Having established the depth of their credentials in Brain Machine Interface technologies and pointed out that swallowing food and pointing to letters involve different skills, Reviewer II next (actually, it’s hard to keep track of what’s next, as they’ve gone through my FC critique backwards) turns to my argument that:
Subtle board movements are evident in the study’s supplemental videos, and this highlights a final problem. Even if you accept the authors’ justifications for eschewing message passing tests, and even if you somehow rule out the possibility of board-holding assistants providing cues, a non-stationary letterboard calls into question the study’s central premise: the purported agency of the subjects’ eye gaze. Were subjects intentionally looking at letters, or were letters shifting into their lines of sight? That is something that no eye-tracking equipment, no matter how sophisticated, can answer.
The first part of their response (I’ll go through it in order, rather than backwards) is this:
The movement of the board is what inherently makes this a more natural form of communication, as it provides a subtle feedback to the child to promote conversation, rather than an unnatural one-way type of communication that does not generally exist in the world.
Of course, the same goes for texts and emails: it would surely be more natural if the person we’re addressing, or some sort of proxy, holds up our iPhone or keyboard while we’re typing to them.
Having the board statically placed defeats the purpose of the type of social emotional learning that we are shifting toward in education.
Good point: social emotional learning is all the rage these days, and so no student, regardless of neurological makeup, should be typing or writing on a static surface. Whether they’re typing on their Chromebooks or writing in their notebooks, students, working in pairs, should take turns on who does the holding and who does the typing or writing. And holders should make sure to shift their arms around a bit and, for extra interactivity, to call out the letters as they appear.
COVID, of course, has complicated things:
Social interactions and the development of emotional support depend fundamentally on the presence of another human -as shown by the problems that social (physical) distancing are creating in the schools across the world.
If parents aren’t available to hold up their kids’ keyboards or notebooks, perhaps it’s worth sawing a quarter inch off of one of the legs of their child’s at-home desk, or investing in a waterbed: steps that reduce the stability of students’ typing/writing surfaces can at least simulate what’s missing in terms of social connection.
Reviewer II also points out that holding up the keyboard is an important part of the journey towards communicative independence, as well as a vital part of the learning process:
In this particular experiment/board-method the presence of the human is vital to gradually adapt the child until independence is attained. Subtle board movements are part of a dynamically complex interaction where those motions count too. It is part of the learning process that takes place.
It’s heartening to hear that board movement is not only a means for social interaction, but also a tool for learning.
Oh, how much better my conversational Russian might be if only I had someone to hold up a Cyrillic keyboard, shift it around, and call out the letters when my pointer finger got near.