Adapting Educational Technologies Across Learner Populations: A Usability Study with Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum

AbstractTechnology-based educational interventions are used in many subject areas and for many student populations, but the same intervention “out of the box” may not be equally effective across students with different cognitive makeups, either within or across subject areas. At the same time, developing new technologies for every population and subject area would be infeasible and wasteful of resources invested and knowledge gained. Usability studies can facilitate the transfer of effective educational technologies across student populations and subject areas by pinpointing helpful modifications to the original technology. This paper reports results from a usability study conducted as part of a larger project to translate an existing, science-focused educational technology for neurotypical middle school students into a new, social-reasoning-focused educational technology for students on the autism spectrum. Participants in our study included both children on the autism spectrum and typically developing children, who were asked to complete an educational-technology-based science activity as well as a social-reasoning movie question-answering activity. Results include qualitative observations of general student engagement and challenges as well as quantitative measures of performance and eye gaze, with the goal of informing the design and adaptation of future technology-based interventions.

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