Shaping the future of technology use in the classroom

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Education

Abstract

Most children with autism find computers and technology safe, motivating and engaging. Technology has the potential to enable learning in new and innovative ways and we are particularly intrigued by how technology can be used to support children with autism to communicate better. This includes ways of improving children's ability to turn take in conversation, to develop conversation skills and to work together with someone else on a tabletop device, or to help them communicate when they cannot talk.

In the last few years, members of our project team have worked with children of different ages and in partnership with practitioners and parents in a range of schools to inform the development of technologies that can be used in the classroom. These technologies support children on the autism spectrum to develop social communication. ReacTickles helps children to explore how they use their body, to understand cause and effect and to take turns. COSPATIAL helps children and young people to collaborate with one another and improve their conversation skills and ECHOES helps children to concentrate, to develop joint attention and to regulate emotions.

These technologies are now ready to be used more extensively in schools. We want to put children in control of their learning and to investigate how these technologies can become part of the day-to-day practice in classrooms. To that end, we will work closely with children, parents and teachers to explore how ECHOES, COSPATIAL and ReacTickles can make a measurable difference to practice in the classroom to improve the social and communications skills in children who have difficulties in this area. We will also work with teachers and other staff to offer genuine opportunities for professional development.

Researchers and teachers will work together in six different schools to identify ways of using these technologies in new and exciting ways. As part of this work in special, specialist and mainstream schools, we will create short and interesting films of the work we do together so that these film clips can inspire other teachers and schools to explore new ways of using technologies to enable learning. We will also launch an online portal where teachers, parents and other schools staff will be able to access resources to help them in their practice. These resources will include an online workshop, guidance documents on how to use the technologies, with suggestions of how to link with the curriculum and with assessment. The online portal will be open to all schools with the aim to inspire, motivate and engage staff in using technology to meet the needs of not only children on the autism spectrum, but all children.

Planned Impact

Our ultimate aim is to make a difference to the lives of children and young people on the autism spectrum by exploring optimum conditions for learning for them. We have seen that technology, when used in the right way, can inspire and motivate children who can be difficult to engage and that technologies can be used in new and creative ways which can be of real benefit to these children. Our key stakeholders and research beneficiaries are therefore children and young people, but also their teachers and other staff who work with them. This project will support collaboration in which academics and non- academics will have the time and scope to build connections as they work together, thereby contributing to instrumental, conceptual and capacity building impact.

* Instrumental because we want to influence practice, in particular the practice of using technology in creative and exploratory ways to encourage social communication and social skills for children and young people;
* Conceptual because we aim to explore the intersection between general and specialist pedagogies and the boundaries of technology use in real-world classrooms;
*Capacity building because through the process of the work, we will be involved in increasing children's technological skills and learning as well as developing the technical and pedagogical skills of teachers. As researchers, we will also develop our own skills and expertise in the use of technologies and in addressing how to engage in successful knowledge exchange. Crucially, such knowledge exchange will also form the basis for future research applications to further extend this important field of knowledge and application.

Our work with teachers will contribute to their professional development and we will work with them to explore new ways of using technologies. This work will include dialogue about pedagogy as well as practical work on trying new strategies in the classroom. We will encourage teachers to report on their own practice and pedagogy as well as the progress of the children, and we will ask them to share this with us through the online portal where we will give feedback. Our strategy therefore also entails working with teachers to develop their evidence-based practice.

The work will benefit the wider social science community through the evaluation of this knowledge exchange strategy itself, elements of which can be incorporated in other knowledge exchange work generally. We will evaluate the process of value creation during the project by using Wenger, Trayner and De Laat's (2011) process and framework for evaluating value creation in communities. This work will be disseminated to the social science community through conferences, workshops, publications and the TLRP TEL community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Festival of Social Science Video News Report- November 2012 
Description This is a short video clip reporting on the Festival of Social Science event held at Topcliffe Primary School in November 2012. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The clip has had over 200 views on Youtube. 
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVpG35MzoJQ
 
Title Shaping the future of educational technologies today: from prototypes to practice 
Description This is a short five minute video clip which explains the Shape project. It is uploaded on University of Birmingham's Youtube channel. As of 09/11/2014 it has had 527 views. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact As a result of this film, we have had many requests for further information about the project and teachers have come forward and asked if we would be willing to work in their school and collaborate with them on research projects. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr1LaqpMKLU
 
Description We encountered substantial technical challenges in embedding the technologies in the schools. These challenges took different forms in the various schools and included difficulties with implementing some of the technologies due to firewalls and safety settings; software and hardware compatibility issues and tensions regarding availability of equipment. This finding highlights how crucial it is for TEL research to address the practical usability of technology development in the real world from the outset.

