Category Archives: New technologies

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Making it easier for students in Further Education to get funding

With the election just behind us, we can see quite clearly that post-16 is going to be back on the agenda. Whatever happens with Brexit, we are facing a skills shortage in the UK because uncertainty has encouraged some migrants to look elsewhere for job opportunities.

Who knows what will happen to Philip Hammond’s proposals for new T-level qualifications? Indeed, at the time of writing, who knows what will happen to Hammond himself?

Bob Harrison FE champion

Bob Harrison, chair of governors at Northern College and education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems Northern Europe, said, “The new Vocational pathways to Technical qualifications will provide enormous challenges for all those involved in 14-18 education, not just for schools but also for the awarding organisations.”

Whatever happens longer term, there is likely to be an impetus to get more students to train for apprenticeships, for jobs and for university courses.

At present FE is a minefield, especially when it comes to getting funding. It can be a traumatic experience for those who are most reliant on funding, that vulnerable group of students who are already at a high risk of withdrawing from college.

At most colleges in the UK the task of applying for financial support is a complex, paper-based process. Often FE students come from non-traditional backgrounds and may be deterred by complex forms. Some will lack family support, many do not have the financial literacy skills needed to make decisions about whether they can afford to come off benefits or give up a job, while others worry about the impact on their dependants.

New software could simplify the process. CAMS software, developed by Scottish firm Inisoft, is now available to further education providers in England and Scotland.

CAMS helps FE providers to streamline their funding application and approval processes. Colleges have experienced significant cuts to their administration budgets and this is likely to get tougher as access to the European Social Fund, worth millions to UK colleges, will end when the UK leaves the EU.

The software will rationalise and manage the entire student funding application, saving time and resources for both students and college staff.

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft
Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft

Oonagh McBride, Head of Inisoft, said: “Further Education colleges often find that they are overwhelmed by the volume of enquiries from potential students and hampered by incomplete information or applications that are likely to fail based on a mismatch between criteria and grades. This takes time for administrators and makes life very difficult for students. By streamlining the process, we can introduce certainty and a rapid conclusion to application processes, giving potential students clarity and enabling administrators to respond more promptly to applications.”

CAMS software is already being used by 80% of regional Scottish colleges, delivering real costs and efficiency saving while improving the student experience.

For further information: http://inisoft.co.uk/

COMING SOON :The Ed Show at the NEC

The Education Show is a firm favourite with many teachers in the midlands and north of England and, sitting alongside Birmingham airport, it attracts staff from Ireland and Europe as well. It offers schools everything from pencils and stickers to high cost technology and is increasingly popular as a source of professional development. Those responsible for special needs will appreciate having time to catch up with the latest products and enjoy some first-rate free training in the Early Years and SEN Theatre.

On the first day of the show, Alison Woolf from Wrexham Glyndwr University, will be talking about Supporting Mental Health in Schools: Counselling Skills and Therapeutic Play Skills Training. (Thursday 16 March, at 3.10pm). It is not only children who struggle; Robert Whitelock, teacher of mathematics at Garforth Academy, claims that 1 in 4 school staff are likely to suffer from mental health issues. With increasing numbers of staff absent through stress it would be a good idea for senior leaders to attend Managing Mental Health – A Resilience Toolkit, at 10.40am Saturday 18th March.

The last 18 months have seen the biggest migration of people across borders in living memory and UK schools are struggling to cope with recent arrivals. On Thursday 16 March at 3.50pm Alison Prowle and Janet Harvey from the University of Worcester will be sharing good practice in their session: Including Refugee Children in Your Setting.

I have just visited Columbia Grange in Sunderland, a special school with an outreach team that also supports 1200 children with autism in local mainstream schools. The number of children with a diagnosis rises year on year. There are two good relevant sessions at the Ed Show: At 15:50 on Friday 17 March, Simon Birch, Deputy Head at Pictor Academy, will be discussing challenging behaviour in a school environment and proving examples of practical strategies while Joy Beaney and Kay Al Ghani, consultants for the Autism Train, will be presenting Creating Autism Champions through developing Peer Awareness at 11.20pm on Saturday 18 March.

The Education Show not only offers seminars but also gives visitors a chance to see the latest resources, ask the suppliers questions, compare the relevant products and even negotiate the best price!

My top five picks are:
1. SSS Learning showcasing their CPD-accredited e-learning courses on stand H81. These cover a broad spectrum of issues, from child protection and child sexual exploitation (CSE), to forced marriage and honour based violence, prevent duty (radicalisation and extremism) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
2. Dekko Comics stand N95 who used crowd funding to get their comics off the ground. They work alongside Dyslexia Action and Dyslexia Scotland to create comics that help children with dyslexia engage with their education
3. First News, the only UK newspaper written especially for 7-14 year olds, with more than 2.2 million weekly readers on stand N87
4. PIVATS from the Lancashire Assessment Team can help teachers measure very small steps of progress. Talk to them about their latest products on stand GG88
5. Talking Products Limited on stand M10. They provide Talking Tins and talking Photo Albums to encourage young children to talk and express themselves in sentences. They are also ideal for older pupils who need to develop their speaking and listening skills.

