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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Skype in the classroom #mysteryskype

Since discovering the main possibilities of Skype in the classroom, my pupils have become huge Skype fans.  Today we took part in a mystery Skype which was great fun for the children as they tried to guess where our Skype guest was from using questions where the replies could only be yes or no.

The learning that took place during this process was impressive as the children used atlases for a real purpose.  It was also a great opportunity to complete some assessment for learning linked to their geographical knowledge.  It became apparent very quickly which children knew a range of countries and those who were struggling.  The children formulated some good questions that enabled them to eventually guess the name of the country (India) and then a few further questions and more searching in the altlas enabled them to name the city.

Our Skype partner then shared a fantastic Sway on screen to introduce the children to some key information about India.  The children learnt about the religions, dress, food, festivals and dancing.

It has been amazing to be able to introduce the children to people from around the world, from Skype with our partner school in Jordan to a Skype session with the author Christina Farley from the UK.  The children are so excited to find out where we will visit next.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Microsoft in the classroom


I have begun using Sway as both a teaching tool and for pupils to create their own presentations.  Following a visit to Jordan in February I have been working on a project with the school in Jordan that we are partnered with.  The project is linked to the sustainable development goals and human rights.  
First, I used sway to create an interactive presentation with photos, videos and links for the children to learn more about Jordan. Following, this we looked at universal human rights with a specific focus on the UN children's rights.

The children in both the UK and Jordan then had to work on deciding which rights they thought were most important.  They then had to put them into a diamond 9 of their most important.  The British Council provide a good pack of ideas to support the lesson:

The children in both Jordan and the UK then produced pictures to represent the right that they though was most important.

The children then shared their pictures during a Skype session and were able to ask questions that had been shared prior to the session.

Made with Padlet

Following on from this we explored the sustainable development goal of zero hunger.  Again this was introduced using Sway.

Finally, the children were given their own login to create their own sway on human rights to share with the children in Jordan.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

ADHD and Teenagers

Teenagers and ADHD

My son aged 14 is in the process of being diagnosed with ADHD.

Why has it taken so long for the diagnosis?

I have always known he was hard work and that he struggled to self regulate.  For a long time I hoped he would grow out of it.  Part of the difficulty has been that he managed relatively well at primary school.  He is quite able and therefore it didn't matter if he wasn't listening all the time as he could still complete the tasks.  He also only had one or possibly two teachers in a day at primary school and fortunately they seemed to be able to keep him engaged and managed his behaviour.

At home though it was different, he struggled and needed things to do.  His younger sisters could wind him up quickly and it would then be hard for him to calm down.  He also struggled to sleep and was often tired when he got in from school but would then have a burst of energy later in the evening.
When he went to secondary school it all changed.  He struggled with having so many different teachers, if he had supply teachers this made it worse.  He could not cope with the differing expectations from different teachers and at times felt that when he had worked hard it was not acknowledged.  Once he designed a pattern on a piece of material and was really pleased with it but the textiles teacher told him it wasn't good enough.

When I attended the last parents evening I realised I needed to do something as it was like hearing about two different children.  Some teachers said he was doing well but other teachers described a child who lacked focused and was disruptive.  It was heartbreaking.  I have never and would never blame the teachers.  They are not all sufficiently trained in SEND to deal with all the children they deal with on a day to day basis.  In secondary they do not have chance to build up the relationships with pupils that primary school teachers do.

The first step in attempting to get a diagnosis was a QB check which I paid for.  Initially, it was to try to work out whether he was just behaving like a rebellious teenager or whether the reason he hadn't grown out of some of his behaviours was due to ADHD.  He scored very high on the QB check, making it practically certain that he has ADHD.

Why pursue a label?

I never wanted to label him as I felt that he is who he is.  However, I reached the point where I realised without the diagnosis, getting support was going to be much more difficult.  I also hoped that it would help others (family and friends) to understand and therefore think about why he behaves in the way he does in certain situations.  This is going to be a long journey of understanding though.  It has amazed me how little people really know about ADHD and how there are so many judgements linked to it.  I have come across people who do not believe it is real, or who just think it is an excuse for bad parenting, or think he will grow out of it.  Even professionals in school have made comments such as I know he has ADHD but... 
I have also been told that may it is because he is one of four so he just is seeking attention.  This led me to realising that a lot of people assume that ADHD is attention seeking behaviour.  I understand how this misconception occurs as ADHD standard for Attention, Deficit, Hyperactivity, Disorder.  What people fail to recognise it that word deficit.  It is not attention seeking it is an attention deficit.
Basically attention is not focused on one thing for long, people with ADHD will go off at tangents or their attention will move from one thing to another really quickly.  In some cases they will be inattentive, not able to focus on what is being said.

