Using Assistive Technology to enable and empower pupils

My good friend and Colleague Dave Presky has sent me this article. Hope to have coffee with him today at BETT. Anyway, here is the article he sent:-

Breaking Down the Barriers

Something amazing is happening here at York House School. Dave Presky, Head of Computing, and I are working together to implement technology to help our SEND children break down the barriers they face in their day to day learning. Over the years I have learnt that enabling children to access their learning independently rather than using adult support is far more empowering and effective. We have begun to embed a variety technology tools to do this with astonishing results!

The C-Pen reading pen

The scanning reading pen has always been one of my favourites. I like the fact that children who struggle to read and understand, can scan the text and hear what is being said or asked of them. It has totally changed the way some of our SEND children access exams and reading texts. When one of the children who uses this tool said to me ‘using the reading pen has really made me feel confident with reading now Mrs Warren. I want to read more and feel so good about myself.’ I knew something must be working! Another child who used the exam reading pen felt so relieved that they didn’t have to keep asking for adult help that they confidently worked through a paper that I thought they would struggle with!

We have also had some really positive feedback from some of our parents whose children have used our pens for exams. One parent told me ‘My child was much more confident going in to the exam knowing that they could independently work through the paper.’ Another said The use of a reader pen has given our daughter greater confidence when approaching her English work and improved her understanding of comprehension related tasks – with improved results. In recent months, it has also helped manage her anxiety ahead of exams, knowing she was able to use a reader pen to read questions and passages. This tool has been really valuable for our daughter and grateful her school has provided tools like the reader pen, overlays & computer apps to navigate the right strategies to help manage her dyslexia.’

Breaking down the barrier of the decoding of words and enabling the children to focus on the story itself and the comprehension of this has helped these children re-engage with reading!

Voice to text (Google Chrome)

If I am honest I was a little unsure of this tool before I used it. The idea of children speaking into a computer and then it transferring into a text that made sense was something I didn’t think could happen. How wrong I was! I have personally seen a child who, although has good creative ideas, always struggled with recording his work; this was due to processing the information and the speed he wrote. He went from writing 3-4 sentences in a 45 minute session to writing a 3 paragraph story in the same amount of time! When it comes to actually recording their ideas and purely by using this tool the children who have slower processing, have been enabled to speak their ideas and focus on the story development rather than spelling and speed of writing. A few members of staff have been using this tool across the curriculum and have had equally astounding results. One teacher said ‘I didn’t think the children understood much about the concept I was teaching and when I first attempted to get them to write something down, I didn’t get much out of them. After a staff training session on how tech can assist our SEND children’s learning I decided to try the voice to text tool on the chrome books. The results completing took away the barrier and I have never seen these children write so much and show how much they actually do take in.’

Using these 2 tools and embedding a few more, such as Clicker and widgit online , we are hoping to become a school where our SEND children are equally as independent and successful as their peers. I truly believe this can happen with the use of technology. We are only at the beginning of our journey, however, the results are already impacting on our most vulnerable children.

Mrs Helena Warren

Head of Learning Support

York House School. 

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