turning research into tools you can use
The philosophical foundation of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network is based on sharing the science. To achieve that goal, The Network created a central, Internet platform to promote ease of access and collaboration. This language and literacy platform, http://www.cllrnet.ca, is the first of its kind in Canada.
As Manager of Technical Services for The Network, Aaron Finkenzeller summarizes this technology-based catalyst for sharing good science and building software products based on the research conducted in and around The Network.
"We work with people directly in the field as a core facility," says Finkenzeller. "We're streamlining the effort required to get data and results delivered to people who can use it. That's our job – to promote knowledge exchange, to turn research discoveries into something a broader audience can access and apply."
A good example of the extensive effort to date is the update to the Speech Assessment and Interactive Learning System (SAILS). Finkenzeller's team re-wrote existing software to facilitate practice change among speech language pathologists.
"We began by taking a recognized industry product called SAILS. We just applied new technology to make it easier for therapists in the field to use," says Finkenzeller. "It's an enhancement as opposed to a replacement. Practitioners are using our software to make how they work with children more productive."
Other knowledge exchange and technology application projects include: Web site support for effective intervention for hearing loss in early infancy; working toward a future software product for early identification of reading difficulties using a teacher and classroom-based model; collecting data and developing software within technically-assisted therapy situations; and numerous core facilities in support of primary research themes and activities. An additional eight separate products, originating from three research projects, have also been produced.
Equally important, The Network technology group has partnered with Hewlett Packard Canada, Telus National Systems, FoxNet Solutions and Compudata Systems Inc. Finkenzeller says that partnering with these groups is important on a number of levels. "These organizations are not traditional partners with language and literacy groups so our working with them initiates involvement from a non-aligned industry sector," explains Finkenzeller. "Furthermore, these partners have been able and willing to provide resources and services that we leverage against language and literacy problems, thus we have a value-added proposition."
Using technology to leverage knowledge access and exchange is a critical link in the Canadian language and literacy landscape according to Finkenzeller. "Information technology is a real weakness in social sciences and in this field. We're filling that gap by transferring research findings into tools based on technological solutions. We're even exposing computer science studies students to the possibilities of new social sciences applications – engaging other disciplines in the pursuit of language and literacy solutions fills a very important need for the future."