Universiteit Leiden

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Social inclusion on the playground – challenges of data-driven approaches

2 March 2020

How to create an environment that enhances social inclusion for children with autism at school? In this project, we use Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) at schoolyards to first investigate who is socialising with whom during break time. Second, this kind of sensor data enables us to identify dynamic patterns of peer networks. That is if we can solve the problems we are facing while collecting and processing this kind of data. Luckily, young adults with autism are now trying to develop scripts that can extract relevant data, integrate and synchronise data from different sources, so this data can be used in the larger project.

The overall project aims to explore the affordances of the school playground in combination with the effectivities of its users. Affordances are spatial aspects as well as the tools offered on the playground that affords the potential for engagement in particular types of play or behaviour. Effectivities are skills of the users, in this case, children with and without communication difficulties, such as children with autism or hearing loss.
Thanks to new technical developments, we can now measure children’s proximity to each other at schools and on the playground. Pupils receive RFID tags from the researchers in the classroom, at the start of the day and wear them all day. Many children show a certain curiosity about the functions of these tags: do they measure their heartbeat or record what they say? Yet, children are reassured that the tags only measure the proximity to other tags.
RFID’s offer two possibilities to extract data. First, an anchor saves received real-time data sent by the tags. This can only be used at the playground where the anchor is placed. Second, data can be extracted directly from tags about the interactions of that particular tag with all other tags. This data shows children’s proximity in class or hallways. The difficulty arises when we try to combine both data sources, which is a challenge due to different timestamps. In order to use both datasets, the different timestamps should be synchronized and the files integrated.
ITvitae offered to help us out. ITvitae is an ICT academy for young adults with autism to acquire software engineering and development skills. So far, the students involved made a script for integrating all data files from the tags, and this project is still under construction. Like no one else, these young people understand from their own experience the importance of a school climate that actively tries to improve social inclusion with respect for diversity and the individual’s uniqueness. 

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