Last Thursday, I had the pleasure to be invited to be part of the professional learning community (PLC) looking into gesture based technology and the impact it can have on special needs learners. Gesture Based Technology (GBT) includes technology that involves a natural user interface for its input. This can be the Kinect, iPads, Eyegaze, mobile floor projectors to name a few of the technologies and is mainly used at present in gaming consoles at home. The power of natural user interfaces is that is allows students with SEN to be included in sessions and enable them to explore movement, creativity and engagement. From the evidence that I have seen so far, it gives students an opportunity to be actively involved in effecting their environment and allows them to do things that they simply could not do before. What is great to see is the instant effect that students have using this technology and this achieved by them moving in whatever way they can.
Over the next few months, I will be hoping to blog the progress that has been made in incorporating GBT into our schools and present evidence for this. I came away from the day even more enthused to make this happen and it was great to meet other practitioners just as interested in the technology to help engage thise student with severe learning difficulties. We are currently looking into adding this to our sensory room so that we have an interactive floor and wall display at the fraction of the cost that some SEN companies would charge.
If you are interested in GBT and the use of the Kinect and would like to find out more about how different schools are incorporating this technology please visit the Kinect Wiki site at http://kinectsen.wikispaces.com/
This post will focus how we have used some software called Po-Motion to create an interactive wall display in our Sensory Room. Po-Motion is a piece of software that was available for free, however they have stopped this and there is a small charge around £20 to purchase the software ( though you can trial the software for 30 days). It allows you to create an interactive wall or floor display by just using a web-cam, projector and computer.
The plus points for us was the cost – many items for the sensory room cost hundreds even thousands of pounds and companies are able to charge these amounts of money because it is classed as specialist equipment (though many of these items are actually a fraction of the cost to make and provide students with Profound and Multiple Learning difficulties to engage with sensory stimulations, which I find a little frustrating but enough said on that). In addition, it allowed us to install an excellent sensory tool which many could access without having to redesign our sensory room.
Anyway rather than me write about it I have made a video showing how we have set up Po-Motion and some of the scenes you can use with this.
When we first installed the system, we thought it would be a standalone tool, but have since found that it interacts with what else is going on in the room. For instance, when changing the colour of the lights, this has an effect on what was shown on the wall. So we have now got a bit of equipment that not only works well on its own but also in conjunction with other pieces of equipment.
Areas for thought –
- Positioning of camera – From installing the system, we found the positioning of the camera was very important in getting the best reaction from the display. Rather than pointing the camera at the wall, it needs to be positioned where the student will be standing or sitting so that it can detect the movement. Also in our setup we have the camera facing the display – another setup would be to have the camera facing the student. This is something we might change after we have gone through testing with the students.
- Lighting – for the camera to pick up movement there needs to be a little bit of light. In the dark, it is very difficult to pick up movement unless using an infra-red camera. (Po-Motion also do a version of the software that works with IR cameras)
- Web camera vs Kinect – something which we are thinking about is getting a Microsoft Kinect for the sensory room. The Kinect is more sophisticated camera and would allow us to have different pieces of software running for one bit of equipment. Also in the dark environment of a sensory room it would pick up movement far better especially when using the IR version of the software. This is something we are looking to set in the near future so will keep you posted on this.
Anyway now we have the system installed it will be interesting to see how the students react to it. Also I would be very interested to hear from others who have installed the system themselves and what scenes they felt worked particularly well.
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.
A cost effective way of creating your own interactive floor and wall display. All you need is a projector, computer, web-cam and the Po-motion software. This is free software (UPDATE – since writing this the software is no longer free – cost around £20) that is available for download from the link above. We have trialled this in classrooms already and are looking to add it the sensory room next. Will blog more on the progress of this as we get started. Below is a video explaining how Po-Motion works:
The original idea for using Raspberry Pi as a cheap solution came from Julian S. Wood (@ideas_factory). He blogged about using the mobile version of the Chrome operating system: Chromium OS to turn old laptops and netbooks into Chromebooks. He also mentioned using Raspberry Pi for this. An excellent idea and something we are looking to do to recycle our old laptops.
QR codes are similar to barcodes and enable you to link websites, videos, recordings etc. to a code which can be read with a webcam/smartphone/ipad to take the user directly to the content. What I like is that is provides a cheap solution to those students who are unable to type web addresses but can navigate sites once they are on them. I have already experimented with using these in our Life Skills curriculum which you can read more about here.
Again I first saw this being demonstrated by Carol Allen (@caroljallen) at the Teachmeet SEN held in Leicester in February. We already use flip cameras in the school which are great as they provide instant feedback for students with simple interface that the majority of our students can use. The great thing about this camcorder projector is that you are able to project a 65” screen onto any surface. This is great for showing groups of students their work instantly without any fiddling about for wires and transferring files to the computer.
This is a camera holder which takes a flip camera or an iPhone. Originally designed for bloggers to film themselves, the Swivl base automatically follows a receiver to ensure that you are always in the shot. Since first seeing this in January, more people are seeing a use for it in education. One of the uses we are looking to use it for is assessment as you could attach the receiver to a student and the camera will automatically follow that student and allows you to continue teaching the lesson. Another use could be to film videos for Flipped Classrooms. They have also created a site dedicated for education http://www.swivl.com/education/
Having already seen some excellent work from Ceri Williams (@ceriwilliams) on the use of the Kinect in Special Education – http://primaryparper.wordpress.com/ I have been intrigued about the potential for it in the classroom. A colleague of mine Keith Manville (Linkedin Profile) has done some excellent research into potential uses of the Kinect which include motion capture and augmented reality. You can view his presentation below –
The use of augmented reality is something that I can see have a huge potential especially with the use of sensory stories. Imagine when a student points the iPad at the a picture in the sensory story and that picture comes alive in front of there eyes. If you want to see for yourself the power of AR have a look at the following websites and download the corresponding apps:
Microsoft have now released the Windows version of the Kinect and there are developers out there who are creating some interesting applications for the device. KinectEDucation is one site that has a community of developers specifically for education. This is an area that I am quite excited by and look forward to keeping you posted on this.
I would be very interested in hearing from other professionals who may have already trialled the some of the ideas from this post and hope the post has got you thinking about the potential that new and existing technology can have for SEN teaching.