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University of Connecticut Assistive Technology Oral History Project

Jerry Chaffin, Ph.D.

Professor of Special Eduction, Univ. of Kansas
Founder, ALTEC

Date: August 21, 2008

Snippet 1: "How did you get started in the disability field?" (6:44)

Snippet 2: "Tell us about Second Life." (1:45)

Snippet 3: "How would you like to finish this? (2:40)

Download: Full Transcript

Dr. Jerry Chaffin pased away in May of 2011. He produced many significant contributions to the field of assistive technology. His interview also provides examples of his wonderful humor.

Jerry's career in assistive technology began in 1960 when he was a beginning teacher looking for solutions for children, and a special education teacher in his building inspired him, eventually recruiting him into a Master's Degee program in special education at Emporia State University.

Wondering how the emerging teaching machines could help individualize instruction, he applied his idea that the social part of school was what was fun and developed his first game, Numerical Baseball, now a collector's item.

He tells of his continued interest in games during his doctoral program and his creations and experiments. Jerry discusses teaching, the emergence of Apple II and Apple IIe, developing Alien Addition and connecting and disconnecting with DLM, going on to do more innovative things with training teachers, and using video in the classroom, such as a Cap-Cam worn on a teacher's head.

The formation of ALTEC, Advanced Learning Technologies in Education Consortium and Jerry's re-entry into gaming, resulting in 15 free games now on the internet—with 200,000 games played monthly--makes for a fascinating story. He reflects on available technology far exceeding the ideas we have for using it, and how many complex things can be learned through the fun of video games. Jerry closes the interview with his answer for, "What is the meaning of life?"

The Assistive Technology Oral History (ATOH) project wishes to acknowledge the generous contributions of its supporters, including platinum sponsor Yahoo!, the AAC Institute, as well as, in-kind donors, ATIA and SETP. Without the generous support of these orgnizations, Dr. Rucker's work would not be possible.