How Children Learn: Improving Our Understanding Using Technology

Head-mounted cameras have been around for decades, and yet it’s only within the past few years that they’ve really started to be used to their full potential. Previously, these clever pieces of equipment have been used primarily within the arts, culture, entertainment, and sports sectors – and we even got a first hand view of Josh Hill winning a Minneapolis Metrodome race via his GoPro. However, since the early 90s we’ve seen some industries dabble with head-mounted cameras for training and research purposes – something that is becoming more prominent today with the introduction of newer, higher quality models.

The introduction of Google Glass has essentially revolutionised the way we use head-mounted cameras, with many other companies utilising similar technologies to create cameras designed to make significant advancements to the world – such as Sony, who have recently launched a ‘head-mount image processing unit’ for surgeons in Japan. The anticipated success of this kind of project has opened up doors to further research, including gaining a better understanding of how children learn through visual stimuli – something that has eluded researchers in the past.

However, there has been one major problem with using existing technology for such a purpose – accuracy. Researchers have previously confirmed that “the ideal situation for assessing where infants direct their gaze would be a head-mounted eye-tracker”, but that “It has proven extremely difficult to gather infant gaze with such a head-mounted system”.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, technology such as Google Glass is too intrusive for children. Anything that is obvious or obstructive is going to force children to behave unnaturally, which could produce inaccurate findings. Secondly, with existing technology, children have the ability to move their eyes and look anywhere within a +/- 30 degree radius of the direction in which their head is pointed. If we’re looking to learn more about how children learn based upon what they see, more accurate technology is required.

Recently, Persil have worked with top designers to introduce the EyeView Camera – a head-mounted camera which addresses the problems of using other technologies for the purpose of learning more about child development. The camera is sleek and compact, allowing the child to wear the device without feeling restricted, which gives us unobstructed access to natural behaviour and play. Persil claims that the device allows us a way of “seeing (as closely as possible) through a child’s eyes” – something that has never been done before. Just as the Kids Today Project itself is concerned with how children learn, it could be that their use of the EyeView camera will break ground for scientists to make real strides in the field of child psychology.

With more and more advancements in technology, we’re starting to see further opportunities to explore the importance of environmental factors upon learning, changing the way we think about child development. As technology catches up with the way that researchers believe childhood should be studied, the possible discoveries we can make about how children learn are definitely exciting.

By Jan Leonhardt

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