The Education Show runs from 16-18 March at the NEC in Birmingham. Visit www.education-show.com to reserve pre-book your entry admission to the show and a seat at any number of CPD sessions, all of which are free of charge

Thank you, Ma’am!

HelpKidzLearn from Inclusive Technology is an award winning collection of software for people with the most severe disabilities. Not only is it a vital resource for learners in the UK, but also it is proving to be a firm favourite in the United States and 148 other countries. Now its success has been crowned by the Queen. To mark her 90th birthday she has given Inclusive Technology the most prestigious International Trade award in the UK – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016.

Martin Littler, Chairman and CEO of Inclusive Technology, has been a pioneer in the field of technology for children and adults with severe learning disabilities (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those without speech who need alternative or augmentative communication (AAC) who perhaps can only make a single voluntary movement or sound.

hklLast month the HelpKidzLearn development team received the 2016 Education Resource Award for Special Educational Needs including ICT for their work on harnessing Eye Gaze  technology to meet the needs of learners with complex needs. Eye-gaze technology is the closest equivalent we have to thought-operated hardware so far, and is already surprisingly affordable. Inclusive Technology’s myGaze costs just £875 and is having an impact not just on children but on adults as well.

Just looking around a computer screen moves the mouse pointer and gazing at an area performs a click with no physical effort needed. Support workers can now use eye gaze to identify where the user is looking when different images, prompts or questions are asked, giving an insight into what users can see, what they are interested in looking at and some indication of their understanding skills.

Sean Carroll, IT/Assistive Technology Consultant at Sensation Communication and Technology Solutions, describes its impact: ‘James has sat in his chair since he was 19 with very little to occupy himself with, and even when at school I don’t think his independent access skills were attended to very much at all.’ Now with an Eye Gaze tracker James is able to access some online games and his parents are delighted to discover evidence of new skills.’

Yesterday Martin was on TV with his colleague Sandra Thistlethwaite who is a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, and Dan Woodman, deputy head teacher at Richard Cloudsley School in London. They were talking to the presenter of London Live about the impact of the technology on children’s lives. ms and xx

‘Children need to play, have fun and communicate,’ said Martin, ‘but this technology also lets children who are non-verbal use on-screen symbols and words to build language, create messages and take part in conversations with families and friends. The award is a huge pat on the back for our team of developers, teachers and therapists.’

Martin and his managing director Sukhjit Gill will collect the award at a Buckingham Palace reception on July 14, 2016.

 

 

Thank you, Barclays!

ATEC is coming! Barclays are sponsoring an Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) to be held at Jury’s Inn in Oxford on May 17th.

It is fast becoming a Go-To event for those who assess and support people with disabilities in universities and the workplace and more importantly for people who need assistive technology for work, for study or to communicate with others.

TDebra Charles smallhere is loads of good stuff for people with dyslexia: Debra Charles is doing one of the keynotes. She is
CEO of her own smartcard technology firm Novacroft, the company behind the Oyster Card, and believes that her success is because of, and not despite, her dyslexia.

Find out about the latest versions of Claro and TextHelp, mind mapping from Matchware and Inspiration, The C-Pen Reader which reads text from print books and Notetalker that lets users capture information from a lecture or a meeting.

global autocorrect smallAs someone who uses Autocorrect on Word and types entirely in abbreviations, I am keen to see Global AutoCorrect which works with all programs from presentation software to emails, the web and social media. It frustrates me when I have to type every letter on Facebook. Maybe now I won’t have to.

There is some whizzy new technology. David Finch from Star College in Gloucestershire will be talking about a project called Ember. The idea is to reduce employer or mentor support and help trainees to work more effectively and more independently.

There is also an assistive robotic arm called JacoTM developed by The ACCESS Research & Development Department at Hereward College with charitable funding from Npower.

I am also keen to hear Abi James of University of Southampton and BDA New Technologies Committee. I often wonder why some people embrace technology while others reject it from the off. I used to think it was all about training and support in the early days, now I am not so sure. Abi is researching this area and will be leading a discussion on the role of professionals to improve the take up of technology.

Book your place now at http://www.ateconference.com/
Tuesday, 17th May 2016 Jury’s Inn 30 Godstow Road, OX2 8PG

Social networking and gaming dominate young lives

ICT and Me was a research project published in September 2015, it was conducted by The National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI), with the support of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It was a longitudinal survey in Northern Ireland, studying the link between young people’s levels of access to, and usage of, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and how this subsequently impacts on GCSE attainment.

