It’s January so it must be Bett (www.bettshow.com). Whilst the show continues to develop as a trade show with businesses talking to each other, and countries trying to improve their exports there is still plenty to attract classroom practitioners interested in the latest developments. Along with the latest developments from well-established providers there are new technologies to see, too.
Amongst the latter are Filisia Interfaces (Stand D446 www.filisia-interfaces.com ), with their Cosmo system. This could be seen as a new take on the ‘switch’ used for computer access by learners with more challenging physical disabilities – a big button that when pressed makes something happen. However, Cosmo works via Bluetooth, so can be easily positioned anywhere without the restrictions of a cable, and with greater reliability than wireless. It also comes with a suite of games for the iPad, to explore music, movement and memory. The buttons themselves are white but with integral LEDs so can be made to glow any colour, with a response that can be adjusted for sensitivity, so even the gentlest of touches can trigger them, or a more determined action made necessary. These could be useful in so many ways in an inclusive classroom; to encourage movement around the room; to explore music; for memory games; to motivate a child to reach out; for groupwork and turn-taking. One of those seemingly simple ideas with myriad uses.
Another innovative approach comes from Beam Riders, (Stand BFS23, www.beam-riders.com). This is a technology that apparently improves learning through neurofeedback. After a lesson the learner puts on a headband that tracks brainwave activity whilst the wearer uses an app on a mobile device. A cloud based service then helps to create a brain state that is optimum for retention of what has been learnt. An emerging area of interest.
Longer established in this field is MyCognition (Stand B459 www.mycognition.com). This aims to enhance cognitive functioning through regularly playing an online game which adjusts according to a user’s responses. Areas covered included short term and long term memory, and executive functioning. Before they begin learners do a short assessment, which they repeat after around ten weeks of regular use. Some impressive improvements in learning behaviours and achievement in core subjects is claimed.
If you are looking for a more conventional approach to assessment then a visit to GL Assessments (Stand B149 www.gl-assessment.co.uk ) might prove useful. Although they have no new resources on offer, they have pulled a number of their tried and tested products into one SEN Assessment Toolkit. The idea is that this suite will cover all areas of concern – literacy, numeracy, behaviour and so on- and then provides a means for both pulling the results together, and to plan appropriate interventions.
Meanwhile B-Squared (Stand B245, www.bsquared.co.uk) are looking to update their offering in response to the Rochford Review. Whilst this is still in its consultation phase the company have yet to finalise the latest version, however, a preview will be available that reflects the proposed changes to this widely used tracking tool.
Of course, an understanding of a pupils’ learning needs is only part of the story, you also need to have good quality resources for teaching, along with appropriate content. New to the market this year is Q-Files (Stand E400 www.qfiles.com). This comes from a print publisher, Orpheus Books who have chosen to put much of their content online in what is, essentially, a child friendly encyclopaedia. A lot of well researched, reliable content written for young learners, unlike other classroom favourites such as Wikipedia. Very useful as a way to find information online that you know is both safe and reliable.
Another innovation from a print publisher is iHub from First News (Stand G379 www.firstnews.co.uk). The well-established, and well liked, weekly newspaper pitched at a level appropriate for school age readers is now supplemented by an online version that also includes debates, puzzles and comprehension activities. It has three different levels for varying abilities, and a teacher dashboard for allocating tasks, tracking and setting homework.
Whilst not a new product another resource for literacy worth taking a look at is the revamped Devtray now available as part of 2Simple’s Purplemash (Stand D370 www.2simple.com). This first launched in the 1980s and has gone through more than one upgrade, but essentially it remains true to the original concept of supporting literacy development through teacher-led, group, activities. Designed for the interactive whiteboard this is an approach with strong constructivist principles behind it. Pupils collaborate to decode a text that might initially be almost entirely made up of blank spaces. They learn from each other as different strategies are used, and lightbulb moments pop up. It is an approach that might not fit in to all classrooms with the current focus on phonics and levelled groups, but can provide some exciting teaching and learning opportunities.
That’s not to say there is anything wrong with a focus on phonics, as can be found at Read with Fonics (Stand BFS3 www.readwithfonics.com). Designed by Sophie Cooper, a primary teacher from Kent, this is an online resource that tracks progress and allows teachers to tailor work to their pupil’s needs. The intention is to provide resources, both web-based and printouts, to complement a synthetic phonics approach.
If you haven’t seen Clicker7 yet, it is well worth investigation over at Crick software , (Stand D140 www.cricksoft.com) . It is sufficiently different from its predecessor to warrant an upgrade, and the Clicker apps are worth checking out, particularly as there are now Chrome versions of some of them.
In the field of numeracy there are a few things worth looking at. Just2Easy (Stand A100 www.j2e.com ) have added J2Blast to their suite of programs, which has a focus on multiplication and division, while both Doodlemaths (Stand F79 www.doodlemaths.com ) and Maths with parents (Stand BFS42 www.mathswithparents.com ) are focused on developing skills outside of school.
As always there is a impressive list of keynotes, seminars and workshops to complement the stands, some of them provided by world renowned experts such as Sir Ken Robinson, some by companies that are exhibiting to showcase their products, and some by seasoned practitioners. And one by me, “ Inclusive approaches to beginning with programming,” in the Learn Live primary theatre at 15.00 on Thursday 26th January. Come along if you need a bit of a sit down.