I attended the ICT and Inclusion Day at the CALL Centre last week. It was an ideal opportunity to see the latest hardware and software and hear practical, information-packed, short presentations on a wide range of topics all geared towards learners with additional support for learning needs. I was able to meet and network with colleagues, make some interesting new contacts and chat with presenters and suppliers.
Workshop 1: BOOKS FOR ALL
School and authorites are obliged under Disability and Equality legislation to consider how they can provide learning resources in accessible formats for pupils with disabilities. CALL Scotland have created a database of books currently available and provide training on how to adapt books. Hodder Gibson are offering free digital copies of their resources subject to a print copy having been bought and also subject to very strict copyright terms and conditions. Action: I am keen to establish how we take this forward in East Lothian and ensure pupils can be provided with books in an alternative formats when required. Do we have a Print Disability Copyright Licence?
Workshop 2: Age Appropriate ICT resources for older students with complex needs
Fil McIntyre from BRITE Centre reviewed some resources (keyboards, mice, switches) that are not highly coloured or involve gimmicky animals and therefore would suit older students. The exception was for visually impaired students who often prefer bright colours and colour contrasts. Action: Identifying software and reading material that is age and ability appropriate.
Workshop 3: Read and Write Gold 10 demo
This assistive software is designed to help those with dyslexia, literacy difficulties and English as a second language. The PDF Aloud feature converts text to speech and the writing support tools allows users to study independently in an inclusive environment. We have a site licence for high schools in East Lothian so it’s installed on all computers but may be an underused resource. Action: Cost the upgrade to R & W Gold 10; arrange training sessions for SfL staff
Workshop 4: Optelec – visually impaired hardware
We were shown a range of powerful hand held magnifiers and braille notetakers. They were very similar to the Humanware products that have been bought for visually impaired and blind pupils in East Lothian. Action: Share this information with Visually impaired service.
Workshop 5: iPods and iPads for Communication
A variety of communication apps have been created to enable pupils to communicate using voice output. There are a number of downsides to consider… even top of the range AAC app Proloquo2go has no alternate access options (key guards, scanning) and the UK voice choices are not great. It would be ideal if you could install Heather and the Scottish male voice that is currently being developed.
Photo Story and Communication passport apps allow photos, videos, audio and text into a book format. The iPad having a larger screen makes this more visually appealing and easier to read but the iPod touch for portability is ideal for other users. Action: Continue to pursue issue of obtaining access to iTunes store on school network so I can get some devices out to pupils to try out these apps. The idea being these popular mainstream devices are cost effective communication aids and almost as importantly, are very cool!!