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Access to math activities for children with disabilities by controlling Lego robots via augmentative and alternative communication devices Open Access


Other title
augmentative and alternative communication
children with disabilities
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Adams, Kimberley
Supervisor and department
Cook, Albert (Speech Language Pathology)
Examining committee member and department
Boechler, Patricia (Educational Psychology)
Light, Janice (Communication Sciences and Disorders, Pennsylvania State University)
Warren, Sharon (Rehabilitation Medicine)
Sobsey, Dick (Educational Psychology)
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Children who have complex communication needs often use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices and strategies to address their communication requirements. If they have concurrent physical impairments, they may have difficulty accessing educational materials, especially when manipulation of items is used to enhance learning. This study consisted of three case studies with children who used their own speech generating device (SGD) to control a Lego robot to do math measurement lessons. System use was examined by measuring participant performance in math measurement lessons, describing the process of using the system, and contrasting system use with other methods of accomplishing math measurement activities. The study informed the underlying theories driving the study: that being able to do hands-on activities in learning is beneficial, that integration of AAC and manipulation in educational activities is important, and that assistive robots can bridge the functional gap between participant abilities and activity requirements. The teacher measured participants’ procedural knowledge based on how they manipulated items using the robot. She measured participants’ conceptual understanding, use of appropriate language, and explanation of reasoning based on their communication. The participants used SGD output, non-verbal communication and the robot to communicate. The study showed that manipulation and communication can be interrelated and that having access to both enhanced the participants’ message. Using the robot as a tool in these math lessons had some limitations, but they were easily compensated for by the teacher. The efficiency of using the robot to accomplish tasks was lower than observing the teacher, but there were benefits in terms of effectiveness and participant satisfaction. Stakeholders felt that using the robot was a more effective way for participants to "show what they know" than observing the teacher and guiding her based on her questions. Using the robot also had some perceived benefits in terms of effectiveness as a learning tool with regards to motivation, engagement, and hands-on experience. In general, participants were more satisfied using the robot than watching the teacher do the math activities. However, improving robot task efficiency would further improve user satisfaction and this challenge will be addressed in future studies.
License granted by Kimberley Adams ( on 2011-04-13T04:41:13Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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