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!

Free British Sign Language Audio Tours launched at Holyrood

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/nmCentre/news/news-09/pa09-068.htm

British Sign Language users can now take a free tour of Holyrood while viewing an audio-visual guide. From today, deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors using BSL who participate in guided tours will be able to use hand-held audio/visual guides with BSL to learn about the Scottish Parliament.


The tours give visitors a behind-the-scenes insight into some of the Holyrood building’s unique architecture and art collection, and visitors will learn all about the role and work of the Parliament and its 129 MSPs.

 

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.

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.

How one council found clue to keeping reluctant readers on the right page

 TESS reports: 

It may not have reduced the gender gap, but Renfrewshire writing programme did engage boys more

Secondary teachers assume primary colleagues know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to literacy. But they still have plenty to learn, says Claire Hall, a teacher in Todholm Primary, Paisley.

“I’ll never teach writing the way I used to again. I couldn’t understand why stories the children wrote just stopped. I now know it’s because they were bored. One lesson we learned on this project was to give it to them in manageable chunks. It’s like knitting – if you drop a stitch but carry on, it’s a big job to go back and fix it later.

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!!