New Learning

August 11, 2014

‘Children and Families Act 2014’ and learning support in the FE Sector

Filed under: Inclusion,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 2:32 pm

In my last post I discussed the Feltag report, how it could affect Learners with Learning Difficulties and disabilities (LLDD) in FE and some thoughts on how ALS departments could address these issues.  In this post I will be looking at the Children and Families Act 2014 which comes into force on the 1st September. I will be focusing on how ALS teams in FE could make use of Technology.

Children and Families Act 2014’ what is it and how will it affect colleges?

Alison Bolton, the Chief Executive of NATSPEC has made this excellent video which explains the act and what it means for FE

This video forms part of the SEND exhibition on the Excellence Gateway

In the video Alison mentions the supporting document “Advice for further education colleges, sixth form colleges, 16 to 19 academies and special post-16 institutions” which can be found at this link

The Act includes the following line “General FE and sixth form colleges must use their best endeavors to secure the special educational provision that the young person needs.” On 7th October, TechDis will be hosting a webinar which will look at the phrase Best Endeavors and identifying how technology can help.  You can book onto the Best Endeavors webinar via this link.

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans

For learners who have been assessed and identified as having specific educational needs and disabilities,  the act introduces Education Heath Care Plans.

The EHC Plans:

  • Will cover the ages from birth to 25
  • Will be outcome focused
  • Will gather evidence from, and relate to a broad range of education, health and care agencies
  • Will include involvement from families and the young people

For young people with EHC plans, the support they need from a learning provider could become more personalized to meet their specific needs.  ALS teams may have to review how support can be provided at these personalised levels. One way of doing this could be to focus on how the ALS team can support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).


August 1, 2014

FELTAG and Learning Support in the FE Sector

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 10:50 am

Feltag Recomendations DocumentFeltag Recommendations, The Childrens and Families Bill and Changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowances.  All three of these could lead to big changes for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.  In a short series of blog posts I will look at each one of these in turn and look at ways learner support in the FE sector can make the most of technology to support learners with these changes.  In this first post I will be looking at the Feltag recommendations.  Please note this is all based on my personal interpretation of these documents.


What is it?

The Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was set up in January 2013 by Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise in BIS, as a sector group to make practical recommendations aimed at ensuring the effective use of digital technology in learning, teaching and assessment in Further Education and Skills.

You can read the FELTAG report here and you can read the government’s response to the FELTAG report here.


What Does it say? What could that mean for your learners? What can Learning Support Depts do?

There are lots of recommendations in the report and the government’s response includes information on how they are or are planning to meet many of these recommendations.  I have selected a three of these recommendations and made some notes on what it could mean for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities:

Mandate the inclusion in every publicly-funded learning programme from 2015/16 of a 10% wholly-online componentunless a good case is made for why this is not appropriate to a particular programme


This could lead to learners doing more of their learning online, probably on their own devices.  How could learning support departments support this?

  • Make sure learning support has a good online presence on your website or VLE so learners can access the support they need,This should include:
    • Clear details of how learners can contact learner support
    • Information on what assistive technology learners can use on their personal devices
    • links to resources they can access anytime, like the TechDis Toolbox
  • Colleges will be creating/buying in more online learning resources.  Do you know a group of Learners who would be happy to test and evaluate these resources from an accessibility point of view?  If you do then let the learning technologist know.

Providers need to raise levels of awareness and use of Assistive Technology.



If Assistive Technology isnt a high priority for your ALS team, then now is the time to change that.  Have you got an Assistive Technologist or someone in your team to focus on the use and development of Assistive Technology?  Have you looked at the excellent resources from the DART Project on developing an Assistive Technologist?

Encourage awarding bodies to increase the amount of e-assessment across Further Education


Increased use of e-assessment has potential benefits and drawbacks for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.  There can be problems with some Assistive Technologies not working with some assessment systems for technical and/or legal reasons.

On a related point Richard Mclachlan from Runshaw College has created this video which shows how they are using Orato Screen reader with electronic versions of paper based exams

This demonstrates that some colleges are already looking into the issues of Assistive Technology and Assessment.


May 3, 2011


Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 11:41 am

Photosynth is a great, free application that makes it easy to create interactive and immersive panoramic images. There are 2 versions of photosynth that I have been looking at recently which do slightly different things;
Photosynth for iPhone.
Once you have installed this free app, you can use it to take a 360 degree panoramic shot. It is very easy to use, just stand still and take your first picture, after that just slowly move the camera around slightly and it should automaticly take the required photos. Once compleated the app will stich the images together to view on the iPhone or uploaded to the photosynth website. Click the link below to see one I created earlier.

iPhone Photosynth image of Baillrigg

Photosynth Website
The other version involves taking as many photos as you can of an area and uploading the images to the website. The website will then do it’s best to stitch them all together. The results are more ‘blocky’ than with the iphone app, but you can use any camera and it allows you to take photos of small parts of the larger image, which viewers can zoom into.

