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U of C researchers design a computer game to help students with learning disabilities  

By Nazeefa Ahmed, July 13 2023—

Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education and the Department of Computer Science are collaborating on a video game that aims to prepare high school students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities for post-secondary. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Dr. Meadow Schroeder described how the game will condense all information into one place and convey key points in an engaging manner.  

“I noticed that there was information for students with disabilities transitioning into post-secondary but it was scattered around different community resources and different online documents,” said Schroeder. “Then, when I was trying to do the project, I realized that this was a pretty boring and dry topic and that I might not get a lot of buy-in from students, especially students with ADHD.”

Schroeder then reached out to Dr. Richard Zhao from the Department of Computer Science to gamify the online module. The preliminary online webpage will be tested on students at Foothills Academy this summer. 

Schroeder discusses how the game will teach advocacy to students by connecting them with resources and workshops through peer mentors. 

“We have a section in the game where the student meets a peer mentor who invites them for coffee. Then they meet up with this peer, and through dialogue, the peer introduces the idea of advocacy,” said Schroeder. “The peer may share personal experiences or a workshop or presentation offered by a professor about advocacy.”

The game has the ability to customize the journey to the user’s interests. 

“The game works a little bit like a choose your own adventure,” said Schroeder. “If students want to learn more about a particular topic, they can go down a branch and find content.”

In her concluding remarks, Schroeder mentions future student recruitment to test video games and provide feedback. 

“We would love in the future for students, even on campus, to actually help us with giving feedback on our project,” said Schroeder. “Once we have this game in shape, we want to do a pilot for students to look at the content and give us feedback.”

The research for the event is being funded by the Calgary Learning Disabilities & ADHD Network and the Azrieli Accelerator. Partners for this project include Lauren Goegan from the University of Manitoba, Richard Zhao from the Department of Computer Science at the UofC, and Foothills Academy.  

To learn more about the game, visit their feature on ARCH magazine.

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