Category Archives: BETT

All this and Jo Brand too

The BETT awards are almost upon us and I can nearly get into my posh frock to join the glitterati at a new venue, the Brewery at the Barbican. This year we are in for a real treat as the awards will be announced by Jo Brand. Even if your company doesn’t win, you are assured of a good night out.jo2I have been looking down the list of finalists seeing who I would like to see win in some of the key categories. This is a purely subjective approach. I am not going to support anything which deals with assessment in any form as I now believe that this is just another way to cosh teachers, parents and children into submission and give them an inferiority complex.

There are many shortlisted products that I know and love. I am running two sessions on Audio Notetaker for dyslexia learners on the Sonocent stand C470 on Thursday at 1.30 and Friday at 2pm and they are on the list for the ICT Tools for Learning and Teaching section. I am of course familiar with all the products in the special needs category and I am delighted to see other old friends such as 2Simple, Twig’s TigTag, TextHelp and the Yes Programme.

But there are many products which I am less familiar with. Here is my top ten to look out for:
1. For early years one good choice would be Rising Stars Switched on ICT, a step by step approach to get young children using ICT in meaningful ways. I like Rising Stars and have written about some of their other products especially their e books.
2. I like the look of TTS Group’s Mini Mobile Phones: ‘Children will delight in developing their language using this set of 6 realistic mobile phones. Colour co-ordinated buttons make for easy use.’ This will at least stop children using their parents’ boring old iPhones. They have also been shortlisted for:
3. The NEW Ultimate Timer, a rechargeable stopwatch with a simple to use, lapsed time function. Anything which saves looking for batteries will be welcome in the classroom.
4. For primary I am going to opt for 3P Learning Reading Eggs a library with over 1,500 eBooks, for specific year groups, as an intervention/catch up tool and to support EAL and SEN requirements
5. Another good choice is Espresso Education – Espresso Coding that teaches students to code and make their own apps to share with their friends and parents. This will help children develop skills for their future working life which so much of the National Curriculum singularly fails to do.
6. For secondary I am going for English and Media Centre’s Arctic Adventure which works on ipads and has authentic video material, images and blogs from the Catlin Arctic Survey.
7. For ICT Tools for Teaching and Learning I like the idea of IGGY ,an online educational and social network for gifted 13-18 year olds from across the world with content for maths, science, history, politics, creative writing and life skills, and a safe environment for students to exchange ideas, debate and learn.
8. It’s a pity FlashSticks won’t be at BETT because the product looks excellent. It combines low tech post-it notes, foreign language vocabulary and smartphones. The notes are colour coded to help with gender recall (blue notes for masculine words, pink notes for feminine words) and a Free App channel means users can wave their smartphone or tablet over any note to call up a quick pronunciation video.
9. Visual Education’s Wordwall lets teachers make easy learning activities for interactive whiteboards. Apparently you pick a template, type in your content and with a few clicks you’re done. Alternatively pinch some ideas from their online community.
10. Finally I am on the look out for good maths resources this year so I am hoping that Jumpido will do the trick. It is billed as: ‘an exciting series of educational games for primary school. It combines natural body exercises with engaging math problems to make learning a truly enjoyable experience.’

If your product is in the running for an award, good luck. If not, then just enjoy the entertainment. I am sure Jo Brand will be very good value.

FREE Science unit for every UK school

Tell your friends. Sunflower is offering a FREE science pack to every single secondary school in the UK. Click here to register your school

Back before Christmas I had a very nice breakfast in Canary Wharf. It is not the sort of thing I usually do. In fact it was the only time I have breakfasted there but I was meeting Elizabeth Kelly, Director of Schools Operations. We were there to talk about the new science curriculum and the units they were producing for Sunflower for Science

Sunflower has animations for DNA, Natural Selection, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Chemical Reactions and Heat Transfer modules which many teachers enjoyed at Bett his year.

Obviously I was interested in the special needs angle but in fact Sunflower’s materials are differentiated so they cover everyone from young people struggling with basic concepts in science to those who are on the gifted and talented register and are aiming for University or a career in the sciences.

Atoms and ions, bonding, diffusion and the periodic table are just a few of the units for chemistry and many pupils will enjoy following the story of the carbs, fat and protein in a pizza. Every programme comes with worksheets activities, quizzes and sample lessons.

‘One of the key features of Sunflower Science,’ Elizabeth told me, ‘is to make sure that teachers can deliver modules in scientific subjects outside their own specialism.’

Schools can buy one module at a time, ideal for those on a tight budget, but why not start with your freebie?

Shout Out for Voices

I have always loathed the voices on speech synthesis. I know disabled kids who think it is a laugh to sound like a Dalek but I think it’s sad and particularly depressing for adults who might have all their materials for a degree course read out in a robotic voice. But voices are getting better and I have two good news stories

First JISC TechDis commissioned CereProc to create Jack and Jess, two new high-quality voices that can be used with text-to-speech tools. The big story is TechDis has managed to obtain a wonderful licensing agreement so that all staff and learners in publicly funded post-16 education in England should be eligible to download the voices free of charge.

That means that if you are studying in Adult & Community Learning; Further Education; Higher Education; Offender Learning; Sixth Form Colleges; Specialist Colleges; UK Online Centres; Voluntary Sector; and Work-based Learning you won’t pay a penny. Ask at your education centre or college now.

Alistair McNaught, Senior Adviser at JISC TechDis is excited about the prospect of real voices for the estimated 4.5 learners out there who could benefit. ‘Now hundreds of thousands of print impaired learners have a decent voice to listen to while they are studying and won’t be embarrassed if they want to access talking materials while they are out walking or doing household chores. The stigma about using such software tools vanishes. This will have a massive impact on their productivity and confidence.’
Click here for more information

Voices for children
It’s not just adult voices which are improving. Rosie and Harry were shortlisted for the BETT ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions 2013. 74,000 children and teens in England cannot speak for themselves and need a voice for their assistive technology. Rosie and Harry are the first English voices for children. Acapela Group and AssistiveWare best known for former BETT winner Proloquo2Go have pioneered the development of these voices which in time will become available in other products too.

Harry sounds pretty normal but Rosie is definitely Home Counties which means girls will sound more like Hermione from Harry Potter than Lisa Simpson. More news here.

Anna Reeves, National AAC Coordinator for England
Anna Reeves, National AAC Coordinator for England

Anna Reeves, National AAC Coordinator for England said, ‘These new voices will further transform the lives of children who cannot speak and the lives of those around them. It may be the very first time that families hear their own children speak with a child’s voice – you can’t put a price on that.’

Caroline Wright, BESA and the House of Lords

Caroline Wright of BESA
Caroline Wright of BESA

Tonight I am meeting Caroline Wright face to face. I interviewed her for Merlin John Online 
We have emailed and talked on the phone so much that I feel as if I know her quite well but in fact we met just once – very briefly – at the farewell do for Ray Barker.

Caroline is not the new Ray. Nor is she a replacement. One thing I have learnt is that as the new director at BESA Caroline will put her own stamp on the organisation. She has a formidable pedigree with extensive overseas experience which will be of great benefit to the UK software community but she also has great charm

Most importantly she has a very clear set of values: ‘Education matters and is always likely to be featured in the first few pages of a newspaper because it is relevant to most of the population. We have all had an education and we nearly all know someone who is having one now. The role as a director at BESA ticks every box for me. I love education and this job lets me be part of a team and puts me back at the heart of strategy and delivery.’

Tonught I shall enjoy being BESA’s guest at their annual House of Lords reception.

Ray Barker retires from BESA

Last night was the end of an era for the British educational software industry as Ray Barker, director of BESA, retired.

Ray worked as a teacher, a multimedia publisher and ran an Education Action Zone before joining BESA. He was chair of judges for the BETT awards and was a regular commentator on changes in government legislation which affected the purchasing power of schools.

There are many ‘experts’ in the educational software industry but Ray really knew his stuff. He was a great networker, very pragmatic and found ways of making things work, often against the odds. He was a good friend to the special needs community. He had a particular interest in literacy and was keen to see a division of spoils which gave everyone a more equal chance. He was a very talented political animal and will be much missed. His successor at BESA is Caroline Wright who has a wealth of experience in government departments as well as in the public and private sector.

At his farewell do at the City of London Club, many representatives from the press, software companies, schools and key educational organisations turned out to wish him well.

Pictured here from left to right are are Ann Crick, Sal McKeown, John Crick (Crick software), Ray Barker, Mick Archer (former editor of Special Children magazine), John Galloway (journalist and adviser in Tower Hamlets), Carol Allen (special needs adviser for North Tyneside) and Amanda Peck from Mayer Johnson software

Mr Gove doesn’t visit the same schools as me

I listened with mounting disbelief last week at BETT as Michael Gove, Secretary Of State for Education, revealed his total ignorance of what happens in schools today. Watch the whole of his speech here

Michael Gove
Michael Gove

He said, “The fundamental model of school education is still a teacher talking to a group of pupils. It has barely changed over the centuries, even since Plato established the earliest “akademia” in a shady olive grove in ancient Athens.
A Victorian schoolteacher could enter a 21st century classroom and feel completely at home. Whiteboards may have eliminated chalk dust, chairs may have migrated from rows to groups, but a teacher still stands in front of the class, talking, testing and questioning.”

 
Maybe that’s what they do at Eton. I don’t know. I don’t go there. But hang on a moment. Hasn’t he been visiting academies and free schools lately? Maybe that’s where he saw these antiquated methods.

This week I have interviewed a primary teacher about using Skype, a secondary teacher about putting videos on a learning platform so they can be seen on the other side of the world. Meanwhile in Sidcup pupils at Burnt Oak School are working in groups using MissionMaker from Immersive Education to create games and learning how to include triggers that make things happen on screen.

I know that the teachers I talked to for my new book Brilliant Ideas for using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom don’t stand in front of a class and talk. They have too much of a sense of survival. They would be slaughtered.

Mr Gove, you need to get out more.

Brilliant Ideas for using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom by Sal McKeown and Angie McGlashon is now available from the www.routledge.com/education site

Swansong for BETT at Olympia

Next week marks the last BETT at Olympia. I have been doing BETT for so many years that I can remember when it was at the Barbican!

Last year marked a downtown in the fortunes of so many companies, especially small businesses providing for low incidence special needs. Inclusive Technology has just published their accounts for last year showing a fall in profits and the loss of 8 members of staff. For the first time in many years, they are not running the Special Needs Fringe at the Hilton.

There is still plenty for Sencos and other special needs staff to look at but be warned – you will have to be prepared to walk as it is so spread out.

suscription service for primary and older children with SEN
Odd from Oddizzi

For primary and early years have a look at two new subscription based resources. Oddizzi from Little Travel Bug is on stand P47. It lets children learn about the world and visit far flung places from the comfort and safety of their own classroom. Two little globe trotting characters, Odd and Izzi, introduce children to different countries with extra information being provided by teachers and travel writers. Best of all, it promotes links between classrooms across the world so children get the inside story about how people live in other countries.

Q&D (B39) is launching a new version of their busythings.co.uk online subscription service for early years and SEN children. This is a words-free version which has icons and pictures and has been designed for use by children all over the world. For children who are learning English, try Langeroo, (SW68), an interactive programme with activities and games to help children learn vocabulary and construct sentences.

Storyphones - rugged headset and MP3 player
Any place, any time audio

One of my favourite products is returning to BETT this year. Storyphones (V35) an MP3 digital audio system in a robust and colourful headset is a great way of ensuring Anywhere Anytime audio. They have story books but also can be used for music and movement lessons, for teaching French and for working with young children who have language delay.

For older learners who need extra support with reading and writing have a look at ClaroRead for PC V6 (ClaroRead for Mac V5) on stand SN64. This software offers text-to-speech and scanning so any piece of writing can be turned into a file which can be edited or read aloud by a computer or other device. Rival company Texthelp (SN70) will be showing cloud based versions of old favourite Read&Write GOLD which can be used with iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, as well as PCs and Macs.

Those about to start university may benefit from a new Higher Education dyslexia screening tool that Iansyst will be showing on stand SN05. Also take a look at WordQ on SN13 which offers word prediction alongside any standard writing software. The company claim that it will only take 15 minutes to learn the ins and outs of this program and that it features, ” a carefully thought-out design that aids literacy without getting in the way.”

If you are looking for resources for children in special schools, have a look at the special needs zone where many of the more specialist companies congregate. nasen is running the information point on stand SN15 and can offer advice on what to see. Make sure you visit the Ablenet stand SN82 to see Ian Bean deliver his best practice sessions.

Finally do come to my seminar. Angie McGlashon and I are presenting Brilliant ideas to use ICT in the inclusive classroom at 1.30 on Wednesday 11th January SEN Theatre, in the West Hall. This is full of practical advice and case studies from schools which are making great use of technology.

Final Countdown to BETT special needs awards

The shortlists for the BETT awards have been announced and there are seven candidates left in the running for the ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions award:

Soundbeam 5, uses motion sensors to help those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities to create music. http://www.soundbeam.co.uk/
VOICEYE, Forcetenco makes Word documents accessible to those who need learning print or speech support www.forcetenco.co.uk/voiceye

shortlisted- resources for deaf people
Signed Stories

Signed Stories, ITV SignPost. At last, there is a nomination which benefits the deaf community. It has a host of stories with a strong visual appeal in British Sign Language (BSL) and subtitles to be shared with hearing family and friends . http://www.signedstories.com
Something Special – Out and About, BBC. To celebrate the 100th episode of the very popular programme Something Special the BBC has a new website with lots of accessible games and of course Mr Tumble http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/somethingspecial/games/somethingspecial-outandabout
Boardmaker Studio, Mayer-Johnson comes with device overlays and starter templates for hundreds of activities including maths surveys, quizzes and games. Students can record and playback their own audio recordings for speech and language activities. http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-studio/
Matrix Maker, Inclusive Technology. This has a mass of templates, symbols, pictures and resources. It will help teachers and therapists make communication overlays as well as worksheets, timetables labels and games. http://www.inclusive.co.uk/matrix-maker
Smooth Talker from Inclusive Technology is a really simple single switch communicator for special schools and early years settings. It will help children to develop basic communication skills http://www.inclusive.co.uk/smooth-talker-p4946

All will be revealed at the awards ceremony on Wednesday 11 January 2012 at the Hilton, Park Lane, London and on this site on 12th January.

And the winner is …Proloquo2go

 Proloquo2go wins the award
Sal and comedian Alun Cochrane meet the winners from Proloquo2go

Rebecca Bright is a Speech and Language therapist and has been closely involved with Proloquo2go so she was delighted to learn that it had won the BETT Special Needs Award 2011. It is an app which can be used on an iPad or iPhone to give a voice to those who have a disability such as cerebral palsy or autism which prevents them getting their message across.

Proloquo2go is an affordable solution for those who need communication aids. There are many specialist augmentative and assistive communication (AAC) devices on the market but they often cost thousands of pounds and demand outstrips supply so some young people are left literally without a voice. Now, with increased funding restrictions, there are more people who need a reasonably priced aid and Proloquo2go offers access to many people who would formerly have found AAC out of reach.
Proloquo2go
AAC in your pocket

“Proloquo2go is also very socially acceptable,” said Rebecca. “It works on devices which everyone else has or wants to have so it is not seen as a specialist device for people with disabilities This has had a knock on effect. In the past some learners were unwilling to use their communication aids outside the classroom or home because it marked them out as being different but now that stigma is removed. There are over 300,000 apps on iTunes and we are finding that users are going for a mix and match approach. They might use Proloquo2go symbols for a message and then switch into YouTube to show a video and then call up photos of their family as part of a conversation. All of us at Proloquo2go, the developers AssistiveWare and those of us who work at the UK partner TherapyBox  are delighted to win the award. It is good news for us but it is also good news for those who need communication aids. It shifts the spotlight from dedicated technology to low cost, mainstream mobile technology.

Watch a video t osee how Proloquo2go changed one little boy’s life.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulf11Kg8-lI

Final Leg of Special Needs Award

The BETT Special Needs Award 2011 will be announced at the Hilton Park Lane on Wednesday 12th January. Six entries have been shortlisted and they represent the diversity of products for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties.

 Two products are aimed at literacy:  Catch Up Literacy Digital Games 3 is for struggling readers aged 8 to 14 working at NC Levels 1-3. It works on high frequency words, comprehension and recall, segmenting and blending phonemes and is available in Welsh too.  JISC’s MyStudyBar is a great money saving tool. It brings together freeware and open source software for students who have problems with planning, reading, writing, This free download has been used by learners as far afield as New Zealand and Australia and is likely to be very popular in these money straitened times.

 Pupils who need help with speech often need expensive specialist Augmentative Assistive Communication devices but now there is another solution with Proloquo2Go.  It is an app which will run on an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It has natural sounding text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols and an inbuilt vocabulary of over 7000 items. Another hi-tech solution is Nisai Virtual Academy which takes education out to pupils who cannot go to school. It offers qualifications from Key Stage 2 – Key Stage 5 and includes live lessons with teachers and other students from all over the UK.

HelpKidzLearn
free games for switch users

 Pupils with more profound disabilities will welcome TTS Sound Shuffle, a simple device that records up to four minutes of multiple messages and plays them back randomly or sequentially. It’s great for audio recordings for non- readers and ideal for adding sound or voice to wall displays. The final shortlisted entry is HelpKidzLearn, a set of free games which offer fun and purposeful activities for young switch users. Try whacking gophers down a drainpipe – great for develop anticiopation skills – and create a digital magic potion: leg of frog, eye of newt, and of course, lots of slime. Lovely!

 The final decision on the winner of the BETT Special Needs Award 2011 will be announced on Wednesday night but all these entries will certainly find new audiences in 2011.

 http://www.catchup.org.uk/

http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/eduapps/mystudybar.php

http://www.nisaiva.com

http://www.proloquo2go.com/

http://www.tts-group.co.uk/

http://www.helpkidzlearn.com/