EdUHK's i-Maze: Learn while You Game

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or reading difficulties (RD) tend to struggle with working memory and literacy. To help overcome these obstacles, Dr Kean Poon Kei-yan, a registered educational psychologist, at the Department of Special Education and Counselling of The Education University of Hong Kong, has developed i-Maze – the first-ever Chinese-character-focused gaming app for young children with special educational needs (SEN).

i-Maze is designed to integrate creative technology and play-based learning into special education, and improve working memory and academic-related abilities. Over a total of 25 days (with 50 game levels), players experience an immersive magical universe through the eyes of two heroes, as they venture to save a world at the brink of destruction by industrial pollution. The game’s different levels alternate between two types of working memory task.

In one type of task, words with similar or the same phonemes or visual structures are shown to children. For each item in the sequence, they need to judge whether it matches those presented previously. For the card-pairing task, children must find the matching pairs of cards based on similar phonemes or visual structures. Each level gets progressively harder with more cards in each round.

Shortly after i-Maze’s launch in 2017, over a hundred primary school students aged seven to 10 with ADHD and/or RD signed up for the game. Preliminary results revealed significant improvement in their working memory, as well as literacy skills after the training.

“It is crucial to include fun and play elements in our education system, especially when guiding SEN children. This helps cultivate their interest and sustain their motivation in learning new things,” said Dr Poon. “I am so excited to see that the data captured from the study shows that the app helps students with ADHD and dyslexia develop their attention levels via visual, audio and spatial training, and to learn effectively with innovative technology,” she added.

Pre-service and in-service teachers have given positive feedback after using i-Maze in classes, saying the app is an efficient and constructive tool to facilitate daily teaching of students with SEN. Some said they liked the storyline and thought it could help their students with ADHD to stay focused. 

Other teachers have asked for an Englishlanguage version of i-Maze to be developed. Dr Poon is working on this now and expects to launch it shortly. This will help generate more data for analysis, and further enhance the effectiveness of the app in learning and teaching for students with SEN.

Published: 07 Feb 2022

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