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!!

Special Needs Toy Library

Recently a colleague and I visited the Special Needs Toy Library at Fisherrow Centre, Musselburgh. We were impressed by the range of toys and resources available and the commitment of staff to provide a range of quality toys – from jigsaws to light ropes and larger items like child sized tables and chairs. The Special Needs Resource Base is supported by East Lothian Council Childcare Partnership and operated by Borders Scrap Store.  It’s open on Wednesday mornings, costs £10 for annual group membership and has an uplift and delivery service

The following information is from the website.

What it provides

The library aims to provide a range of toys, equipment and books for children who have special needs.

Often organisations do not have the money to buy a full range of equipment, nor do they have the facilities for storage.

The library allows members to borrow and try out some of the resources available.

Groups and individuals are able to borrow materials for up to one term.

Who can use the toy library

Groups and individuals who provide childcare and education for children with special needs can borrow equipment on payment of a small annual membership fee.

  • After school clubs
  • Childminders
  • Community groups
  • Daycarers
  • Early years centres
  • Families
  • Fostercarers
  • Nurseries
  • Playgroups
  • Playschemes
  • Private nurseries
  • Schools
  • Special Needs groups

Enquire Information packs

Recently I sourced a pack containing all the leaflets published by Enquire, the Scottish Service for Additional Support for Learning

Enquire publishes loads of free information for parents, pupils, professionals and teachers – all of a very high quality.  There are factsheets, Young peoples Guides, DVDs, booklets and leaflets on all sorts of subjects and alternative formats are available. 

  • Involving Children and Young people in Decisions about their Education
  • Round the Table: A Guides to Going to Meetings
  • Going to Secondary Schol and Getting Ready to Leave School
  • Nadias Story
  • Have your Say – teachers notes and film

These are just a few of the many titles and Enquire will send whatever you need and it arrives very quickly.  Everything is also downloadable however the lovely colours fairly eat printer ink!  So why reinvent that wheel when the information is already there.  I have order forms if you’s like one.


Borrowing Resources – some bright ideas!

Recently a colleague got in touch asking if it would be possible to borrow some resources for a wee lad with ASN (additional support needs) in nursery who was very motivated by sensory toys – sadly we had nothing to lend.

That got us thinking – what could we do to help. Where could we find resources? This is what we’ve come up with. If you have other ideas we’d love to hear them.

The Hub at Sanderson’s Wynd primary school

The Pre-5 Visiting Teacher (Outreach) – Laura Girvan lgirvan@eastlothian.gov.uk

COTS – Communication Outreach Teaching Service – 0131 665 8640

The Special Needs Toy Library, Musselburgh, £10 annual membership fee for groups, £5 individual membership. it’s based at East Lothian Resource Base, Borders Scrapstore, Fisherrow Community Centre, South Street, Musselburgh, EH21 6AT. Open on Wednesdays only 9.30 am – 5.30 pm

The Library Service, Schools Service based at Dunbar Road Haddington. 01620 828213 open until 5. They can provide interactive stories, dressing up items, puppets, lift the flap books and all sorts of lovely things!

Some catalogues have cheap and cheerful options

Seek and ye shall find!!

‘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!

CALL Scotland Project with ELC

CALL Scotland (Communication Aids for Language and Learning) at Edinburgh University has been working with The Hub (Sandersons Wynd Primary School) and Ross High ASN Provision to develop resources, approaches and strategies to give children with complex ASN a voice. Consulting with children and young people can be a real challenge particularly if there’s no spoken language. Finding innovative solutions was the basis of this project.

We met on Friday 16th January to ‘showcase’ the results – what an inspiring afternoon!

Talking Mats were the first resource where pupils used Boardmaker symbols and Signalong to indicate ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like’ A very simple but effective approach to enable children to express their opinion.

Eating Programmes have been revamped to a much more visual format which were so easy to read for everyone from the teachers and support staff to the dinner ladies who no longer puzzled over ‘scoop bowls’ but could see from the photo exactly what was meant.

The move from Meadow Park to The Hub was the perfect opportunity to develop Transition mats – the children selected their own photos of both venues for their own personal mats. Boardmaker symbols for ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Hello’ as well as directional arrows gave the children a real sense of what was happening and parents could use the mat to talk about the move with their children.

