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Sensory Stories – Kickstarter project by Joanna Grace @jo3grace

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:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sensorystory/sensory-stories?ref=live

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.

My day at #BETT2013 and #TMBETT2013

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.
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Eye Gaze Learning Curve

  • 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.

Photo 01-02-2013 10 48 27Photo 01-02-2013 10 48 41

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.

Clip Art Faces TMBETT2013 from Bev Evans on Vimeo.

  • @katerussellPowtoon – 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!!!!!!

KinectSEN – exploring gesture based technology to engage all learners

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.

One of the mobile interactive floor projectors

The PLC is co-ordinated by the fantastic Anthony Rhys (@trinityfieldsit) and from looking around Trinity Fields School it was amazing to see the progress the school had made in enabling students to interact in their lessons using GBT. The day focused on how this technology can be used to enable students who are often withdrawn and shy to engage in various activities. It was great to see the evidence of other students using this technology to encourage creativity, movement, engagement and exploration.

kinect flow.JPG

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/

 

Drawing with Sounds Processing sketch

Since learning to code, I have explained to colleagues that if they have any ideas or needs for specific apps to come to talk myself or my colleague Keith Manville (@open_sen) and we would look at how we could design a application which would meet their needs. This happened to Keith a few weeks ago and I don’t want to say too much as he has already written about the process of designing the app on his excellent blog which you can find here.

What he has created is a simple visual and audio app that will draw bezier curves and ellipses depending on where the mouse is positioned on the screen. In addition it will play notes from the midi synthesiser using the soundcipher library created by Andrew R Brown. The outcome is a simple cause and effect app that not only stimulates the user visually but also through sound. The app can also be used on a touchscreen which increases the accessibility for some students. In the short time in testing this app out with students, I have found that different students react differently to it. Some are more interested in the visual shapes that are produced whilst others are motivated by the audio coming from the app when touching the screen.

Example of the image that is produced using the drawing with sounds app

In addition to this, I have adapted the code slightly so that switch users can access the app. Instead of the shapes being drawn depending where the mouse x and y axis are, the shapes are drawn randomly. Again I have found similar results with students being engaged and stimulated by the visuals and sounds being produced.

Part of our ongoing project is to produce applications for students with special educational needs, we have wanted to make the applications easy to share with others. We have set up a wiki: http://processingsen.wikispaces.com/ and if you click on the applications page you will start to find some of the applications that we have coded to download and try with your students, Both Keith and myself would greatly appreciated any feedback and comments regarding the applications as this will help improve them and further applications for the future.

N.B – If you are interested in seeing the work we are doing with the Kinect in the classroom please visit the PLC page at http://kinectsen.wikispaces.com.

Guided Access – iOS 6

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.

 

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