Special Educational Needs (12)
The use of apps in the classroom is now commonplace. The challenge speech and language therapists face is knowing the best way to use apps in this environment. With the sheer magnitude of apps available, it can be difficult to sort through and find an app which targets specific communication goals. Many of the available educational apps can easily be incorporated into the therapy setting to collect data, record conversational samples, motivate students or be used as an augmentative assistive communication device.
Considerations as to whether the student can work using apps on their own, or need an assistant to monitor or provide prompts when using an app, need to be made. Some students will be able to work through an app if the app has a clear journey and the interface is intuitive. However, in most situations, the app would be better used with involvement from the speech therapist, who can not only monitor use, but also encourage and observe how the app is being used. Often, a student’s use of an app may provide interesting information about how they problem solve, their attention, and their memory of how to use the app.
My first take on 'special needs' is: Don't all students have special needs? Aren't we beyond the cookie cutter education that lines students up and feeds them from the same trough?
Yes and yes, but for the purposes of this article, I'm going to reign my pen in and discuss what we traditionally consider 'special needs' and technology's effect on those students who function outside of the normal bell curve of pedagogic expectations.
The main emphasis of the COSPATIAL project is finding ways to adapt existing classroom technologies to engage children with autism in learning social skills. The project is being led by Dr Sarah Parsons of the University of Southampton and Dr Sue Cobb of the University of Nottingham. Thanks go to Dr Sarah Parsons for talking us through the project and, although we did not get to see the project in action, it was clear to see how the technology would be used with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) students.
The COSPATIAL project focuses on two types of technologies:
- Collaborative Virtual Environments
- Shared Active Surfaces
In this post I am going to concentrate on the Collaborative Virtual Environments. These allow multiple users to interact and communicate within a shared virtual space. They do this by accessing the space on individual laptops that are in the same room. There are 3 different programs that the students can use, each working on different elements of social interaction from communication to working together to complete a task.
The purpose of this post is to explore some of the technology that myself and some of my colleagues are hoping to implement in our school over the next year. We have set up an ICT working group with two aims. The first is to explore cost effective ways of using technology to create engaging and creative uses of ICT. The second is to explore new technology and see what potential it may have for SEN learners.
The discussion started with an introduction to some of the ideas we have come across in the last couple of months.
ArtiKix - Full: £20.99
An engaging articulation app with flashcard and matching activities for children with speech sound delays. The highly requested group scoring feature is available for collecting scores in flashcards on up to 4 children at a time. A group of students can now collect data as they practice sounds in words and sentences with a speech-language pathologist, their parents, or independently.
Cycling has long been a passion of many staff at Ravenscliffe, a secondary special school in Calderdale that educates children with complex, severe or moderate learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder, and physical disabilities.
Unfortunately, a lack of local facilities had meant that there was little chance of the school's pupils developing a similar passion - or even getting the opportunity to cycle at all.
In 2004, a group of staff members decided to do something about this.
That year, as part of a Comic Relief “Cycling Fun Day”, Ravenscliffe had been visited by Wheels For All, a national charity that aims to introduce people with all types of disability to cycling. Our pupils enjoyed the day so much that we were inspired to investigate ways of providing cycling at the school on a more permanent basis.
An 11 year old boy (we’ll call him Joe), in his final year of Primary School, was being tested recently for Visual Stress - the syndrome often associated with dyslexia that causes words and letters to distort or appear to “jump around” on white paper. At the time of the assessment, which puts a series of different coloured overlays on the page to tint the background colour, he was unable to blend C-A-T to make “cat”. The assessor had worked through the single colours in the test, with no significant difference between a single colour tint and white paper. He was now in the final stages of the assessment, using double overlays to deepen the tint on the page of text. When Joe was given a double blue overlay, he sat back and said: “Oh! Is that what you mean by a word? Can I start learning to read now?”
Successive governments have attempted to raise literacy standards in school, commissioning expertise to inform policy, which has resulted in such milestones as the National Literacy Strategy introduced by the incoming government in 1997, and the renewed Primary Framework of 2006, which put phonics at the heart of teaching reading. Commissioned in 2005, the Rose Review stressed that the systematic learning of synthetic phonics was crucial to the teaching of reading, and in 2007 the “Letters and Sounds” programme was launched to ensure that the appropriate material was freely available to all schools. The present government has picked up this baton and this year launched the match-funding programme, offering match-funding of up to £3,000 to all state-funded schools in England with Key Stage 1 pupils so that they can buy approved systematic synthetic phonics products and training. Following the Rose Review, Lord Adonis, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Learning, wrote in November 2007:
How can we audit special needs provision and create a provision map? This article describes provision maps and the stages and tools for auditing SEN provision.
What is a provision map?
A provision map is a management tool providing an 'at a glance' way of documenting and showing the range of provision, additional staffing and support that a school makes available to its pupils.
Provision maps enable schools to look strategically at the needs of all their pupils, including those in vulnerable groups, to clearly identify pupils’ strengths and needs. Provision can then be planned to meet those needs and track pupil progress so as to improve learning outcomes.
While the iPad is a welcome addition to homes and classrooms, it has also been the talk of the town for people with disabilities who are finding that some of the built-in accessibility features have enabled them to replace existing equipment or to use the plethora of apps being released each day.
VoiceOver for example, allows screen reading for people with visual and literacy difficulties. With VoiceOver, you use gestures (or finger based movements like tapping, dragging and flicking) to interact with items on the screen. That means you can touch the screen to hear an apps’s title, then gesture with a double-tap to go into that app. The speech rate is adjustable as is the language! iBooks is also compatible with VoiceOver. One thing to bear in mind is that while the apps that come standard with the iPad are VoiceOver compatible, other apps you may install would only be VoiceOver compatible if the developer has designed them with that feature in mind.
It's no doubt that smart phones and mobile devices have changed the way we work, rest and play. For millions of users, the i-revolution has changed the way we read our news, connect with friends and manage our banking. And now, it’s changed the way we deliver augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) . With a growing number of AAC applications (knows as ‘apps’) available via iTunes, not only does it mean a lighter load for therapists and AAC users (with the 9.7 inch touch screen iPad weighing a mere 1.5 pound), it delivers socially acceptable devices and the ultimate cool factor for clients.
Since the launch of the iPad in 2010, there has been much hype amongst speech and language therapists, families and clients alike with the possibilities for the iPad as an AAC device. The iPad and its apps offer an affordable and socially inclusive alternative to traditional designated devices which are often expensive. The accessibility benefits of the iPad begin with the built in feature of Voice Over which allows users to be given auditory information about what is on screen as it voices text on touch.