PowerPoint was used to develop learning stories and coupled with Switch technology the children were enjoying seeing themselves on screen. These Learning Stories could be sent home on DVDs for families to shars

With the power of technology we were able to set up a folder right then and there so we can share resources. The ‘Communication Toolkit’ folder is located within the Support for Learners area on Education Exchange (this can be found in your ‘favourites’) – anonymised exemplars are located here and the report from the meeting will soon follow. Watch this space!

‘Parents as Partners’

‘Excellent!’ “A really enjoyable afternoon,” “It’s great to see what our children do”

These were some of the many very positive comments made by parents who attended our “Parents as Partners: Supporting Learners at Law” open afternoon last week. Our aims for the session were simple – to introduce parents to the Support for Learing team (in the wider sense), to share some of the games and activities we use, to look at the displays and resources and to encourage pupils and parents to play together. A bonus was to meet parents informally in a relaxed setting.

The room was soon buzzing with chatter and laughter as parents had a go at some games, tried ACE dictionaries, looked at some reading resources and enjoyed the displays of children working together. Laptops were set up with a range of web-based games and activities which proved to be extremely popular. The children joined their parents when classes finished and were soon sharing favourite games and websites with their families – it was delightful to see parents and children having fun together!

The focus was on literacy and Support for Learning teachers had prepared a range of handouts covering reading, spelling, writing, websites and internet safety. Parents helped themselves to these and had an opportunity to ask staff about mind mapping, strategies to support reluctant readers, paired reading and a host of other questions.

The children themselves were very involved in planning this successful event. They enjoyed using mindmaps to make the invitations, choosing their favourite games, acting as guides and having their photos taken for displays. Our in-house ‘paperazzi’ photographers came along too so there’s a lovely record of the afternoon.

Parents and childen were so busy in fact that they didn’t have time for coffee and juice!

Literacy – Reading in pairs


Local authorities looking to use paired reading to improve literacy can now access tutor and trainer manuals and a parents’ leaflet on line.

From 2005 to 2008, Learning and Teaching Scotland worked with youth volunteering organisation ProjectScotland and pilot authorities to place young volunteers aged 16-25 in schools to support the development of literacy skills through paired reading.

Supporting diversity and equality through improved access


JISC reports on groundbreaking work that will provide support for delivery of resources to disabled students and staff.

The JISC TechDis Service has joined forces with the Publishers Association to provide resources which have the potential to transform the delivery of learning materials to disabled students and staff.

These two resources, developed in collaboration with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and several major publishers, will support the delivery of materials in alternative formats to meet the needs of people with a range of disabilities, a crucial requirement for equality of access for all students and staff in education and research One of the resources – Publisher Lookup UK – will enable education providers and publishers to source electronic formats of textbooks for students with disabilities more quickly and efficiently than existing processes allow.

Good news for people needing to circumvent the barrier of print. And good news too, ultimately, for learners in countries whose libraries and schools are shockingly short of resources because of poverty and/or conflict. How terrific it must be to be a teacher in an African classroom to come across text books online. It will revolutionise children’s learning world wide. (And yes of course there are issues about connectivity and access to computers but that is being addressesd too, not least by the World Bank.)

Better access to learning resources for people with visual impairments


The Scottish Government has announced that young people with visual impairments, or other print disabilities, in Scotland will have access to the best educational material available from next term.

From August, they will be able to use the Scottish Books for All database powered by SCRAN, one of the largest educational online services, to access learning materials.

The database will contain a list of adapted materials which teachers can access to ensure that all pupils with additional support needs receive curriculum materials at the same time as their classmates in a format that meets their needs.

Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, announced the move during a debate around a call by RNIB Scotland for a national transcription service for young people.

He said:

“RNIB have been very helpful in drawing this issue to our attention but we believe that with the steps we have taken there is no need for the type of national transcription service they propose. We are totally committed to ensuring that all our pupils can access the curriculum. The Books for All report has enabled us to identify gaps in provision and take positive steps to ensure that we can achieve this aim.”