Grants/Openly Available Educational Resources for Providing Technological Training to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
The project aims to provide equal opportunities for technological literacy training by developing and implementing an open source series of instructional modules designed for those with intellectual disabilities. Our mission is to bridge the digital divide by teaching technological skills that will allow our local citizens with intellectual disabilities to lead more independent and higher quality lives. This project was designed to provide standardized instruction to insure continuity of the teaching process over time, and to make the instructional modules and tutorials publicly accessible. Thus we shall build the foundation for other similar community organizations, such as public libraries, schools, nonprofit organizations, and others, to implement technology literacy programs without investing extensive time and money in development efforts.
Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).
The tangible project outputs are the specially designed and structured computerized training modules and tutorials that are all openly available and can be freely downloaded through our website http://www.slisoutreach.org. The modules are constructed by capturing textual descriptions and images from the tutorials and converting them to print versions in a portable document format (PDF). The tutorials are created using the Adobe Captivate software, an e-learning tool for creating complex and rich content while maintaining the ability to deliver instruction at any location. The tutorials, displayed on a computer’s desktop, are best described as videos demonstrating actions with the help of pointers, highlights, and accompanying textual explanations. The modules and tutorials may be used by anyone engaged in similar efforts to teach a range of computer skills to persons with intellectual disabilities, without duplicating the efforts to create them.
Beyond training resources, the evidence of our success is being reported through scholarly communication such as papers, posters, and presentations, which again are all openly available from the project website. Here, links to the two posters presented at the 2010 Annual Convention of the Alabama Library Association can be viewed. The web site is updated regularly and as progress is made through publications and new tutorials, we will continue to keep it fresh and “alive.” To allow public access to our scholarly communication, we will strive to only publish in open access journals and conferences from this point forward.
Also, project members are investigating means to streamline record sharing. All records and experimental notes related to the clients are in the process of being transferred to Google Docs. This will permit secure, centralized, ongoing sharing of data on the specific needs and assessments of each client. Once completed, the instructors will have instant access to individualized client "charts" and will thus be able provide more personalized services. Future funding will permit the project members to sustain the investigation into safe and secure ways for sharing digital experimental data in a centralized manner.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
The community being targeted consists of individuals with intellectual disabilities in West Alabama, and libraries of all types wishing to offer computer training to this population. The libraries may be public, academic, special, or school media. The project will strengthen the skills of the targeted individuals, allowing them to work independently by broadening their technical knowledge and enabling them with workforce- ready abilities. Libraries that offer such training are providing an additional service to a patron set often overlooked by traditional library instructional programs. These readily available, open source training materials can also be adapted for other instructional courses as well as serve as a mechanism to foster relationships between libraries and their communities.br />
Dr. Dan Albertson, Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), University of Alabama, and associates at the Resources for Independence (RFI) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama jointly initiated this service-learning project over a year ago. The project is a collaborative effort between SLIS and RFI where each group plays a distinctive role in the organization and administration of this venture. SLIS brings a wealth of knowledge from the University and particular skill sets focusing on service and information technology found in the SLIS student body. RFI, a nonprofit organization that specializes in providing supportive services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, provides dedicated and trained staff members for client support, which includes their participation in the instruction and training modules. RFI and SLIS are interdependent and collaborative in meeting and sustaining the project’s mission and goals.
