Evaluation research underway!

This term has been quite an exciting one as we have now begun our initial pilot studies in schools with both the game and reader apps. It has been great to see the children’s positive reactions and engagement with our apps, and we look forward to our large-scale pilot starting in September when we will be providing tablets to schools across Europe giving many more pupils the opportunity to access them.

Below you can read more about the progress we have made over the past term as well as find out more about the various activities and events different project partners have been involved in.

Games & Reader Study

During the 2019 summer term initial studies evaluating the benefits of particular design features with our game and reader apps have begun in several countries including UK, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Romania. The data collected during these research studies will help us to better understand how the technology can support different groups of children in their reading development and also to guide the development of the teacher training program that we will run as part of our 2019/20 wider pilot study.

The game study investigated how children used the in-game feedback to recover from errors. Children participated in 3-4 sessions that explored different groups of sound and letters. This was important for helping to understand how technology can support different groups of children in their reading development and also guide the teacher training program in our wider pilot study that will take place in 2019/20. The reader study in the UK then explored how the use of in-text highlights supported children’s reading accuracy and/or fluency. Over the course of three sessions, the UCL team explored how children used the highlight feature to support in grapheme-phoneme correspondences.

Parts of these studies have already been replicated in Germany, Romania, Sweden and Spain, and will continue in Greece after the summer. We are now starting to discuss how we will collectively analyse the data we have generated, to ensure we follow a consistent approach across countries to enable us to compare the different groups of children as well as the different languages.

Conference Presentations

We’ve been busy sharing updates about the iRead project at a number of conferences across Europe.

In April, Roger Gilabert from the University of Barcelona presented a paperco-authored with Kay Berkling from the University of DHBW Karlsruhe at the GamiFIN Conference in Levi, Finland. The GameFIN conference is a prestigious international conference with a focus on research into gamification from both academia and the gamification industry.

In May, the UCL iRead team returned to the CHI conference (2019 Conference of Human Factors in Computing Systems) to present some follow-up research focused on the instructional design within existing reading games for children and also to demonstrate the latest version of the Navigo game. These submissions were also supported by the teams from University of Gothenburg, NTUA and Fish in a Bottle. More details about the presentation and demo can be found here.

In June, the University of Gothenburg team participated in PopUpDig19, a one-day conference about learning and digitalization for teachers, IT pedagogues and library staff. The team presented the iRead project, generating discussions about how others could use the iRead suite in their own practices.

Also in June, Panagiotpoulos Dionysis from NTUA presented a workshop paperat the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIED’2019) titled: ‘Interactive and Personalized Activity eBooks for Learning to Read: The iRead case’. The paper describes the infrastructure which allows authorless eBook creation. More details about the presentation are available here.

“iRead Tablets at our School!” – A Teacher’s Account

By Maria Skiadello, 11th Primary School of Chalandri

After taking part in the iRead Greek Novice Reader Pilot study, we made a list of things that can be helpful for other schools participating in the pilots. Here are our tips:

  • Firstly, we bought some shockproof, multicolored tablet cases for protecting the tablets, allowing student to choose their favorite colour, and allowing them to be positioned on a kickstand for handsfree use.
  • Next, we wanted to be able to cast student tablet screens onto the classroom whiteboard, so we used a Google Chromecast device to connect to the projector via wifi internet.
  • Furthermore, to optimise out tablet charging procedure and be able to simultaneously charge all tablets simultaneously, we bought a multi-charger hub with 10 USB ports. This is faster and more convenient than using an electric multi power source.
  • Lastly, to protect the tablets from software misuse, we installed the AppLock application, which is an open access security app in the Google play store. This prevents students from uninstalling, installing new apps or changing existing ones on the tablet, or changing basic settings.

Being part of the project has also given us the possibility to use the tablets in other educational concepts and activities such as:  document processing (e.g. Google apps, MS Office apps etc.),  comics creation and storytelling (Comic Strip application),  robotics, programming and coding (Lightbot application),  augmented reality (Quiver application).

Dolphin EasyReader and RNIB opening up the world of reading

By Stella Broster, Dolphin Computer Access

Since 2015, Dolphin Computer Access has been working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to enable people with a visual impairment to freely access RNIB’s reading services. Using the Dolphin EasyReader app, adults and children with blindness or low vision can easily browse and download RNIB talking bookspopular newspapers and magazines, as well as accessible school curriculum content from RNIB Bookshare. This is an important step in allowing for accessible versions of curriculum materials for students to keep up with their sighted peers.

However, it is difficult for teachers to get this accessible content for learners with additional educational needs. RNIB Bookshare and Dolphin decided to try and raise awareness amongst these more diverse learners and those who work with them. EasyReader, which is available on both iOS and Android devices, was designed for readers with low vision, blindness or dyslexia. The app offers a simple interface and the ability to browse and download content in one place, on a smartphone or tablet.

In June we arranged a joint webinar ‘Free accessible textbooks for learners with Dyslexia, Autism or ADD’, hosted by Stacy Scott of RNIB Bookshare and Steve Bennett of Dolphin. The event was a huge success with over 30 engaged participants. Watch the webinar here. The participants asked a wide variety of questions, gave valuable feedback – and we have already agreed to host another webinar in the autumn! To hear about how to get the best of RNIB’s reading services with the EasyReader app visit the RNIB website here. For the latest Dolphin tips, advice and events please subscribe to the blog here.

In other news…

  • In June the iRead Consortium Meeting took place in London hosted by UCL. Partners spent two productive days together sharing updates about the apps and teacher tool in preparation for the upcoming school pilot studies.
  • Maria Mastropavlou and colleagues from the UoI team presented a paper at the Experimental Psycholinguistics Conferenceheld in Majorca in June. The paper was titled: “Online processing of voice morphology by children with reading difficulties and beginning readers”. Maria was also interviewed on a local radio station in Ioannina about the iRead project.
  • Fish in a bottle have produced a new trailer for our Navigo game. Watch it here!
  • All academic partners have been working on a learning design study with the help of Yvonne Vezzoli from UCL. This has involved 40 workshops with 114 teachers across 6 countries. The study has generated different learning designs for using the apps in the classroom, which will form part of our teacher manual and professional development training.
  • Elisabeth Herbert and colleagues at UCL published a news article in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) on ‘How do you know if a reading app is any good?’
  • Laura Benton (UCL) was featured in a BBC Bitesize article that discussed ‘Can video games really help children learn?
  • Lots of schools have already been recruited for the pilot studies that are starting in September in Spain, Romania, Greece, Germany, Sweden and the UK. We’re looking forward to sharing more updates on the large scale pilot studies beginning in September!

Thank You!

Last but not least we would like to acknowledge the important contribution that teachers and pupils from the following schools have made to the iRead project over the last term:

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