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The Magic of Biometric Eye-Tracking in Education and Rehabilitation

by Richard van Hooijdonk on June 23, 2016

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Education Technology Application and Content Designers Can Benefit From This Emerging Technology

Biometric eye-tracking has many potential applications and it can make a valuable contribution to education. The technology is used to measure the impact of visual stimuli and provides insight into cognitive and emotional engagement. It tells you what people are looking at, how long they look at it and what they notice or don’t notice.

One of the benefits of biometric eye tracking in education is that it can help teachers understand student behavior such as how course material is absorbed. The technology is already used in various other industries such as in advertising research and rehabilitation.

How does biometric eye-tracking work?

The technology of biometric eye-tracking makes use of the reflection of infrared light to measure eye movements. These movements, which are monitored in real-time, are then analysed to reveal data about people’s attention spans and patterns. Eye tracking is most often done by an unobtrusive camera, mounted underneath a computer screen. Other methods employ special spectacles.

How does biometric eye-tracking benefit educators and students?

Eye tracking technology can be employed to analyse how students learn by obtaining data on where they look during (online) lessons. For instance, the amount of time it takes for a student to look at a certain section of text could indicate that the learner doesn’t understand or has difficulty absorbing what he is reading. This information can then be used to customize the educational content so that each student’s unique way of learning can be accommodated, customized and optimized.

Eye-tracking reveals that humor leads to prolonged focus

A four-month research study by David Rosengrant – associate professor at the Kennesaw State University – and Swedish eye-tracking technology company Tobii, revealed that students’ attention patterns can provide valuable insight into what keeps students engaged and motivated to learn. Using Tobii Glasses – unobtrusive, biometric eye-tracking devices – they measured, first hand, how students absorb information, how much time they dedicate to reading the study material and what inhibits their attention spans.

What was interesting is that the tests dispelled the popular belief that student attention generally peaks at fifteen minutes into the lecture and then decreases. They discovered that attention spans are impacted by a number of factors and that it is actually not as linear as previously thought. The use of humor during verbal presentations of study material, for instance, was one of a number of factors that contributed to prolonged focus. With these findings, the importance of variety in the presentation as well as the use of humor during lectures was stressed. Rosengrant stated that the objective of the research study was to “enlighten the education community about how to engage students effectively in the classroom, maximize student focus on the material and, ultimately, increase their achievement.”

Biometric eye-tracking technology empowers disabled children in Argentina

In another study using Tobii eye tracking technology, it was proven that diminished or even lost language and motor skills can be improved. With the use of this technology, an Argentinean boy of seven suffering from chronic encephalitis is now able to communicate by looking at objects and sentences and selecting them with various eye movements. His mother, president of the Gecenym Foundation which helps people with neurological diseases, stated that her son is now able to independently carry out different tasks. He can take the Tobii device to school and use it to ‘speak with his eyes’.

The foundation is training various educators across Argentina on the use of the eye-tracking technology in order to help as many children as possible. Child neurologist at the Institute of Cognitive Neurology in Buenos Aires, Claudio Waisburg, is of the opinion that the Tobii and similar eye-tracking technology even enables disabled children to partake in lessons at mainstream schools. The technology can give us insights into how our brain structures are affected by certain interventions. Although the Tobii device currently costs around 14,000 euro and few people are able to afford it, technological advances are expected to lead to a decrease in price in the future.

We’re only just beginning to tap into the power of this exciting technology!

 

 

About 

Trend watcher and futurist Richard van Hooijdonk began his career in the banking, publishing and technology industries. He held strategic advisory and management positions and sat on various Boards of Directors. Van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future in which the way we live, work and do business changes dramatically. Van Hooijdonk's acclaimed inspirational sessions have already been attended by over 300,000 people. He is also a guest lecturer at various universities and works with RTL and BNR news radio where he presents his Mindshift program. Van Hooijdonk and his international research team investigate tech trends and their impact on various industries. He is author of numerous articles, publications and e-books, including Trends 2016. With an overall rating of 9.2, Richard van Hooijdonk is one of the most sought-after speakers in the Netherlands and abroad.

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