Once these constraints were overcome, and the technologies were used in the schools, staff highlighted that they extended the way in which they used technologies to support learning. Teachers in special schools embedded the technologies in their everyday work, and found it helped them become more finely attuned to the children and more able to identify children's strengths as well as difficulties.

Digital storytelling proved to be a powerful method for exploring and encouraging TEL yet there were varying degrees of 'readiness' for taking on the new ideas and ways of working required by the project. Most teachers were innovative, expansive and willing to take risks by trying new things, whilst others were more conservative in their approach, less directly involved and more willing to let the research team take the lead. There were differences between mainstream schools and special schools in terms of the extent to which they felt comfortable in focusing on social communication skills through technology use and also in the way that they used the technologies.

A key finding evidenced in follow up interviews with some of the teaching staff, was how the process of capturing experiences on video enabled them to appreciate the finer detail of interaction with the technologies that would typically be missed, and that reviewing the video helped them to build on these interactions and incorporate them into future sessions.

As evidenced by the digital stories, the technologies were used to focus on the following skills and interaction opportunities for the children:

COSPATIAL: conversation skills; flexibility; confidence; collaboration with peers; fun and skill generalisation.
ECHOES: coping with change; attention span; joint attention; motor skills; speech development and fun.
Somantics and ReacTickles: conversation skills; social interaction/ e- inclusion; emotional regulation; joint attention; initiations of communication; motor skills; attention span/ engagement level; flexibility; academic; fun/shared enjoyment/ reward; self-awareness and creativity.

The Shape project provided a platform for reflection related to embedding TEL in classrooms. It provided both teachers and researchers with an environment in which knowledge could be exchanged in a collaboratively generative manner (through digital stories), as opposed to a reactive one. The project thus provided a context for quite different Knowledge Exchange (KE) than is often observed in TEL projects where the main concern is often to develop technologies from scratch and to evaluate them within quite limited timeframes. Shape focused on a stage that is fundamental to releasing TEL from the labs and into the real world, i.e. a stage at which the technology is trialled in specific contexts and with minimal involvement by researchers.
Exploitation Route This project continued the work of a suite of research council funded projects which include ECHOES 1 and II (EPSRC/ESRC TLRP programme; Shape (ESRC Knowledge Exchange) and Share-It (EPSRC In the Wild). Shape has been taken forward through the Share-It project and the team will continue to seek funding to build on the important knowledge-creation work and development of Technology Enhanced Learning undertaken in this project.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education

 
Description Knowledge Co-creation: The key findings from the project highlight the power of digital story creation as evidence and as a method for co-creation of knowledge. Abbott's e-inclusion framework (2007) sees practices as arising as an interaction between digital technologies, people and contexts. In relation to the use of Digital technologies, teachers regularly re-purposed the technologies with which they were working, and used them in different ways from those envisaged in the original TEL projects. They responded to the specific needs of the pupils using their pedagogical content knowledge by scaffolding children's engagement with the technologies in different ways. The affordances of the technologies supported collaboration which the teachers explored and extended in their sessions. The digital stories gave teachers a platform for using technology as a conduit for observing, capturing and sharing individual acheivements. In turn these stories contributed to pupil centred planning and target setting. In relation to context, pupils' motivation in and enjoyment using the technologies highlighted the need for schools to be flexible in when and how the technologies were used. Flexibility was needed due to challenges with the technologies too; buy in from management and support at school level was crucial. Furthermore, the digital stories gave practitioners agency in the way other traditional methodologies might not; there was a range of experiences and views captured, with different levels of creativity and risk-taking; there were key differences between mainstream and special schools in the extent they were willing to take risks and focus on social communication. The work enhanced practitioner's ability to interpret and make sense of what they were doing. It contributed to giving them new understandings regarding their practice and helped them see and imagine their practice differently. The outputs are listed in the annexe. The digital stories can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/m9ds22u
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Digital stories evidencing how teachers embedded the technologies in practice in the classroom
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact We created 27 digital stories in collaboration with six school communities. The aim of digital storytelling was to permit the "powerful voice" of the storyteller to create the conditions for understanding the relevance of the technology in the context of each unique user experience. As a method, digital story telling can be effective in addressing the balance of power in a research project by putting the intended beneficiaries of the research at the heart of the project. For Shape this meant being open to capturing the unique, unpredicted ways in which children and their teachers engaged with the technologies. The digital stories explored the challenges, highlights and surprises encountered in trying to embed innovative TEL within individual education plans, and the wider curriculum, for the children involved. The digital stories then became resources for disseminating creative practice to other schools in an accessible and contextualised way, and became a resource for training practitioners and researchers on our Masters level programmes.Team members gave a range of invited lectures and workshops at a variety of practitioner events, including the annual Computers At Schools Conference, BETT, and the Autism Centre for Education and Research residential conference. In line with the collaborative approach of the project team, members of staff at three of the schools gave presentations at practitioner conferences to disseminate the work further (e.g. National Autistic Society annual conference, BETT and Education show). Scientific and societal impact is further evidenced by the success of the Festival of Social Sciences event held in 2012 and funded by the ESRC. A significant achievement was the use of the testimonials from digital stories to encourage new audiences to try out technologies in new settings including day care and residential centres for adults with profound disabilities. For example, targeted presentations to these audiences, led to the adoption of the Somantics and ReacTickles software at Scope, Leonard Cheshire, Barchester homes and Bridgend Day Resource Centre.
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/education/research/acer/research/shape/index.aspx
 