Photosynth web image of a dangerous kitchen

So what can you do with this? As well as creating fun holiday photos, this can provide a safe, immersive simulation of a real life area. One of my examples is of a dangerous kitchen ,where learners can have fun moving around the image to find the hidden dangers, without having to be there. It could also be used to put someone at ease if they are nervous about going somewhere new.

January 10, 2011

Braille and the iPhone

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 10:18 am

Another video about the accessibility features of an iPhone, this time looking at how it works with a Braille display.

December 2, 2010

MyStudyBar: Reading and Writing

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 3:11 pm

This post is related to an online workshop on the Reading & Writing components of MyStudyBar V3 which has been developed by the JISC RSC Scotland NE.  Many of the resources on this post link directly to those on including handouts in MS word format developed by Julie MacRitchie of Jewel & Esk College.

The link below will open a recording on the online training event

Software to Support Reading

T-Bar – Screen Masking

T-Bar screen masking tutorial in Word format

RapidSet – Change Colours







RapidSet tutorial in Word format

Vu-Bar – Screen Ruler




Vu-Bar tutorial in Word format

ssOverlay – Screen Tint

ssOverlay colour filter tutorial in Word format

Orato – Text Reader

Software to support Writing

LetMeType – Word Prediction

LetMeType tutorial in Word format

Lingos – Talking Dictionary







Lingoes and dictionary tutorial in Word format

Balabolka – Writing Support/MP3

Balabolka tutorial in Word format

Tiny Spell – Spell Checking

Rapid Typing – Touch Type Tutor

November 26, 2010

MyStudyBar Planning and Vision

Filed under: Inclusion,Learning Technologies,Staff Development — kevhickeyuk @ 11:17 am

This post is related to an online presentation on the Planning & Vision components of MyStudyBar V3 which has been developed by the JISC RSC Scotland NE.  Many of the resources on this post link directly to those on including handouts in MS word format developed by Julie MacRitchie of Jewel & Esk College.

Click here to access a recording of the online training session on using MyStudyBar to support Palnning & Vision (26/11/10)

MyStudyBar is a collection of applications that can run directly from a USB Stick, a Network install or can be installed directly onto a PC.  The applications can be accessed via a floting toolbar which can be dragged to any part of the screen.

Downloading and installing mystudybar

The Latest Versions on MyStudyBar for Windows XP or Windows Vista & 7 can be downloaded as a zip file from Once downloaded the files should be extracted and added to a usb stick.

Planning Software

XMind Mindmapping Software

XMind and mind mapping tutorial in Word format

Sunbird Portable Calendar

Sunbird Calendar in Word format


HottNotes tutorial in Word format

Software to Support Vision








Virtual Magnifier tutorial in Word format

Sonar- Puts a ring around your Cursor








Sonar mouse tracking tutorial in Word format

Thunder- Screen Reader

Thunder Screen reader tutorial in Word format via

November 12, 2010

Accessible Gaming

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 5:01 pm

Accessible gaming

Several colleges are using video games with learners to encourage engagement and interaction.  There are some great examples of how games consoles have helped learners with disabilities to get involved with activities and collaborate with other learners.

The following podcast is an interview from June 2009, with Anita Appleton, Head of department for Supported Learning at Trafford College about how they have been useing the Nintendo Wii and Wii fit with learners with learning difficulties.

Unfortunately not all games and consoles are as accessible as they could be. is a website which reviews popular games from an accessibility point of view.  The site has a real community feel with a forum, blog and community photos.  It also includes news related to the accessibility of video games, such as the development of an accessible controller for the Guitar Hero games

RoboBraille- Not just about Braille

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 11:25 am

RoboBraille is a free service which allows anyone to email a document to a dedicated email address and, within a few minutes, get a reply which includes the text converted into a chosen format including;

  • MP3 file of the text being read out
  • Daisy format audio book
  • Braille, either 6 or 8 dot, full text or contracted

The following video shows how it is being used at Lancaster and Morecambe College, not just with visualy impaired learners, but also with dyslexic learners and those learning a foreign language.

October 1, 2010

Equality Act 2010 Video

Filed under: Inclusion — kevhickeyuk @ 1:41 pm

Equality Act comes into effect from today.

The following video provides an overview of the Act

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

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