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The latest updates and developments in school technology
A sound investment How text-to-speech software helps the learning disabled
Update 50 ›› ICT news The latest updates and developments in school technology
IN PRACTICE 52 ›› Staying non-committal Sir Thomas Boteler High School saves with a rental scheme 56 ›› In touch Technology improves one college’s parental communication
FOCUS ON 58 ›› Class participation The pros and cons of kids bringing in their own equipment 60 ›› A sound investment How text-to-speech software aids the learning disabled
HELP DESK 62 ›› Techno Geek What kind of tablet is right for your school?
Shar with e me I T m y our anag er
Coming up in next month’s education executive Diary
A rose by any other name…
Ian Bradbury, executive headteacher of The Quantock Federation, talks running three schools
A run-through of the different types of academies – from multi-academy trusts to convertors
A sporting chance?
Food for thought
The repercussions of nurseries struggling to fund sporting equipment
The School Food Trust on how to boost school meals sales
A natural trained leader
A look at the options for pupils with behavioural problems – from PRUs to Lib Dem summer camp
Not all great leaders are born great leaders. We show you how to work on your leadership skills.
Out in november
NEWS & ANALYSIS Schools take ICT into their own hands A BESA-funded study indicates that by 2012 more than half of lesson time will be spent using ICT in the classroom to teach pupils New British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) research suggests that by 2012/3 nearly half of all schools anticipate using ICT for more than 50% of their teaching time. The 2011 survey of 1,324 UK schools (772 primary and 552 secondary), which was conducted in July 2011, also found that 10% of schools note that nearly all pupil-time will involve exposure to ICT, and that 49% of primary and 33% of secondary schools said that they were to maintain or increase their planned ICT investments for 2011/12. The findings come from the 14th annual survey of the opinions and trends of ‘ICT in UK State Schools’. Ray Barker, director of BESA stated: “The BESA ICT in UK State Schools research indicates that despite negative views about the funding of ICT, an increasing amount of pupil-time is exposed to teaching and learning using ICT. The government has moved very quickly to change the entire education system over the past year and many educators are confused. We have to be clear that schools are not going to be ‘told what to do any more’ so don’t need to wait to be guided by the government on their ICT investments.” The research, carried out in conjunction with the National Education Research Panel (NERP), provides analysis into the likely provision of technology in UK state schools in the next year and indicates the value of teacher confidence and training concerning ICT in schools. The research suggests that schools are set to increase the prominence of ICT and technology as teaching tools within the education system and at their own discretion given the lack of guidance from the Department for Education. At a time when schools are being given more autonomy in deciding how to spend their own budgets, the research suggests that we will see a movement toward increased staff ICT training and the integration of technology into everyday school life. Barker continued: “Schools know that they must therefore continue to invest in ICT to stop a new form of digital divide being created – between schools. They are definitely not standing still – they are just getting on with it.”
they said There is very little valid and reliable research that shows [technological] engagement causes or leads to higher academic achievement Professor Larry Cuban of Stanford University in the USA in the wake of a report investigated by The New York Times, showing that technology in schools may have less of an impact on exam results as once thought. However, advocates of technology in learning have suggested that the study could be seen as too narrow in its objectives as to produce conclusive results
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SCHOOL OPENS HI-TECH ‘TECXITEMENT’ ROOM Haringey schools come together for the opening of their high-tech interactive ‘Tecxitement’ room as part a borough-wide BSF scheme Schools across Haringey came together last month to celebrate the opening of a hi-tech ‘Tecxitement’ room at the Heartlands High School in Wood Green. The official opening and cutting of the ribbon was undertaken by Councillor Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children’s services at Haringey council, and was attended by pupils and teachers from numerous other schools in the borough. The room features state-of-the-art technology, such as iPads, green-screen, stop-motion animation, and an interactive table. Headmaster of Heartlands High School, Simon Garrill, descibed it as “unique”, a “fantastic collaboration between schools and the local authority”.
