Bett SEND preview 2018

THE BETT SHOW, the world’s largest edtech exhibition is back at Excel from 24th to 27th January,  and whilst it continues to attract criticism for becoming increasingly corporate there are still plenty of reasons for classroom teachers to visit. Even specialists in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will have plenty to interest them, despite the lack of a SEN village, and only four seminars that are tagged to be of interest.

For a start there are tools for recording assessment and monitoring achievement. B Squared, (Stand B241 www.bsquared.co.uk)   long the leaders in this area, will have their refreshed recording system, updated to take the Rochford Review into account (even though this isn’t finalised, yet). They will also have their Evisense evidence gathering tool. This is an online resource that can run on any device and accept all types of media. So you can catch a child showing off what they can do and quickly post for reports and sharing with parents.

In the same field are GL Assessment, (Stand C143 www.gl-assessment.co.uk) whose  also big news is Doddle. This not only provides a space to record and monitor but it also provides multi-media teaching materials right across the curriculum so you can respond to the pupil’s identified needs. The materials can be differentiated at a range of levels, and parents can have accounts, too, so they can share they offspring’s successes.

More specialised assessment is provided by Neurotech Solutions (Stand F34 https://www.neurotech-solutions.com) with Axon. This is an online ‘attentional profiling engine’ which can apparently help to identify elements of ADHD and provide online interventions. Whilst a broader look at pupil behaviour, along with their well-being, is offered by Kanda Care (Stand FS18  www.kanda.care). This is a tablet based system for all staff to contribute to and share evidence of concerns about children and young people, which can help to lead to effective interventions. A similar approach to People Diagnostix  (Stand G70 www.flourishingatschool.com) whose focus is mental health more directly. They provide survey software and staff development materials to identify and support children and young people at risk of developing mental health issues, a growing area of concern in schools.

A long established area of concern continues to be learners who struggle with text, particularly those thought of as dyslexic, and there is plenty on offer to help. The well established Matchview (Stand C142 www.matchware.com) – a high specification mind-mapping tool – has become even more dyslexia friendly with greater control of colour contrasts and an improved ability to structure documents in Word and PowerPoint.  Then there are the offerings from  Kurzweil (Stand B454 www.kurzweiledu.com) , Claro (Stand A4 www.clarosoftware.com), and ReadSpeaker (Stand C66 www.readspeaker.com)  who have variations of bolt-on toolbars providing prediction, screen-reading, smarter than usual spell-checking, study aids and so on.

Texthelp, (Stand C141 www.texthelp.com) also have a similar product with Read and Write Gold, but they are also introducing two new products at Bett. The first is WriQ, a free add-on to Google Docs that keeps a track of technical aspects of a students writing, such as sentence length and the typical age level of their vocabulary, which could be particularly useful for monitoring the growing language development of EAL learners.

The other one is EquatIO, which provides support for recording mathematically, whether that is equations, graphs or formulas. All can be transcribed through the keyboard, writing on the screen, or even by voice. which should make it easier to demonstrate learning in maths for those with a broad range of difficulties.

As well as means of supporting pupils recording of work, there are also offerings to helps with learning and reinforcement. Spellbots, (Stand E140 www.thespellbots.com) is a website that uses alien characters to teach spelling, whilst Actiphons, (Stand C40B www.actiphons.com)  encourages movement as a way of learning phonics.  Then there is  Ascentis (Stand G399 www.idlcloud.co.uk) who are showcasing their IDL system, a multi-sensory approach to addressing dyslexia.

Whilst there might be something familiar in those resources, Yellow Door (Stand G95 www.yellow-door.net) and Magikbee (Stand FS8 www.magikbee.com), could both have something that combines traditional approaches with newer technologies. The first of these has a number of apps that use tangible objects – such as 3d letters – that interact with what’s displayed on the screen. The second uses similar objects, but also has printed books with augmented reality – where objects become three-dimensional when viewed through a screen, such as a smartphone or iPad.

Another good use of newer technologies comes from NoIsolation (Stand B390 www.noisolation.com). This is a highly portable camera that can sit in a classroom on behalf of a student should they be absent for long periods. The built-in webcam observes the lesson, and the learner can even join in by answering questions – or chatting to mates – but whilst the audio is two-way the video is not. This is so those undergoing medical treatment can sit in bed in their pyjamas but don’t have to miss their lessons. A fellow student can carry the device, known as AV1, from room to room, with the long-distance learner logging-in when they feel up to it.

