The Design of iSocial: A Three Dimensional, Multiuser, Virtual Learning Environment for the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders

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iSocial is a three dimensional virtual learning environment (3D VLE) based on Open Croquet (http://www.opencroquet.org) that has been designed for the rapidly increasing number of youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). iSocial is a long-term project to build an application that can be used both to support substantial numbers of youth and helpers, and as an open source testbed for developing optimal forms of social orthotics and a community that will sustain and grow the system. While some early efforts have shown potential for the use of 3D VLEs with individuals with ASDs, the key attribute of the iSocial project is the use of digital media for social orthotics (ways of implementing the VLE to enable social interaction for those with deficits). For example youth with ASDs do not pick up on the same cues that typically developing youth do in conversations, but digital media can be used to change representations and change the prominence of cues as well as provide conversation structures that meet the needs and capabilities of youth with ASDs. During our presentation, we will provide the rationale for building the iSocial 3D VLE, share our design prototype, and introduce the audience to hypothesized learning and usability outcomes for the ASD population.


Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Three Dimensional Virtual Learning Environment, Distance Education, Online Learning, Special Education
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: The Design of iSocial


Matthew Schmidt

PhD Candidate and Curriculum Designer and Developer, School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, University of Missouri - Columbia
Columbia, Missouri, USA

Matthew Schmidt is a doctoral candidate in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri – Columbia. He is currently involved in a DOL-funded curriculum development project for an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Nuclear Technologies focusing on radiological safety. In addition, Matthew is an active designer, developer, and researcher in the iSocial project, which aims to build and research three dimensional, multiuser, virtual learning environments for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Sean Goggins

PhD Candidate, School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, University of Missouri - Columbia
Columbia, Missouri, USA

Sean Goggins is a PhD candidate in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri - Columbia. Sean is an active designer and researcher for the iSocial project, an initiative to develop and research three dimensional, multiuser, virtual learning environments for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr. James Laffey

Professor, School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, University of Missouri - Columbia
Columbia, Missouri, USA

Dr. James Laffey's teaching and research interests are in developing technology innovations to facilitate learning and support performance. He provided the leadership for the University's mission enhancement for networked learning systems, co-founded the Center for Technology Innovations in Education, and is the lead faculty member for the Networked Learning Systems curriculum. He has been the principal investigator for several NSF awards to study and advance understanding and practice for bring technology to bear in education. His current research includes building new knowledge about social computing and sociability in educational computing, and developing new systems for computer supported collaborative learning and work. He also leads a project to implement networking technology in support of after-school programs for underprivileged children in St Louis. Before coming to MU he worked for six years at Apple Computer, Inc. conducting research and development for learning and support systems. While working at Apple he was responsible for developing award winning interactive learning systems, and designing innovative systems that have enabled Apple to better meet customer requirements. Dr. Laffey earned his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and has worked at the University of Washington and San Francisco State University.

Ref: T08P0235