Over the last year, those who follow this blog, know that I have started to get involved in the use of gesture-based technology. This has been an exciting journey so far and has been fantastic to meet and work with so many like minded people like Anthony Rhys (@trinityfieldsict), Susan McCarthy (@LittleAngelsSch, @SusancMcCarthy), Andrew Walker (@andtomac), Ceri Williams (@cerirwilliams) and Keith Manville (@open_sen) to name a few.
Today, at our school we had the opportunity to invite Hector Minto (@hminto) from Tobii and Lee Blemings (@sensoryguru) from SensoryGuru to run an EyeGaze Clinic with our students and staff at Oak Grove College. It was great to see our students use the technology in many different ways from eye control, to what I believe is more important, eye tracking. It certainly changes the playing field for assessing students as it allows you to see exactly where students are looking which is great tool for educators. By seeing where students are looking you can instantly talk about exactly what they are looking at and test their comprehension. When looking at EyeGaze, you instantly think about using it with PMLD students, but the system can be used for so much more than that. Below is an example of what can be done just using an Oxford reading tree book and eye tracking:
In addition there is more and more software becoming available starting at a sensory cause and effect level, up to choosing and communicating.
There were so many positive comments from staff with the majority saying ‘that is amazing’ and ‘so when are we getting one?’ Certainly I will be looking to get in our school as soon as possible!!
If you would like to see more information about Eyegaze and how it is being used in Special Schools please take a look at http://eyegazesen.wikispaces.com/
For those who work in special needs, you will know that sensory stories are a great way to engage a wide range of students using a range of stimuli. Sensory stories allow students to experience stories using all of their senses (visual, touch, smell, sound etc) However these stories can take time to gather the right resources and sensory stories that come ready prepared are often very pricey.
Joanna Grace (@jo3grace) is looking to change this with her recently launched Kickstarter project. She wants to create quality sensory stories at the cost of a price of a good book. She has considerable experience in creating sensory stories and has been commissioned to work for charities such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and many others.
The reason I am sharing this is that I believe that these are fantastic resources for SEN students so take a look at the Kickstarter page:
Please share this with as many people as possible so that Joanna is able to reach her target and get to work on producing some quality resources to use with our exceptional students.
As the dust starts to settle on the proposed National Curriculum changes, I have observed and read many blogs on how the change from ICT to Computing presents many challenges. I agree with the thinking behind the changes, in that we need to teach students how to use different hardware so that they can be the next generation of developers etc. rather than just consumers. However I feel that many teachers are already doing this by adapting the existing curriculum, by incorporating programming elements. I also feel that computing is not the be all or end or and that there are many other elements of ICT that should be taught to enable students to create various forms of digital media and become responsible digital citizens. If you have not already done so, read Matt Britland’s Guardian blog post ‘There is room for both computing and ICT in schools’ – this sums up brilliantly the needs and benefits to teaching both ICT and Computing together.
So moving on to our challenge as a school, I teach in a generic secondary special school for learning difficulties, with almost all the students operating at well below average NC level for English and Maths (they would not be at our school, if they were working at expected levels!!). The school caters for students working at P1 up to NC 5 so a huge range in terms of abilities. In KS3, the new curriculum states:
‘use two or more programming languages, one of which is textual, each used to solve a variety of computational problems; use data structures such as tables or arrays; use procedures to write modular programs; for each procedure, be able to explain how it works and how to test it’
Now with many of our students having severe literacy difficulties, they are expected to learn two other programming languages. I have done some coding myself and understand that different computer languages are similar, but still feel this is quite a challenging target for our students. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important that students learn to use computers for much more than viewing the latest YouTube video on their smartphone and look forward to adapting the curriculum to meet their needs. I have already seen my colleague Keith Manville (@open_sen) work with students at NC 1-2, coding simple sketches using Processing. The way in which he adapted this was to give the students different chunks of code to play around with and they soon picked up the understanding of the changes they made to the code was having effects on the what they saw on the screen. This is certainly one way in which we will have to adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of our students.