There’s a novel use of established technology from WeCanRemember (Stand FZ15 https://vocalrecall.co.uk), too. Here a QR code is used along with a voice recording. This could mean a teacher does their marking by sticking one at the end of a piece of work and giving their feedback orally, which the student listens to by scanning the code with their phone. But this is a highly flexible, versatile, tool, ripe for creative uses by SEND teachers. For instance, instructions for a task could be provided with a sticker at the top of the page, listened to with a mini iPad in class. Displays could become multi-sensory with the text read aloud when scanned. Home/school liaison books might include pupil’s spoken comments. A simple tool with lots of possibilities.

Lot’s of possibilities is also what TTS-Group (Stand C195 www.tts-group.co.uk) have with their myriad toys and devices, always worth dropping in on for a bit of a play. Amongst all the other stuff to keep you happy for hours there is now the Chatter Chum, a toy bee with a voice recorder and a motion sensor. This means that you can record a message which Chatter Chum will speak when it detects movement nearby. Great for creating multi-sensory displays, or engaging activities when pupils move around, even outdoors.

And once you’ve finished playing it could be time for a story with their Storytime Phonics. This is a well made resource for teaching  phonics using real books read by the Phonic Fairy. These are high quality videos that use good practice in sharing books with children, along with activities that teach the focus sound. A very useful resource for supporting the teacher, and for small groups run by specialist teaching assistants.

There is also loads on offer from the London Grid for Learning (Stand D260 www.lgfl.net). Their SEND and inclusion resource bank continues to grow, now with materials on job seeking for older pupils, bereavement support for staff, a comprehensive EAL package, and whiteboard materials for SLD learners. Through their  Trustnet offshoot these are now available across the country.

So, still plenty of reasons to head on down to Excel, even if SEND stalwarts like Crick (www.cricksoft.com) , Widgit (www.widgit.com), and Helpkidzlearn (a brand of Inclusive Technology www.inclusive.co.uk) aren’t there. Although if you want to know what they are up to they are all putting on free or low-cost seminars across the country throughout the year as their way of keeping connected with classroom practitioners. Visit their websites to find one near you in 2018.

 

 

 

Some Reasons to Use an iPad

Lots of schools have iPad in classrooms, sometimes one for each child, sometimes a set between classes; however your school uses them generally, iPads are invaluable for children with special needs. Obviously, you can load some excellent apps, but also the iOS Accessibility Options make them very versatile in accommodating the needs of our special learners.

There are some decisions you need to make before using the iPad with a child.

You may have a child with poor mobility who needs the iPad positioned on a desk to use it. What size iPad is going to be best? Will the child use the iPad in landscape or portrait position? Will their fingers reach the keyboards? (This is an important question if the child has poor motor function and may need to rest a hand on the iPad to steady herself.) The iPad may need to sit on a “sticky pad” to stop it being pushed along the table when being used.

What cover and stand do you need for this particular child? (Do you need a very rugged case?) An iPad holder with a “foot” that allows the iPad to stand without being held will be useful. There are also all sorts of mounts that can be used if the child you work with has a wheelchair.

Are you using apps with speech feedback, so do you need headphones and if so which ones? Make sure they are rugged enough to stand up to daily use.

Ideally each child with SEND should have a machine personalized for them that they have access to whenever it is needed.

Some iOS Accessibility options

With Typing Feedback your device can give you feedback as you type as well as speaking corrections and word suggestions.

To set up typing feedback go to Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing feedback

Here you can turn on character feedback, speak words or speak auto text.

You can also have predictions spoken: you can touch and hold on a word to hear predictions as you type.

Speak Selection lets the user highlight text in any application and will read the text. Users can increase the font size in various apps and iPad also offers an audio option for confirming keyboard actions.

Guided Access on the iPad may be the most useful accessibility option! It temporarily restricts your device to a single app, so the user cannot navigate away from it until the activity is complete.

You can also disable areas of the screen that are irrelevant to the task and you can disable the hardware button to set up guided access.

Go to Settings >General >Accessibility >Guided Access.  You must set a pass code that controls the use of guided access and prevent someone from leaving an active session

With the iBooks app (available as a free download), ebooks can be downloaded, organised, and read. iBooks is compatible with VoiceOver, so you can have books read aloud. It is possible to read in different orientations and to choose larger font sizes or different fonts.

How to……

…Use Windows Access Options

 

What is it?

Windows has a number of features built into to make using a computer easier for people with disabilities. The Ease of Access Centre (shortcut Windows key + U)  is way to get to these quickly, and to have some guidance on what to use.

Who is it for?

Users with a broad range of difficulties including:-

  • blind and visual impairments,
  • physical disabilities,
  • cognitive difficulties,
  • difficulties with text.

