Mobile technology has come to be used extensively across the world. The article features the use of mLearning in Malaysia for various purposes, including those of addressing the needs of parents with special needs children. The DHH Mobile Project of Universiti Sains Malaysia uses the technology to 'bridge' education divide by providing extensive research for Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) children
By Dr Issham Ismail, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Approximately 90 to 95% of Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) children are born to hearing parents who know very little about deafness and its diagnosis or impact on the child development. It is axiomatic that the hearing parents of these DHH children need as much information as possible to help them to deal or cope with their children. Hearing parents of DHH children May experience many challenges and obstacles that affect multiple areas of family life. There are four domains of family life namely the interactions, resources, parenting and support services, that have been noted to be highly impacted by deafness.
Parents need to find adaptive ways to cope with these demands in their family life, which in turn will promote their own adjustments and functioning as parents of DHH children. In line with these demands, a research was conducted by Hintermair in 2006 to promote human strengths and parents' quality of life. Hintermair found that shaping an effective training by the healthcare professionals' is vital to identify factors that promote successful coping with the demands faced by parents of a child with a cochlear implant (CI). Similar scenario is expected in the case of parents to DHH children.
In Malaysia, there are very few hearing parents who know about deafness and its impact on the child language and language acquisition development. Most of these parents are either ignorant of the importance or do not have access to information. Thus, the DHH Mobile Project was initiated by mobilelearning@usm, a part of Universiti Sains Malaysia, in August 2010 to fulfill the needs of hearing parents of DHH children in terms of basic sign language. As such, these parents are able to interact effectively with their improved knowledge in basic sign language. The objective of the project has been to introduce educational pedagogy for parents of special needs through DHH MMS.
A pilot study was conducted on the parents of DHH students in Federation School for the Deaf, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia. At the beginning stage of the project, parents were asked to rate their level of knowledge on the basic hand sign language and their consent was gathered to sent MMS messages. The MMS content of the basic hand sign language included the alphabets A-Z and numbers 1-9 which was to be transmitted using an in-house interactive system. This study had been performed for 3 months among the normal parents whereby MMS content was loaded into the system for a scheduled delivery on a daily basis.
Recent advancement in mobile technology has given a boost to many sectors and services which includes the education sector. Mobile technology applications provide unique opportunities for both learners and educators, by providing greater flexibility, thereby enabling education to take place anytime, anywhere and by anyone without boundaries. Therefore, mobile technology serves as a new pedagogy for parents with special needs children.
Attractions of Mobile Technology
Some of the special features that have made the technology more innovative are its easy access and affordability. The mobile phone technology can be utilized anytime, anywhere and anyone for DHH purposes. The mobile technology provides an opportunity for a short piece of information to be delivered to the students or parents without the constraint of space and time.
The DHH Mobile Project has been used to help parents in accessing content (sign language) and learning materials, assisting parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH), and improve interaction between parents and children. It has provided a platform for sign language educators for dissemination of information and knowledge to the public. Users also have the option of browsing through the archives at their convenience.
Mobile technology applications provide unique opportunities for both learners and educators, by providing greater flexibility, thereby enabling education to take place anytime, anywhere and by anyone without boundaries
How Mobile Technology Scores Among Users
Several previous research studies have encompassed preliminary study on the acceptance on mobile phone usage and SMS-learning amongst distance learners. Presently, the team at USM has focused on 2 main cohort of mobile learning which are formal and informal pocket education. Formal Pocket Education embraces System Pocket Education which proposes a mobile platform via Pocket Education. It provides mobile learning services which suit the requirements and needs from various users, particularly for university subjects. The project also explores the awareness of mobile learning system in education world among IPTA's in Malaysia.
Linguistic Pocket Education plays a vital role in identifying the communicative functions of SMS messages which are important to be employed in SMS learning from the perception of USM students and instructors. On the other hand, Value Added Service (VAS) is used to design and develop a SMS system to support teaching and learning which will track the navigating behaviour of students using SMS as a learning tool. In this cohort, project on the special education needs is focused in identifying the level of knowledge in sign language among the normal parents of deaf students before and after using the mobile learning. Users receive their messages upon registration via the DHH Mobile site by using their respective hand phone numbers. The DHH Mobile management unit is fitted with multi-provider slot to cater to the different lines subscribed by the users and thereby reducing the cost of delivery Apart from receiving messages, users have the option to browse the archives at their convenience. Users are also able to pose a question via the hand phone that will appear in the management site for the attention of the Sign Language Educator. The programme consists of a web-based management unit that was home-grown and can be offered on a trial period.
The second cohort explores informal pocket education merely by addressing aspects on Islamic, sustainability and health issues. Sustainability issue is also a focus in this project on examining the awareness of communicative functions of SMS messages which are important to be employed in SMS learning from the perception of USM students and instructors. The project involves health education which is crucial on postnatal care by providing SMSs to new mother's on physical and mental information during the confinement period.