To Teach the Visually Impaired, Educators Turn to Electronic Games

(DGIwire) — Advances in gaming apps have ushered in an exciting new era for educators within the visually impaired community. Thanks to the development of a wide range of creative games—some of which mimic classic video, sports, card and game-show entertainment—educators have new resources to impart an array of critical skills to their visually impaired students. This is the upshot of a recent article on EducationDive.com.

“The digital revolution has inspired tech-savvy educators to rethink how certain skills are being taught to visually impaired students,” says Marty Schultz, the co-founder and President of ObjectiveEd, a company that builds educational and entertainment games for the visually impaired community. “Electronic games for this population of students can enhance the learning of spatial concepts, auditory perception, ear/hand coordination, sonification, and orientation and mobility.”

As the EducationDive.com article notes, gaming encourages visually impaired students—even those under age 10—to begin to master these skills in an engaging fashion. Rather than presenting the games to students as purely for fun, teachers can use the games as an introductory tool with which to further develop various skills and forms of academic knowledge, such as math proficiency, that are traditionally taught using tactile formats.

One racing game from ObjectiveEd’s Blindfold Games division, for example, is designed so that players use their ears instead of eyes to navigate a racing course, avoiding crashing into fences or animals crossing the street. Meanwhile, a hopping game involves navigating one’s way across a river by maneuvering over lily pads whose sounds drift from right to left (when the lily pad sound is heard in both ears, it is safe to jump). Other directional games include a barnyard game in which the player herds animals in various ways, teaching the concept of cardinal directions and spatial concepts.

Other games that have been developed for the visually impaired community—such as hangman, solitaire, and spin-and-solve—are designed to build up vocabulary and strategy skills enjoyed by sighted players of the traditional versions of these games. Further games involve conceptualizing a two-dimensional or three-dimensional grid—a key notion for mastering a wide range of mathematical ideas. For example, a bowling game uses a triangular grid to encourage the player’s construction of a mental map of the pins’ layout. This game incorporates digital features allowing the player to vary the trajectory of the bowling ball to knock down the pins. Related grid games include analogues to the popular Connect Four and Battleship board games, both of which reinforce or teach not only spatial concepts but also mental mapping.

Players praise the format of the games, specifically the fact that some of them have been designed “from the ground up” with accessibility in mind for the visually impaired.

“Games provide a great deal of fun even as they convey useful concepts,” adds Schultz. “This is a lesson worth noting by administrators and teachers who are evaluating the integration of these games into their curricula.”

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