado, spent several hours at the DLESE Program Center in Boulder researching science topics via the online library. During their visit they were highly engaged. Later, at their school, they used the library voluntarily to do further research on their topics, according to Mangan, who monitored the students' visit and worked with them in the classroom. She also observed that they chose to print images more often than text.

Low academic achievement by deaf and hard of hearing K-12 students is well known to educators, says Mangan. Only a third of teachers responsible for science instruction are certified to teach science, a situation that compounds the problem for deaf students and others with disabilities. DLESE aims to give both students and teachers access to reliable, up-to-date information. For deaf students, it's an added boon that they do not need to continually refocus their attention from their lesson to their teacher or interpreter and back again, says Mangan. Without the lag time needed for interpretation, they may keep the same pace as hearing students.

"Not much research has been done on the science education of deaf students," says Mangan, whose own hearing is impaired by a hereditary condition that began when she was a senior in college. A recent study by NSF showed that students with disabilities are more likely to drop out of high school. If they do make it to college, they are just as likely as students without disabilities to major in math or science.

Deaf students fare better when instruction is interactive and participatory. For example, says Mangan, they get involved when they conduct their own research, either on the Web or elsewhere, rather than "listening" to lectures through an interpreter. It's also known that deaf students tend to learn best using visuals.

Mangan earned a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Colorado and conducts research on drought at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in addition to working at the DLESE Program Center. Losing much of her hearing during college convinced her to broaden her career as a research scientist to include science education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

"DLESE is one way I can help students with disabilities acquire the same level of science education that others take for granted," says Mangan.
-end-
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is a consortium of 66 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research through NSF sponsorship.

National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Related Deaf Articles from Brightsurf:

SoundWatch: New smartwatch app alerts d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing users to birdsong, sirens and other desired sounds
University of Washington researchers have developed SoundWatch, a smartwatch app for deaf, Deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to be aware of nearby sounds.

New education 'hubs' for Deaf children needed to replace social spaces lost when specialist schools close
New dedicated hubs for Deaf children are needed around the country to provide new social spaces, education and support, an expert has said.

RIT/NTID researchers study how deaf and hearing people watch sign language
A recent study has shown that readers' eye gaze behaviors are strong indicators of words that are unexpected, new, or difficult to understand.

Deaf moths evolved noise-cancelling scales to evade prey
Some species of deaf moths can absorb as much as 85 per cent of the incoming sound energy from predatory bats -- who use echolocation to detect them.

Deaf infants' gaze behavior more advanced than that of hearing infants
Deaf infants who have been exposed to American Sign Language are better at following an adult's gaze than their hearing peers, supporting the idea that social-cognitive development is sensitive to different kinds of life experiences.

Deaf infants more attuned to parent's visual cues
A University of Washington-led study finds that Deaf infants exposed to American Sign Language are especially tuned to a parent's eye gaze, itself a social connection between parent and child that is linked to early learning.

The vibrating universe: Making astronomy accessible to the deaf
Astronomers at the University of California, Riverside, have teamed with teachers at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, or CSDR, to design an astronomy workshop for students with hearing loss that can be easily used in classrooms, museums, fairs, and other public events.

Deaf moth evolves sound-production as a warning to outwit its predator
A genus of deaf moth has evolved to develop an extraordinary sound-producing structure in its wings to evade its primary predator the bat.

New mutations causing inherited deaf-blindness have been discovered
A team of scientists from Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University (MSMU) together with their colleagues from leading scientific centers of Moscow and India described a number of genetic mutations causing Usher syndrome (inherited deaf-blindness).

Reorganization of brain outputs in deaf cats
Cats deaf from an early age have increased outgoing connections from the auditory cortex to a midbrain region responsible for directing the animal to a particular location in its environment.

Read More: Deaf News and Deaf Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.