As far as a curriculum for SEN, over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the tools we could use to deliver this. The tools listed below are based on own experience and researching what others on Twitter and the web are using. They are listed in order of progression (obliviously more thought will need to be put in to make sure we meet all subject content for each Key Stage) This list is no where near complete and as I write there is a Google Doc being put together by Sheli BLackburn (@SheliBB) called Computing KS1-KS4 , which is collating all the tools you could use to meet the requirements of the curriculum.
Kodu – is a simple visual programming language created by Microsoft. It uses simple sequencing to allow students to program their own worlds and create games, stories etc. Have used this successfully with a range of students and are amazed how easy they picked this up.
Scratch - is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. Again it uses simple blocks of predefined code that students can build up and change the variables.
Greenfoot - teaches object orientation with Java. it is visual and interactive and visualisation and interaction tools are built into the environment.
Raspberry Pi /Arduino/Processing/Python – there has been lots written about the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino is a similar concept. This encourages students to look at the hardware as well as the software and involves them in creating coding software for the hardware. The nice thing about the Arduino is that it lends itself to robotics projects. It uses an IDE (integrated development environment ) written in Java derived from the Processing IDE. Like Processing, it was designed to introduce programming to artists and other newcomers unfamiliar with software development and hardware integration.
There will be few students at present who would be able to reach the Raspberry Pi / Python stage, but we need to have this progression in place to allow students to work their way towards being able to code using hardware like the Pi, especially when they reach KS4 and move into the Sixth Form. In addition, looking at the student cohort who are likely to access the Computing curriculum, they range from P7-NC5. This is a large range to differentiate for and we will have to ensure that the tools used are individulised to meet their needs and abilities, in order to allow them to access the subject areas and make progress.
The new curriculum certainly presents a challenge for our setting, though feel that by incorporating Computer Science with ICT allows the students to learn creativity skills alongside digital literacy and media skills, ensuring that are students are well-equipped for the digital world that they will be entering. I would be very interested in what other special schools are planning in terms of a curriculum for Computing so please add your comments.
It’s been 3 months since the last Kinect meeting and this meeting gave the opportunity for the schools to share their early journeys in using gesture based technology.
The morning consisted of Heronsbridge, Trinity Fields and Oak Grove sharing their evidence of using the Kinect so far. The videos showcased some brilliant examples of how the technology is engaging those students who are often hard to engage. In addition, it highlighted that the sessions need to be short with the use of different programs to keep the students interest especially with those working at P4 – P6. Another point that the PLC has to consider is getting the technology embedded in classrooms to allow staff and students to use it without having to set it up each time. This is one of the aims for Oak Grove College and something that I want to work on with staff over the next few months (hopefully our sensory room setup will be complete soon!!)
Andrew Walker (@andtomac) then presented on using a evidence based system to help the PLC record progress of students using the Kinect. At Exeter House School, they have been using the Engagement Profile and Scale developed by SSAT Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project. This has been developed to support staff to focus on the child’s engagement as a learner and create personalised learning pathways. There is also free online training available from the DFE website which talks through how to use the profile and scale. It certainly seems to be a logical step for the PLC to use this as an assessment framework and it will be useful to compare evidence at the next PLC meet.
After a short break, Dr Wendy Kay-Bright (Reader of Inclusive Design at Cardiff University and developer of Somantics and Reactikles) talked through the background story of how these apps came to fruition and gave a brilliant insight into the journey the team had been on. it was great to get a better understanding of how and why the apps came to fruition and Wendy gave some excellent advice on developing applications for students with ASC. What was great to hear was how the students were involved in the process from the beginning. Below are the slides from the presentation:
After lunch, Hector Minto (@hminto) gave a talk about the use of EyeGaze technology as a tool to promote sensory exploration and early tracking to aid reading assessment. The presentation focused on the EyeGaze Learning Curve and how the system could be used to move students along this curve from sensory exploration right up to communication.
Hector concentrated on the first two stages of the curve, Sensory and Eye Tracking. He demonstrated the SensoryFX software which is used to engage students and train the using EyeGaze system. The activities are designed to engage students so that you can develop their skills using a range of different programs. The next stage of eye tracking was demonstrated using a simple e-book and I have included a video to showcase this in more detail. What good to see here is that you are actually able to track where the students is looking and you can test comprehension by asking key questions. (You will need to look closely to see the cursor.)