Read the full report here http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/1229655/ict_me.pdf

ch in NI

 

Key finding 1

Access to a computer/laptop at home is not an issue for the vast majority of young people with at least 95% reporting having access. However, despite the fact that only 5% report not having access to a computer or laptop, when scaled up across the top 40 schools in terms of deprivation, c.1,000 young people are potentially without access, placing them at significant disadvantage.

Key finding 2

Young people spend a significant amount of time online each day with one-third of young people spending four hours or more online in Year 1 rising to 40% in Year 2 of the study.

“I’m constantly on it to be fair.” (Pupil)

“You just always have to have a check to see what people are up to.” (Pupil)

“I always be checking my phone, even when I wake up in the middle of the night.” (Pupil)

Key finding 3

Social networking and gaming were identified by parents/carers and teachers as activities that could most negatively impact on young people’s attainment. Findings from this research confirm a link between extent of gaming and GCSE attainment, e.g. only two-fifths (41%) of pupils who reported using a portable games player a couple of times a day achieved 5A*-C GCSE grades compared to over three-quarters (77%) of those who reported rarely using one. No relationship was observed in terms of social networking.

Key finding 4

School staff were particularly concerned about extent of gaming, reporting a number of issues relating to attendance, punctuality and motivation. Particular issues identified in relation to male pupils with gaming addiction noted in some instances.

Just over one quarter of pupils stated that they play online games alone (27%) or with others (29%) on a daily basis. Further analysis of the survey revealed that males were more prolific users of a computer/laptop for playing games (either alone or with other others) with 42% of males playing games alone every day compared to just 12% of females. This finding is comparable with the literature which shows males are more likely to play online games than girls (Kids Life and Times survey, 2009; Mascheroni and Olafsson, 2013).

Key finding 5

Almost three-quarters (72%) of the young people surveyed as part of this study stated that they feel safe online. This corresponds to findings published by YouthNet (2011) which found over 75% of young people thought that the internet was a safe place. Parents/carers who participated in the focus groups/interviews appeared much more concerned for their child(ren)’s safety whilst online than the young people themselves –

Key finding 6

Social networking can negatively impact on young people’s concentration, distract them from their homework and can be a platform for bullying behaviour. Indeed many of the young people noted that Facebook, in particular, distracted them from their school work.

A study published by YouthNet (2011) suggested that it is common for young people to multi-task, with 90% likely to use different technologies at the same time.

“Definitely people would be texting and doing their homework at the same time or eating or watching TV whilst on Facebook at the same time.” (Pupil)

“If someone messages you on Facebook, then you go on your newsfeed and you end up spending half an hour on it looking at funny photos and videos and before you know it, it’s bedtime.” (Pupil)

The face of hatred

the defendantIn 2014 my article Healing the Hate  was published by Access magazine.

Just this week, a 25 year old man who used social media to harass a man because of his disability has been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.

Saul Nyland, from Whitworth in Rochdale, pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment of the 31 year old victim who has a severe speech impediment and some physical difficulties caused by an accident in childhood. The defendant and victim work in the construction industry and have worked alongside each other on several sites in the past year.

The victim is a plant operator and had set up a number of Facebook pages offering advice and information about diggers and tractors. The sites had attracted a number of followers.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that between December 2014 and July 2015 the defendant harassed the victim on social media and by phone.

Lionel Cope from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: Nyland targeted the victim and harassed him because of his disability. Nyland subjected the victim to a tirade of abuse online including posting a number of photo-shopped images of the victim which were hugely upsetting to both the victim and his partner.

“When the victim blocked Nyland online, he began ringing the victim on a nightly basis, mocking him for his disability and threatening to harm him. He also started to post abusive messages on the Facebook site of the victim’s partner.

Saul Nyland was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment, with a Victim surcharge of £80, and a Restraining Order of two years. An extra two weeks was added to his sentence because of the hate crime uplift. He was sentenced on Monday 25 January.

 

 

 

 

 

Life changing technology

Technology used in the right way at the right time can change lives. it helps people to pass exams and get jobs. it also gives them back their self-respect and independence as this story shows.

Pete Gustin 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from All channels open: Inside The Inclusive Radio Revolution first published in Access magazine April 2015

http://www.accessmagazine.co.uk/all-channels-open-inside-the-inclusive-radio-revolution/

 

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Britain is getting more multicultural but is not quite as exotic as many children seem to think.

A recent survey by Travelodge showed that: ‘ Children seem to be completely clueless when asked to locate popular seaside haunts.’