The room has come from the £214m investment as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme within the Haringey borough, but is intended for regular use by all schools in the area. Councillor Reith told Education Executive the reasons for the central location of the room in the borough and its universal accessibility: “It’s quite a divided borough socio-economically – many of the children might not even have access to IT at home, and if young people are going to succeed at school, in further education and in employment they have to be acquainted with the latest technology.” Speaking about children with learning difficulties, Reith added: “There are a number of things in the room which can be used to engage the interest of these young people, so the technology here can not only be used as an educational tool but also as a calming device.” David Lubowski, 12, in Year 8 of Heartlands High School told EdExec why he felt the Tecxitement room would be beneficial to his studies. He said: “I think that this is important because it is more inspirational– it really can make you want to learn.” Roja Akyol and Nicola Lawrence, 13, both in Year 9 at Hansey School for Girls, plan to use the room after school hours to create an animation so they can enter in a competition for secondary school film students. “The Tecxitement room has got new creative stuff that we can actually learn from and enjoy,” said Roja.
DEMAND FOR ICT CONTINUES, DESPITE more school BUDGET CUTS Progressive schools are investing in technology that delivers long-term savings, such as print management and virtualisation Schools are investing in technology that delivers long-term operational savings as opposed to slashing ‘capex’ and associated services for perceived quick wins, according to research by technology services provider Probrand. Education technology budgets have essentially halved since the Harnessing Technology Grant was cut from £201m to £101m for 2011, yet demand for driving technology education and innovative learning platforms continues. Probrand has found that schools are taking a more entrepreneurial view and regularly turning to technologies that drive down long-term operational costs. These technologies often demand higher initial investment but return value long-term with controlled and reduced operational costs from maintenance, agility, power and cooling plus capabilities that future proof IT infrastructure and service provision.
Moves like ‘tokenless’ two factor authentication for remote access are delivering up to 73% savings in capex and opex versus token based approaches. Schools are also overcoming bandwidth challenges with allied modern firewall approaches, which monitor, allocate and protect bandwidth for delivery of vital services as opposed to erroneous pupil usage for downloading videos from YouTube. Lower energy devices, such as desktops and monitors, are another approach that schools are readily adopting to secure reduced operational costs from less power and cooling consumption with a ‘greener’ ICT environment. This is allied to the implementation of power management controls to ‘down’ applications and hardware when dormant, which is believed to save £9,000 to £30,000 annually.
Instant access For the last four years, Sir Thomas Boteler High School has been supplying students with mobile IT equipment that can be utilised both from the home and on school premises, in order to maximise the pupils’ learning potential. ICT Matters finds out how they have been using a rental scheme to save money on their equipment
ounded in 1526, Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England is a high school that has provided high quality secondary education for nearly 500 years. Located in an area of social deprivation, the school wanted to be able to provide its pupils with high quality IT equipment that would directly benefit their learning that they may not ordinarily have been able to afford. Ever since 2009, when the school partnered with a computer hardware manufacturing firm specialising in hardware rental schemes for the education sector, Sir Thomas has been able to supply its pupils with netbooks, iPads and iPod Touches against all odds.
For the last four years, Sir Thomas Boteler has been supplying students with mobile IT equipment that can be utilised both from the home and on school premises, in order to maximise the pupils’ learning potential. In September 2009, the school decided to change IT suppliers after its existing IT equipment fell far short of expectations. The quality of the previous
equipment was extremely poor – indeed over 80% of all kit had to be sent back for repair or faults. Due to these issues, which required machines to be sent back every week, the school started looking for a new supplier.
