I’m JeanCarl and I’m a developer behind Read With Me. Since Reina and Francisco are laser-focused on making fluency assessments more student-centered, I’d like to discuss the technology we’ve been exploring that could help change the way reading assessments are conducted and how reading behaviors are analyzed. Very exciting stuff!
After an eventful couple of days in San Francisco during Google I/O last week, I attended the Android Dev Camp Hackathon last weekend in Santa Clara. This was a two-and-a-half day hackathon instead of the 24 hours we had to develop Read With Me at AT&T.
There were a number of sponsors that provided hackers with devices to use to develop their ideas that were pitched on Friday night. They included the Zeemote, a Bluetooth game controller that can be used on Android and iOS devices; NeuroSky’s MindWave headset that monitors brainwaves and provides continous data points like attention and relaxation levels; HTC with their Lockscreen API functionality; and a Near Field Communication (NFC) card reader. Fun gadgets and technology that many teams used to make some impressive demos.
As a developer, all these pieces of hardware are exciting to play with and find ways to improve existing products. Reina and Francisco couldn’t make it to the hackathon, but a new team I worked with really focused our attention on the MindWave headset to determine the user engagement while rating ads. Is the user really engaged with a certain graphic selling a particular product? Are they relaxed? Bored? It was fascinating how it required some concentration to get to certain levels of each attribute.
The MindWave is similar to headphones but with an arm that wraps around the forehead and a clip on the earlobe. Decades of EEG research has led to this technology in an affordable device for many purposes. After being paired up, an application starts reading data streamed over a Bluetooth connection. Before, electrodes had to be placed carefully around the brain and connected to expensive technology. This device can be put on and taken off with ease. It currently sells for $100, essentially taking neuroscience out of the lab and putting it in the hands of teachers, reading specialists, and parents.
What really struck me was how this headset could be used with Read With Me to provide a whole new depth of reading assessment data in real time.
Recently the Read With Me team tested some young children with a new version of our app featuring some exciting ways of reading. The unexpected results and our analysis, experience, and video will be shared on this blog in the near future. Stay tuned. It was truly eye opening to really observe how a young child processes and struggles while reading a passage. Sometimes their facial expressions and tone of voice indicated they were struggling, but sometimes I was unsure what was happening for them when they were silent.
So They Struggle to Decode, But Why?
The paper reading assessments and our app record what words the student struggles with. However, teachers, reading specialists, parents, and/or special education teachers are the expert that determine why they struggle. But since so many factors can be an obstacle for students, and the experts have so many students to assess, they could miss why one student couldn’t decode a certain word. In the Read With Me App, we’re trying a video component that aids the experts by providing the ability to endlessly replay the student errors and successes, which can be hard to capture and analyze robustly while assessing them.
In addition to video and audio playback, the headset could provide more nuanced data on attention and relaxation levels that could help us understand each student a little better. Were they paying attention and really didn’t know the word? Did their attention level spike, working all their cylinders, figuring out what that one word really is? Were they distracted by some other factor in their environment? It is a similar situation with the relaxation level. Are they stressed out by being assessed? Uncomfortable because they have to read when reading isn’t what they really want to be doing? Or the opposite, are they really relaxed because they get to read a passage about Star Wars! Use the force, Luke! Hmm, sorry. Perhaps they perform better when relaxed?
Carefully collecting these data points during a reading assessment creates various opportunities to make this a student-centered assessment for learning. We believe we can more efficiently provide personalized interventions to students. We can also help make the student feel more comfortable and focused on the words. We also wonder whether the gadget will help motivate and engage students, and if so, how long that will last?
Reinforcement Anytime Anywhere
HTC has opened up the capability to use the lockscreen on their devices through the Lockscreen API in the OpenSense SDK. This allows the user to add content that can be accessed without having to enter in a passcode. This is an interesting idea.
Say you’re in the store with your child waiting in line at the checkout. In lieu of having to enter a password and wait for the page to load, which could take the whole time in line, you hand them your phone with Read With Me App already loaded, showing words that they misread. You can use this otherwise wasted time to reinforce words through simple activities based around them.
Tap to share
Hackers also got to explore Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This one is exciting because Read With Me could take advantage of the action of tapping two devices together. Instead of entering pairing codes or having a student log into our service, the teacher could simple touch devices together and immediately send or share the assessment to the student’s device. Or when a group of students goes into the computer lab they can tap their Read With Me card to a learning device running the Read With Me App and launch an assessment automatically. A sort of identification card.
Or when parents, teachers, and support staff meet for an IPE, they can easily tap devices together and get a shared Read With Me report about the student’s performance and analysis. Each person can have full access to make the meeting as productive as possible.
Controlling with a Zeemote
The Zeemote is a game controller that is small enough that you can take it with you. We’re still exploring activities that the student can do based on the miscues and content they need improvement on, but believe the Zeemote could be used in the process. Your quick triggered sheriff could press the trigger button when the word they see on screen is not the word they hear. Simple activities that can reinforce the thought process can engage the student into new ways of using the words and provide different context and meanings besides just the one they didn’t comprehend.
There are lots of innovative products being developed that can be used in this process of student assessments. We look forward to seeing how attention and relaxation data points factor into the assessment process when we integrate this headset with our app. We also hope to make the whole process easier to administrate and use. The paper method is archaic and a waste of precious resources and of educational time. We are at an exciting time in the digital age and are taking full advantage of that.
If you have a product that could be used in a similar fashion, please let us know. We are interested in making student assessments more than just an evaluation. One day we hope to find the root causes of recognition and comprehension issues and solve them for good.
For more information or to reach out to us, email email@example.com.
“The basis of science is being comfortable with not knowing and willing to be wrong.”
- Joel Parker – SwRI (Southwest Research Institute)- Science Operations Center Manager for LAMP