Monday, December 12, 2011

Software Helps Blind Student Learn Physics

Physics can be very difficult to learn, but imagine how much harder it would be if your textbook had numerous errors and typos. For Amanda Lacy—a computer-science major at Austin Community College—an inadequate digital textbook almost made her drop out of her physics class. With the help of a dedicated professor and some new computer software,however, she earned an A in the class and regained her enthusiasm for physics according to a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Image Courtesy Christophe Moustier.

The textbook that the college provided had audio and braille accompaniments so that Lacy could understand the material. But the textbook couldn't relay many of the equations accurately. For instance, the textbook couldn't express simple mathematical terms like exponents, making it extremely difficult to understand the formulas.

Lacy's professor, Richard Baldwin, realized how much trouble she was having and began spending time with her going over homework problems. During his time working with Lacy, Baldwin started developing an online module that can discern physical and mathematical symbols, supplementing a traditional digital textbook for the blind.

Baldwin didn't stop there, though. He also created a drawing program that allows blind students to better understand conceptual problems. Lacy, for example, was often allowed to skip homework problems that required a sketch. Now she can do those problems much more easily on the computer, and she hopes to be able to turn in full homework sets for her next class like everyone else.

For the full story, take a look at the Chronicle article.

You can find the online modules here, and the drawing program can be downloaded from Baldwin's site.

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