The AHA project led by UCD CS was recently shortlisted for the Education awards in Ireland, 2020 under the categories, Best International Collaboration Project and Best Research Project. This project which was funded by the European Commission set out to assess the effectiveness of augmented reality (AR) technology on literacy among primary school children with ADHD. The aim of the project was to combine existing online educational tools for reading and spelling with augmented reality technologies, with the specific aim of helping students with ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Many children with ADHD also have one of a number of learning disorders. Technological tools which have been developed to help children with learning difficulties, such as poor numeracy or literacy, are often less effective if the child has ADHD too. This is because children with ADHD typically have difficulties in maintaining focused attention on cognitive stimuli and often go off-task. As a consequence, their motivation, academic engagement and outcomes are generally poorer than those reported for other children.
The AHA project set out to investigate if Augmented Reality (AR) technologies could enhance existing educational technologies specifically to support children with ADHD. The consortium partnered with WordsWorthLearning© Programme (WWL), a web-based educational tool previously created to improve reading and spelling skills in individuals aged 6 years and over. After augmenting this existing technology with AR, the pilot recruited 117 primary school students to join the study with the support of HADD Ireland, a charity that works with people affected by ADHD.
This project took the existing WWL educational technology and added Augmented Reality features, including consonant and vowel charts, and flash cards. The project also added monitoring technology to the tool, to assess the attention of the student during their use of the tool. Teachers and parents were given tools and training to assess both the academic progress of the student, but also their levels of attention and behavioural changes. The students were divided into three groups, those who received no intervention, those who used the WWL tool without any augmentation, and those who used the AHA-augmented WWL tool. [Students in the group that did not receive any technological interventions were given 12 months access to the WWL tool following the completion of the study]
The AHA project had two major hypotheses: firstly, that augmenting existing technology tools for numeracy and literacy with AR would benefit students with ADHD and a learning disorder, more than the technology tools without AR; secondly that the benefits would extend beyond academic progress to improved behaviours, enjoyment of learning and satisfaction. Based on standardised testing (NARA II, Vernon and STEN), there was a significant improvement in reading and spelling, with advances of 2 to 5 years in these skills. Moreover, qualitative feedback from teachers and parents showed that many of the students had increased motivation, enjoyment of learning and improved confidence in school.
‘He is very much engaged with the programme and enjoys it. As a teacher, it is fascinating to watch. It is so effective and rewarding.’
‘What a great day for X and Y who participated in the Wordsworth AHA Research Project with UCD! When X returned from retesting she told me her Reading Age had improved by 5 years, the look on her face was priceless.’