Productivity/assistive technology

Technology supports high needs

Julia Taylor explains why Technology has a lot to offer learners with high needs. Accessible online delivery can improve access to resources at anytime, from anywhere. It’s easier to find and organise resources and interactivity encourages collaboration and engagement. Digital diversity means people with different learning strengths can benefit from resources created in different kinds of media. Increasingly students and the staff who support them are finding strategies for more independent study using mainstream technology. Some are listed below. With very little extra effort you can support those who have more difficulty understanding, processing or communicating information.

If teachers put resources on the VLE well in advance most learners would benefit from downloading them before a lesson. If it’s an accessible document it is designed to make the key points easy to find and understand. If Text to Speech and MP3 versions are available learners can also listen to the text – as many times as they need to, wherever they want.

Text to speech can support anyone who has difficulty reading or decoding text. Mobile devices have built-in text to speech or apps that read text for you. You can add the built-in Speak Button to the quick access tool bar in Word and download the ClaroRead plug-in for the Chrome browser so that learners have Text to Speech everywhere. By providing Free Open Source Software like Balabolka or making use of the Robobraille website you ensure anyone can have MP3s if they want them.

Quizzes and interactive resources are key to making learning more engaging. They stop people getting distracted if they can be personalised and related to the learners interests. ToyTheatre is one of many collections of games that feature maths, spelling and more.  Or collect your favourite online resources into one place with Blendspace so its easier for any learner to access and work through.  Free apps like Showbie allow you to create digital classrooms, add content, manage and track learners engagement. Google Drive is an easy way for learners to collaborate at different levels and times – from wherever they are.

Instead of writing, learners could choose between video, podcast or traditional paper for an assignment. Nearly anyone can use apps like ComicBook and Pictello, used at Treloar college, to combine text and images and take photos and video on mobile devices that can then add them to their ‘work books’ or used to support communication.

Records of progress need to be as robust as those for regulated qualifications. Visit the SEND excellence gateway to find out how to ensure you recognise and record progress in non-accredited learning appropriately (RARPA).

Mobile devices are very useful for building differentiated projects. Icon based systems and built in access features mean they are easier to use. They encourage engagement, independent learning and can improve focus. They promote new digital skills and the range of personalized apps can provide support for learners on work-placements.  For some learners they can even provide a ‘voice’. For practical tasks QR codes can be used to simplify access to appropriate ‘how to’ reminder videos and differentiated information that can support independence and build confidence in education and work.

There are so many ‘tested’ apps to choose from. Call Scotland offer this useful ‘App wheel’. It’s worth trying one app from each segment.

Some links to our Jisc online guides and blog posts.

Blog posts include-

Useful resources –

Guidance on the RARPA process


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