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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The BETT Awards for 2011 are finally open. The awards are the educational technology equivalent of the Oscars and can generate very welcome publicity for small companies.
Last year’s special needs short list included two products from TTS Group Limited, Attention Trackerwhich helps children with ADHD to keep on task andChatter Block which can be used for creating stories, sequencing and talk time activities. Other products included Farview from Optelec Limited, a handheld video magnifier, Crick’s online word processor,WriteOnline and CBBC’s Accessible Newsreader, a talking news website which is also switch accessible. The winner was RoboBraille from Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. This was an internet service which converts digital text documents into Braille or audio file format.
Special needs company Inclusive Technology which runs a Fringe Show at the Hilton Hotel during BETT each year won the prestigious ICT Company of the Year 2010. The judges praised the company forchampioning the cause of special educational needs/inclusion through ICT. They also said Inclusive Technology had “gone above and beyond the expectations of an ICT-solutions provider.”
This year’s awards will be run by Emap Connect and BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association). Because the government is closing Becta, the main sponsor of previous awards, the organisers will be charging an entry fee of £175 plus VAT per product (£155 plus VAT for BESA members).
BETT award entries can be completed online at http://www.bettawards.com/. The closing date is October 4 and the shortlist will be announced at the end of October.
Did you make it to Bett earlier this month? It was as busy as ever with over 30,000 visitors. There was lots to see and here is a round up of some of the key products. First there were my top ten products, ranging from Skin Deep by Northumbrian company Shoofly to My Zone, the nearest thing to a VLE for people with learning disabilities.
Then there was I Progress from Rising Stars. This was launched on stand at BETT and showed some really good resources for maths for gifted and talented pupils
Have a look at my review in the Guardian which is a round up of suppliers showing the latest products for pupil assessment and for literacy:
Those of you who are working with pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties and communication difficulties, might like to read about Laura Cryer’s class at Norfolk Park in Sheffield. They have built really good modules of work round a new piece of software called Pretty Things.
Don’t forget – next stop is the Education Show 4-6 March at the NEC in Birmingham.
Last week I did a seminar at BETT. Because of the heavy snow I was quite confident I would have an audience of about 6 people, duly bedraggled and damp, and would struggle to keep going in an atmosphere of gloom and despondency. well I was wrong. There were about a hundred people in total, including those sitting on the floor and standing at the back and they were an interested, interesting and knowledgeable crew so I learnt some new stuff as well.
The seminar was called Technology and the Future of Literacy
It was based on the findings of the Niace book Screens and Pages -Technology and Reading for Pleasure •
It looked at iPods, e-readers, the internet and digital literacy and you can read a review here.
I will be doing it all again at the Education Show at the National Literacy Association Campaign for Reading Conference: The Future of Reading? on Friday 5th March at 3pm
There was so much information and so many new products for BETT this year that I could not include them all in my Guardian article but some of the best of the rest will feature on the blog over the next couple of weeks.
It seems that some parents have created wonderfully innovative solutions for communication. Speaks4me® was created for Callum who has severe autism and learning difficulties and cannot speak. it has images which the user drags and drops to form a “virtual” sentence Click on “Speak” and Speaks4me® will speak the words. It is similar to the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS™; so most users will adapt to using it quite easily. http://www.speaks4me.com/
‘Logan was a great user of PECS, the well known picture exchange communication system, but he had no speech and I wanted him to be able to order his own burger when we went out at the weekend.’ said Glen Dobbs, who has a 12yr old son with autism ‘There was nothing on the market that was easy enough for Logan to use or robust enough to withstand the rough handling I knew he would give it’ so says the creator of Logan ProxTalker. It is portable, very robust and easy to use, ticking all the boxes for use by people with autism, their families and school.
Logan Technologies is keen to set up some key user trials and like to hear from prospective customers who would like to try before they buy. To arrange to try a Logan ProxTalker or for more information contact email@example.com or visit www.logan-technologies.co.uk
Kids have only just gone back to school and already BETT preparations are in full swing. Last week I was down in London at the BESA offices judging one of the awards. It was a great day out and I don’t know what was better- the discussions with my fellow judges or the brilliant banquet at the floating Chinese restaurant afterwards.