The number of children with special educational needs (SEN) has increased by at least 34% in the last five years. These children often have difficulty expressing their emotions due to limited cognitive and/or verbal abilities. Teachers therefore find it challenging to understand the emotional states and feelings of these students. Experienced teachers count on their own experience and subjective judgements, though this is not always reliable.
Moreover, learning involves emotions. Whether students can learn effectively is closely related to their emotional states when learning takes place. Students with SEN need help to get their emotions heard and understood to optimise their learning process.
Psychophysiological indices such as heart rate, skin conductance and skin temperature have long been shown to correlate with emotional arousal. These signals can now be easily and accurately monitored with wearable sensors. A system that can manage multiple wireless wearable devices and visualise real-time measurements in the form of easy-to-understand indices can help teachers better keep track of the mental states of SEN students. Student-teacher interactions are improved as teachers give appropriate responses and modify their teaching content and pedagogies accordingly.
The team’s system helps SEN teachers better understand and monitor the emotional states of multiple students through easy-to-understand indices converted from objective, real-time psychophysiological data. Both learning and teaching are made more effective and enjoyable, ultimately enhancing the well-being of both students and teachers.
– 50 SEN students in special schools
– 20 special school teachers
Savio is the Director of the Laboratory for Brain and Education at CUHK. He received the Fulbright-RGC HK Senior Research Scholar Award and was appointed as the Visiting Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018. He has been studying the neural mechanism of impulsivity and decision-making in adolescents with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques and developing psychophysiological markers of emotion with wearable sensors. He works closely with special schools and explores how technologies can be used to facilitate the learning of students with special educational needs.