Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been embraced by organisations like NASA and the NHS, because of its ability to quickly detect illnesses and assisting in the fight against cybercrime. The mention of AI in education still for many brings a rather controversial image of robot teachers to mind.
However, as found by Headteacher Jayne Mullane from Mersey Vale Primary, algorithms don’t have to replace good teachers and their invaluable human skills, but they can help schools spot patterns of progress, and identify pupils who are having difficulties with their learning.
Mersey Vale have in fact been involved in the pilot of a new tool, developed by Lexplore. Their AI based reading assessment, which will be showcased at BETT 2019 for the first time, can objectively determine a child’s reading attainment and within minutes, highlight those with difficulties, such as Dyslexia.
Offering a new perspective
Like many schools, Mersey Vale has previously used traditional paper-based comprehension tests and teacher assessments to evaluate pupils’ reading. But Lexplore’s revolutionary eye-tracking assessment, has given them a startling new insight into reading and the cognitive processes behind this complex skill.
As highlighted by Bernadette McLean, independent child literacy expert and former principal of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, current reading assessments often fail to give teacher’s the in depth information they need about the many linguistic and cognitive processes involved with reading.
“Current reading assessments are simply not good enough. When we look at a low standard test score in isolation, it tells us that a child can’t read. It doesn’t tell us why that child can’t read. Lexplore gives us much more than a simple score or percentile, making it easier for teachers to uncover the potential reasons why a child cannot read.”
An assessment as simple as it is effective…
Lexplore’s entirely computer-based assessment has been developed following an extensive 30 year research project at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. By monitoring how a child’s eyes move through a body of text, and measuring for how long they fixate upon individual words, their assessment determines reading attainment, pinpoints specific problem areas, and highlights the risk of Dyslexia in a matter of minutes.
Although the technology may sound complicated, the process is remarkably simple. The tests themselves have been quick to administer, and as they take only a few minutes per child, and have enabled teachers to dedicate their time to providing tailored interventions rather than the testing processes.
Fun is essential
From the pupils’ point of view, the Lexplore assessments have been fun, enjoyable and interesting! Readers of all levels have loved doing the tests, and it has made for a welcome change for pupils and teachers alike from the written assessments they are used to.
Teachers have been full of praise for the tests. The time-saving power of the technology has enabled them to assess large numbers of children without adding to their work loads, and provide effective interventions without unnecessary admin.
Sharing insight with parents
One of the main benefits that AI brought to Mersey Vale, was that the technology actually helped to uncover valuable, new information.
“The eye tracking assessment was able to reveal one of our pupils had not previously been identified as having reading difficulties, because she had developed advanced coping strategies to manage them. She had strong verbal skills and was very capable, and we assume that she had been using images and other cues such as context to help her understand text.”
When the results of her Lexplore test were shared with the pupil’s mother, it was revealed that the pupil was often reluctant to read at home.
“By targeting intervention specifically to the needs of the child, the progress she has made since her first assessment has been impressive within such a short period. As her coping strategies were so highly developed, it is worth considering how long it would have taken for us to gain the same information with regular, paper-based assessments.”
The future of AI in the classroom
At a time when the perils of social immobility are so severe, it is vital those in education embrace AI as the type of technology that can really make a difference!
With the knowledge that early disadvantages and disparities can impact greatly upon a child’s entire education, it is imperative that we ensure no-one gets left behind when it comes to the acquisition of reading skills .
To give children the best chance to access the wider curriculum, we must focus on spotting literacy issues at the earliest possible opportunity. This way, time and resources can be used most effectively to help students who need the most support in their reading development.
We live in an exciting age – where AI can help level the educational playing field for all children! Lexplore’s assessment does not even require fully developed communication skills, which means teachers can quickly assess every child, even those with an extremely low literacy capability, and provide the interventions required. In this way, AI can help all children to develop their reading skills, which are vital to their journeys both within the classroom and beyond.
To find out more about Lexplore’s assessment teachers, senior leaders and educationalists are invited to join them on their stand at Bett (B303), where they have also been shortlisted for Innovator of the Year 2019.
More information can also be found on their website at www.lexplore.co.uk