The price of EyeGaze has reduced considerably and I believe now that it is at a stage where it is worth considering. It gives practitioners another tool to help with assessment and allow progress be shown with students working at the lower end of the P-levels, where progress is more difficult to show.
At the end of the day, the group discuss the next steps and what each school would do before the next meeting. it was a great day and brilliant to see so many different practitioners from teachers, researchers, developers and consultants looking to promote the use of gesture-based technology with SEN students.
If you are interested in finding out more please visit the PLC wiki which contains more information in using the Kinect with SEN and showcases some of the evidence that is being collected.
This Friday I was lucky enough to attend the BETT Show up at Excel alongside my colleague @open_sen. This was the second time I had attended the show and after visiting, there was not much new compared to last year, mainly companies showcasing improvements on existing products. I did however attend a couple of excellent seminars and the Teachmeet in the evening was fantastic with such enthusiasm in the room from a wide variety of educational professionals. Hats off to the organisers, @digitalmaverick, @dannynic, @skinnyboyevans and many many others who pulled off an evening full of inspirational presentations.
Anyway more on the Teachmeet later, at the show itself I saw a couple of things I wanted to share -
- Firstly the move to Excel, I thought was a positive one and the venue is excellent in terms of the facilities on offer. Yes I did get lost a few times as everything was on the same level, but I found meeting up with colleagues was far easier as the central boulevard was great for this.
- Kinems – I attended a seminar on the use learning games for SEN through the use of the Microsoft Kinect. Those who read my blog will know that I am heavily involved in the use of the Kinect in promoting movement and engagement with SEN learners. Kinems is a company from Greece, who have created a range of learning games designed for SEN. These look to target skills such as hand eye coordination, short term memory, sequencing, problem solving and taking directions. Within these games, the team have included analytics to allow teachers to analyse students performance to assess and track their progress.
- Tobii EyeGaze systems - I have been aware of eyegaze sytems for a while now and it was great to talk to @hminto about the systems and what they could offer to our students. What was good to see was that Tobii have thought about the learning curve involved in the system and this clearly showed a progression route for students using the system working from simple cause and effect to using the EyeGaze for communication. It was great to try the product out and I am looking forward to having a more in depth look at the Kinect PLC this week.
- Spacekraft Touch Musical Wall – Spacekraft are a company who produce multisensory equipment for sensory rooms and I was drawn to their stand by their new Touch Musical Wall they had on display. The slightest of touches will illuminate the panel accompanied by an auditory reward. The wall has 9 different settings and I thought this would make a great addition to a sensory area.
As mentioned, in the evening I was fortunate to attend TMBETT and it was a great night of fantastic presentations. Also the live minutes that were being taken throughout the evening were excellent. The nice thing about Teachmeets is the opportunity to connect with other professionals and it was great to chat to @skinnyboyevans, @bevevans22 and @ceriwilliams. Also a mention goes out to @lizdudley who despite our best efforts just missed each other (definitely next time!!) Some of the highlight presentations for me were:
- @mberry – HTML presentations – This talk looked into getting immersed in coding and started with looking at the excellent Hackasaurus site that allows the user to view the code and hack any website. He then talk about using impress.js which is a presentation tool based on CSS3. This allows users to create a presentation using code allows for some impressive transitions.
- @bevevans22 – Using publisher to create clip art – Bev showed how easy it is to create clip art in Microsoft Publisher. Rather than explaining myself, Bev has produced a video explaining this.
- @katerussell – Powtoon – TMBETT had the honour of Kate Russell from BBC Click co-comparing and she shared with us this excellent animated presentation tool that is free to use. Worth checking out.
- @mrlockyer,@mrwaldram – @BATTTUK – it would not be right without mentioning the excellent duo of Stephan Lockyer and Ben Waldram who were presenting on a new concept that is Bring a Teacher To Twitter. The message was clear, Find a Teacher, Introduce Them to Twitter, Guide them, Let Them Loose!!!!
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable day and evening, which I found inspirational and took away some great ideas to be used for the future!!!!!!