National Literacy Units – why scribes cannot be used and what alternatives have we?

The SQA states:

In relation to the National Literacy Units at all levels:

(i) exemption from demonstrating any of the four assessed skills of reading,  writing, listening or talking will not be a reasonable adjustment and (ii)  using human readers and scribes will not be reasonable adjustments where reading  and writing abilities are being explicitly assessed.

The rationale behind this is that the provision of a human reader and/or a human scribe would  undermine the fundamental assessment objectives for reading and writing and  would not secure that the National Units in Literacy provided a reliable  indication of the knowledge and skills of the candidate upon whom they are  conferred. It would not be possible to maintain public confidence in the  National Units in Literacy if learners are given  credit for ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ when that  process has been carried out by someone else.

In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by some disabled  learners in attaining the National Units in Literacy, the use of word  processors and other assistive technologies such as screen readers, spell  checkers or speech-recognition software would be acceptable as reasonable  adjustments.

I have been doing some testing with the in-built speech recognition on a Windows 7 Lenovo ThinkPad E530.  I used an Andrea USB Mono headset and from a test yesterday think the correct headset makes a huge difference.  Have a look at the short video clip here to see it working.  (slightly wobbly filming as was self-videoing)

It’s not perfect as I excitedly stated in the video clip but it’s good and could be something that could benefit many of our students.  Could this be a possibility for them to use instead of dictating to a scribe for the Literacy Unit assessment?

You can try it for yourself on a Windows 7 laptop or PC.  Click on the Start icon then type in ‘Speech Recognition’ in the Search box.  Work your way through the set up – I skipped the tutorial and so did no ‘training’ of my voice and still got very good results.

Let me know what you think!

Accessible Digital Exams

The CALL Centre recently published a report on the use of accessible digital exam papers in the 2010 diet of exams run by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. These papers allow pupils with disabilities to sit the same exams as their peers, but using a computer to type their answers, and where required read the text from the paper, rather than rely on readers and scribes. The report is available from the digital papers web site, www.adapteddigitalexams.org.uk/Downloads/Reports/.

The report highlights the spectacular increase in the number of school pupils sitting exams using digital papers since they were first introduced in a pilot supported by CALL in 2006. Last year 101 centres made 2000 requests for digital papers on behalf of 675 candidates. Compared with 2009, this represents a 71% increase in the number of requests, a 38% increase in the number of centres, and a 60% increase in the number of candidates.

The use of digital papers increases the independence of pupils, who no longer have to be supported by readers and scribes and can lead to financial savings for schools.

The CALL Centre believes that Scotland is the first country in the world to introduce accessible digital exam papers for national certificate exams in schools, but we would be keen to hear about experiences in other countries. Join the discussion on the adapted papers blog at http://www.adapteddigitalexams.org.uk/Blog/.

Digital Exams Training

CALL has two courses on digital exams coming up in March:

  • 24 Mar 2011 – SQA Adapted Digital Papers and ICT for Students with Additional Support Needs
  • 31 Mar 2011 – Creating Adapted Digital Prelims and Resources for Pupils with Additional Support Needs.

Training can also be provided in schools and local authorities. Further information is available in the Training section of the CALL Scotland web site.

Adapted Digital Exams

Adapted Digital Exams – East Lothian pilot

Candidates with additional support needs sitting SQA exams, currently have access to a variety of assessment arrangements which allow them to demonstrate their skills and knowledge e.g. reader, scribe or extra time.

A new assessment arrangement has recently become available. This gives candidates an opportunity to sit digitally adapted question papers provided by the SQA. Candidates with difficulty accessing a standard exam paper as a result of visual, physical, reading or writing difficulties, can now insert answers directly on to the question/answer paper on screen and use speech technology to have text read out.

East Lothian secondary schools are piloting adapted digital exams with a number of candidates this session.

CALL Scotland, SQA, East Lothian ICT officers and Inclusion & Equality section are supporting

this development. It is anticipated that Adapted Digital Exam formats will be available to increasing numbers of East Lothian SQA candidates in future.

For further information on Assessment Arrangements see the SQA site.

Thanks to Linda Gaughan (Inclusion and Equality Officer) writing in the ICT Education Newsletter.

 

 

 

Some more equal …

The Outreach Team had an interesting day recently looking at the new Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and experiences for Literacy and English and Health and Well Being.

One of the outcomes under the Responsible Citizens heading started a lively debate which raised the whole issue of inclusion and equality:

I can evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues.

We discussed case studies of students with English as an additional language (including those who use British Sign Language) and wondered if such an evaluation carried out in English would be fair to them. Surely if it is their knowledge and understanding of, say Biology, that is being assessed, then a full answer in their native tongue would be a truer representation than one done in a second language.

If this does not happen, pupils who use English as an additional language are not fully included in Curriculum for Excellence until they are proficient in written English. We decided that their abilities in their own language must be acknowledged; just as learners with dyslexia are entitled to have poor spelling overlooked if the content is understood.

This of course raises enormous issues about availability of translators, apart from the more deep seated issue about a right to be included.

