Vir­tu­al in-time data col­lec­tion with child participants

Sylvia Gat­tas, Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford
@SylviaGattas

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As expe­ri­enced over 2020 and 2021 glob­al­ly, acces­si­ble data acqui­si­tion is vital for reach­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive pop­u­la­tions. While adult online data acqui­si­tion has a long­stand­ing basis, child online data acqui­si­tion has been lim­it­ed, espe­cial­ly if unsu­per­vised. Implic­it mea­sures of atten­tion, such as those gath­ered via eye-track­ing, can bol­ster our under­stand­ing of the process­es under­pin­ning effi­cient and accu­rate respons­es, but they have been tied to the lab or expen­sive equip­ment. Addi­tion­al­ly, both adult and child web­cam-based eye-track­ing meth­ods cur­rent­ly avail­able have been dif­fi­cult to cal­i­brate. This has required re-cal­i­bra­tion after a small num­ber of tri­als thus pro­long­ing study par­a­digms in a way that is counter-pro­duc­tive for children.

Final­ly, work­ing with chil­dren can pose some vari­able lim­i­ta­tions regard­ing ethics appli­ca­tions when using images or vir­tu­al safe­guard­ing. Con­se­quent­ly, we devel­oped and pilot­ed a method­ol­o­gy in which the child can have vir­tu­al in-time inter­ac­tion with the researcher in addi­tion to gaze-track­ing of spe­cif­ic tasks, pro­vid­ing direct feed­back on the child’s atten­tion, and reac­tion time and accu­ra­cy mea­sures. Here, we will dis­cuss eth­i­cal bar­ri­ers and how we over­came them with­in our insti­tu­tion, as well as the method­ol­o­gy for online behav­iour­al and web­cam eye-track­ing mea­sures, in addi­tion to pilot data.

Full Tran­script:

Sylvia:
Hel­lo, and thanks for fit­ting in with us. So before telling you about this excit­ing project with chil­dren, I want­ed to tell you a lit­tle bit about myself. I’m a [inaudi­ble 00:00:14] stu­dent in the Atten­tion, Brain and Cog­ni­tive Devel­op­ment Lab at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford, and I’m very, very inter­est­ed in how chil­dren between the ages of four and eight years old learn to attend to num­bers and reg­u­late their emo­tions to even­tu­al­ly devel­op the math­e­mat­i­cal brain.

Sylvia:
In this project, we’ve been work­ing on devel­op­ing an analy­sis pipeline to extract gaze posi­tion infor­ma­tion from web cam footage that requires min­i­mum to even no cal­i­bra­tion as an essen­tial aspect of work­ing with chil­dren with short atten­tion spans. This is a very impor­tant goal to under­stand atten­tion to numer­i­cal stimuli.

Sylvia:
So it was very, very love­ly to see oth­ers who also use online research with chil­dren and using mon­i­tored exper­i­ments as well. So today I’ll give you our approach on this way of test­ing chil­dren online. So first, I’ll start by intro­duc­ing you to case-spe­cif­ic eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions when con­duct­ing all my research with chil­dren, such as safe guard­ing, data pro­tec­tion and types of online plat­forms. I’m also going to talk about researcher mon­i­tor pro­to­col, types of online exper­i­ments using Microsoft Teams, Cal­end­ly and Goril­la to your ben­e­fit. And last­ly, I’ll intro­duce how we use video record­ing with our new­ly devel­oped GazeScore with chil­dren. And my col­league Dr. Alex Fras­er will walk you through GazeScore itself and the analy­sis pipeline after we talk.

Sylvia:
So just as I could­n’t be in the lab alone with a child, in the vir­tu­al world it works the same way. So a par­ent, or the prac­ti­tion­er if you’re in the school set­ting, or if you’re test­ing in a school set­ting, they must be present in the room with the child as well. Also, I made sure that if I was on my end, that I’m in a pro­fes­sion­al envi­ron­ment, or if you can’t find an office or a lot to be in, to blur the back­ground of your screen.

Sylvia:
Sec­ond­ly, so per­son­al data such as demo­graph­ics and video data or iden­ti­fi­able data and must be stored in a very secure loca­tion at the ini­tial point of data col­lec­tion and down­loaded to a reli­able serv­er and then delet­ed from the col­lec­tion site. Once down­loaded, we con­vert­ed the iden­ti­fi­able data to quan­ti­ta­tive vari­ables so it becomes anonymized research data, which can then be shared on cas­es like OSF, of course, giv­en the par­tic­i­pan­t’s permission.

Sylvia:
This brings me to my third point, which online research plat­forms to use. We had many options, such as Goril­la OpenS­esame and Pavlovia, And even more than that. How­ev­er, we chose Goril­la for our video data col­lec­tion, large­ly because of the data pro­tec­tion com­pli­ance, and the abil­i­ty to store a very large amount of video data. And any of the par­tic­i­pan­t’s fam­i­ly can go on, access Goril­la itself and eas­i­ly find their data pro­tec­tion poli­cies, which of course makes the par­ents feel much safer.

Sylvia:
After we sort­ed out the ethics approvals, sent out adverts and received par­ents’ con­sent, I sent par­ents an email with a link to Cal­end­ly to choose a time slot that works best for them. In the same email, I sent infor­ma­tion about require­ments to use Google Chrome with­in the study, and we also sent them a link to down­load it if nec­es­sary, if they don’t already have it. Cal­end­ly makes par­tic­i­pants’ signups very sim­ple for both the researcher and the par­tic­i­pant by send­ing reminders to them and being down­loaded direct­ly on their cal­en­dars. And Google Chrome was cho­sen to ensure con­sis­ten­cy in the for­mat of the video footage that we record­ed in part of the study.

