Parents concerned about the learning loss caused by the COVID-19 disruption have secured government backing to produce an AI tool to boost student attention and attainment.
The grant has been awarded by Innovate UK – a non-departmental public body and national innovation agency – to A-dapt, a startup launched by dads Matthew Mayes and Claudio Piovesana, who were worried about the impact of the pandemic and remote learning on their children’s development.
As a result, the pair came together during lockdown to create a digital owl, named ‘Focus Pocus’, designed to ‘wake up’ children and help them focus on e-learning.
The GDPR-compliant education tool is an industry first, adopting an AI-based media format that can actively identify the learner at home on their device, intuitively responding to attention and engagement whilst protecting pupil privacy.
The versatile learning aid can be used in the classroom and at home, suited to both remote and blended/hybrid learning, and integrating with with existing educational content platforms. The product is being prepared for trials throughout the winter period, with many schools facing the prospect of a local or even national lockdown.
To use Focus Pocus, a parent or teacher enters the child’s age, level of attentiveness and sets a time limit, while the adaptive tool measures the pupil’s attention level in real-time and adapts to enhance their focus.
Learners benefit from focus reminders and animated alerts when their attention wanes, and upon successful completion, an optional award can be granted, set in advance by the parent or teacher. Various studies have shown that positive reinforcement and rewards such as this can have a positive impact on behaviour and increase attainment.
“Like millions of other parents, I was tearing my hair out after a few days of trying to get my kids to focus on remote learning while working full-time from home,” said Mayes.
“Claudio and I quickly realised that the technology we had developed could very quickly be repurposed for education.
“Remote or blended learning doesn’t have to be a disaster and it looks like we may be stuck with it for some time. Focus Pocus can steer children back on track both at home and int he classroom. The ability to sustain a child’s attention is crucial, especially when they are having to adapt to learning from home.”
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