Making IT accessible
The school finally settled on a company that offered a rental scheme that enables parents to contribute financially to the devices on a monthly payment basis, meaning less upfront investment for the school and cheaper technology for parents than if they were to purchase the same devices on the high street, as well as no VAT payable. Simon Taylor-Jones, systems manager at Sir Thomas Boteler, comments: “As the school is located in a very low income area, we had to balance providing high-end IT equipment for our students with their financial situation.” In 2009, the school purchased 75 netbooks on a lease, then gave parents the chance to rent them through monthly payments. In 2010, the school took on a further 28 netbooks, as well as 68 iPads and 24 iPad Touches on an operating lease, meaning costs to the parents were further reduced by 20%. As a result of Thomas Boteler’s investment, any pupil
FAST FACTS School: Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School Type: Mixed 11–16 comprehensive, voluntary-aided school LA: Warrington Pupils: 720
can access IT to improve their learning experience in return for small monthly contributions over an agreed time period. This allows pupils to have access to high quality technology that may not typically have been available to some families, many of whom are unable to get approval for credit cards, loans, or even bank accounts. Furthermore, the school itself benefits from the high-specification technology at low cost, which was also supported by warranties and a customer service team. The scheme is now available to the Year 7 year group on a three year basis and Year 10 pupils on a two year basis. This means that a pupil can effectively join the school in Year 7 and have access to a high-end laptop or iPad to maximise the remainder of their learning experience in secondary education.
Making the most of innovation
On opting for both Microsoft and Apple technology, Taylor-Jones comments: â€œWhilst the school is predominantly a Microsoft-based establishment, we aim to implement the latest technology at every given opportunity. With Apple products, our technical support costs have been reduced by at least 60% compared to when we were exclusively Microsoft, as not nearly as many man-hours are needed to configure the individual devices. With iPads and iPods, the hardware and functionality are so intuitive that pupils can do the majority of the configuration themselves. There are also hundreds of thousands of free educational applications available, making our choice to include Apple products seem like a sustainable step forward.â€?
Taylor-Jones continues: “To make the shift to mobile devices more seamless for staff members, a team of employees are currently having internal training sessions. All staff members have also been asked to complete a self-evaluation form to assess how ‘IT savvy’ they really are. The evaluation culminates in one of three levels being awarded: gold, silver and bronze standard. Teachers with the bronze standard for example will have the ability to complete basic entry level tasks, while gold standard will be for those teachers who require only the minimum training to be able to run IT-based classes and tackle individual technical queries. There will also be parts in the self-assessment dedicated to Apple device usage, for us to be able to gauge how successful the scheme has been for our staff.”
resUlTs so Far
In May 2011, feedback questionnaires were sent out to all pupils and parents to see how the personalised learning scheme at the school could be further improved. All respondents returned positive feedback on the IT accessibility scheme as a whole, with the iPads and iPods being cited as the most popular devices for the pupils.
Furthermore, the school has itself made substantial financial savings since first deploying the scheme. The first scheme Sir Thomas Boteler offered its pupils required a heavy investment in wireless networks to support the increasing numbers of devices that they were taking on. The school also put £20,000 into the scheme to try to bring prices down even further for parents. Furthermore, if parents for any reason became unable to continue with their monthly payments, the school was unable to return the devices and therefore had to step in and pay on behalf of the parents. Because these were unexpected costs, the school had to keep contingency funds available just in case parents became unable to keep up with payments. “Although we were insured, the school was actually losing money as a result,” comments Taylor-Jones. The new firm, in contrast, is a manufacturer, and is therefore responsible for its own supply chain, so can more closely control the pricing.
sUpporT anD on-goIng MaInTenanCe
Further costs are also removed from Thomas Boteler’s IT department by investing in higher quality products. The high standards of build quality and
“As the school is located in a very low income area, we had to balance providing high-end IT equipment for our students with their ﬁnancial situation” design have meant that the previous rate of 80% of devices being returned on account of sub-standard condition, and the costs that this entailed, has been reduced to negligible numbers. In just under two years, only one machine has had to be returned.
