A low-cost eye gaze computer controller for schoolchildren is among technologies shortlisted for the 2015 Bett Awards for educational ICT. The shortlist was announced this month by i2i Events, organisers of the annual London Bett conference, with the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).
Inclusive EyeGaze Foundations combines myGaze eye tracker hardware from German firm Visual Interaction with Eye Gaze Attention & Looking software from accessible early learning software specialists Inclusive Technology. It is portable, and works with any Windows computer.
Students can learn to track, fix their gaze and interact with images on screen. The system also allows real-time recording of students’ progress, so teachers can review where they looked and for how long using line trace, video and heat maps.
Sandra Thistlethwaite, specialist speech and language therapist at Inclusive Technology, told E-Access Bulletin the system’s cost of just under £1,000 was less than a tenth of the average previous cost of similar technologies, opening up new possibilities for eye gaze ICT in schools.
“Traditionally, devices have cost more than £10,000 so they have not been in the reaches of most schools, and you had to go through individual funding streams”, Thistlethwaite said. “So we have been working hard to get units up at a reasonable price that can be afforded by a much wider range of schools and pupils.
“We had already identified those with a physical need for eye gaze but this is now giving us the insight into how we interact with and teach pupils with more profound and complex needs, where we are not sure about their cognitive skills, or what they can understand from what they see on screen.”
It is possible that as much as 10%-20% of the UK special school population could experience some benefit from using eye-gaze technology, she said. “I was talking to a special school in the North East this morning with 120 pupils which has 20 pupils now using eye gaze and possibly more in the pipeline.”
Plans for future developments include more sophisticated learning analytics, with systems that can help users through a learning progression and return more detailed data on their work to teachers and therapists, Thistlethwaite said.
The seven other finalists in the Bett Awards special educational needs category are the Clicker Books literacy app for primary school children, from Crick Software; ReadingWise English literacy software from IdeasWise; the Dynamo Profiler online dyscalculia assessor from JellyJames Publishing; Forbrain, an auditory feedback headset for speech improvement, from Sound For Life; Read&Write literacy support software from Texthelp; Predictable, a text-based augmentative communication app, from Therapy Box; and Exam Pen, a scanner and assistive reader to help students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia take exams independently, from WizCom Tech.
Winners will be announced in January 2015.