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Shameka N. Johnson

Department/ College

Communication Sciences & Disorders/School of Communications



(202) 806-4052




Dr. Joan Payne


Dr. Shameka N. Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences & Disorders department. She was awarded a B.S degree in Computer Science and Computer Information Systems from Shaw University, a M.Ed. degree in Communication Disorders from North Carolina Central University and a Ph.D. degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders - Augmentative and Alternative Communication from Howard University. She is a licensed speech-language pathologist who provides services within the United States and various Caribbean countries working with children with critical communication needs, augmentative and alternative communication and training special educators to integrate and be responsive to communication disorders within the classroom. Her research interests includes augmentative and alternative communication and severe disabilities within multicultural populations, literacy development with at-risk reading delayed children, interdisciplinary training and response to intervention for communication disorders, and critical thinking and technology integration in higher education classrooms.
She has presented at numerous national and international conferences on the use of technology to enhance critical thinking skills of graduate clinician programs. In this current project, she has incorporated the use of a virtual child and modified its approach to provide simulated clinical opportunities and critical thinking labs for graduate clinicians. Her approach to technology in higher education classrooms within the communication disorders graduate programs is being applied at three other departments in Universities across the United States.


My Virtual Child - Using Online Virtual Simulations to Increase Critical Thinking Skills of Students in Clinical Graduate Programs


CSD 559: Language Disorders in School-Age Children
CSD 550: Early Intervention


If you would like to purchase access you can visit here:

Click Buy access and complete registration
To join my class and run through the program at your own pace use class ID: 11863


The video included above as a resource demonstrates how My Virtual Child works and also provides you with visual and audio narrative as it walks you through the system. The video is:


In recent years, it has been recognized that the past teaching approaches to provide students with information does not yield the same results as the incorporation of technology. As a result, the development of independent critical thinking skills appear to suffering. Graduate clinicians are experiencing increased difficulty connecting what they have learned in class to real practical situations within the clinic. As a result, Dr. Johnson incorporated the use of My Virtual Child to provide hands-on immediate interaction with clinical simulations to exercise the student's ability to use critical thinking skills in relation to the information provided in course lectures. As a result of the implementation of this virtual online system, students demonstrated an increase in their ability to create SMART goals, connect pedagogical knowledge to skill and demonstrate confidence in treatment and intervention on their tests and within clinical practicum settings.


The premise for using the My Virtual Child system came from the recognition that there was a presenting gap in the student's pedagogical knowledge and their actual production of clinical skills in the field. As a result, it demonstrated that the necessary component many students were leaving out when attempting to connect their class knowledge to their practice was the critical thinking component. Because students are not always afforded the opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom on a client immediately, some of the comprehension and connection they have developed is lost when they reach the practicum site. This is a significant problem as we are a clinically based field that requires professionals and future clinicians to be able to actively deduce and develop treatment approaches, diagnoses, and intervention goals with flexibility and ease without notice. It is necessary to be able to immediately and consistently connect what they have been trained, taught and demonstrated to do to what they perceive and actively practiced at all times.


The technology chosen was the My Virtual Child online simulation tool. The system was originally designed to support college-level courses in developmental psychology programs. Originally designed to be a self-contained module utilized alongside the curriculum of a typical Developmental Psychology or Child and Adolescent Development course, Dr. Johnson modified the design of the program to fit the objectives and standards of a Communication Sciences & Disorder graduate level course. The structure of the system was designed to provide practical simulated experiences in raising a child from birth to adolescence; however, Dr. Johnson redesigned and incorporated timed behaviors, scenarios, case-studies and critical thinking questions all within the system to force the students to make real life clinical decisions and responses related to communication sciences & disorders. These uniquely designed behaviors, scenarios, case-studies and critical thinking questions were also aligned to the course curriculum and objectives and were automatically released in conjunction with its paralleled lectures. Students were paired into dyads and each dyad was required to respond to critical thinking probes related to each virtual child question within blackboard assignment and were graded based on their ability to functionally address the clinical scenario, problem or question incorporating evidenced based knowledge.


At the completion of the course, students participated in a round table forum to discuss their interaction with the Virtual Child online program based on the forum, the following qualitative results were gathered:
1. The program was fun to interact with and very helpful in applying the knowledge from class to real situations
2. Students appreciated the inability to back track on responses and how the system treated the scenarios as real life situations in which you cannot go back and change things
3. The program was easy to navigate and the ease of use for completing activities was above-average
4. Receiving feedback via blackboard for each related assignment was helpful and assisted the students in making immediate changes during their next simulation assignment
5. 100% of the students stated they recommend incorporating the program into future courses within the communication sciences & disorders program
6. The use of dyads was helpful and increased ability to make decisions and critically think


As discussed above, the qualitative data from the round table forum demonstrated a number of learning outcomes.
The use of the technology improved student learning and skill in the area of addressing school-age language disorders.
Having the opportunity to connect the pedagogical knowledge presented in class to simulated experiences made it easier to internalize the course information.
The implementation of the dyads when engaging with the program increased student's comfort level with collaboration, teamwork, and idea building.


The use of the Virtual Child improved my ability to ensure that I was actively providing hands-on opportunities for students to practice the techniques, approaches and interventions being taught in class. In addition, the technology implementation increased my instructional skills as it required me to engage with my students more outside the classroom, increase the level of consistent feedback I was providing and reanalyze my clinical skills and approaches as I developed simulation scenarios. Overall, it solidified my hypothesis that the use of technology can increase critical thinking skills of the student and the instructor.


The cost of using the My Virtual Child system was $30.00 per student. However, paring them into parent dyads, they were able to split the cost making the purchase of the system cheaper than purchasing a textbook that provided static case studies to present in class or assignments. In addition, by modifying an already existing system, this saved the University time and thousands of dollars in light of attempting to create a different system to support specifically the program.


The ability to redesign and modify the layout of this program to support various clinically based college-level programs makes generalizing very easy. The technology is readily available, reliable and the process to which you can add and edit questions, scenarios, age start and stop points announcements and more makes it a system that could be implemented to any course. In addition, the ease of aligning the program to your course and program objectives increases not only the generalization but the sustainability of the program to other courses the adopting faculty member may teach or within the overall department.


The program was developed with ADA regulations and specifically designed for students making it very user friendly and accessible to all students regardless of their physical challenges. Because the program is designed to increase critical thinking and increase connections between course information and simulated hands-on experiences, it is unique in being one of few programs at this level that accommodates all learning styles and supports students with learning disabilities. The program can be accessed from a laptop, desktop, iPad, or smart phone and many students would engage and complete the simulations with their partners after class on their iPad while their partner followed along on their laptop.


Shameka N. Johnson

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