Around 3 years ago, I wrote this blog post about Tech Ideas for SEN and this is when Anthony Rhys contacted me via Twitter about the use of gesture-based technology in his school. I can’t find his original tweet but here is the reply to it –
@trinityfieldsit just look at your wiki, fantastic resource. Will reply to email on Monday but some great stuff you are doing!!
— James Winchester (@jwinchester25) April 29, 2012
This conversation via Twitter led to the creation of the Gesture-Based Technology PLC and since then this has grown to include many different schools and practitioners.
At BETT, Anthony and myself were fortunate to present on the work that we have done with Gesture Based Technology and how it has had a huge impact on the lives of the complex learners that we work with. At the end it was nice to reflect on how much the PLC had achieved and also looking forward to the next steps especially using video analysis more effectively with SEN students. (see link – http://videoanalysissen.wikispaces.com thanks to Andrew Walker for his excellent work in starting this up. )
Below is the link to the prezi which gives a quick overview of the work that has been done – it was great to be able to share the work of the PLC and looking back its is quite unbelievable that we have achieved so much in such a short period of time.
This week, I had the pleasure to attend the GestureSEN PLC – (more info here) where discussions were based upon how we use video evidence in purposeful way to aid our reflections of progress made by students operating at the P-levels. My write up from the day will come soon but it was during Andrew Walker’s (@andtomac) excellent presentation that the Gartner Hype Cycle was presented.
The Gartner Hype Cycle provides a graphical representation of the maturity and adoption of new technologies and is presented below:
The graph shows the cycle that all technology goes through from the moment the idea is conceived to mainstream adoption. This was the first time I had seen this graph and as someone who is interested in the use of technology in education, this got me thinking about the education technology we use in the classroom and where different technologies would sit on the graph. Would we say tablet computers are moving towards the Plauteau of Productivity? Virtual reality in education is certainly an area which I believe has reach the Peak of Inflated Expectations and is possibly about to hit the trough. Some technologies will never get pass the Trough of Disillusionment and will disappear into obscurity. .
For SEN, where would Eyegaze technology sit? Leap-motion? KInect? Switches?
Everyone will have their own opinions on where technologies would sit on the graph depending on their experiences. Being presented with this graph has allowed me to reflect on the implementation of technology in the class and the importance to evaluate the technology thoroughly to ensure impact on teaching and learning.
For more information on the Gartner Hype Cycle – click on the link –http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp
This year, I once again got to travel up to the big smoke and attend BETT to see what had change in a year since the last time I visited. Though I was certain not a lot had change, I was excited to not only be proven wrong, but the opportunity to meet up with fantastic practitioners was lure enough to make the journey.
This year was different in that I had a slight plan of action to ensure that I covered everything that I needed to. I wanted to explore the different interactive boards available especially one that would cater for PMLD, discuss and try out different software available for Eyegaze and look at some of the other smaller stands to seek out unique products that could make a real difference to the teaching and learning of our SEN students.
The SEN zone on the whole was massively under represented again, with the majority of stands showing off their ideas of a interactive wall and floor displays. It really infuriates me that these companies can charge such high premiums for their installations (£9800 in one case) where with a little know how, you can do your own installations at a fraction of the cost using Kinects and webcams. (Quick plug – head over to GestureSEN to see what a group of schools are doing with this technology) Anyway moan over, onto the highlights of what I saw at BETT this year.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this at BETT. It is a universally designed laser controller that gives users instant access to hundreds of musical instruments, sound effects and songs. It works by users breaking the beams to trigger a instrument. There are 4 beams which can be set up to play different instruments. The nice thing about this is that each instrument is played in tune and users can either play single notes or break the beams to play the instrument continuously. This is great for cause and effect, sequencing, fine and gross motor skills and working directionality with students.
The added bonus of this system is that it can be used with switches, adapted keyboards and the accompanying iOS app so this makes accessible for a large range of students. It is also Eyegaze compatible!! Lastly the price is very affordable for schools and I was shocked to hear that it only cost £250 for the hardware, software and accompanying activity guide. My order will be going in soon!!
I always liked visiting this stand because it is great to see what new products they have to offer. This year they had a whole range of outdoor resources which I felt would excellent to create your own talking garden. Some of the products included:
Talking Turtles – these are a waterproof set of recordable turtles which could be used in sand, water and other sensory materials. You are able to record a message on them that could correspond to the numbers in them to reinforce mathematical understanding.
