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3rd Quarter 2013 Newsletter

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Tapping On Technology In Special Needs Learning

Building on the recent developments in touch-screen technology, researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed interactive multi-touch tabletop applications that facilitate learning for children with learning difficulties.

With funding of $500,000 by the Singapore Millennium Foundation, this three-year project aims to enhance the teaching of collaborative play among students with special needs using the multi-touch tabletop. Through the development of game-based activities that require students to work together in order to complete the tasks, the team aims to facilitate the development of social skills among the students, who find it hard to interact with other individuals.

To test the effectiveness of these applications, the NTU research team partnered MINDS - Fernvale Gardens School, a Special Education School. The multi-touch tabletop applications were used in the junior, senior and special classes for several months and were positively received by the teachers and students. “Many of the special needs students took to the technology readily,” shares Associate Professor Goh Wooi Boon, who leads the research team. The students have responded so well to the multi-touch table that the teachers and occupational therapists have applied the use of the tool in other areas such as improving hand-eye coordination.

Given the positive feedback, the team has embarked on the second phase of the project which integrates the use of mobile phones on the multi-touch table, allowing for greater range of movement. This enables the design of activities that will further enhance collaborative play and introduces potential for therapy involving the whole hand or body motion coordination.

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Protein Research - Unfolding The Mystery

The basic building blocks of the human body, proteins are folded within the human cells during their production. Unfolded proteins can cause many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.

The lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind protein folding has been a roadblock in developing therapeutic methods. However, scientists at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory have made a groundbreaking discovery that could pave the way for future research in this area.

Led by Associate Professor Davis Ng, the team has discovered the cell mechanism which disables folding and removes the unfolded proteins, which can become toxic when accumulated, from the body. While this phenomenon has been suggested in previous research, Associate Professor Ng’s team is the first to discover how the mechanism actually works. Their findings have since been published in the scientific journal Science.

“It was an interesting problem for us because protein folding is one of the most fundamental processes of life, so understanding it has important medical implications,” said Associate Professor Ng. “Conformational protein diseases affect tens of millions worldwide every year. We hope that this research can contribute to effective therapeutic interventions.”

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Learning Continues After School, In School

Students between 7 to 14 years old can now receive academic assistance at school-based student care centres, thanks to Temasek Cares-A PLUS (Academic Programme for Learning-Needs and Underprivileged Students).

Launched in May 2013 by MENDAKI SENSE, this pilot programme enables school-based student care centres to recruit teachers and learning needs specialists. Additional subsidies are provided for students from needy families. The programme is currently available at Blangah Rise Primary School and will be implemented in one other school-based student care centre.

The programme will benefit more than 240 students over two years, including seven-year-old Leong Jun Tao. Jun Tao’s teachers had observed that his short attention span affected his performance in school. However, his parents were struggling to make ends meet and could not afford to provide him the additional support he needed. Under Temasek Cares-A PLUS, Jun Tao is assisted by a learning needs specialist, and is now better able to focus on his school work. “My son is now less dependent. He can do work on his own. He is better in reading and his English has improved,” says Madam Hooi, Jun Tao’s mother.

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Raising The Bar In University Management

Over 50 University Presidents and Deans from 15 universities across China participated in the Temasek Foundation – National University of Singapore Programme for Leadership in University Management (PLUM). This initiative is supported by Temasek Foundation through a grant of S$700,000 over two years.

Held from 18 to 22 March 2013, the five-day executive training programme aims to provide a platform for Chinese university leaders to exchange ideas and best practices in university management and governance.

Facilitated by members of the NUS senior management, participants engaged in discussions on university governance as well as topics on technology-enhanced teaching and learning, internationalisation, and entrepreneurship.

This is the second run of PLUM. The first run was completed in 2012, where 56 leaders from 17 universities discussed issues such as institutional leadership, strategic planning and faculty development.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 11 Jul - NTU, Temasek Foundation and Vietnam government expand cooperation on training programmes for senior Vietnamese officials [More]
  • 27 Jun- Homegrown Non-Profits Launch 'International Involvement Hub' to Connect Singaporeans to Asia and the World[More]
  • 11 Jun - Scientists at TLL Identify an Important Mechanism That Terminates Protein Folding Failures[More]

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