Description EPSRC Research in the wild
Amount £302,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K012428/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2013 
End 06/2014
 
Description ESRC Festival of Social Sciences
Amount £950 (GBP)
Funding ID RES-622-26-619 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2012 
End 11/2012
 
Description HEIF Next Generation Fund and Impact acceleration Account
Amount £26,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Department Institute of Education (IOE)
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 08/2015
 
Title Knowledge co-creation 
Description The way in which we worked with schools on this project represented an innovative attempt to shift away from traditional conceptions of knowledge transfer (from the researchers to the practitioners) and even knowledge exchange (reciprocity between researchers and practitioners) towards a much more shared and collaborative endeavour. Knowledge and outcomes were developed with practitioners often (although not always) taking the lead in this respect and so this project was about knowledge co-creation. The dissemination of the methodology of the project and the concept of co-creation contributed in an important way to very timely debates about evidence-based practices in the teaching profession. Specifically, by working collaboratively in knowledge co-creation, we discovered there were stronger possibilities for research to have a real impact on practice. The Shape digital videos were used as case studies to articulate the experience of children and young people with autism using technologies in meaningful and imaginative ways. By showing the technologies in learning contexts, the digital stories enabled teachers reviewing the videos to envision possibilities for many other children. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We have outlined the methodological contribution of the project in two research papers. A paper in the International Journal of Research & Method in Education focused on how the method of digital stories i) enabled knowledge-co-creation with practitioners and ii) supported teachers to find their voice in critiquing the usability, usefulness, efficacy and flexibility of the technologies. Another paper in the British Journal of Educational Research articulated how the participatory methodology of the project, combined with the digital stories as a method, put a strong case for methodologies that bridge the gap between research and practice. The two papers combine provide a robust framework for this methodological innovation. 
 
Description Contribution to Swinburne MOOC 
Organisation Swinburne University of Technology
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A video clip on Technology Enhanced Learning for pupils with autism.
Collaborator Contribution Editing of the clip and situating it within the course materials.
Impact Video clip/podcast
Start Year 2014
 
Description Internship for Patricia Perez-Fuster 
Organisation University of Valencia
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Patricia Perez-Fuster is a PhD student at University of Valencia. The University of Valencia funded her to undertake an internship at the Autism Centre for Education and Research, University of Birmingham, with a view to securing long term partnership between the two institutions. As part of this internship, Patricia is working on the Shape project.
Collaborator Contribution Patricia Perez-Fuster contributed to the research design of the project and has facilitated a broader collaboration between colleagues at University of Birmingham, Autism Centre for Education and Research, and academics at the Robotics Institute, University of Valencia.
Impact Paper submitted to ITASD, Paris 2014.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Autism Europe 2013 conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions and debate and led to further interest in our work.

After the talk, we had several requests for collaboration, from colleagues in Russia, Hungary and Poland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description BETT 2013 and 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The technologies were showcased and we gave a presentation about our work. This sparked a lot of interest.