Sylvia:
After sign­ing up in Cal­end­ly, we send par­ents a fol­low-up email with the Teams meet­ing invi­ta­tion and with a link to the Goril­la exper­i­ment. We also asked that they check their com­put­er secu­ri­ty set­tings to allow to share their screens with us when nec­es­sary, and we also sent them a link to see how they can check these secu­ri­ty sites.

Sylvia:
Final­ly, this is where mon­i­tored research pro­to­col becomes espe­cial­ly help­ful. When con­duct­ing research involv­ing more stren­u­ous par­a­digms for chil­dren, one wants to make sure the child has enough prac­tice tri­als and feed­back from the researcher to real­ly see that the child under­stands what the researcher is ask­ing them to do or what the game or task real­ly is. So to do this, that’s where mon­i­tor­ing research is a real­ly, real­ly help­ful asset.

Sylvia:
Addi­tion­al­ly, if you’re using ques­tion­naires, it’s real­ly help­ful for the researcher them­selves to be the ones ask­ing the child, because then they’re not bias­ing the answers of the child. And researchers usu­al­ly script exact­ly how they’re going to ask the child the ques­tion­naire, and there­fore the answers are to the child’s best abil­i­ty, not just how they’re worded.

Sylvia:
And then, now for the fun part. Once we meet with the par­tic­i­pant and the guardian, we want to famil­iar­ize them with Teams and but­tons and where the share screen is on how to request con­trol. And of course, we always tell them, yes, they have to share the screen with us, but we only request access to their screen or request con­trol if they feel com­fort­able enough. And we let them know that this is usu­al­ly most help­ful for chil­dren under six years old, but there’s no oblig­a­tion for us to take con­trol of their screen.

Sylvia:
The next step is fun­da­men­tal to acti­vat­ing both Goril­la and Teams at the same time. They must click the Goril­la link and put it in full screen mode, turn­ing the Teams video into a small square at the bot­tom. Here, you can see, so this is the researcher’s side of the screen, and you can see the researcher and the par­tic­i­pant on the bot­tom, and this is what the par­tic­i­pant is see­ing. And here, the par­tic­i­pant grants you con­trol, so you can see the par­tic­i­pants mouse and my mouse.

Sylvia:
And then, in this screen, this is a child’s side of the screen. So they can see me down here, but also see the big win­dow for the exper­i­ment. So this allows us to walk them through the ver­bal assent and real­ly also show them that they can stop when­ev­er they want. And they can direct­ly give us the ver­bal assents rather than just giv­ing it to the parent.

Sylvia:
Next, we walk the child through our video col­lec­tion par­a­digm, which is nec­es­sary for the new D score analy­sis pipeline. This is the only point where we actu­al­ly record the video of the child. In addi­tion to pic­ture exam­ples, I was able to demon­strate to the child what they need to look like on cam­era so that their face is cen­tered, that we can real­ly see their eyes, that they can fol­low the stim­uli on the screen by just mov­ing their eyes and just keep­ing their head still. If hey need to just hold their head like this so that it can help them stay still and just move their eyes, we did that. And we also made sure that there was no glare if they were wear­ing glasses.

Sylvia:
Final­ly, as you can see here, we start­ed out with a dot that they would fol­low on the screen. How­ev­er, that became a lit­tle bit tricky for lit­tle chil­dren under six years old to pay atten­tion to, so we decid­ed for a more engag­ing game-like stim­uli, as we always do with child research, and we went with a foot­ball instead that had real­ly fun nois­es alongside.

Sylvia:
And then, this was just much more engag­ing for them to fol­low through.

Sylvia:
So in this study, we aim to col­lect data to devel­op and tweet our gaze direc­tion pipeline. But for future stud­ies, we aim to move to use this gaze direc­tion analy­sis pipeline to under­stand more how chil­dren attend to num­ber stim­uli such as these. So where are they look­ing at the giv­en time, which num­ber are they look­ing at on the sites?

Sylvia:
And this is it. Thank you so much for tun­ing in. And next up, my col­league Alex Fras­er will tell you about the details of GazeScore and how the analy­sis helps us cap­ture eye-gaze ori­en­ta­tion. Thank you.

Speak­er 2:
Thank you. Are there any ques­tions for Sylvia just before we go onto the next speak­er? Don’t for­get, you can keep putting them in the Q&A call speak­ers. There was a ques­tion about the issues around being alone in a room with test par­tic­i­pants who are chil­dren. Would you be hap­py answer­ing that?

Sylvia:
Yeah, let’s see. Sor­ry, I don’t see the ques­tion. Is it just about… So basi­cal­ly in gen­er­al, accord­ing to UK safe­guard­ing guide­lines, an adult who is not relat­ed to the child should not be in a room alone with the child. There should be either a guardian or a par­ent, or if they’re in the class­room set­ting, a teacher or prac­ti­tion­er. And the rea­son I bring up class­room set­ting point is that because we’re actu­al­ly able to work with schools and con­duct the same study, how­ev­er, the child just goes in a cor­ner of the room and the teacher or the prac­ti­tion­er are still in the room, but we are here in a dif­fer­ent place. And we, of course, want to con­trol what the child sees and does­n’t see, which is why we want a pro­fes­sion­al set­ting, and just blur out any­thing that would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly be in the lab, or would­n’t be in an office.

Speak­er 2:
Won­der­ful.

 

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Vir­tu­al in-time data col­lec­tion with child participants