Inclusive Technology announces an 'eyegaze' world first for SEN 

There may be a lot of hype about 'Big Data', but the first smart software for learners with complex needs has just been created from a UK publicly funded investment.

Insight, described as ‘the world’s first intelligent learning system’, comes from Inclusive Technology. It been developed from the extensive feedback provided by learners who use ‘eyegaze’ technology to control their computers. The project was funded by a grant from Innovate UK.

'Most exciting development in my 30 years in special needs technology'

Martin LittlerInclusion's Martin LittlerInclusive Technology chairman Martin Littler says: “Today Inclusive is breaking new ground with eyegaze technology, paired with our growing range of online resources for learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties. It is the most exciting development in the 30 years I have been involved with special needs technology.

"Eyegaze knows exactly where children look on a computer screen, where they fix their gaze and for how long. It knows when they blink, and what makes their eyes widen! Potentially this rich source of data can be processed and mined to report on the child's progress and to direct their learning. This can happen anywhere in the world - and does! So we can now see what children with complex needs are seeing, collect their data and compare it with similar learners from across the world.

“The world of ‘big data’ is now colliding with the small world of special education and the even smaller one of children with little or no means of communicating their thoughts and ideas.”

Eyegaze technology enables people with complex learning difficulties and disabilities to control computers and other devices through movements of the eye, and Inclusive Technology is one of the education leaders in this field. It has already won awards at The Education Resources Show in 2015 for its Inclusive EyeGaze Foundations and has been shortlisted for the BETT Awards 2016 for its Inclusive EyeGaze Education.

'Detailed and objective measurement and analysis of the core skills'

Because eyegaze technology collects all the control messages of its users (see “Look and learn - the ‘eye gaze’ revolution”) it provides very detailed and objective measurement and analysis of the core skills essential for early learning. This is considered an important breakthrough and was made possible by timely funding from the government-funded innovation agency Innovate UK (sponsored by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) for a two-year research project (under its SMART program).

Sandra Thistlethwaite
Sandra Thistlethwaite

Inclusive product development director Sandra Thistlethwaite poses the question “What do we teach if we don’t know our students’ capabilities, how they learn?" Of course she now has an answer: "Insight addresses the overwhelming need for objective measurement of core skills that will lead to a fundamental change in teaching practice for our most complex students.

“Our students deserve to be given every opportunity to reach their potential. To do that, we need to know them much better and have evidence that our teaching is effective. Insight provides the technology to do that, to see through our student’s eyes, know what they understand and measure their core skills for the first time. With this knowledge we will finally start to know what and how to teach our most complex students.

'It fuses outstanding teaching with cutting-edge technology and research'

Insight will be introduced to the education community at a special breakfast event next to ExCeL next Thursday (January 21) to coincide with the BETT educational technology event. Attendees will be able to take away a free pre-release version of the program.

Interest in eyegaze technology has accelerated in recent years and Insight will attract even more. Sandra Thistlethwaite commented: "The impact of what and how we teach our students on their quality of life should not be underestimated. Insight is the first system to provide the tools to inform and change teaching practice on an individual and global scale. It fuses outstanding teaching with cutting-edge technology and in-depth research. It will transform special education for students with severe and complex needs.’

Martin Littler added: “For the first time teachers of children with complex needs will have objective data on children’s interests, attention and abilities to combine with the sharp intuitions teachers have always had.”

The Inclusive Technology breakfast meeting takes place next Thursday, January 21, at ZeroSette Restaurant R3, 2 Western Gateway, London E16 1DR. ZeroSette is next to the Excel Exhibition Centre and a short distance from Custom House DLR Station. It's invite only and interested journalists should contact the company.