Gentry, M. M, Chinn, K. M, & Mouton, R. D. (2004/2005). Effectiveness of multimedia reading materials when used with children who are deaf. American Annals of the Deaf, 149(5), 394-403.
Found at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_annals_of_the_deaf/v149/149.5gentry.html
This article began with a brief review of the influx of technology in education over the past few decades and provided definitions for five basic types of educational programs or software: drill and practice, tutorial, simulation, problem solving, and tool. After providing this basic information for various uses of technology in education, the authors presented brief summaries of the use of computers with hearing children and the use of computers with deaf children. After this, the article discussed the use of videodisc technology and CD-ROMs. The author's described videodisc technology as a system that provides "a multimedia environment that combines television and computer-based instruction." Furthermore, they mentioned the use of videodisc technology in the program HandsOn, which presents ASL video and English text simultaneously. The idea behind this program is that deaf students will be able to use their fluency in ASL to enhance their English literacy skills. As for CD-ROM multimedia, the authors mentioned the creation of a software, Rosie's Walk, which allows deaf students to choose to supplement print with Signed English, ASL, or both. Games within the software also address vocabulary and reading skills for deaf children. This was the first interactive software for deaf children in the area of literature and it was created in 1994 (is this a bit behind the times?!). Before addressing their study, the authors mentioned that multimedia is being increasingly used in developing literacy (and other skills) in deaf and hard of hearing students but that their is little empirical research to back up the claims that it has a positive influence. I was very pleased to read an article that confirmed my comments in previous posts that there is little, if any, reliable data regarding literacy technology for deaf and hard of hearing students.
As for their actually study, the authors conducted research of twenty five deaf and hard of hearing students from various schools and programs in Louisiana who read on a third to fourth grade reading level and used sign language as their primary form of communication. The study addressed the following two questions: "Compared to print-only presentation, how effective is multimedia in transferring linguistic information to deaf children? [and] If multimedia is an effective tool, what is the relative effectiveness of available presentation options? Specifically, what is the relative effectiveness of each of the following: print alone, print plus pictures, print and digital video of sign language, and print, pictures, and digital video of sign language." Students were presented with the previous four forms of presentation in a multimedia format and then retold the stories to three "judges" who scored their responses. (If you want to know the actual methods used to conduct the study you can read the article from the above link) After reading the results of the study, I was extremely shocked by the results. I would have assumed that the print and digital video of sign language combination would have yielded the best results, however this was not the case. In actuality, the print and pictures combination presented the strongest, most positive influence, on student comprehension. However, not surprisingly, the print only method yielded the least results and comprehension was at its lowest when this method was used. The articles explained that a possible reason for the results of the study could be that deaf children are accustomed to receiving print and pictures more than they are print, pictures and sign language simultaneously.
After thinking about the results of the study, I am still perplexed by the conclusions, however I do agree that it is probably due to a lack of familiarity on the part of deaf and hard of hearing students in seeing all three-print, pictures and sign language- at one time. However, I guess one could also make the assumption that perhaps all three modes is just to much for the deaf and hard of hearing student (or any student) to attend to at one time. One could relate the concept to good and bad design of websites in that anything that is too "busy" is too hard to attend to. However, I am still unsure at how this settles with me, because when students read storybooks they are interacting with print and pictures (just not in a multimedia fashion) and clearly this is not doing the job because many deaf and hard of hearing students read well below grade level. However, this is one of the only studies I have found that actually presents reliable data regarding literacy technology and deaf and hard of hearing students so it makes me somewhat question some of my previous posts regarding matching English print with sign language. Furthermore, it leads me to raise the question that if the multimedia combination of print and pictures showed improvement in comprehension, yet clearly our traditional storybooks do not, what is it about the technology presentation that makes the difference? I guess this a question for further research...