Thanks to Janet Storey for the fascinating lead on this discussion.

‘Books for All’

CALL Scotland  recently ran this course in East Lothian – we’re all really enthusiastic and I’ll try to summarise here.

‘Books for All is about learning materials in accessible, alternative formats, for people who have difficulty reading ordinary printed books.

Most people think of Braille and Large Print when they think of alternative formats but in fact there are many more types of accessible textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, assessment and examination papers and other learning resources.

Similarly, it is commonly assumed that the pupils who need alternative formats are blind and partially sighted. In fact, there are many other groups of “print-disabled” pupils who can benefit from learning resources in alternative formats. For example:

Students who have a physical difficulty with holding books or turning pages can benefit from audio books or materials in a digital format on the computer.
Students with specific learning difficulties, dyslexia, or reading difficulties can read material if it is printed in a larger or different font, or on coloured paper, or displayed on computer. Many pupils with reading difficulties can also access information by listening to audio books, or by having the text read out by a computer.
Students with learning difficulties may benefit from simplified language, books printed in a simpler font or layout, or from books with symbols, or from audio books.
Students with hearing impairment may need simplified language, audio books or multimedia resources with signed video.’

At the course we learned about the copyright law and how to use a variety of free software to create accessible materials for our students. Many of these facilities are embedded in Microsoft Word.

We found out how to add comments to text, use document maps and headings, add recorded voice to text and loads more. The Scottish Voice (Heather), WordTalk and sources of free texts made this course really valuable. Now all I need to do is work my way through then CD rom and workbook!

“Blogs and Online diaries should be part of school curriculum ” says Thinktank

Charles Leadbeater introduced his lecture at the Scottish  Learning Festival on 25/09/08 with a You tube clip of a teenage boy playing guitar in his bedroom. The clip had had 49 million hits!

A report in the Guardian 6/10/08 points out the claims of the Think tank, Demos, (with which Leadbeater is associated), that young people “are being failed by adults who are not paying proper attention to this new medium.”

“The study.. considers how their enthusiasm and skills can be encouraged.”

“The report makes recommendations to help adults cope with the changing online environment and calls particularly on schools to help youngsters understand the long term implications of living their lives in a semi-public way.”

“Schools should prepare young people for an era where CV’s may well be obsolete, enabling them to manage their on-line reputation .” says the report, “we need an educational response that extends beyond the focus of safety towards broader questions of privacy and intellectual property.”

I was personally concerned about the information my teenage daughter was relaying about herself on Facebook, especially when she realised that her boss had added herself as a friend.

Politicians see youngsters as apathetic and unreachable, according to the Guardian.

“The (UK )government is pouring money into this because they feel young people should be making themselves heard”…”but bloggers say it feels contrived.”

Barack Obama in the United States, on the other hand, is said to be the first ‘Youtube politician’ because “he gets that you can’t control it. His campaign team get that its about the enthusiasm”…”he encouraged (young voters) to exercise their creative urges online, instead of simply dictating his ideas to them.”

Exam papers go digital

 http://www.tes.co.uk/2616170

TESS reports that an alternative to scribes and readers used by pupils requiring support in exams has been launched.

Scotland is the first part of the UK to offer digital papers to exam candidates, as an alternative to scribes and readers for pupils requiring support.

With the exam season fully underway this week, 209 pupils in 48 schools will use the adapted question papers to sit 509 examinations over the course of the next few weeks. This follows successful trials of adapted digital papers in 2006 and 2007 by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and CALL Scotland (the Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning team at Moray House School of Education).

Should we shed any tears as Standard Grades are abolished?

http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/features/display.var.2231757.0.Should_we_shed_any_tears_as_Standard_Grades_are_abolished.php

The Herald Society reports on the National Qualifications review announced last week by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, and gets views from EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith, Brian Boyd, Professor of Education, University of Strathclyde, Howard McKenzie, Acting Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Colleges, Michael McGrath of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers’ Association of Scotland, Jim Docherty, deputy general secretary, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

National Qualifications Online

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/nq/exampreparation.asp

NQ Online has a collection of resources and web links to help teachers, students and parents prepare for exams.  These include:

·       Sunday Herald Exam Guide (Spring 2008)

·       Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) 2008 Exam timetable

·       SQA past paper service

·       collection of interactive materials to help students to become effective learners and manage their own learning. This resource focuses on important exam issues such as essay writing and memory skills.

Laptops for Exams

Have a look at this from today’s news: 

The Herald
SQA to allow dyslexic students PCs in exams after trial success http://www.theherald.co.uk/search/display.var.1463815.0.sqa_to_allow_dyslexic_students_pcs_in_exams_after_trial_success.php
Children with dyslexia in Scottish schools will be able to sit electronic exams rather than the traditional paper version after a successful pilot scheme. Scotland’s exam body has approved the scheme after a small study found that dyslexic pupils coped better with digital exams using laptops rather than having questions read to them and writing out answers in longhand.  The British Dyslexia Association has welcomed the move, which it said would give new independence to dyslexic learners.

Comments welcome!