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.
It’s 5.30am. and the day begins like any other – my dog Oakley, a six year old chocolate Labrador, is ready for her morning walk. She really is the best alarm clock. I’m not quite awake yet, and the thought that there will be a strong cup of my home-delivered coffee, waiting for me when I get back keeps me walking. Without time to rest, I head to The Cedars Primary School where I am not only a teacher but the ICT coordinator, member of SMT and school governor.
In my NQT year I attended a three day TEACCH autism course. This covered the TEACCH approach research and values with both the theoretical and practical examples of their structured teach. The part I was most interested in was how to implement a highly-structured visual approach for individuals and groups. Now as all teachers know, you cannot take an approach that works in one school and shoehorn it into another setting, but the good thing was that we didn't have to do this; everything could and should be personalised within the framework.
What is excellence and how do we achieve it? How can we take the secretarial out of excellence? You may have heard of Ron Berger and Austin’s Butterflies, showing the stages a boy goes through to create an excellent drawing of a butterfly. It’s an uplifting clip, reminding us how we need to teach our students the drafting process in the pursuit of excellence.
Over the years I’ve taught and supported quite a number of pupils with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). I found frequently that a very easy tool to use to aid the development of social skills is social stories. They are a strength-based teaching strategy that helps to develop greater social understanding by providing a visualised plan of a chain of events or situation. The plan or time-frame can be in the form of pictures, sketches, stick figures, comic strips, simple text or photographs. Social stories were created by Carol Gray in 1991 “to help teach social skills to people with autism. They are short pictorial descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.” (The National Autism Society)
Hearing solutions company, Conversor has launched a new brand for its voice recording apps and edit suite family of products. The Notetalker website uses a simple user interface to share their innovative recording solutions. These apps allow students to record classes, with the ability to bookmark or tag important information with a simple bookmark or a text description. The software is easy to use and organise, and both filenames and folders can be made or changed at any moment. With these features, Notetalker apps are particularly useful for SEN students.