[Athen] The ultimate classroom for students with disabilities

Shelley Haven shelley at techpotential.net
Sun Oct 25 22:05:28 PDT 2009

Hi, Gerry!

Well, you said to dream big, so here's a real "blue sky" approach to
the ultimate classroom for students with disabilities.

Back in 2001, Stanford's Office of Accessible Education (then known as
the Disability Resource Center) began examining how technology could
be used to create the "ultimate classroom", or more broadly, the
ultimate inclusive learning environment. We developed a concept
called Proteus; based on the principles of Universal Design for
Instruction, it was a technology-enhanced strategy for making the
various modes of classroom education (spoken word, whiteboard, media,
etc.) available to all students in a variety of alternative forms in

Here's an article I wrote about the project in 2003:

A summary so you don't have to read the whole article: The "aha!"
moment was recognizing that most accommodations involved converting
instruction into digital form. Why not synchronize and link all these
information streams? A Proteus-designed classroom would thus capture
the various "streams" of educational content in a digital form
(including lecture, whiteboard, projected media, discussion, etc.),
convert or augment these as needed to alternative accessible forms,
then use the DAISY protocol to synchronize the various streams of
information. The education could then be made available to learners
in a variety of alternative forms, both in real time and afterwards.
(This gave rise to the project's name: the Greek God Proteus could
change himself into any form.) Since everything would be synchronized
to text versions of the spoken word, it was all searchable. Even a
student's notes (typed or handwritten) would be synched with the
education going on in the classroom, kind of an über-version of what
the Livescribe Pulse pen does with audio.

I used a proof-of-concept simulation of this "UDI classroom" to
present a session about Proteus at the Syllabus 2003 conference. It
looked more impressive than it actually was, though: we used an online
captionist halfway across the country to simulate speech recognition,
producing a real-time transcript via Internet which appeared on the
front screen below the slides. People who walked in late and missed
the explanation saw me generating nearly flawless speech recognition
using only an Apple iBook and were utterly amazed. It was pretty
funny (especially when I made a joke and the faux "speech recognition"
came back with its own impromptu retort!).

Later that year, we collaborated with Stanford's Center for
Innovations in Learning (SCIL), Benetech, and the California Community
College System (through the HTCTU) on a far-reaching proposal for a 3-
year federal grant to develop and test Proteus demonstration
classrooms, but were unable to work out the details before the
submission deadline. (In retrospect, I think a research and
development project of this magnitude was simply too much for a
disabilities office to manage, especially in light of everything else
we had to do.)

The OAE eventually decided to pursue just one part of that concept:
transcribing lectures in real-time both for display in class and
access afterwards. Working with SCIL and the university's Program for
Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), we examined technical challenges such as
how to capture and isolate multiple voices in a classroom (e.g.,
during a discussion) and how to time-synch the numerous information
streams (including student notes). We presented our work at the
Computers & Writing Conference in 2005. This project was further
"downscaled" to a goal of producing captioned searchable lectures (see
article at this link: http://tinyurl.com/ygnf8en), though it laid some
groundwork for Stanford's current captioning program (http://captioning.stanford.edu/

As blue sky as it was, I still believe the concept behind the full-
blown Proteus Learning Environment is a sound approach to creating a
technology-enabled inclusive classroom, and given the extra few years
of technology evolution, it's even more do-able now than when it was
originally conceived.

Best of luck with your classroom project!


Shelley Haven ATP, RET
Assistive Technology Consultant
Shelley at TechPotential.net

On Oct 21, 2009, at 1:09 PM, Gerry Nies wrote:

> I have been asked what the classroom would have to make it more

> accessible to students with any disabilities. We have been told

> dream big, it may not happen but we will indeed dream.


> So I would like to get your suggestions on what you would have in

> the classroom.


> Thank you in advance


> Gerry



> Gerry Nies


> Information Technology Tech


> University of North Dakota

> Disability Services for Students

> McCannel Hall Room 190

> 2891 2nd Avenue North Stop 9040

> Grand Forks, ND 58202-9040

> (701)777-3827

> (701)777-4170 FAX

> gerrynies at mail.und.edu




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