How was School Today...? in the Wild

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Computing Science


Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can provide access to computerised speech output for children who have little or no speech due to disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. Computer based speech generating AAC devices which provide access to prestored words, phrases and sentences are well suited to communicate needs and wants (such as I am thirsty). However, they do not well support more complex interactions such as conversational narrative (guess what happened to me today) and social dialogue (e.g., pub chats about football). Not only are these interactions essential for building vocabulary and general language acquisition; they form an essential part of the process of making and sustaining friendships and other social relationships. Indeed, social isolation is a major quality-of-life issue amongst people with communication impairment.Our goal is to develop AAC tools that support story-telling and social dialogue. We will be building on our work in a feasibility study in which we constructed a proof-of-concept system for helping children with communication disabilities to construct and tell stories about their day at school. We used sensors to track the children's location, activities, and interactions. This data was used to generate a draft story using a natural language generation data-to-text system. We also built tools which allowed the children to edit and interactively narrate the stories. Evaluation with two disabled children showed that the system allowed them to experience more natural conversation. This project will address several issues raised in the feasibility study: the system needs to be able to support children with very diverse capabilities and impairments; it needs to be tailored to fit into the school environment and curriculum; and it needs to be attractive to teachers as well as students. It also needs to be able to run in the wild without the need for the constant technical support from the research team.This proposal seeks to investigate these issues in order to create an improved prototype system which we will trial for five months, not just one week as in the feasibility project. By its nature this work must be carried out in close collaboration with the children and their school; we need to embed ourselves in the environment in order to fully investigate the reality of implementing and using such a system. We will work with staff, parents and children to understand their perspectives, the impact of diversity in the children, and the practicalities of technical support in a school environment.
Description further developed techniques for helping non-verbal children communicate to heir parents about their school day
Exploitation Route Simplified version of our ideas (which are appropriate for very challenging "in the wild" context of a council special needs school) can be taken forward by AAC providers
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education

Description Not yet. Project did not achieve its goals because of very challenging nature of "in the wild" context
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural