ICT and Inclusion Day at CALL – June 14

 Coming to  Edinburgh in June 2012 ICT and Inclusion is Scotland’s leading annual exhibition with a focus on the use of ICT to support learners with additional suppport needs. This year’s roadshows are being held at CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh, 14th June CALL Scotland and BRITE, the organisers of the event, have arranged for up to 25 of the UK’s leading suppliers of software and technology to support students with additional support needs to take part in the exhibition and to give a short presentation on their latest products. 

There will also be short presentations by staff from BRITE, CALL and local schools, colleges and services, illustrating the use of technology to support learning. Equipment and software on display may be of interest to adults with disabilities and the people who support them. It’s Free! The days are free to attend and run from 8.45  until 4 pm. Lunch is provided for people who book in advance.

 There will be a prize draw at the end of each day, with prizes including software, iPad apps and other worthwhile items. Make sure you stay until the end of the day to have a chance to win a prize!

Book online at www.ictandinclusion.org.uk 

 

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.

‘Absences leave holes in learning’

“Most school systems are based on the assumption that learning is sequential and successful outcomes are the result of regular attendance.”  John Howson in TES (14/01/11)

The disruptions in attendance experienced by teachers and pupils due to the recent weather and now flu viral outbreaks have brought this home only too well. The coming months will demonstrate how well  teachers and pupils are able to bridge the holes.

Howson’s analysis of available data suggests that “the percentage of special educational needs (SEN) pupils who are classified as persistent absentees is always higher than the average for all pupils.”

“..for those who want to come to school but cannot do so, often for reasons of illness, we need to find a way of ensuring technology can help.”

Not every home is equipped with the technology to ensure all young people are included even when they are ill but many do. School edubuzz blogs had some lovely suggestions for activities during the snow closures. Teachers and pupils can keep others informed and included while they are absent with illness through the use of imaginative Apps/ photos /videos,etc. Try www.wallwisher.com ; www.glogster.com. Any other ideas?

Voice recognition software

New products; software updates; innovative use of existing products – there’s so many reasons for revisiting issues previously discussed in this blog.  Voice recogntion software is a key area of investigation and exploration.

Professional opinon and feedback from users:  Dragon Naturally Speaking (latest version is 11) is still the best but the software built into Windows 7 is pretty good too.  A demonstration from Craig Mills (JISC) using My StudyBar speech recognition showed that it is possible to get good accuracy from voice to text.  Have a look for yourself and see what steps are involved.  The computers in schools are using Windows XP and this demo is using Windows 7. 

Key factors to it working are –  competent, literate and motivated user, adult voice, no background noise,  ability to identify and correct mistakes and punctuation, no support needed.

From discussion at the national ICT ASN group, all authorities are up against the same frustating issue of not being able to offer pupils as a workable option in schools.

Google Apps supports isolated learners

At a recent CPD session at Knox Academy, several teachers experienced using Google Docs for the first time.

We tried using an application which would allow a pupil at home to type on something set by a teacher, e.g. a Past Paper. The teacher can send responses and explanations back.

One Guidance teacher planned to put her learning straight into practice to support a pupil in his final year of school. While undergoing medical treatment which will keep him at home and in hospital  over several months he can keep in touch with teachers and peers by participating in pieces of work online.

Look at the Youtube clip Googledocs in plain english for further direction.

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.

 

 

 

Making Websites Talk

Browsealoud is easy to download and could be a great boon for learners with difficulties reading online.

LTS is currently looking at how the accessibility of Glow can be improved, and a text-to-speech facility could be extremely useful. They are asking us to help to trial Browsealoud 6 within Glow. It will be ‘speech- enabled’ until the end of January 2010. Trial it for yourselves and let them know what you think here.

I downloaded it easily on my work PC and will try it at home on my Mac. So far I find it very user friendly – though perhaps it delays access for a second or 2.
Have a shot!

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

Resource for supporting EAL students

I frequently find super tools at the blog of a teacher in Edinburgh who maintains a very interesting blog full of links to great online resources.

Here is a resource she has found invaluable for helping a family whose first language is not English.

Check it out – and if you like it make a comment on her blog to say so. It’s so encouraging to those of us who blog to see that others are interested in what we have to say.

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.