Project ELSTRAD is an international collaboration between the Institute of Education, (IOE) London, UK , Sheffield University, UK, l’Université SHS Lille 3, France and l’Université de Rouen, France. Project ELSTRAD is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK and l’Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), France.

The aim of this research project is to determine the strategies that people use to navigate around new environments. We are interested in navigation and route learning in both typically developing children and in people with learning difficulties, specifically Down syndrome and Williams syndrome. People with learning difficulties can find it difficult to orientate themselves, even within a familiar environment, and can struggle to work out the route from A to B. One aim of our research project is to identify the developmental stages of navigation in the typical population. Another aim is to determine the specific difficulties faced by people with learning difficulties. Our final aim it to design and assess training strategies to improve navigation in these populations.

Each study uses state-of-the-art virtual reality technology (see the video for an example). Virtools (Dassault Systèmes) allows us to create virtual environments (towns and mazes) for participants to navigate their way around. Each virtual environment is shown to the participant on a laptop screen, and the participant moves around using the mouse and the space key.

Analysis is carried out using, among other techniques , the developmental trajectory approach (Thomas, M.S., Annaz, D., Ansari, D., Scerif,G., Jarrold, C., & Karmiloff-Smith, A., 2009).