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COSPATIAL (Communication and Social Participation: Collaborative Technologies for Interaction and Learning) is project funded by the European Commission in the FP7 Programme from 2009 to 2012. The project aims at developing collaborative technologies designed to promote the learning of social competence by children who are typically developing and those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Social competence is a multidimensional concept that reflects a child's capacity to integrate behavioral, cognitive and affective skills in order to adapt flexibly to diverse social contexts and demands. The main goal of the project is to experiment with novel collaborative technologies to support the acquisition of social competence in young people. In particular, the COSPATIAL project investigates two categories of technologies for collaborative interaction that have already demonstrated their potentials as effective means for the training of social skills: (i) Collaborative Virtual Environments (VE) and (ii) Shared Active Surfaces (AS)

The research of the i3 group focuses mainly on the latter. Active Surfaces are an emerging class of devices and applications. They are shared co-located systems that represent a radical shift from the paradigm of one-user-one-computer. As such, they are subject to different design constraints than standard Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications [Zancanaro, 2013]. They are based on large interactive surfaces placed horizontally ('tabletop' devices) or vertically ('wall displays') on which a specifically designed interface is displayed or projected. Tabletop devices that encourages pairs of children with High Functioning (HF) ASD to work together demonstrated promising results.

Several prototypes have been developed during the project to assess different ways of collaborating through a multi-user interface. In particular, two has been chosen to undergo a formal evaluation [Bauminger et al. 2013]:

  • Join-In Suite <<link to viemo video>> is a 3-user touch-based application implemented via DiamondTouch. The Join-In Suite uses the multi-user capabilities of this device to foster collaboration between pairs of children and to provide ways for a teacher or a therapist to control the pace and process of the educational or therapeutic interaction. The design of the application explored different types of collaborative interaction patterns in a multi-user context. Join-In Suite is divided into two tightly integrated parts: a learning part which realizes a structured version of the CBT social problem solving technique and an experience part based on the CBT behavioral reinforcement technique. The former presents a series of social vignettes that present a social problem in which children select, suggest ways to solve the social problem and consider the possible consequences of each solution; the children then choose the best solution that will lead to a positive social experience.  The latter consists of a game that allows the children to directly experience the chosen solution which is the social task to be acquired.  Both parts are moderated by a facilitator (teacher, therapist) who can control the pace and order of the parts [GIusti et al. 2011; Zancanaro et al. 2011]
  • NoProblem! <<link to vimeo video>> a tabletop computer application implemented via DiamondTouch for a teacher/therapist and one or two children. In No-Problem!, the children can both learn about the phases of social conversation in different settings and role play the experience. The process entails the presentation of short social vignettes to trigger social tasks (e.g., group entry) for the children to problem solve in stages. The children then evaluate the solutions that were proposed and role play them within a group or with a therapist. The aim is to practice the chosen conversational response in a social setting that was selected as the best one and to act it out in a safe environment with partners who will without doubt cooperate. During role play each child has a role which he plays to create the social scenario according to the chosen solution. During role play children can also try out less appropriate solutions in order to better understand why the adaptive solution is better than the inappropriate (non-adaptive or avoidance) ones. The facilitator may assign roles to the children to be acted during role play and moderates a discussion following the role play.

In the last phase of the project, we have focused on tangibile computing and we designed and experimented with the MagicLamp tool.

Thursday, 24 October, 2013

Bauminger-Zvieli N., Eden S., Zancanaro M., Weiss P. L. and Gal E. Increasing social engagement in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder using collaborative technologies in the school environment. Autism Volume 17 Issue 3 May 2013 pp. 317 – 339
Giusti L., Zancanaro M., Gal E., Weiss P.L. Dimensions of collaboration on a tabletop interface for children with autism spectrum disorder. In Proceedings of the CHI’11, 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems. Vancouver, Canada, May 2011.
Zancanaro M., Giusti L., Gal E., Weiss P.L. Three Around a Table: the Facilitator Role in a Co-Located Interface for Social Competence Training of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In Proceedings of 13th IFIP TC13 Conference on Human-Computer Interaction - INTERACT2011, Lisbon Portugal, September 5-9 2011

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