Continuity of the project for over a year is an indication of its initial success. SLIS students/research assistants visit the clients two to three times every week throughout the year, including the summer sessions. As the student’s tenure on the project comes to an end, new research assistants are actively recruited. At the onset of their participation, the new research assistants are introduced to the clients at RFI, who then quickly become friends.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
To measure the success of the instructional modules and skill retention, clients undergo a series of evaluations. Preliminary diagnostics are recorded at an initial meeting with the client. At a later date, tests on certain training modules are used to evaluate the progression of knowledge and skills. Finally, to further ensure skill retention, clients are retested much later on previously passed modules to measure score consistency. These evaluation templates will be shared with the larger community so that others may complete the same evaluations on their clients. Participation by the larger community will be measured through website traffic, file downloads, and feedback through the project website located at http://www.slisoutreach.org. The number of modules, evaluation templates, and feedback from other contributors will also be tracked.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
The project involves one faculty member, seven graduate students in library and information studies, three RFI staff and a range of six to nine clients at any one time. To date, the project has engaged a total of 17 SLIS students. Ten former members have fulfilled their primary responsibilities; and seven are currently working with Dr. Albertson, the Primary Investigator. All past and current participants, with the exception of one in the fall of 2009, are volunteers earning credits towards their Masters in Library and Information Studies (MLIS). Prior to the onset of every semester, Dr. Albertson seeks the involvement of research assistants through SLIS communications. Students actively lead recruitment via listservs, word of mouth, discussions at the Student Advisory Council and other means. With each semester and further success of the project, we continue to see involvement of the SLIS student body; however, sustaining that involvement is becoming increasingly challenging.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
The project will promote and complement Creative Commons’ mission of educational creativity and openness of technological resources. The purpose of the project is to expand the technological knowledge of a population, which is often overlooked when offering traditional library services. Because the materials being produced are "open source," many organizations outside of libraries can adapt the materials and techniques to their own audience, enabling their communities to work independently with increased skill sets. On a greater scale, the project promotes a framework for other organizations to develop their own versions of this project to serve their own specific client base requiring additional instruction, not only clients with intellectual disabilities, but perhaps training other audiences like seniors, rural citizens, etc. Our framework allows other types of Creative Common projects the ability to offer instruction, evaluate outcomes, conduct research, and especially disseminate project-related information and resources, which are all open and freely available.
Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?
Presently, two laptop computers with mouse and keyboard and a portable projector are loaned to instructors (graduate students and trained RFI staff) so that they can work individually with clients. An additional two laptops and projector will be purchased with Catalyst Grant funds. Technical skills of instructors vary, but overall, there is thorough experience with Microsoft Office Suite, web browsing and searching, and web and information based tools, which are all critical to the success of this project. Some students are also experienced with website design for adding content to and modifying the project website http://www.slisoutreach.org, and experience with Adobe Captivate software allows for each instructor to create training modules. Each laptop for training will have Ethernet cards for Internet access, Microsoft Office Suite, and web browser software installed.
The Primary Investigator, Dr. Albertson, has a PhD in Information Science with a doctoral minor in computer science. Dr. Albertson also has extensive experience with digital library development and research experience, which comprises the use of many diverse technological tools. The following members of the team will be involved and offer expertise:
School of Library and Information Studies, The University of Alabama:
Primary Investigator: Dan Albertson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Other participants: Reginald Perkins, SLIS Manager of Area Computing; Graduate (MLIS) Students (paid internship and other volunteers)
SLIS’s Primary Areas: Technology coordination, student and volunteer recruitment, instruction
Resources for Independence (RFI): Aleshia Kennedy, Day Habilitation Coordinator; Darin Prewitt, Program Coordinator; General Staff
RFI's Primary Areas: Facilities preparation, technology coordination, instruction, assessment Resource Contributions: Facility for instructional sessions
To enhance resource availability, the project team is researching ways to streamline the sharing of client records. Currently, all records are being uploaded and shared online using the Google Docs application. Having a centralized source for records and notes about clients is critical for instructors during their visits to RFI. The shared documents give the instructors access to data on the clients training history and needs. With the support from the Catalyst Grant, the team will continue investigating centralized methods for sharing this digital experimental data securely and safely. Centralized resource sharing will further enable the team to share all approaches and developed tools with the larger community.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
For sustainability of excellent services, the project requires funding for more equipment and to create at least one paid student position. This will attract additional students and other community partners who can steer the project in new and exciting directions. The addition of just one paid position for a current SLIS student will ensure continuity over a longer term and sustain the mission of the project. Increased student participation will ensure personalized attention leading to higher achievement rates on the part of the clients. Increased funding, greater involvement of students, and additional equipment, as well as continued success will also encourage cooperation with other nonprofits, other branches of RFI, and public sector partners.
