In the News

Helping Children with Special Needs Learn Better Through Innovation

News 19 Jun 2019

In order to make learning more engaging for children with special needs, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed a new educational tool called the i-Tile with funding from Temasek Foundation Innovates. A project started in 2015 by NTU Associate Professor Goh Wooi Boon, inspiration for the i-Tile was drawn from case studies on schools around the world that incorporate movement into lessons.

The i-Tile technology has been on trial since early 2018 at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) Fernvale Gardens School, a school for students with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Findings from the trials suggest that the design of the i-Tile learning activities are effective in increasing and sustaining student engagement as they incorporate purposeful movement, game-like elements and responsive audio-visual feedback.

The i-Tile system consists of two tablet computers and the i-Tile, a custom-designed card-reader, that is able to detect cards with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. For example, the teacher may show an image of an apple on the screen, and the student will have to select the corresponding card and tap them against the i-Tile. The i-Tile would respond with the appropriate light and sound to indicate if the choice was right.

Ms Koh Gee May, deputy CEO of MINDS said, “The students who are involved in the project have gained huge strides not only in academic areas but also in other areas such as [the] ability to display great sportsmanship, and communication and interpersonal skills.”

Madam Malkeet Kaur, a teacher at the school, told The Straits Times, “When we used this programme, the children who were (initially) very shy also came up to play. They became more participative, and grew out of their shells.”

The i-Tile is able to be configured to allow teachers to adapt and design new learning activities to meet the varied learning needs of their students. Moving forward, more teachers in MINDS Fernvale Gardens School will be trained in the use of the teaching tools and customising learning resources to meet future learning needs. If successful, the i-Tile learning system and pedagogy could be rolled out to the other MINDS schools.