Taylor-Jones has been very impressed with the equipment rental scheme he uses, so much so that by the next academic year, he is hoping to extend it out to other year groups beyond Years 7 to 10. He adds: “It is the very definition of a win-win situation – the parents and pupils benefit from low-cost IT in manageable payments and we benefit from low-cost infrastructure with highest-end support.”
Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School’s hardware was supplied through Stone’s AccessAbility scheme
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Keep in touch At Swavesey Village College, technology has allowed for improved parental communication, which has created a productive learning environment and ensured all pupils are encouraged to fulfil their potential. Matthew Jane spoke to assistant principal Stuart Gent to find out how it worked
ncouraging parents to be involved in everyday school life has been one of the driving factors in the continued success of Swavesey Village College in Cambridgeshire. A combination of an innovative classroom structure and a well-designed and executed use of technology has seen the school excel and is now one of the top performing schools in the country, with 100% of students achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE. Following an encouraging Ofsted inspection in 2006, when the school was classed as good with outstanding features, it was identified that one area where improvement could be made was in parental engagement. “This is a very broad term and includes everything from parents’ evenings to the written information that we send home to them,” explains Stuart Gent, assistant principal at the college. Swavesey Village has subsequently established a system that encourages regular interaction with parents through emails. Logistically, the email system makes the school and parents accessible to each other and works well in the educational setting. “Phones don’t work very well for teachers,” says Gent. “They work funny hours without phones, whereas everybody now has email, whether it is on a computer or on an iPhone, most people can check their emails. “It is vitally important to engage the families,” he continues. “We can’t support the tutor without supporting the parents. The tutors and the students have a very close relationship and they have regular learning conversations, and the tutor is now expected to relay this information home via email.” Having a system that encourages teachers to send messages home to
parents has proved greatly successful and Gent says the quantity and quality of email traffic increased significantly. “The messages we send home are not just general messages, but we can provide some really focused analyses of student reports,” he explains. One area that the school has been particularly keen to engage with parents is through the recent changes that have taken place. “We are now an academy and a federation, so we have used our system to communicate these changes to parents who might be anxious,” explains Gent. “We like to give them a transparency and the systems we have for communicating with parents have allowed us to do that.”
BETTER ATTENDED Swavesey College’s adoption of technology has also improved the attendance of events such as parents’ evenings. By sending an email to inform parents of an upcoming event, the school can be sure they will receive it, unlike sending letters home with students. It can also be used to prompt parents to look out for progress reports that are sent home with students. “It used to be the case that reports would get lost in the bottom of bags and then the parents wouldn’t arrive at parents evening or receive their reports,” says Gent, adding that it was often the parents of students who were struggling or had bad reports that would not receive the invitations. “Teachers will say that they never see the parents that they really need to,” he explains, “but we didn’t allow that to happen.” By having a successful implementation of email communication, it could be easy for the college to become overly dependent on the system. “There are caveats involved,”
Gent says. “For example, we do try to limit the amount of information we send – there is always a danger of overkill. We try to pull key information together, and the system we use allows us to select only certain year groups to receive certain information. We also make sure that any parents that don’t have email access receive a paper copy.”
ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK The college supports parents to give feedback wherever possible and Gent says there are annual parent surveys, focus groups and exit polls. “We do a lot of market research,” he says. “The parents will come back and tell us what they want. We recognise that we are service providers and we are accountable to the parents and the community. The parental communication system has facilitated that and also proved very cost effective.” One of the improvements that parents requested was to have more control of bookings for parents’ evenings. Gent says that the old system would be to send a letter home inviting parents into school on a certain date at a certain time. “Obviously some parents may not be free at that time or might want a later appointment,” he explains. “The parents can now book their appointments online as suits their needs. We also have student support assistants who can answer calls to give them advice and help them through it.”