How does ADHD effect a teenager?

ADHD is a common, complex, neurobiological condition and is often hereditary.

Hyperactive teenagers will often display these behaviours:
Often fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
Often leaves seat in the classroom or other situations in which remaining seated is expected
Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
Often talks excessively
Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
Is often on the go or acts as if driven by a motor
Often has difficulty awaiting turn

Often interrupts or intrudes on others e.g. butts into conversations or games

Inattentive teenagers will often display these behaviours:

Often fails to give close attention to detail, makes careless mistakes with school work and other activities

Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

Often does not follow through on instructions & fails to finish schoolwork, chores or work duties (but not because of oppositionality or failure to understand)

Often has difficulty organising tasks and activities

Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)

Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g. toys, pencils, books or tools)

Is often distracted by extraneous stimuli

Is often forgetful in daily activities

What does this mean for teenagers in school?

The expectations of school are that teenagers will sit and listen to a teacher and then complete a task to demonstrate that they have understood and learnt something. 

However, for the children who are struggling with attention particularly listening and tries to avoid tasks requiring sustained mental effort, school is going to be very challenging.
The rise in expectation from the new GCSE's is putting considerable pressure on schools.  This then places huge pressure on teachers who are judged on the grades pupils get.  This then means that more time and energy will be invested in those who will achieve good grades.  

So what happens to those pupils with ADHD, dyslexia or Autism?  
These are the pupils who are being failed by our education system but are creative, innovative, imaginative and often just as capable of achieving good grades as long as teaching is adapted to meet their needs.

It is time we started recognising the positive attributes of children with ADHD instead of assuming the worst.  

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Apple TV in the classroom

Apple TV in class

I recently added an Apple TV box to the interactive whiteboard in my classroom.  Having tried using other software previously to mirror the screen of the iPad unsuccessfully I decided enough was enough and got AppleTV.  
I have not been disappointed.  Using the book creator app with the children I was able to mirror my iPad and scaffold the children's learning.  While children had used book creator before the results this time were far better as the children were able to ask me to show them how to do different things as often as they needed.
As the lesson progressed I was able to switch from my iPad to different children's iPad's.  This meant that we could look at children's writing and praise what was good and help them to improve their writing.

After using Apple TV to mirror the book creator app, I have now used it with the kindle app, highlighting text to develop comprehension, used notability app with photos of pupils work and then circled and highlighted elements to show good work.

I also used Apple TV to mirror the Seesaw app so children could learn how to upload their own work to Seesaw.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

iPad IOS 10 accessibility features

Tips for iPads with IOS 10

The new features of the IOS 10 update made some significant changes to the iPad that allows users with specific difficulties greater access to the technology.  From voice over to guided access there are some significant elements that can be used to support within the classroom.  Some of the features particularly applicable to the primary classroom are the display accommodations that can change the colour filter to the user's preferred colour overlay.  Guided access is another essential for the primary classroom.  It allows the teacher or parent the opportunity to set time limits and keep the user to only one app.  This means that children will not accidentally or intentionally switch to other apps.

To access the range of accessibility settings you need to go to settings on your iPad.  I have not explained all the features but have chosen a few to get started.


Go to settings > General > Accessibility

In this you will find:
Voice over
Support for Braille displays
Set display accommodations
Speak selection
Speak screen
Typing feedback
Large, bold, and high contrast text
Button shapes
Reduce motion
On/off switch labels
Assignable tones
Audio descriptions

Hearing devices
Mono and audio balance
Subtitles and closed captions


Widescreen keyboard
Guided Access
Switch control overview
Assistive touch
Touch accommodations
Software and hardware keyboards


VoiceOver describes aloud what appears onscreen, so that even if you have a visual impairment you can here about each item you select.  The VoiceOver cursor (a black outline) encloses the item and VoiceOver speaks its name amor describes it.
When you go to a new screen, VoiceOver plays a sound, then selects and speaks the first item on the screen.  It lets you know when the display changes to landscape or portrait, when the screen becomes dimmed or locked, and is active on the Lock screen when you wake the iPad.