The options make the computer behave slightly differently to how it normally would. The options all have shortcuts to enable them, and include:-

Sticky keys (press shift 5 times) – a facility that lets you use the keyboard one handed. Any function that requires holding down two or more keys – such as Ctrl/Alt/Del can be done one key at a time. Useful for those who have restricted mobility in one hand.

Filter keys (hold shift down for 8 seconds) – a way to limit repeated key strokes for users who have a tremor. Ordinarily you can hit a key to repeat a letter and it will immediately appear. With filter keys you can set a delay for the second key press.

Narrator (Windows key + enter) – a screen reader that reads the on-screen text including the dialogue boxes and warnings that appear.

Speech to text  (no shortcut) – a function that lets you dictate to your computer.

High Contrast (Ctrl + left shift + PrtScreen) – to make the screen easier to read by using yellow text on a black background and enlarging the icons.

Magnifier (Windows + + to turn on, Windows Key + Esc to turn off) – enlarges sections of the screen as you pass the mouse over them.

On-screen keyboard (no shortcut) – for users using a touch screen, switches, or eye-gaze.

Mouse options include – changing the size and colour of the cursor, adding a trail to make it easier to see, showing its position when you press Ctrl, and changing the thickness of the cursor.

How do I use it?

These options make Windows computers for people with a range of difficulties, whether they are physical in operating the keyboard, visual in working with the screen, or with literacy and both reading and writing text.

As with most things on a computer you can often get to them in different ways. The easiest is probably to hold down the Windows key and press U.

What else is there?

Some of these options, such as Narrator and  Speech to Text are not very sophisticated and there are commercial products that do it all better, but the Ease of Access Centre can get you started.

You can find out more at either of these links.

To find out more visit either   www.microsoft.com/enable

Or – http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/advice-info/my-computer-my-way

You can also add on toolbars such as those from WordqSpeakq, or Texthelp. (See later posts.)

SEND at BETT 2017

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.

SEND and Computing Conference

POSTPONED

We are very sorry to have to announce that this exciting event will not being going ahead as planned this term. We hope to be able to offer it later in the year.

We are getting quite excited about this upcoming conference.

Find out more, here.

Difficult to teach? SEND and the Computing Curriculum

1st July 2016, 09:30 – 16:00

Tower Hamlets Professional Development Centre, 229 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AB

A one day conference for anyone working to meet the challenge of teaching the revised Computing Curriculum to learners with complex and challenging special educational needs. The greater emphasis on computer science, programming and coding, along with a greater recognition of the need for safeguarding online raises issues about what to teach, how to teach it, and what resources we might use. This conference will address these.

Making games in Scratch

Once we had the hang of programming things to move, and added appropriate sound effects such as ‘aaghs!’ when a shark bit a fish, or of the bubbles in the tank, we moved on to control the fish in the tank rather than just have them swimming randomly.

Damian and AzizJames

We set the crab to work by telling it to point at the mouse then move five steps. This has the effect of making the fish chase the mouse cursor, so we could keep it away from the shark by moving the cursor around the screen.

Next we introduced the idea of controlling sprites (the name for the things in a game you can program) using the keyboard. To do this we created a new game using a racing car, although we could have used the fish, perhaps having the shark moved with arrow keys and the crab with the mouse then playing against each other to see how long the crab could survive.

We began by drawing a racing circuit then importing a car sprite.

Nishat car race

This is Nishat’s very colourful race track.

Once we had programmed the arrow keys to control the direction of the car we could get it to move around the track.

Aziz

Aziz introduced three different cars all steered by different sets of keys so that people could have a race.

Jack, Damian Aziz

We also learnt how to make the car go back to the start if it crashed. To do this we found the co-ordinates of the starting point then told the sprite that if it touched the colour of the outer edge it had to go back to that point.

It didn’t take long before we were all racing each other around the screens.

 

Diving into Scratch

What a busy morning. A lot of hardwork, but a lot of fun, too, and plenty of challenges.

We began with looking at the steps of a line dance and how instead of talking through each movement they give a sequence of steps one name. So a ‘link’ is putting a foot to one side, crossing the other one behind it, then moving the first foot sideways again, before bringing up the second foot to meet it. A lot easier to say “Do a link,” than to run through that sequence of commands each time. And you can use it again and again in different dances. In fact every dance is a collection of these sets of steps. A bit like coding where you bring together sets of instructions rather than having to rewrite the code every time.

We put this into practice in http://studio.code.org where we used the activities based on the film Frozen. These started out fairly easy, then we had to join them together to make ever more complicated shapes, like snowflakes and linked circles.

