I’m a theatre practitioner with a background in inclusive practice. Finding ways to create new communities through Drama, and making diverse groups of performers central to the process, has taken me on some great journeys: making theatre with teenagers in Finland, circus artists in France, playwrights in New York City and toddlers in Tottenham.
One of my students ran into school a few years ago, one warm Summer’s morning. He came up very close to my face, staring intently at me with wide, excited eyes, and he started to speak with an attempted steadiness that tried to mask his excitement. “You’ll never believe what happened to me this morning. I. Have. Super. Powers. I can actually, really and truly, melt ice cubes just by staring at them with my eyes. It takes about thirty minutes, but it happens!”
Oaka Books, a UK publisher specialising in SEN resources, is launching its new digital resource packs for dyslexic students and visual learners at the TES SEN show on 7th and 8th October in London. This digital resource library will make Oaka topic packs accessible to up to 300 pupils per school at a cost of around 1p per pack per pupil for the year.
At this month’s Bett Show, assistive-technology experts Conversor will be launching their new Notetalker app, which will allow students and teachers to record audio, bookmarks and images in the classroom. With this resource, everything from the lesson’s discussion to guided reading and Science experiments can be easily captured in detail. Bett 2016 will be taking place from 20th - 23rd January at ExCeL London, and the Conversor team will be hosting Stand G83.
Allow me to introduce Anita. Anita is 12 years old. She is paralysed from the waist down, caused by a polio infection a number of years ago. While there are cuts in the UK that are impacting upon the level of care that is able to be delivered to children with special needs, we’re still a million miles away from the reality of life for children who live in many parts of the world.
Conversor, leaders in assistive technology, have released a series of updates for their SEN-friendly Notetalker solutions which will help teachers as well as pupils. Notetalker App, combined with a Universal microphone and cable kit for any smartphone or tablet, uses a simple user interface which allows the recording of classes. These developments have been made with CPD and working on identified weaknesses, such as after an Ofsted inspection. The range of Notetalker products is priced from £4.99 to £119.98.
My first use of the Plickers assessment app for SEN purposes was met with mixed results. Staff and students were intrigued, but too much support was required for the students to use the cards that are provided on the website in a meaningful way. The concept of holding the card up a certain way to ensure a letter was the right way round was not clear to most. The abstraction between an answer they knew and the letter depicted on the card is a concept that presents difficulties for most of my students.
When I began teaching in the early 1990s, schools were approaching the Millennium with great anticipation for a futuristic world of gadgets and technologies. The best we had at that time was a BBC B Computer, hooked up to a dot matrix printer with that awful neverending sheet of paper with the holes in the sides. In some classrooms they were seen as glorified typewriters so that kids could type up a good piece of writing. More adventurous uses included simple programming and filling the screen with scrolling text from a few lines of code.
Some of the most special moments during my recent visit to Rukungiri, Uganda this June were at the project at Kitazigurukwa Primary School where we spent much of our time. The SEN school and dormitories for the disabled children are already in place and so we have been working on a kitchen and storage building specifically for the children and then another for the teachers house.
Tablets have become very popular in schools over the past few years mostly due to their multi-functionality, such as the ability to have a camera and the internet on the same device, among many other things. Apps have also played a big part in their popularity and there have been a lot of apps that help lessons be more engaging. As well as using iPads to make the classroom more interactive, they have also been used to help SEN students. One area that I have been focussing on in particular is how tablet technology can help students who are visually-impaired.