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.

 

 

 

Google Docs for isolated learners

Recently at a CPD session at Knox Academy several teachers practiced using Google Apps together.

One application which is useful in supporting a pupil who cannot be in class, perhaps due to illness, is to paste and send them a Past Paper or other document which they can work on at home. The teacher can type on comments as the pupil is working rather than sending it back and forth as you would with email.

A way for a pupil to keep in touch with peers, is to work from home on a document while classmates type from school. A group can participate together on a Powerpoint or other document from various computers in various locations simultaneously.

One Guidance teacher was eager to put her learning into practice in support of a young man in his final year of school who is undergoing lengthy medical treatments. He can now communicate with classmates and teachers from hospital or home from a lap top and can progress in subjects with a better chance of achieving his potential.

The scope for creating learning opportunities is exciting.

To learn more look at Youtube Googledocs in plain english

Using Clicker 5 in the classroom

I have long promoted the use of Clicker 5 to support independence in reading and especially writing. But I have reluctantly decided to abandon advising its use. Crick Software claims that,

Clicker is the proven reading and writing tool that helps pupils of all abilities to achieve success in reading and writing. Clicker is used on over half a million school computers and in over 90% of UK primary schools.

 

It is a fantastic resource, although the talking word processor aspect has now been superseded by WordTalk. However, in my experience Clicker is rarely utilised very much at all in classrooms.

Why is this? Well, either teachers are uninterested in supporting their reluctant readers and writers or the software is not user friendly. I don’t think it’s hard to choose which of these options is the most likely.

I have taught many children to access Clicker 5. Sometimes this has been relatively successful. Children can produce pieces of work that are largely coherent, well presented and illustrated without having to spell. It is unusual, though, for the use of Clicker 5 to become a central component of classroom activity independently.

I have been working this term with a group of 6 P3s (7 year olds) on The Ancient Egyptians. (Don’t ask my why this topic was chosen; seems daft to me but there we are.)

I located a ‘Find Out and Write About’ disc that I thought would solve all my planning problems. And, indeed, it is a lovely resource with 3 levels of difficulty, interesting information and clear illustrations.

Unfortunately, there is only one copy. So I did what all of us do, improvised. I borrowed the information – why re-invent the wheel? – to create grids for the children to work on in pairs. I have made many grids over the years but each time I have to re-learn the process. As I, like all teachers, have little time to prepare resources the grids turned out to be less user-friendly than I’d hoped.

I spent most of the first session sorting out the blips. That is, once we had managed to open the software. Just the admin involved took most of the initial lesson: turning the laptops on once they had been located; searching for someone who knew the logins after refreshment; helping little ones type passwords.

Following sessions were a whirlwind of activity with both myself and the support for learning teacher (who gave up her precious preparation time to help me) running between 3 pairs of children helping them to produce at most 8 lines of text. Yes, you read that correctly: 2 very experienced teachers working with 6 7 year olds became frazzled and frantic in five 45 minute sessions!

This is just not practicable in a busy classroom. Differentiating work is essential of course, but when the energy required in providing support far outstrips the end result we have to question whether it’s worthwhile.

I shall still use Clicker 5. The ‘Find Out and Write About’ and Talking Books software are terrific and can be used with small groups to enable them to access stories and produce a considerable amount of writing without having the drawback of poor secretarial skills hindering the process. I will also continue to recommend accessing extant grids available on learninggrids.com. Many teachers contribute their work to this site and they can be incredibly useful.

But I shall be much charier about recommending its use as a resource for class teachers to implement alone. It’s just not possible.

I’d welcome comments on this, colleagues.

Research on the use of audiobooks with young people with dyslexia

In my personal blog I have summarised a research study on the use of audiobooks with learners with dyslexia here but I wanted to post the abstract here also in case others hadn’t seen it. The paper confirms what we knew already, which is comforting.

The objective of the  research study was to understand what benefits the use of audiobooks (both school-books and books of various genres, recorded on digital media) could bring to preadolescents and adolescents with developmental dyslexia.

Two groups, each consisting of 20 adolescents, were compared. The experimental group used the audiobooks, while the control group continued to use normal books. After 5 months of experimental training, the experimental group showed a significant improvement in reading accuracy, with reduced unease and emotional-behavioural disorders, as well as an improvement in school performance and a greater motivation and involvement in school activities.

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Interesting use of the word ‘normal’ to describe printed matter. It’s a generational thing perhaps.

You can access the study by paying a fee. Anybody really interested is welcome to look at my copy.

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.

ICT and Inclusion 2009

Yesterday Neiria and I attended this event in Edinburgh.  It’s an annual event hosted by CALL Scotland – I’ve blogged about them before on this site. My head was in a complete birl when I got home having attended seminars by these developers;