“We are service providers and we are accountable to the parents and the community. The parental communication system has facilitated that and also proved very cost effective”
LEARN FROM THE BEST While the college has massively improved its parental engagement and employed systems that encourage constant, immediate interaction, Gent says that their initial criterion was not to reinvent the wheel and they sought advice from existing institutions. “Before we embarked on this we had a day when every member of staff, including governors and support staff, visited other schools in the country that had outstanding performance,” he explains. “We went to further education, universities and even a prison to get an idea of how they were giving the best education they could in the different settings.” One idea they took from a school in Peterborough was to change the class structures and implement a vertical house system, where pupils from Year 7 to Year 11 share a form. “This has been revolutionary and has allowed us to give a more personalised service between the tutor and the pupil,” says Gent. The college is constantly looking to improve and Gent explains that the next stage in their parental engagement journey is to allow parents to access the cloud as part of a communications review. “We will also have online reporting, where parents can see their child’s success and attendance at the click of a button. We have also improved student email and remote access for both teachers and students,” he says. “We have adapted our system to suit the needs of the parents. I looked into using mobile phones and sending text messages to parents, but the feedback we got was that this wouldn’t work well for them, so we haven’t pursued that.” He emphasises that schools need to be open with parents and see things from their perspective, something that the communication systems in place at Swavesey Village College have facilitated.
With rising hardware costs and constant upgrades required, some schools are allowing students to use their own IT devices in the classroom. Matthew Jane looks at how schools can make this work to their advantage
Each to their own T hey used to be the reserve of movie stars and yuppies, but now mobile phones are an essential item, and devices are being launched to target younger and younger users. The universal appeal and common ownership of these devices makes them an attractive option for schools when tasked with providing more access to technology in the classroom. The need to give pupils constant access to technology has seen many schools relax their policies on bringing mobile phones, laptops and other such mobile devices into the classroom. It is important that schools provide learning environments that pupils are familiar with and that will stand them in good stead for the wider world. “Schools need to respond to the changing needs and ways that their learners are gathering and processing information in our media-rich society,” says Lee Burley from Civica. “Why waste valuable learning time at a school training students to use devices that they may only use in school? It is better to allow them to use technology that they train themselves and their peers to use.” Melvyn Wray from Allied Telesis stresses the potential financial benefits of using student-owned devices. “The government budget cuts mean that schools have less money to spend on ICT, and with school equipment often being out-of-date and mistreated, there is an obvious cost benefit in allowing pupils to use their own technology from home where it can aid in teaching and learning.” While there are obvious financial benefits to schools in utilising pupils existing devices, there are many considerations to be taken into account. “Bringing your own device, or BYOD, is sweeping schools the world over and as a result schools need more infrastructure, new policies and procedures, new tools and new ways of thinking,” says Tom Newton from Smoothwall.
For any scheme aimed at using pupil devices in the classroom to be successful, it is important that schools ensure no students are left behind if they don’t own the equipment. One option is to offer mobile devices through a ‘laptop share
scheme’, where parents purchase equipment through the school at a discount, which can then be used in lessons and at home. “This encourages pupils to treat the laptop with more care than they would do if it belonged to the school, and also helps save money for the school,” explains Wray. There are also managed service options that schools can explore that offer all the benefits of universal access without the need for laborious resource management. Such systems allow families to pay for devices in full or part on a monthly basis. Burley suggests that by creating ownership of devices it ultimately creates ownership of learning, which leads to improved attainment. “The facility to use a range of devices for learning means that families on a low income may still be able to provide students with a low cost mobile phone that can be used in the classroom,” he says. “Most students will go out of their way to earn money or get devices as presents, so enabling them to feel included.” Schools must have sufficient infrastructure in place to ensure all devices work effectively in the classroom. “Firstly, there has to be filtered wireless connectivity that’s good quality, high-speed, relatively open and easy to use,” says Newton. “This helps to keep the devices on the network, which is where schools want them to they can apply control and remind users about the sorts of things that shouldn’t be in schools.”
