This year, Netherhall School embark on an ambitious research project. The school will create a report exploring whether the eye gaze system can be used to support and provide accurate assessments of learners with disabilities to inform and guide the school, families and other professionals, along with support materials for staff wanting to use eye tracker technology with learners. The project is being led by Erica Dennies and Helen Robinson. Erica writes:
Netherhall school caters for pupils 4-19 years with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. An increasing number of these pupils require specialised communication tools. One of these which we have recently started to use with pupils is eye gaze technology which allows the user to control a computer with the movement of their eyes.
The aim of our project is to research if this eye gaze technology could be used to accurately assess pupils, not just to determine if this technology could be used with them as a communication tool, but also to assess their cognitive understanding, interests and motivators. This then better informs teaching strategies that practitioners are using when working with those pupils. Our focus is particularly on pupils working at P levels 1-3 who may be difficult to assess.
We started the project by attending a study day to investigate the different assessment packages available, and to help us learn more about how pupils can use the eye gaze technology. It was also an opportunity to network with other teachers, parents and speech and language therapists who are interested in augmentative communication.
One assessment package demonstrated, called Gaze Viewer from Tobii, could collect evidence by recording real eye tracking from any application. Once analysed this helps understand the pupil’s physical capabilities, cognitive understanding and ability to use the eye gaze technology.
In December we invited a supplier in to demonstrate a range of different equipment and programmes in school. This has helped us decide on the approach we are going to take to start assessing our chosen cohort in January.