We require funding for more equipment such as computers, portable projectors, and software to teach the basic modules, which will then lead to the clients' ability to use a computer to learn other basic skills like reading, writing, and math. Additional technology will expand the project by increasing the scale of instruction and furthering our mission and goals of providing equal access to information technology to people of various learning potentials. Funding will also allow the project to explore the use of assistive technologies and means of interacting with other clients who, in addition to intellectual disabilities, also have hearing and vision impairments. Finally, these additional funds will provide opportunities to develop supplementary tools applicable in diverse educational contexts; including, but not limited to, finding and enhancing means for centralized sharing and access to digital experimental data.
This grant is crucial for sustained continuity and expansion of the project, for attracting more team members, and for purchasing additional equipment. To ensure sustained progress, we are also seeking funding from other state and federal agencies and partnering with other non-profit organizations that provide similar services.
How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?
To sustain the project, funding will be actively sought by applying for additional grants. The project is both a student-centered opportunity and is community outreach and engagement oriented. With these two attributes, a range of grants may be targeted. For example, the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Research Grant Competition offers funding for research broadly related to education for library and information science. An application for an ALISE grant will focus on how the project promotes research and education for library graduate students. Also, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) offers a number of grants that aim to fund service-learning and outreach projects. An example of an IMLS grant is the National Leadership Grant which funds projects expanding the boundaries of how libraries operate. The project’s focus on a non-traditional client base and collection of open access materials offer innovative and collaborative subjects for a grant application.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
With over a year of instruction and evaluations under way, we can exhibit noticeable optimistic results. The RFI clients are not only displaying progress during instruction, but evaluation results also demonstrate retention of the technical skills learnt as a result of the training. Clients are admitted on a rolling basis as they start receiving services at RFI. Each person starts at the beginning with Module 1. Our assessments show that the newer clients are exhibiting the same progress and potential as the earlier clients who started at the launch of this outreach project. This leads us to conclude that the same modules and tutorials can be extended to any other location serving similar goals, thus amplifying the scope and scalability of the venture.
The project modules, tutorials, assessments, results and presentations are available to the community without restrictions. Hence other organizations, such as RFI centers in other cities, public libraries, etc. that are considering offering technology literacy programs for clients with intellectual disabilities can begin the task without devoting resources to the basics. Our success strategies will validate the project’s framework for future achievements. The openness of the project will permit seamless continuation and will further its efforts to bridge the digital skill divide.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Creative Commons will serve as a promotional tool for the project through its emphasis on a shared culture. The attention brought to this project and its materials will help expand the program as a service offered by other organizations. Creative Commons’ public domain tools provide access to resources and materials so that other organizations can reuse and build on the materials already produced by certain projects. The success of the program is advanced by the licensing flexibility that Creative Commons promotes.
In addition to licensing, a portion of Catalyst Grant funds will be used to purchase two additional computers and associated peripherals for training clients. Resources for Independence (RFI) does not have a technology budget ($0) and relies solely on donations for their computer hardware and software. The remainder of the funds will go towards the salary for a MLIS graduate student who will serve as the instruction coordinator, and travel funds when participants present the project and its findings at professional conferences, thus promoting the project and its research. A detailed breakdown of grant funding is available in the attached project budget.
Within the Tuscaloosa community, the project has already garnered praise and awards. Recently, at the 4th Annual Center for Community Based Partnership (CCBP) Awards Program that recognizes the year’s best community based research, the project, “Computer Training for Persons with Disabilities in West Alabama: A Service-Learning Project,” and Primary Investigator, Dr. Albertson, were recognized as an Outstanding Faculty-Initiated Engagement Effort. The recognition and award are an encouragement to the team’s efforts, but more funds are needed for future directions and expansion of the project.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
Communication within the library school among the instruction coordinator, the student instructors, and the primary investigator is facilitated by email and weekly research meetings in person or online for those participating remotely. Training materials and modules are all housed on the project website at http://www.slisoutreach.org. Communication with network partners is achieved through journal articles and posters or other presentations at conferences. The Primary Investigator or the instruction coordinator is also in communication with Darin Prewitt, the Program Coordinator at RFI, and meetings are held on-site at RFI whenever students provide instruction, which can occur up to three times a week.