UC Chile Professor Recognized for Developing Inclusive and Free Technologies Used Worldwide
The initiatives of the Center for the Development of Inclusive Technologies (CEDETI UC Chile) are being used by faculty, researchers, and communities around the world. They are the result of the work led by Professor Ricardo Rosas, recent winner of the U21 Awards.
In mid-March 2022, the director of the Center for the Development of Inclusive Technologies (CEDETI UC Chile) and professor at the School of Psychology, Ricardo Rosas found an e-mail in his inbox. The subject simply read “U21 Awards.” The mail informed him that he was one of the two winners of the annual award given by the Universitas 21 (U21) network.
The network is composed of 28 leading research universities around the world, including UC Chile.
The award recognizes individual and team achievements that have defended and promoted the principles of internationalization of the U21 network.
In the case of Professor Rosas, his career at CEDETI UC Chile was highlighted. Rosas has been the general director of the center ever since it was created in 2007.
The center’s work stands out for the creation of inclusive and accessible technologies that support teaching processes such as:
- initial literacy for children who are deaf or have learning difficulties,
- learning math in preschool.
These technologies are used by faculty and researchers around the world. For these reasons, Professor Rosas was chosen for the award during the annual U21 conference at the University of Birmingham, between May 4 and 6.
The ceremony was attended by President Ignacio Sánchez, and the Vice President for International Affairs, Lilian Ferrer, who received the award on behalf of Professor Rosas.
The U21 Network highlighted four initiatives of international impact developed by CEDETI UC Chile.
Let's get to know them
Sueñaletras: Learning to Read When You Cannot Hear
SUEÑALETRAS is a software designed to support early literacy for deaf children.
The software won the prestigious WISE award for educational innovation in 2011 and has been translated into more than 11 different sign languages.
The program has been especially important for Pakistan, as the country has one of the largest deaf communities in the world.
The link between CEDETI and Pakistan came about thanks to the NGO Family Educational Services Foundation, which supports the deaf community in that country using the Chilean program.
Professor Rosas, together with another professional from the center, traveled to that country to learn how their software was applied in educational institutions.
They were surprised by what they saw.
“Hearing firsthand from the kids how much fun they had using the program was immensely powerful. Although Pakistan is a rather poor country, the NGO in charge of deaf education is on another level. The schools are very well equipped, they all have computers, and everything works very well,” said Rosas.
GraphoGame: A game to Learn to Read
The second project highlighted by U21 is the Spanish version of GraphoGame (2012-2021), an educational application that allows teaching early literacy skills to kindergarten and elementary school children in many languages.
CEDETI conducted research to validate its efficacy in the development of pre-reading skills in Chilean children. The result was successful and today the app can be downloaded for free in our country.
Assessing Executive Functions: Interested Parties in Germany, England, and Thailand
Yellow Red is a test designed to assess executive functions in children between the ages of 5 and 12.
Executive functions are complex brain skills that include self-control, working memory, and flexible thinking. They allow us to regulate our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Developed by CEDETI, this test allows the evaluation of these functions through playful activities. The test and its platform have attracted the interest of faculty from universities in the U.S., Argentina, Uruguay, England, Germany, Hungary, and Australia.
"We have two collaborations, one with Germany, with the professor at the University of Cologne and a very large German publisher called Hogrefe, who are very interested in standardizing our test. We are working with them to make it happen," said Rosas.
In parallel, the same test is being used by KopernikusLab, an English NGO that promotes education through art. The main purpose of its programs is to develop executive functions in children.
"Our test fits their objectives like a glove and we are working very hard with them. They are developing a large project for the Ministry of Education in Thailand and they want our test to be used in that project.”
In addition to this adaptation of the test into the Thai language, the test has already been translated into Chinese, Norwegian, English, Hungarian, Polish, and German.
A Desk Where Everyone Can Fit
Another outstanding project was La Mesita.
This app, recommended for tablets, promotes reading development for children with Down Syndrome in a fun, flexible, and organic way.
Through a virtual desk, children explore seven different thematic worlds where they can write, read, draw, talk, create music, and record their progress.
The application was recognized in 2021 by the Zero Project initiative of the Austrian Essl Foundation. This foundation created the Zero Project to reward initiatives that help create “a world without barriers” for people with disabilities.
Professor Ricardo Rosas has been teaching and researching at the UC Chile School of Psychology for more than 35 years. He studied psychology at the same school and graduated in 1982. In 1991, he received his doctorate in psychology from the Freie Universität Berlin.
His main line of research has always been the inclusion of people with disabilities.
In his far-reaching career, he has created a variety of innovative and free products that promote cognitive development in children and adults.
However, there is still a long way to go in understanding many social and cognitive phenomena of human beings with disabilities or difficulties.
“The study of the cognition of nontypical populations is very enriching to the understanding of the typical population. This is the reason that has led me to study this,” said Rosas.
And he provided the following example:
"Deaf people are an inexhaustible source of experience and knowledge when it comes to the relationship between thought and language. For example, deaf people who do not use spoken language at all really do think differently.”
Rosas also explained that in a longitudinal research project conducted to understand the cognitive development of the deaf, blind and typical population, they adapted the WISC-V test, which is considered the world standard for intelligence assessment.
This exercise led them to the conclusion that it was not possible to adapt this test to sign language, as deaf people have a different type of analytical reasoning.
All the research and programs developed by CEDETI could be sold at high prices, but according to Rosas the center always prioritize accessibility so that everyone can benefit from these advances.
“We always say that the things we do are based on science. They are very high-quality products and therefore they have to be free. In general, products catering to disabled people are really expensive. Knowing this reality, we decided that we had to offer a high-quality product that was free.”
Asked about the future, the center director had this to say:
“I hope that the work we are doing will allow us to maintain all these projects. I see a lot of potential in all the things CEDETI is doing and all the things we plan to do".