What, why and then finally how
When considering investing potentially significant amounts of money and time in an ICT resource, I would always recommend that schools consider what they are hoping to achieve and why they want to achieve it first of all; once these questions have been answered, then the question of ‘how’ can be considered, and it is at this stage when schools can consider the most appropriate hardware and software solutions. For example, wanting to remove the barriers to learning for all pupils may possibly be what a school is hoping to achieve (the what); removing barriers to learning will ensure good progress for all pupils (the why), and the ICT solution (the how) may involve 1:1 mobile device ratios for pupils with SEND to facilitate access for all.
It is very easy to follow this route in reverse, especially when attending events such as Bett, when school leaders can be bombarded with such a wide array of dazzling products, money can quite easily be spent in an ad-hoc manner. Remember that good strategic leadership is characterised by having a clear vision.
There follows in this post links and descriptions a range of ICT software and hardware. I would very much like to expand this post over time and any suggestions for additions are greatly appreciated!
Every device, whether desktop PC, tablet or phone, will have accessibility settings that can be adjusted. Zooming levels, colour schemes, voice overs and control via devices such as switches can normally be configured for different devices.
Sharing digital content with learners can be helped by sharing the URL via a website or blog. Additionally, learners can be given easy access to websites and text, avoiding having to type overlong URLs by:
With seemingly every classroom now equipped with a large screen display such as an Interactive Whiteboard and projector, it is hugely important that teachers consider whether or not their classrooms are inclusive when using such devices extensively. Learners with visual impairments may not have the visual dexterity to scan such large displays; many learners find maintaining focus difficult. Duplicating the larger display to other devices such as tablets can reduce the visual burden, and screen magnification software can allow the learner to focus on a particular area of the screen; Windows and MacOs have built in tools under the ‘accessibility’ settings. ‘Screen readers’ can verbalise electronically what is on screen, helping learners with reading or visual difficulties. Software such as ‘Teamviewer’ allows learners to view the teacher’s screen, with the ability to record the screen for later playback. Collaborative tools such as ‘Twiddla’ allow collaboration on the whiteboard without the learner having to visit the front of the classroom in the traditional manner.
Image from http://www.assistiveware.com/
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
To supplement or support speech and communication a variety of symbol systems are available, with ICT the tool to facilitate the learner using such symbols, or the teacher creating resources using symbols.
Visual Timetable Makers
For many learners, a visual timetable can give structure to the day and reduce anxiety. There are many applications around that allow you to easily make a visual timetable, including Interactive Education, who have written a useful Visual Timetable Maker that is available for free: http://www.inclusive.co.uk/downloads#timetable
Supporting Literacy Skills
ICT can be used to remove barriers to reading and writing via speech synthesis – the computer reading aloud the text that is written. Word processors can also offer support via word banks, predictive text, spell checks and dictionaries. Electronic writing frames can offer support with sentence starters and inspirational clipart. Touch typing skills can help learners communicate ideas more rapidly, and there are many online tools available to develop typing skills. Speech recognition software has improved dramatically over the last decade, converting what is spoken to type for the learner with some accuracy – watch out for noisy classrooms though!
ICT tools can allow access to the curriculum for learners with physical disabilities.
Switch with AAC symbol
Lower case keyboard
Searching for appropriate information from the Web
Searching for information from the web is commonplace in schools, but often learners are presented with literally millions of webpages, with much of the information written for adults. However, search engines such as Google often have filters or other tools to ensure that the presented content is age appropriate. In the case of Google, the ‘Search Tools’ option presents a ‘Reading Level’ option. Learners will need a little encouragement to regularly use this feature, but refined search skills should yield better results. Related to searching, whilst mobile devices have had the facility to search directly via speech for a while, the Chrom browser on PC and Mac also has this feature.
- Reading and Writing
SEN Support Plan Writing
Support and CPD
- Twitter (@pda3)
- Uk Ed chat
Other Hardware, Software and useful links