40% couldn’t locst ivesate Bognor Regis (some think it’s in Europe)

35% couldn’t locate Newquay (some think it’s in the USA)

60% couldn’t locate St Ives (some think it’s in the Caribbean)

Six in 10 couldn’t locate Scarborough (some think it’s in the Mediterranean)

56% couldn’t locate Skegness (some think it’s in the Scottish Highlands)

Travelodge recommends ditching the Sat Nav and getting out maps.

You can see how the confusion starts. Bognor is in Europe after all, although it has a strong UKIP presence which perhaps wishes it wasn’t. Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed in ST Ives and Skegness is obviously where the monster goes on his holidays.

Travelodge surveyed 2,000 British children aged between eight to fifteen years old. This year 56% of families are flocking to the coast this summer. Top holiday destinations include Cornwall, Devon, Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth.

It’s a good idea to help children find where different towns and tourist resorts are in the UK but don’t throw away the Sat Nav.

Groupcall – a lot of texts, a lot of help

I recently spent an afternoon with a group of teachers at The Thinktank in the heart of Birmingham learning about the latest advances in Groupcall technology. The teachers were from primary and secondary and were there to find out about Groupcall Messenger 5, the latest version of the Parental Contact system that reads pupil and attendance information live and in real time from the school’s Management Information System.

gc1Groupcall is used by more than 5,000 schools.  It is inextricably linked with Sir Bob Geldof, one of the co-founders, and was set up with the aim of improving communication between schools and parents. I knew that but during the afternoon, courtesy of Steve Baines, International Business Development Manager, I learnt a whole lot more.

Here are ten things you may not know:

  1. Every single second 193,000 texts are whizzing round the world
  2. Messenger lets schools send text, voice or email messages to parents’ mobile phones or landlines. In Scotland they use a lot of voice messaging, and believe voice gets a better response. With Messenger schools can record a voice or use an automated text to voice facility
  3. A text can have a maximum of 160 characters. This is the default limit and is based on the notion that a text is supposed to contain roughly the same amount of information you would fit on a postcard. Longer messages can, of course, be sent but increase costs accordingly
  4. Messenger 5 features e-cards so schools can create certificates which are sent via email and can be printed out. There are templates for Merit Awards, Thank Yous and Well Dones but staff can make their own if they have a basic knowledge of HTML
  5. Messenger lets schools translate messages into 64 languages. These are the Google Translate alpha languages. Of course, you’ll be flummoxed if they send the reply in the home language
  6. On average once you press Send it takes 13 seconds for the message to reach a parent’s phone
  7. The History section of Messenger 5 shows who has received the text. This can be useful if parents claim hey have not see a text or email
  8. Messenger 5 will let parents send notification of a child’ absence via text so if a child has been sick all night, parents can send a text instead of hanging on and trying to send a message by phone in the 830 to 9 o’clock slot
  9. Xpressions is a FREE app for parents that will work on Android, iPads, iPhone or other smartphones. Imagine a school trip. A teacher can send a text message to parents direct from a smart phone instead of notifying the school and getting them to relay a message. This makes communication more immediate
  10. OFSTED is very keen on engaging parents and Xpressions is a fine example of push technology that will integrate with other systems such as Show My Homework, FasTrack

 

 

 

Young entrepreneur saves young people from exam stress

Schools are like conveyor belts. Children go in at the age of 3 or 4 and come out at 16 or 18 having been weighed, measured and processed. As they get near the end of the line, many start to panic and thrash about as they worry what to do when they fall off the end.

Every year the examination season seems to start earlier and YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline receive calls from thousands of parents distressed by the exam pressures facing their children. National Revision Week started today – 20th April and already stress levels are mounting.

Gojimo, producers of a free exam app, surveyed over 500 students found that nearly a third (31.5 per cent) were already at level 5 which is ‘Terrified and freaking out.’ Despite exam terrors, many do not start their revision until the last minute. They know they should start 8 weeks before the due date but many leave it till just 5 weeks before. Even worse, 71.3 per cent of students claimed they get little or no support from their schools, although many teachers would claim that they provide advice and guidance but that the students do not listen.

George Burgess3Now there is a handy FREE revision app created by George Burgess who founded Gojima in 2009 in his last year of school. ‘Back then, I was a 17-year-old student working from my bedroom. I had one very basic app, helping students revise for their Geography GCSE exam.’

George was caught working on his new business in class and expected to be in trouble but ‘Instead Mr. Williams was fascinated by the whole project and asked how he might help or get involved. It struck me immediately that having a teacher write content would make it more reliable, and a lot more credible. I asked if he would be willing to write a bunch of Geography GCSE quizzes. He agreed. I had my first author.’

Obviously, George was just the sort of pupil who would have stayed calm under exam pressure and these days all candidates can benefit from his skills because Gojimo is now the UK’s leading exam preparation app with free assessment content for GCSEs and A-Levels.