By: Dave Hall, The Windsor Star
Children with learning disabilities will be the focus of a new institute being established at the University of Windsor that, with the help of a local company, will help build on their learning strengths and shore up their weaknesses.
Using gaming applications developed by Think2Learn, a Windsor company which is a division of the Ontario Training and Education Portal, the games will allow educators to assess children’s strengths and weaknesses by determining how they perform when playing online games.
As many as one-in-five children in schools are identified as having learning disabilities and it’s believed that a further 20 per cent are not identified and fly under the academic radar.
“It’s been shown that playing online games help children learn and our challenge is to develop a range of games which are more relevant,” said Rob Whent, president of OTEP. “Oftentimes, kids who are struggling in school have nowhere to go.
“But if we accept the fact that kids learn differently, we then need to find out how we learn as individuals and develop programs to help learning work better for every child,” said Whent, who is also an entrepreneur-in-residence with the WEtech Alliance.
“By developing games that are cognitively responsible, we will remove the stigma from kids who learn differently,” said Whent.
Funding for the institute was announced in Toronto today by Gary Goodyear, minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
The funding will come in the form of a $300,000 investment by Windsor-based OTEP inc., $300,000 in FedDev Ontario funds and a further $36,000 in in-kind contributions for a total of $636,000 over two years.
The government funds, which are being channelled through the Ontario Brain Institute, will help establish a new research institute at the University of Windsor where a team of researchers will continue work on a project which began more than two years ago.
The goal is to commercialize the institute’s research by the end of next year.
Whent said that parents can log on to think-2-learn.com to register while their children will be able to access the games at discoverygames.com where the site’s mascot, Leo, will guide them through the gaming options.
Members of the university team include Dragana Martinovic, Christie Ezeife, Richard Frost, Heather Pratt and Jonathan Braniff, Dr. Cory Saunders of Windsor Regional Hospital, Shiva Amiri of the Ontario Brain Institute and Dr. Hansel Huang from Eyecare First.