Frozen coding with Anna

Then we put into practice what we had learned from the simulated coding environment in code.org  by coding for real in Scratch. Some people  hadn’t used it before, but everyone got to grips with it very quickly.

After a quick tour of the coding screen the task was to create a fish tank, put a fish in it, then get it to swim backwards and forwards.

Scratch fish tank

We had to use the ‘Forever’ command and get the fish to ‘bounce’ whenever it hit the sides, so it ended up swimming around the tank. At the end everyone was adding more fish and getting them to swim colourfully around together.

 

 

Dance till you drop

We spent a lot of time this week dancing.

We watched videos of Dance Dance Revolution, a game involving a dance mat that most of the adults remembered, but not many of the students. You have to follow directions on screen to move on a floormat, scoring points if you tread on the right square.

We also watched a video of a robot and decided that Dance Dance Revolution was like programming a robot, so we created our own dance programs. In groups we created short routines using simple sets of directions and numbers, then we tried them out to La Vida Loca, before joining them all together into one long dance. Aziz acted as our choreographer helping everyone to follow the steps in each program.

Whilst the commands were the same in each dance – Fd, BK, Lt,Rt, Wait and Repeat – the number of steps or time to pause changed in each routine. These we called “Variables” because they change whilst the actions remain the same. We also introduced a command “Repeat until the music stops,” to make sure the dance lasted as long as the tune.

After that we used Purplemash and completed the Bubbles activity.

bubbles

As the bubbles drifted up the screen we had to click on them to make them disappear with a ‘pop.’ Some people added more bubbles and made them do other things, either changing direction or making different sounds.

Everyone thought it was a good fun morning.

 

Drag till we drop coding

Today we started using drag and drop to code. This way you  don’t need to type in the instructions but select the ones you want then join them together to build up the instructions.

We began by using a floormat and giving each other instructions to move around it. We had typed commands that we then added in numbers of steps or turns to. This could prove challenging remembering which way to turn.

Then we used the Angry Birds game in studio.code.org .

Angry birds in studio code

Next we used 2Code in Purplemash. We had to give fish in an on-screen aquarium commands to make them move in the right direction.

fish tank 1

We all got to the point where we could add our own fish then program them to move when they were clicked. You could add as many fish as you wanted to. Nishat wanted to add a lot of fish.

nishat fish tank

She must like clown fish!

Some of them moved automatically. Others had to be clicked on to start them moving. We found you could click one fish and make a different one move.

Sometimes we had to think very hard to work out what to do. But everyone worked hard.

More steps in programming.

 

Robots are machines that we can tell what to do and that will do that thing again and again and again, whenever we want them to. Rather like washing machines or microwaves. These have programs that perform the same function whenever we set them to do a particular thing. We talked about examples of this in the world around us and thought about traffic lights.

The first challenge this morning was to work out the sequence that traffic lights followed. Students used coloured discs to act out what traffic lights do. We watched a very boring video of a set of traffic lights and realised that the timing of each light varies. We then wrote a program for a set of traffic lights.

Repeat continuously:-

Red on 20 seconds

Red and orange on 2 seconds.

Red and orange off.

Green on 14 seconds.

Green off.

Orange on 4 seconds

Orange off.

We tried following this sequence with a set of three coloured torches, red, orange and green. It was harder to do than it looks.

We then moved on to programming on screen. The program 2Go is part of Purplemash from 2Simple. It has different sets of tools in it that mean programming with it can become more and more challenging.

At first we used buttons to move in a particular direction. Then we added a set of boxes, a flow chart, to program in.

Then we added diagonals . The next challenge was to program a turtle to write a letter from our names using diagonals.

A letter F programmed in 2Go.

‘F’ for Fatima.

Fatima didn’t need to use diagonals for her letter.

To work out the programs we wrote letters on graph paper then worked out the directions and the steps.

A letter N created in 2Go.

‘N’ for Nowrin programmed in 2Go.

Nowrin needed one diagonal. She needed several attempts to get it to be the correct length.

A letter T drawn in 2Go.

Tasmima’s letter T

Tasmima’s letter ‘T’ has four steps in the progam.

A letter W drawn in 2GO

How to program a ‘W’ in 2Go.

Wasima programmed her ‘W’ quite quickly. She was pleased with what she had done.

There were lots of challenges. Nishat needed to use the whole flowchart of 10 steps to create an ‘S.’ Jack did a ‘J’ that filled the screen, and James managed to write his whole name.

Everyone worked hard, but they all enjoyed it.