New Learning

September 27, 2010

Accessibility and the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies — kevhickeyuk @ 12:28 pm

At first glance the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch don’t appear to be particularly accessible devices especially for those who have problems seeing the screen, after all they are touch screens which makes it harder to feel and navigate than buttons.  Having said that they all come with some rather impressive accessibility features built in such as a screen reader and an option to magnify the screen.  I believe Apple are trying to encourage developers to incorporate accessibility features into any apps for these devices, but at the moment I think it’s a bit hit and miss as to how accessible they are.  As well as the built in functions there are also some great apps which are aimed at making the device more useful as an accessible tool.  These include Dragon Dictation from the same people who make Dragon Naturally speaking voice recognition software, iCanSee which turns the device into a magnifying glass and Speak It another text to speech app which I discovered via the blog of Lillian Soon.

I know I have only scratched the surface but i look forward to finding out what other useful apps are available.  Please let me know any you know about that I have missed out.

Two full reviews of the iPad, from blind users is available by clicking here.


I have had a few twitter messages regarding accessibility and iPads including

IOS has fantastic#accessibility, just got myself a touch and can vouch for it, for apps see and From Adrian Higginbotham

And a message pointing out a great blog post by Dave Sugden which includes a number of accessible apps and features of the iPad / iPhone operating system


September 24, 2010

OFSTED Review of Special Educational Needs and Disability From a post 16 perspective

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 12:22 pm

The Guardian 14th September 2010 including the headline 'Half of Special Needs Children Misdiagnosed'Last week OFSTED made headlines when it’s review of Special Educational Needs and Disability suggested that children just needed better teachers rather than specific support.  There was an immediate backlash against the headlines caused by this review including the General Secretary of the National Teachers Union saying “Teachers do a great job in often very difficult circumstances to meet the needs of all their pupils, and for Ofsted to suggest otherwise is both insulting and wrong.”

Following the story in the press, you might have assumed the review only covered school age children, however it also addressed some issues regarding special educational needs and disability in colleges.  Although these comments were not as critical as the headlines suggest, they do highlight opportunities for improvement and development.

The observations/recommendations include;

  • Access to additional services should not always depend on a formal process of assessment or medical diagnosis.
  • In the colleges visited, the young people who received additional learning support achieved as well as other students on the same courses. However, the colleges did not routinely keep data to show how far these students had become more independent as learners.
  • Many of the disabled students that inspectors spoke to who wanted to progress to higher education at the age of 18 said they had difficulties in the transition period and were uncertain whether the support they would require in order to be successful would be available. Arrangements to support their transition and to obtain the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) were variable.
  • A great deal of work still needed to be done to ensure that, at Year 11, all young people had real choices. For many of those with complex learning difficulties and/or disabilities at the age of 16 and over, the choices of courses and other opportunities were very limited.
  • Where transition to adult services post 18 was most effective, schools and colleges were preparing students well for independence with practical courses relating to everyday life and an emphasis on strengthening their functional literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Learning was better when the children and young people were given a say in deciding the support they needed at any particular time, often including identifying times when they would like to be left alone.
  • The many restrictions on young people with special educational needs mean that schools and colleges are an important provider of informal social opportunities…. For example, in one case study, a student with physical care needs could text his assistant when required and did not need her to be in constant attendance. This enabled him to have social time with his peers, free from an adult presence. Some providers set up email messaging systems for students. When these were particularly successful, they led to increased opportunities for young people to meet up outside school or college.

September 22, 2010

Recorder Pen/ RNIB PenFriend audio labeller

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies — kevhickeyuk @ 2:31 pm

Recorder PenThe Recorder Pen from Mantra Lingua is a device, which plays back audio files when they touch special stickers.  Each of these small white stickers can be linked with an hour of audio, and it is very easy to record and rerecord an audio note for each sticker using a microphone incorporated into the pen.  The stickers cost about £12 for 189 stickers which they can be reused over and over again, with staff or students recording their own audio notes. The pens are about £50 and have headphone sockets so they can be used without disturbing everyone else.

I was recently involved in a workshop at a college where they had purchased some of these pens and they came up with a number of ideas on how they could use these pens;

–          Audio labels for images and items in ESOL/MFL lessons

–          An audio treasure hunt, giving students information on different parts of a college and clues as to where to find the next label

–          Used within an English lesson in which labels are placed around a sentence and students have to press the pen next to where they think an apostrophe might go, and the audio provides feedback

–          Audio notes to go alongside different pages in a text book

–          Getting students to create their own labels to identify different parts of a diagram on a poster, which other students could then listen to.

–          Use the stickers for multi-choice quiz, with each sticker saying ‘correct’ or ‘try again’

–          Helping learners with problems reading labels or notes.

There were some criticisms of the device, specificity that some learners might find them a little childish and some found it difficult to control the volume.

Since hearing about this device last week, I have also heard about the RNIB PenFriend audio labeller, which appears to be a virtually identical system (although the method of creating audio notes is even easier) which is specificly marketed as a device for supporting those with visual impairments.

September 6, 2010

Research Presentation a Pecha Kucha

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Staff Development,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 3:06 pm

Pecha Kucha presentation as delivered by Steve Ingle from Edge Hill University at the JISC RSC NW Annual Conference 2010

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