Virtually absent so far in schools in Quebec, virtual reality should be established as a complementary tool to traditional methods. At least this is what the local company Aleo offers, which is planning a small revolution in the field of education. Its four young founders want to implement virtual reality games in classrooms in order to contribute to the success of dyslexic-dysortographic elementary school students or those who have difficulties in French.
“At the age of seven, I received the following diagnoses: dyslexia, dysorthography and ADD. [trouble déficitaire de l’attention] “, says Catherine Bazinet, 25, creative director and co-founder of Aleo, with her older sister and two former classmates. Having experienced learning disabilities throughout her life as a student, she was inspired by how technology has helped her in her journey to “enable other young people to work to their full potential”.
Launched in 2020, Aleo primarily targets students aged 7 to 12, who are more likely to feel intimidated by traditional remedial consultations. The company offers a turnkey solution including virtual reality headsets, a game and software to measure student outcomes. His product is now sold to clinics and remedial schools across the province. It is, according to M.ME Bazinet, the first example of an orthopedagogical virtual reality platform in Quebec.
“I’m very grateful for all the help I received as a student,” she says. At first, it was the old-fashioned way, with paper and pencil. I really saw an evolution. In elementary school, I had access to an electronic dictionary and, later, I was able to use a computer during my assessments. Honestly, thanks to technology I was able to go to university. Today, I make it my mission to use it to help young people put themselves on the same level as others. »
Jonathan Bonneau is a professor in the bachelor’s degree in interactive media at UQAM, from which Catherine is a graduate. He also works in the Social Media and Gamification Research Lab, where he has observed their “many benefits”artificial intelligence in an educational context.
“We need to do more research on the impact of virtual reality on students with learning disabilities compared to regular classrooms,” he says. On the other hand, we know that this technology makes it possible to learn faster because it borrows Video game. It makes it possible to forget the learning environment. We forget that we are at home or at school. We are immersed in a new universe that we can absorb, which can place the student in faith. »
Catherine Bazinet specifies that only one game is currently available on her platform, but others will be added later. Rightfully so Yeti Valley, lasting approximately 15 minutes, addresses visual confusion between certain logatoms or graphemes. The user must help a Yeti to prepare for a battle with snowballs, which are carved with non-words that include worked language confusions.
It was thanks to technology that I was able to go to university. Today, I make it my mission to use it to help young people put themselves on the same level as others.
“Students love it,” says remedial teacher Myriam Gagnon, who offers clients of her private clinic who confuse the letters b, d, p and q. It is often used as a reward. The integration of a virtual reality world allows children to relax, work on their reading and writing without the negative emotional connection they may have with other exercises. »
An expanding field
In 2019, the Quebec Ministry of Education launched it Reference framework for digital competence, as well as investments of more than $1.2 billion over five years to contribute to the “digital transformation” of schools. Therefore, this envelope can allow school service centers to purchase virtual reality headsets, among other things. However, the government has not issued specific directives on this topic.
For now, M.ME Gagnon believes that virtual reality “should be used more in school” and that “more and more” projects like that of the Bazinet sisters are likely to see the light of day.
Mr. Bonneau, for his part, sees “only good” in this, provided the technology is used properly. It acknowledges that certain user data, such as their eye movements and brain waves, or heart rate, may be collected without their knowledge. However, this data can be used to measure user performance and “allow interactive games to adapt to the student’s learning curve.”
The professor adds that many companies are currently investing in perfecting educational tools in virtual reality, including giants Roblox and Minecraft. While we “also see more and more projects emerging in Canada,” Aleo still remains, he says, “among the best to reach certain types of clients in Quebec.”
At the moment, Catherine’s platform is only used in two institutions, but she hopes to get more funding to develop more games and distribute them across the province. One thing’s for sure, she and her small team won’t stop trying. “One day we will have to sit down with the Minister of Education to talk about this. »