MIT Public Service Center

Create audio and drawing applets for K-12 students

CAST, Wakefield, MA

http://www.cast.org

Background

A nonprofit leader in education, CAST is an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. In 1984, the Center for Applied Special Technology was founded to explore ways of using new technologies to provide better educational experiences to students with disabilities. Researchers tested and refined their principles, priorities, and vision over the first decade and came to a new understanding of how to improve education using flexible methods and materials. They called this approach UDL.

Today, UDL frames all of the organization’s research and development. Through strategic collaborations, CAST is seeding the field of curriculum planning, software development, state and national policy, teacher preparation and support, and education research with UDL-based solutions. The work of CAST focuses primarily on K-12 education, but also has begun to be involved in post-secondary education as well. CAST has an active internship program at its office in Wakefield, Massachusetts. This internship program hosts students from multiple Boston-area universities as well as national and international doctoral students.

Challenge

CAST believes that designing curricular solutions from the start that incorporate the needs of diverse students allows all students opportunities to learn. These solutions primarily focus on K-12 settings and focus on using digital technology to remove disabling barriers in traditional curriculum. Although CAST has years of experience creating such solutions, one of the challenges we face is the need to stay abreast of cutting-edge digital innovations that can be brought to bear on education’s most challenging problems. We believe that student interns, who are immersed and aware of the cutting edge technologies and research, can make important contributions to our work while gaining real-world experiences.

One of the key areas of flexibility that computers can provide, and a main principle of UDL, is giving students choice in the means of responding to a question. Rather than requiring written or typed text as the only means of response, we encourage giving students the flexibility to respond with spoken or drawn answers whenever feasible. This is particularly advantageous to students with dyslexia, vision, or motor disabilities. To help in this area, we have begun development of embeddable, open-source, web-based applets for audio recording and drawing. We would welcome help with devising, prioritizing, and implementing new features for these, as well as with outreach for the projects (connecting with other open-source efforts that would benefit from audio or drawing capability, such as content-management and learning-management systems, could give these applets a broader user and developer community).

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

The programming side of this project would require knowledge of either Java (audio applet) or Javascript (drawing applet).

Time Constraints

This project is a general need that CAST would welcome help with at any time.

Contacts

Rick Birnbaum
Internship Coordinator
40 Harvard Mills Sq., Suite 3, Wakefield, MA 01880
781-245-2212
rbirnbaum@cast.org

PSC Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Public Service Center's Fellowships and Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PSC that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PSC staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.

 
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