Important: VoiceOver changes the gesture you use to control iPad. When VoiceOver is on, you must use VoiceOver gestures even to turn VoiceOver off.


Type onscreen braille
This allows you to use your finger to enter 6-dot, 8-dot, or contracted braille directly on the iPad screen.
You must have VoiceOver on first the go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor > then select Braille Screen Input.

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility, then turn zoom on or off.
With Zoom turned on, double tap the screen with three fingers.

Adjust the magnification
Double tap with three fingers, then drag up or down.  This gesture is similar to a double-tap, except you don’t lift your fingers after the second tap - instead, drag your fingers on the screen.  You can also triple tap with three fingers then drag the zoom level slider in the zoom controls that appear.  To limit the maximum magnification, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom, then drag the maximum zoom level slider all the way to the left.

Pan to see more
Drag the screen with three fingers.  Or hold your finger near the edge of the screen to pan to that side.   Move your finger closer to the edge to pan more quickly.

Turn your iPad into a magnifying glass to zoom in on objects near you.
Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on Magnifier. Then triple-click the Home button to use the camera to zoom in on small details. Tap the Filter button to enhance the image. Tap the shutter to freeze it.  To turn off the magnifier click the home button.

Change colours, filters and reduce white
To invert the screen colours got to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations, then turn on Invert Colours.
To apply colour filters, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Colour Filters, then turn on colour filters.
To reduce the intensity of bright colours, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations, then turn on reduce white point.

Speak Selection
Even with VoiceOver turned off, you can have the iPad read aloud any text you select.
To turn on speak selection, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech.
Once you have done this you can adjust the speaking rate and choose to have individual words highlighted as they’re read.
To have the text read to you, select the text, then tap speak.
To have the entire screen read to you, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech.
Then to have the iPad speak the screen, swipe down with two fingers.  Use the controls that appear to pause speaking or adjust the rate.
You can also highlight what is being spoken by turning on highlight content.

Typing Feedback
As you type the iPad can provide feedback and speak text corrections and suggestions.  You can choose to have iPad speak each character, entire words, auto-corrections, auto-capitalisations and typing predictions.
To do this go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > Typing Feedback

Guided Access
Guided access helps keep the user focused on a task.  You can use guided access to restrict the iPad to a particular app, disable areas of the screen that aren’t relevant to a task, or areas where an accidental gesture might cause a distraction, or limit how long someone can use an app, or disable hardware buttons.
To use guided access, with an app open, tell Siri “turn on guided access” or go to settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access the turn it on.
within the guided access screen you can then turn guided access on or off, set a passcode to control the use of guided access and turn on touch ID as a way to end guided access, tap time limits to set a sound or have the remaining guided access time spoken before time ends, set whether accessibility shortcuts are available during a session.

Talk instead of type
Tap the Dictate button on the keyboard and speak your words (including punctuation), then tap done.

Remove webpage clutter
Reader in Safari makes articles easier to read. When you see the Reader button in the search field, tap it to see just the text and photos — without ads.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

App ideas for pupils with SEN

App ideas for pupils with SEN

One useful piece of assistive technology is using SIRI on an iPad or iPhone.  For children who struggle with spelling but can’t use a dictionary of spell checker, SIRI can be used instead.  All the children need to do is ask SIRI how to spell the word they need. 

Madlibs is a fun word game that encourages children to create a funny story without having to write all of it.  The app asks for nouns, verbs ending in ing etc
Once all the words have been put in the app generates a story with the words.  There are also different additions of the app such as Hello Kitty and Diary of a Wimpy kid.
The app can be used to support pupils who struggle to create a story or need support learning the grammatical terms.
Recommended age 7 upwards dependent on which stories you choose.

Hairy letters and hairy phonics apps are produced by Nessy.  For those children who need some extra support with learning phonics.  The apps links the graphemes and phonemes and include handwriting practice and word building.
Great for Key stage one and lower key stage two.

This is great for encouraging children to think about how many letters in words.  Children can use a dictionary to look words up to put in their crossword.  The crosswords can be made using any words that fit.