Talking Daisy’s and Tree – again another resource that you are able to record messages on. They would be a bright and attractive addition to a outdoor area and great for working on speaking and listening skills – talking number lines, treasure hunts etc. The great thing about these is that they can be left outdoors so no dragging them back and forth to the classroom.
Wonder Bug – this could be describe as a rugged outdoor Beebot. It can be used in all conditions and could add to some great adventures in the woods. Also can be used with washable paint so you could use it to create some great artwork with your students.
We have used Hills Components for a while now for projectors mounts as they offer great value for money. When I visited thier stand I was interested to see that they had launched a new website and this came with a number of new products. If you order in bulk many of the items can be purchased at very low prices like the £10 iPad mount which I will mention below.
Unbreakable Headphones – this look like an excellent purchase for many schools especially in special ed as we seem to be breaking headphones left, right and centre. They come with a braided cable, steel tensioned headband and anti pull cables on areas where traditional headphones break. Again great value especially when purchasing a bulk order as the price comes down to as low as £3 per headphone.
iPad mounts and stands – they had a range of iPad stands and mounts and it’s worth exploring their website further as their prices seem very responsible on comparison to others. They also showed us iPad mount for wheelchairs that allowed the iPad to be clip in and off when you need it to. The RRP is £29 however as they are an educational supplier if you were to bulk order these the price could come down to as low as £10, which I think is very competitive.
Acctim Lulu Teach Time Clock – I really like the look of this clock and think its bright colours give an alternative and fun way to teach the time.
EyeGaze software – though it’s taking some time to be released, the software that Inclusive are working on looks like a great addition to the range of EyeGaze technology. Some attractive and fun activities have been designed with the added inclusion of assessment tracking to enable to see how students are progressing with their use of EyeGaze technology.
One of my briefs for the show was to explore what interactive mobile smartboards there were which would be suitable for PMLD students. The main thing I was interested in was a board that enable access for students laying on a bed or reclining back in their chairs. Many boards would tilt into a table but when it came to tilt the other they did not make the grade. I was about to give up hope, when I got directed towards the Osborne stand.
iCore Flip 180 – finally I found the board I was looking for!! What is great about this is that is has full 180 degree tilt so can go from being a flat table to being turn upside down so that students can access on a bed if needed. It is also height adjustable so lots of different angles can be achieved. This is certainly a product that I am going to explore further and I they offer free trails to ensure that it is the right product for your students.
Overall, I really enjoyed BETT this year, it was great to meet up with Andrew Walker (@andtomac) and Susan McCarthy (@SusanMcCarthy) from the gesture based PLC plus meeting Sarah McDonald (@daisyrah) for the first time. In addition I had a very interesting chat with Hector Minto (@hminto) about the development of EyeGaze and I am looking forward to our school investing in this technology. I also attended an excellent seminar by Carol Allen (@caroljallen) about the technology and autism and then enjoyed a great chat with her over coffee, discussing a range of topics. Lastly the Teachmeet was an excellent event in the evening with a great range of speakers and some excellent class tools to take back to school and share with others. Big thank you and well done to the organisers for putting on a fantastic event.
Even though it was a long day, it was certainly worthwhile and I am already looking forward to attending next year.
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/
One of the great new features of iOS 6 is the guided access feature. This will prove extremely useful when working with students who have the tendency to keep pressing the home button to close the app.
Also another great feature of this, is that you can select parts of the screen to be inactive. This is particularly useful when using free apps that have adverts as I found that sometimes students will accidentally press the adverts, which then leads them away from the app.
To set up, guided access, you need to turn it on first. Go to Settings, General and click Accessibility. In there you will find Guided Access. Select this and switch it to on, plus set a pass code to enable you to turn it off.
Once you have set this up, load the app you want to use and triple press the home button. Press guided access which will lead you to the setup screen. Here you have the option to select parts of the screen to make inactive, and turn off touch and motion altogether. To select parts of the screen, just draw a circle around the bits you want to make inactive. Then all you have to do is press done and the app is ready to go. To exit, guided access, just triple press the home button and enter the passcode to exit.
A really excellent feature when using iPads with SEN.