After the talk, several participants contacted us to request a publications list.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Festival of Social Science Event at Topcliffe Primary School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Shape team organised an event to disseminate the plans of the project during the ESRCs Festival of Social Science, 2012. The event attracted more than 100 visitors. During this event visitors had the chance to see children from two schools (Topcliffe and Minworth) use the four technologies and to try the technologies themselves. Additionally, they were introduced to the use of digital stories, a medium of disseminating research findings. Researchers from University of Birmingham ran workshops on how to make digital stories (e.g. basic elements, resources and tools) and showed some digital story examples from the 'Shaping the future of educational technologies today: from prototypes to practice' project. The children also showed how they use Max and Ben, two knee-high humanoid robots developed by Aldebaran Robotics. These were introduced to Topcliffe School in March 2012. The event sparked a lot of discussion, questions and feedback about how to improve the technologies further.



More than 100 people visited Topcliffe School for the event. The visitors were a mixture of practitioners, parents, students, academics and local authority representatives. Some of them were from Birmingham and the West Midlands area whilst others travelled from far away to attend the event. It received very positive evaluations.



The event had great media coverage nationally and internationally, with live Sky News coverage on the hour every hour throughout the day, and coverage on the NBC Today programme.

The event led to further collaboration with the schools and individuals on other projects, most notably the EPSRC funded Share-It project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description ITASD conference 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk sparked a lot of interest, with a spike in the number of people accessing our website.

After the talk, I was contacted by colleagues in the US ( Barber Institute) who run and autism service there and I am in discussion with them about potential collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Inside Government 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The talk sparked discussion.

The talk led to further requests for publications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Laskaridou Foundation conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk sparked a lot of interest from Greek teachers, with questions and requests for further information.

The talk led to further collaboration with the Laskaridou Foundation and with other partners on a separate funded research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description National Autistic Society Conferences 2013 and 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talks sparked discussion and questions, and led to further requests for information.

After the talk, we received further requests for information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Press engagement through Festival of Social Sciences event 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The press release resulted in substantial press interest, including Sky News, NBC, Polish TV, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and a number of other online publications internationally.

After this exposure, we have had a number of requests for collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Serious games as intervention tools for the socially excluded 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an invited lecture given by Dr Kaska Porayska-Pomsta in which she included information about the Shape project. The event was entitled: Our Education: Using digital technologies for transforming our schools, colleges and universities.

After the talk, several people asked Dr Porayska-Pomsta for further information and the talk led to further discussion with Dr Chris Peterson regarding the work of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Social networking 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The web page, Facebook page and the videos created about the project have led to wide engagement with the project. The web page itself has had 2,855 page views and the Facebook page has 173 members.

This work has led to requests for further involvement and engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/education/shape/index.aspx
 
Description Talk to Masters students: The use of technology (and social media) in improving Special Educational Needs outcomes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a lecture to students at University of Birmingham Autism Children Distance Education programme highlighting the use of technology to assist learning for children on the autism spectrum and to outline innovative methods for technology use and development. The talk sparked discussion and questions.

After my talk, students requested further information and several students chose to write about Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) for their assignments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/education/shape/index.aspx
 
Description Talk to Masters students: Using technologies to support the learning of children with autism 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This lecture was given to a group of 40 postgraduate students studying for the PGCert or MEd Autism Children campus programme, School of Education, University of Birmingham.

After the talk, two students chose to write about Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in their assignments and they went on to conduct research on TEL in other schools. Many students also accessed our website and Facebook page.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/education/shape/index.aspx
 
Description Talk to Masters students: Using technologies to support the learning of children with autism 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A three hour talk on Technology Enhanced Learning ( using the Shape project as the Case study) to approximately 40 students studying the Autism Campus Programme of Study at University of Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016
 
Description University of Edinburgh Autism Aware event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk enabled the project to share information with other researchers and practitioners in the field. It sparked questions and discussions around methodology.

After the talk, we engaged with school staff about future activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Using programmable robots and other technologies in schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The lecture/presentation was given at the "Computing at Schools' conference, a teacher conference held in Birmingham on July 15th 2013. It presented work on using programmable robots as well as the Shape project. The event was held by a grassroots organisation which promotes computing at schools. They hold an annual conference and Karen Guldberg was invited to hold a lecture. There were 230 participants overall at the conference.

The event was held by a grassroots organisation which promotes computing at schools. They hold an annual conference and Karen Guldberg was invited to hold a lecture. There were 230 participants overall at the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Wellbeing 2013 Birmingham City University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions and discussion.

The talk led to further requests for information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Workshop at Care4Autism School, Hyderabad, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop for teachers and parents at Care4Autism school in which presented our work on Technology Enhanced Learning and included the Shape project as part of this. This sparked lively discussion and engagement from the participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015