The future of software is inextricably tied up with how its used and maintained.
But in recent years, the use of software for building devices and applications has accelerated in the same way that the development of robotics, medical equipment, and the internet has.
This trend, known as the “tinker” paradigm, sees engineers building software to help people with disabilities perform tasks they previously could not.
But new research from the University of Edinburgh is suggesting that when the mindset is set for someone with a disability, their work is actually more difficult, less valuable, and potentially harmful.
“It’s quite possible that we’ve seen an increase in the number of people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities in the last few years and that’s largely due to the technology that’s developed for those,” said Professor Mark Coyle, lead author of the study.
“This is really good news for those of us with disabilities who are trying to make technology work for people with learning disabilities, for example.”
When people think they’re doing a ‘dumb’ task or ‘tinkering’ with a tool, they are actually doing more work than they should.
This is why people with impairments are often reluctant to use technology and have more difficulty in learning.
“When a person is given the tools to use, they tend to think that they’re actually making progress.”‘
Smart’ people make the most progress when they are able to use software with the help of an assistant Source: University of Aberdeen/Paul O’Sullivan and Paul O’ Sullivan, University of Scotland/PA Professor Coyle said that the findings are important as technology and computing are increasingly being used to assist people with special needs.
“There is a lot of emphasis on technology that is designed to help the blind, but the same technology could be used for anyone, so it’s important to know how it might be used and what the impact might be on a person’s capabilities,” he said.
“We think that people who are cognitively impaired are most likely to be using technology for cognitive tasks or learning, and we also know that they are also most likely not using technology to help them get the things they need.”
To investigate how this new mindset works, Professor Coyne and his colleagues recruited 15 students with learning difficulties to do some basic tasks using a combination of text and audio communication software.
The students were also given a battery of cognitive tests, including speed and dexterity, and had to answer questions that asked them to think about how they might be able to make a computer program do something they did not have the skill or aptitude to do.
In addition, they were also asked how much time they spent looking for tasks that required their assistance.
The students were asked to complete the tasks in a series of scenarios that included reading, writing, drawing, and listening to music.
In the first scenario, they had to figure out which letters of the alphabet they should be reading.
In another, they would be asked to solve a simple puzzle.
In yet another, the students had to guess whether a person would be able, in some way, to reach a particular place on a map.
In a third scenario, the participants had to use an app to make an appointment.
All the tasks involved finding a particular location, taking pictures, and completing a set of simple tasks.
In each of these scenarios, the learners were instructed to look for the right answers to the questions.
The results showed that the learners with cognitive impairment performed better on these tasks, and in fact, those with higher abilities and skills were more likely than those without cognitive impairment to complete these tasks.
But what about those with learning or other disabilities?
“It’s really important to understand that people with different impairments can have different strengths and weaknesses,” Professor Cee said.
“If you’re a person with a learning disability, it’s not the case that you’re doing the same thing as a person who has a cognitive impairment.
That’s a skill that requires some work and training, and there are also cognitive impairions that can be a problem when you need to make those skills happen in a structured environment.”
Professor Coyle also said that if the mindset of someone with cognitive or learning disabilities were set for them, then it could be difficult to change it.
“There’s a lot that we know about how we make people learn.
And the way we teach is the same across different groups.
But for some people with a cognitive problem, it is harder for them to change that mindset.”
So it’s really vital that we understand how this mindset is created, so that we can help people who may not be able or willing to change their mindset,” he concluded.