  • Inclusive Technology – suppliers of software and hardware and communication aids. This includes touch monitors, using 2 switches for cause and effect skills as well as switch controleld MP3 player and ‘jelly beamer’ – a wireless switch.
  • Access Apps – award winning suite of free portable applications which can be run from a USB stick.  Access Apps contains a range of programmes which can help learners with additional support needs including literacy difficulties and visual difficulties.  We loved the on-screen ‘reading rulers’ which enabled learners to keep their place when reading text or even an excel spreadsheet.
  • Beyond PECS:Using Symbols and Clicker – Prospect Bank school classroom team introduced us to a wide range of strategies to promote communication: PECS, Signalong, voice output devices, chat books and chat boards as well as simple games and activities adapted from the usual classroom versions
  • 2 Simple – educational software for primary pupils developed by teachers for teachers. Ease of use and clear icons enable children to develop transferable ICT skills, work independently and to be motivated learners. All programmes are supported by teacher resources and short, support videos etc.  WE loved the fact that teachers can hide the ‘Print’ icon from the pupils!
  • Doorway Accessible Software – new software developed by Scottish borders Council, free of cost to internet users. The software is accessible and inclusive and can be accessed by keyboard, mouse or switch.  Activities are particularly suited to Interactive Whiteboards. It includes Doorway Speller, Doorway First Words, Doorway Cashing In and Doorway Text Type
  • Widgit – introduced new web based symbol technologies, downloadable resources for Communicate; In Print and Boardmaker as well as a demo of SymWriter.  I’m looking forward to playing with the demo materials.

We’ve come home with lots of catalogues, websites, demo CD roms and invitations to visit Propect Bank school.  We had to choose which seminars to attend and we were able to visit the stands of all exhibitors – we missed Smartbox Assistive Technology, QED, Microlink, Sight and Sound and Dolphin amongst others.

I wished I still had my camera with me when Neiria and I tried out a fantastic desk chair by Posturite – we loved it and I want one at home!!

Dyslexia Support Service yearly report 2008/09

There have been some mis-understandings amongst parents about the provision for learners with dyslexia within the region this session so I have listed the work I have carried out over the past academic year as the Outreach Teacher in the Dyslexia Support Service. I have:

  • Attended Staged Assessment and Intervention meetings (20 schools, 40 children).
  • Contributed to assessment of and planned for learners who may have dyslexic difficulties (15 schools, 58 children).
  • Delivered formal in-service training for teachers on Dyslexia Awareness; Mind Mapping; Dyslexia and ICT; ‘How we learn to read’ to all secondary schools.
  • Developed planning and organisational skills using Mind Mapping software (4 schools with groups in P6 and P7, whole P6 class).
  • Developed spelling strategies (1 school with P7 pupils)
  • Developed note taking skills (1 school with P5 pupils)
  • Developed visual and auditory sequential memory (4 schools with S1 individual, P5 and P6 groups).
  • Developed writing in Environmental Studies in 4 schools using Clicker 5 with in P3, P5 and P6 (small groups).
  • Exam preparation and revision techniques (1 school with group of S5 pupils).
  • Met with parents in addition to formal SAI meetings (10 schools, 25 parents).
  • Taught Speed Reading courses (2 schools with individuals and small groups in P7).
  • Supported students in accessing the Science and Modern Studies curricula through technology (2 schools with 5 S2/3 pupils).
  • Supported an S1 pupil in identifying strategies used by teachers that help her to learn and using this information to re-write the entry in the school handbook that is distributed at the start of every session.
  • Supported transition from primary to secondary school (2 schools).
  • Trained class teachers to use Clicker 5 (1 school staff).
  • Attended the launch of the HMIE document, Education for Learners with Dyslexia and disseminated its findings.
  • Set up a Glow Group about the service and continued personal development as a Glow Mentor.
  • Supported the Senior Management Team and Support for learning department in a large primary school in deciding on a vision for future planning using Person Centred Planning techniques.
  • Piloted the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pledge (5 primary schools).

Framework for Inclusion

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that a new initiative in teacher training – the National Framework for Inclusion – aims to ensure better classroom support for pupils with additional needs, such as dyslexia.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop launched the Framework which offers advice to encourage student teachers and qualified teachers to be inclusive in their teaching.

The Framework was funded by the Scottish Government and developed by the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), the body for the seven Scottish universities who provide teacher training.identifies the values and beliefs, professional knowledge and understanding and the skills and abilities, in terms of inclusive education, to be expected of both student teachers and qualified teachers. A further web-based resource will give support by providing relevant, high quality materials and documentation.

The document proposes under each of the headings (Student Teachers, Teachers, Advanced Professionals) what should be regarded as minimum expectations of teachers at each of the levels rather than as a hierarchical approach to anticipated engagement by teachers.

It aims to place a clear emphasis on the essential role played by the values and beliefs (Professional Values and Commitment) of each teacher in their commitment to the development of inclusive practice.

The Framework Document aims to be comprehensive but not prescriptive. It is question-based to encourage teachers to accept a shared responsibility for researching answers – and further questions – with the support of the web-based repository. It would be good to see staff in schools thinking about these questions in relation to all their pupils.

I really welcome the fact that it promotes inclusion as being the responsibility of all teachers in all schools and has tried to identify and to address the needs of teachers at all stages of their careers. It recognises and emphasises the need for career-long and life-long learning

‘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!

Tunes to get you in the “skoog”

 http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6008393

Researchers have created unique technology to help give disabled people the power to express themselves in music

A new musical instrument, unofficially called the “skoog” and shaped like a toddler’s toy cube, has been invented for children with special needs by a team based at Edinburgh University.

The researchers claim the technology marks a world-first in its ability to give disabled children – or adults – real power of expression in their music-making.

Now that the prototype has been developed, a company, with the support of Scottish Enterprise, will to be set up to bring it to the commercial market.

Skoog’s public launch is expected to take place at a Tapestry conference at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in May, when 1,000 children will perform music on an Afro-Scottish theme, led by pupils from Hillside and Park special schools in East Ayrshire.