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2012 complete and what lies ahead in 2013

As we come to the end of another year, I like to think about what lies ahead in 2013. I have been very fortunate this year to have lots of opportunities to develop professionally and work with some with some fantastic people in developing resources and ideas to use with SEN students. On Twitter, @TeacherToolkit was asking teachers what has been their three highlights of the year. For me there have been many, but I narrowed it down to the three moments –

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So as 2012 comes to an end, I look forward to what 2013 will bring. Particular things I am looking forward to are:

  1. Continuing to be part of the Kinect in SEN Professional Learning Community – this group of professionals are looking at ways to use the Kinect and other gesture based technology with open-source software to help engage SEN learners to explore different activities to promote movement, creativity and interaction. The response, so far has been excellent with many developers being interested in helping us create applications
  2. Android and Microsoft Tablets – I confess that I am somewhat of an Apple fan and the iPad has certainly had an impact on learning of students with SEN if used correctly. However, I am also excited about the other tablets available especially the Google Nexus 7. For me personally, the specification of the tablet and the price are certainly appealing. In addition, being able to code and get applications onto the the tablets using Processing is another selling point and something that I hope to explore later this year. I feel we have started to see a different Apple over the last few months and though they will continue to produce fantastic pieces of hardware, Google and Microsoft are certainly weighing in there with alternatives.
  3. Develop my own coding – since the summer I have been learning to code in Processing and have managed to code a couple of applications myself. This year I want to develop this further and start looking at other languages and platforms such as OpenFrameworks and Ruby Processing.
  4. The release of the Leap Motion – another piece of technology that allows the user to control computers using gesture based movement. This is similar to the Kinect, but tracks just hand and finger movement.
  5. Finishing our interactive floor and wall display for our sensory room – this is something we began working on in the Autumn term and hope to complete this term. We are looking at a cost-effective solution using the kinect and webcams to provide interactive displays for students to use. Many SEN technologies companies charged thousands of pounds for this, where as the aim of the project is to keep costs to a minimum and I am happy to say we are on track with this.
  6. Developing in my role of Head of Year – I have really enjoyed the challenge of being Head of Year this term. The role throws up many different challenges and I have been fortunate enough to have a fantastic team to work with. At the beginning of the term, I certainly felt out of my comfort zone, but I have really enjoyed the pastoral side of the role and have really noticed a difference with the year group at the end of Christmas which credit should go to the whole of the Year 11 team.
  7. Lastly to continue to use Twitter to share and engage with like minded individuals. It certainly has helped me in a number of ways and given me opportunities that might not have occurred if i had not spent the time to interact and collaborate with many other professionals on the social network.

This list is not exhaustive and as usual it very difficult to predict what will occur over the next 12 months. I certainly would not have predicted to be where I am now 12 months ago.

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!

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Review of the year – where has it gone!!

What a year this has been in terms of my professional development and my discovery of using Twitter as a form of CPD, discovering new and exciting ideas and pedagogies, which I have used in my teaching throughout the year.

It began around October time, when a colleague of mine suggested to follow @SENICT (Ian Bean) as he was coming to our school to run some training. The idea was that we could ask him some questions before he arrived so that the training was suited to our needs. Before this, I had done what many people do and sign up to Twitter to follow celebrities (yes, I did follow Stephan Fry). I did not understand Twitter and what purpose it had in terms of myself developing as a teacher. After following Ian I started to follow people who were similar and wrote a few things about what I was doing in my class. This is when things started to snowball and soon I was immersed in picking up new ideas and chatting to like minded people. I joined #ukedchat on a regular basis and soon found some excellent blog posts to follow and read.

I really liked the idea of blogging and especially after seeing the effect of Quadblogging (fantastic idea created by @deputymitchell) was having with schools around the world, I wanted to try it with my class. I currently teach a mixed ability 16-19 SLD / MLD class who range from a P8 to a level 3 in Maths and English. I found the impact immediate and they were engaged in wanting to write down what they were thinking and share this with whoever would listen. They needed support in creating their blog posts but they seemed enthralled by idea that anyone from around the world could read their posts.

From seeing my class have their own blog, I decided to take the step and create my own blog. This was mainly to reflect on what I was doing but also share my passion for using technology to create an inclusive environment for the students I work with. I have enjoyed the process of creating blog posts and sharing my experiences with others. This has led to many different collaborations inducing the use of iPads and the Kinect in SEN. (I would recommend following @trinityfieldsit and @littleangelssch as they are leading the way for using the Kinect in SEN)

Over the year, through the use of Twitter and my own desire to refine my practice I have picked up loads of great ideas and theories which I hope to continue to use now and in the future. I particularly like the idea of SOLO taxonomy and will be working on ways to enable the students I work with to understand this so that they move forward in their understanding of how to progress.

I have been fortunate enough this year to move on with my career and I am not stating that Twitter and blogging have been essential in me doing this, but I feel that without the use of these two tools I would not be in the position I find myself today. I feel through the use of these I have been able to reflect, refine and develop my practice as a teacher which has enabled me to continue in my professional development and meet my aspirations of moving up in my career.

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