Inclusion. Making sure every child is catered for at their level and own pace is often a major challenge for many. I know that I’ve always tried to promote inclusion in all I do, and at times have found it very challenging. Luckily, my LEA have a great source of advice and support from specialists. Carol Allen is someone who has changed my perception and understanding of inclusion. I’ve had the pleasure to see Carol present on numerous occasions in my first year in the authority, and the message is always thought provoking. One size does not fit all. Not all children are happy with the the same way of working. Many children struggle with communicating and have barriers to their learning, and we do not always understand or provide enough for them. Many teachers (I myself at times earlier in my career) would simply differentiate the work by expecting less in outcome, giving children less to do, or making it slightly easier for them. Until listening about how a range of options and tech can provide a means of communicating and access. We often provide limits to our children, expecting them to produce work in a certain way, or using a certain program or app. What I have learnt this year is this: don’t limit children with particular needs to one way of working and they will flourish.
My school have been awarded the Dyslexia Friendly Award Stage 1 for the way in which we provide a variety of support and good practice to make learning more accessible. This has been driven by two fantastic teachers, Alison Davison and Katie Kershaw, from whom I have gained many new ideas, approaches and skills to make learning more accessible for my children. One of my favourite things about working with technology is not just seeing the effect and impact it has with my children, but also seeing the impact when used by other enthusiastic dedicated teachers with their children. Alison is a shining example, working with a group of children with varying needs. In January she had never used an iPad before. I have spent many Friday lunchtimes with Alison chatting, answering questions, sharing things that I have learned from others, apps I have discovered, as well as offering ideas to try with her group of children. The results and impact they have had blown me away. She works with children with varying skills, levels of understanding and communication needs, but by embracing technology and providing the children with different ways of working she has opened up a whole new world of learning for them.
Communication In Print from Wdigit is a great program which aids communication for those who struggle with reading text by providing visual support to written word through pictures. This has been used with great effect to help children visually remember and produce visual sentences and work. However, it also benefits those on the spectrum by providing a visual timetable or set of instructions to reassure and help understanding. The impact in school has been brilliant, seeing a rise in confidence for those who struggle with reading and writing by helping them access and communicate their ideas. It has also become integrated into classroom when using Talk 4 Writing, and is particularly useful creating text maps.
Alison provides her learners with different options when working. Children have produced great work, which previously has not been possible as they struggled with reading, writing or presenting their ideas. By giving children a choice of medium for their work she has given them a platform. Apps such as Puppet Edu and Adobe Voice have allowed children to express their learning on a variety of topics by simply inserting photos and pictures, and then recording simple text and audio recordings over the top. I first used Puppet Edu with my class to explain a practical investigation of rocks during Science in which we made different types of rocks from chocolate, before showing Alison how simple it is to use. Adobe Voice offers a slightly slicker way of speaking about images by animating the images. Alison is very proud that some of her learners have developed this great confidence and voice which they never previously had.
She has also used one of my favourite apps YAKiT Kids to make Read Write Inc more engaging and memorable. This app allows you to take photos and bring them to life by adding mouths and characters to give them voices, something we have had hours of fun with in my class! The children have learned their sounds and then recorded characters to help them remember the sounds. This made it easier to remember, but also means they can go to the camera roll on the iPad and play this back at anytime to help them remember. We have also used augmented reality and Aurasma to make an interactive display or point of reference in books and learning journals, something which I will share soon.
The reward from seeing the results of your teaching with tech are great, but seeing how others use it is amazing.