5 Tips to Take Eye Gaze Further in Your Classroom
As with any technology with so much potential and promise, sometimes its hard to figure out where to start with eye gaze. We put a shout out to our instructors, colleagues and experts in Canada and abroad for advice on where to begin and some tips and tricks for getting started. You can also check out our new webinar, “I Got an Eye Gaze System, Now What” to see some of these tips in action.
This by no means is an exhaustive list. Do you see something we’ve missed and you’ve learned? Leave a comment and we’ll share
1. First time user – clear the room and pipe down.
For users just starting out with eye gaze, it’s best to work in a quiet space where the student can focus and learn this new skill. As exciting as eye gaze is to share with other educators, the more adults in the room the more likely they’ll distract. Sometimes well-intentioned grownups will point at the screen, not realizing their arm might actually be blocking the camera. It may look like the student isn’t attending the screen or engaged with the activity when they might just be looking at who’s cheering them on.
If your system is mobile, consider trying different areas in your classroom. Bring the system to where that student is most comfortable.
2. Become familiar with the equipment
The more familiar you are with the hardware, software and positiong of your eye gaze set-up, the easier it is to make adjustments, set goals, and create lesson plans to suit each of your students. Try it out yourself, then set it up with an adult colleague. Launch different activities and see what they’re like. Bridges EyeLearn Systems are extremely adaptable, and can be used with a wide range of students, regardless of their visual/ cognitive/ sensory abilities, or their positioning. If you have an EyeLearn Rolling system, try it different parts of the room and different levels and positions – from a small chair or bolster, to standing. If you have students with specific physical behaviours (uncontrolled head movement, drooping head to one side, reaching out etc.), try mimicking that with the camera to see how it might respond. It doesn’t take a lot of time for you to learn the ins and outs of your system, but taking the time can make all the difference.
3. Manage expectations and set reasonable goals
Every student is different, so their purpose and goals for using eye gaze will be different too. Some students may focus on building their eye gaze skills with the ultimate goal of using it for communication and day-to-day access to academic activities using software like Grid 3 or Clicker or Choose it Maker. For other students that are very hard to connect with, your goals might be building on engagement for developing expressive purposeful actions with choice making. Or discovering what a student's potentials and visual perception abilities are. You’ll have to choose the activities and build lessons accordingly. But if in doubt, start with the simplest attention activities, just to see if the student can engage with the screen and realize that, when he looks at the screen, something will happen.
4. Capture and Track
One of the most revolutionary aspects of eye gaze is the analysis tools in software like the Inclusive Eye Gaze Education package and Look to Learn. Do not make assumptions about what the student can do and has done until you check out the analysis tools after an activity. Many times they reveal intentionality camouflaged by a visual impairment. Save the heat maps and other assessment tools consistently after activities to track progress.
Learn how to make distinct profiles for each of your students, using the printed pdf’s that come with some of the software. Come up with your own system or practice for saving students' heat-maps and other documentation of the activity – file folder paths, naming rules et cetera, so that you can share with other staff members and parents to help decide next steps.
5. Don’t get hung up on calibration
Often, for the simple activities we’re doing, you can avoid calibrating for each individual student. Just set a profile with one of the adults and try using that for the first simple activities. If that works, stick with it. If you think a calibration will help, use only a small number of points. In the MyGaze camera, you can actually use your own pictures or ones from the internet as targets to keep a student engaged.
There is little to no benefit in going back to recalibrating for a user. If there are problems, look to positioning the camera/monitor to the user better. Or make sure someone isn’t blocking the camera by pointing to a target. Or a lamp or sunlight isn’t now shining directly into the camera.
If someone is doing well with a calibration that was based on two points, don’t think that calibrating for 5 or 9 will make it better. If this is a user with a communication board, and is having trouble activating a target in the bottom right on a communication board – change the targets! Make them bigger or get rid of the one in the bottom right.
- Alanna Fontaine