“Bringing your own device is sweeping schools the world over and as a result schools need more infrastructure, new policies and procedures, new tools and new ways of thinking” SAFETY FIRST
When allowing pupils to bring external devices into school, there are safety issues that must be addressed in order for school networks, students and hardware to be protected. The first step should be to establish an acceptable usage policy, which Burley says should be based on trust and responsibility. “Our experience of working in a range of schools with teachers is that it is entirely possible to develop learning strategies that maximise the potential benefits of utilising these devices and minimise the time spent by the students off task,” he says. Another key issue is the threat to the school network. Robert Doswell from Tools4ever points to the fact that most data security breaches occur due to errors made within an organisation itself, adding that schools are under mounting pressure to take pre-emptive action. One consideration with mobile devices is the use of password protection. “Staff and pupils often have to remember a number of passwords and user names in order to log in to systems and various applications,” he explains. “This is often too much to remember and so pupils and teachers tend to write password combinations down on pieces of paper, or alternatively they choose very simple sequences that can be easily deciphered. This means the security of the network can easily be compromised.” One solution for this is to have a single sign-on solution, which allows users to use one password to control a range of systems and applications. There may also be concern over the safety of children bringing expensive pieces of equipment to school each day. “An important first point is that the size and weight of devices used for productivity are constantly shrinking, making it less obvious to identify those with the devices than in the past, where a student was forced to carry a 2kg laptop,” says Burley. This in itself makes the situation far safety for all involved. Schools should also teach pupils how to properly encrypt their devices and use effective passwords to make mobile devices less attractive to thieves. Burley suggests software that tracks stolen laptops when they log onto the internet.
MOBILE IN ACTION At Sir John Leman High School in Suffolk, the IT team has been trialling a scheme to allow sixth form students to bring their own devices in to access the internet and school network at work areas around the school. “We’ve found that students love to use new technology and are more engaged if they use devices that they’re familiar with at home,” says network manager Matt Dyer. “To make use of what devices they already have, since April 2010 we’ve allowed sixth form students to bring in their own iPhones, laptops, netbooks and iPods to access the school network in between lessons.” The school manages usage through software that limits the amount of devices that can connect at one time. There is also software that warns users to check they have up-to-date anti-virus when they connect to the network. “So far the scheme has been running very well – from monitoring the servers I can see that we regularly get close to capacity at certain times each week,” says Dyer. “We’ve recently upgraded the technology in our library so we’re actively encouraging students to try it out using their own devices. As the school only needs to pay for the management software, it is also helping to limit hardware costs. Hopefully we’ll look at expanding the scheme into the classroom later this year.”
A sound investment Dr Ian Smythe, looks at the technology, such as text-to-speech software, which can make a huge impact on supporting the reading disabled
ext-to-speech (or TTS), put simply, is when a computer renders what is on its screen in a voice for the user to listen as opposed to, or in conjunction with, reading them. This does not consist of clunky word-by-word sounds reminiscent of Stephen Hawkins, but a flow of natural speech that uses complex software and a large database of sounds to produce a voice with the intonation and rhythm in the voice that makes for easy listening. It is this type of assistive technology that nowadays is mandatory for the visually disabled and obligatory for the dyslexic learner who is struggling to keep up with the academic workload. For this reason it is important to understand the issues surrounding the use of this technology and appreciate the alternative solutions (follow the links at the bottom of this article to hear this article read out). It is easy to quote the Equality Act 2010 as highlighting the need to implement such support in order to avoid discrimination; or the Rose Report 2009 on supporting those with literacy difficulties, but most of those working in schools already understand the issues pertaining to ‘duty of care’ and educational responsibility. The question is more about interpretation of legislation, contextualisation to the school environment and how best to make choices when there is a lack of independent advice. Before discussing the alternatives, let us look at how the technology may be used. Some of the basic uses as part of school work include: Hearing words as you type at the sentence, word or even letter-by-letter level Proofreading one’s own work Reading electronic documents (Word, PDFs, etc.) Reading online and offline e-books Reading text on the internet Checking pronunciation of a word or phrase Listening to text on the mp3 player, on the bus or train. It may be argued that the economics comes down to numbers. Do you use the ‘medical model’ of supporting those with identified needs, or do you use the social inclusion model, making the assistive technology available every pupil? Clearly legislation suggests the later, but economics may dictate the implementation.
There are many different types of text to speech software, but the main ones to consider here are: Toolbar – A single interface that allows the TTS to be used with Word, Email, browsers and other software. Standalone – These are cut and paste versions where the text is copied from the original document and placed inside this standalone software. One of the best examples is Balabolka,
which is a free interface, for which you need only buy a voice. USB – TTS software is usually loaded onto a computer. However, if it is on a USB stick, then it can be transported from one computer to another (and from school to home) without the need for additional installations or licences. Of these, the easier option would be to buy an institute-wide licence for a toolbar type software. Table 1 shows how this appears in a school of just under 1,000 pupils.
Table 1: Example of comparative cost of implementing text-to-speech Number of pupils in school Number of dyslexic pupils (possible beneficiaries) Number of identified dyslexic pupils (typical) Cost of unlimited (up to 999) users Cost to support 40 individuals Basic Claro SE - 40 users @ £49 each Basic Claro SE USB - 40 users @ £59 each Basic Cereproc voice - 40 users @ £30 each Balabolka Interface
999 100 40 £1,050 £1,960 £2,360 £1,200 Free
The institution wide version offers clear savings over the alternatives with many options available for small (and bigger) institutions. However, it may be important in some cases to consider the individual, either because the school need to make recommendations to the parents, or that the needs are for more than just the English version.
The dilemma of first language support
The dilemma is – should you support only in the language of tuition, or should you, where possible, support in the first language? Clearly the preference is for the pupils to access through the language of tuition, and if text is provided in that language, then it would seem unreasonable to be expected to also supply the text books in the first language given that there are so many. However, it may be argued that some kids will benefit from being able to access information in their first language, for example in doing background research for project work through the internet. And if they have the double whammy of still acquiring English and being dyslexic, then they deserve all the support available. Unfortunately, using the multicultural education of Birmingham as an example, the text-to-speech is currently available in the first language for less than seven per cent of the 58,000 who do not use English as the first language. Polish TTS could be supplied to each of over 700 Polish speaking pupils for as little as £30 each today. However, for the Urdu speakers, of which there are 20 times as many, they may have to wait a little longer before they can be given an equal opportunity. (A research project is already underway, and expects to have freely available Urdu TTS by 2013 at the latest.)
“The dilemma is – should you support only in the language of tuition, or should you, where possible, support in the first language? If they have the double whammy of still acquiring English and being dyslexic, then they deserve all the support available”
There is little doubt that text-to-speech does help many reading disabled students, including the visually disabled and ADHD pupils and not just the dyslexic 10%. What the schools needs to decide is how best to support these individuals, and where to install the necessary licences. Should it be available on all computers (probably yes), should it be in language labs in the taught languages (a debate beyond the scope of this article!), and should it be made available for home use? These are all questions that need to be decided locally. But as far as the software itself is concerned, check out the ‘try before you buy’ options, available for most of this software. Dr Ian Smythe is visiting professor of international literacy at the University of Wales, Newport
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iPad-ict a riot! Techno Geek takes a look at the latest trend to sweep the classroom: the invasion of the tablet computers
Tablet computers have been around for years and years, and where always seen as a gimicky way to get things done. The reason why they weren’t very popular is that they weren’t very good, the touch screens had more in common with stirring a jar of treacle with your finger than the slick futurisitic experience most of us are used to now on our smartphones. Then Steve Jobs decided he would do what he did to the mobile phone to the tablet computer and over night created a multibillion dollar industry spawning a cavalcade of imitations. Peoples initial reaction was, whats it for? