Why do people pay £4000 for a stand at Bett and then have no idea what they are going to do there?
‘We’ll tell people about our products, they say’ but then you see them standing there looking a little anxious, clutching their expensive glossy brochures, willing people to stop and talk to them.
There has to be a better way and indeed there is as Anna Pedroza, owner of PR agency Anna Pedroza Communication, and I explained in our interview with Russell Prue. Click on the bar above the picture and have a listen,
Bett Award finalists Matchware offer top tips for introducing mind mapping into your school
Matchware (stand C142), a Bett Awards finalist in the Higher or Further Education Digital Services category, is looking forward to showing Bett visitors the latest version of their software MindView, the industry leader in mind mapping,
Often described as a visual thinking tool, MindView encourages learners and teachers to structure information in different ways so they can see the whole, the different parts and the connections in between.
It is well known that the visual approach of mind mapping can help the 10 to 15% of the population who have dyslexia or associated Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), but it is also a wonderful tool for EAL students and those still to develop full fluency in English who will find that the visual representation of knowledge is so much easier for them to understand and recall.
To help schools and colleges not yet up to speed with mind mapping, Matchware’s manager David Kidd offers these top tips for introducing it into the classroom:
• Fire up your students: MindView is an excellent notetaking and idea generation tool classroom that encourages students to brainstorm and organise ideas for written documents and presentations. As a starting point choose a topic where students have prior knowledge or strong opinions and can collaborate.
• Think visual: Young people switch off if they are listening for too long. Mind maps often work better than linear presentation slides but for maximum effect incorporate pictures, colours, different fonts or text styles to make the ideas stand out.
• Expand and contract: Remind students that they need to crystallise their thoughts into a word or key phrase, a picture or symbol, a vital skill in an age where we are all overloaded with information. Then show them how to build on key words to create fuller accounts or more detailed work, gathering examples and evidence.
• Stretch the mind: Mind mapping helps us to gather, sort, structure and create in different ways. It also is a great aid to memory and learning. Once you have a fairly detailed mind map, switch off the screen and ask students to recall sections.
• Use MindView in the flipped classroom: It is often hard for students to evidence the work they have done before coming to the classroom and for students new to English it is a good way for them to process and interact with language and build their comprehension skills alongside curriculum learning.
• Try mind mapping as a planning tool: Teachers tell us that they use MindView to help with lesson planning, report writing and for curriculum planning, using the built in Gantt chart and Office integration. This gives them a clear visual overview of what needs to be covered.
• Make MindView a regular feature in the classroom: Mind mapping should not be a one-off. Plan to use it regularly for several weeks so it is seen as an accepted strategy in class and not as something special.
There are so many advantages to incorporating mind mapping into teaching and learning. Find out more from the MindView team on stand C142 at the Bett show https://www.matchware.com/mind-mapping-software
Music is no longer just about playing instruments or singing. Many careers now require young people to be familiar with industry standard music technology and this is where so many schools fall down.
Not so Gable Hall in Essex, a performing arts school, part of the ORTU Federation, where almost every year group routinely uses the technology for composing, performing and recording.
This has paid off. As well as achieving academic success – a 100% pass rate in Music GCSE – students have gone on to greater glory with Louisa Johnson winning the X Factor in 2015 and Ruti Olajugbagbe winning The Voice UK in April 2018.
‘The profile of music and our students’ success is largely attributable to the excellent facilities. We try to get every year group to use the technology and get them doing sequencing and composing on the computer,’ said Faye Beamish Head of Music, Ortu Gable Hall. ‘It is really important that the technology is seamless so lessons run smoothly and the young people can just get on with making music.’
Their technology is supplied and managed by Counterpoint Ltd, and means that the students are building the skills they will need when working in professional recording studios in the future. It also gives the staff and students confidence: ‘When the music technology works in the classroom – put simply – we can then focus on what we do best,’ said Beamish.
As well as producing stars of tomorrow – or even today- Ortu Gable Hall runs a roadshow every year where the students go out and perform their best work in local schools putting into practice what they have learned in the classroom. This helps to build student confidence performing in front of large audiences.
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.I 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 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
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
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.
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.
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.