New Learning

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.

November 3, 2010

Microsoft speech recognition

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 2:39 pm

I have just gone through the tutorial for Microsoft Windows Seven speech recognition. This is software which is built in to the latest version of Microsoft Windows which allows you to too many of the tasks of using computer without touching the keyboard or mouse. Following on from the tutorial I decided to give it a go by writing this blog post just using Microsoft speech recognition. This meant that I had to open my Internet browser, Navigate to WordPress , select add a new post And dictate the title and content of this post.


As you can probably tell I am definitely not an expert in using this software, but I am not doing too bad. It is definitely taking me longer to dictate this than it would to type in this, and there are a few frustrating mistakes along the way, but I am getting there.


The only complaint I have about the tutorial Is that it did not include the phrase, mouse grid. This phrase is invaluable when trying to navigate websites.


Well that’s enough for me dictating, I will now do my best to publish just using speech recognition. If anyone gets to read this blog post it means it’s worked.

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

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

August 25, 2010

Foxit Reader

Filed under: Learning Technologies,Uncategorized — kevhickeyuk @ 11:25 am

In my recent blog post My digital pencil case 2.0 I forgot to mention FoxIt Reader, which is an alternate to Adobe Reader as a way of reading pdf documents.  I have found this really useful as it opens allot quicker than adobe reader and it allows me to add notes and comments.

Classroom Management Software

Classroom management software allows staff to view the screens of all the computers within a teaching room or library, from a single computer.  This ensures students are not accessing inappropriate websites or going onto applications they shouldn’t behind the teachers back.  Many of the commercial options have trial versions which are available to download.

Different systems have different features, but some common features of these systems include;

–          Staff being able to block or allow internet access for an entire group or individuals (can be used to reward students at the end of a session)

–          Staff being able to restrict access to limited number of websites/applications (ideal for safeguarding issues)

–          Staff and students being able to send files to each other from individual computers.

–          Staff being able to take full control of everyone’s computer which can be used to show a presentation on individual screens rather than having to look at the screen at the front of the class.

Below are links to a number of case studies and testimonials of some of the different solutions;

*The links below are the result of a systematic web search and do not represent recommendations of specific commercial products from myself or the JISC Advance RSC.  If there are any systems you feel I have missed out, and there are case studies available, please use the comments section to let me know.*

King George V College and ‘Swat-It’ (Stop Web Access, Teacher Is Teaching). A system which was developed in house.

Preston College have used Ranger Remote to provide control within a classroom environment and to provide an alternative to an interactive whiteboard

Kings College use NetSupport School to prevent students from using email, browsing the internet and using software they shouldn’t during class.

Blackburn College who have used LanSchool to give the teaching staff control over what is or isn’t blocked and allows students to ask questions in a class without having to put their hand up.
Available via;

MidKent College have used LanSchool to manage the ICT classroom and library

Sandywell college who have used  SynchronEyes to ensure students stay focused

Hamble College (comprehensive school) use AB Tutor Control to provide staff greater control in rooms with poor layouts.

The School of Engineering at Blackpool and Fylde College have used BrowseControl to ensure staff are more focused.

Moor End College use Sanako 500 to increase communication, collaboration and support within the learning environment.

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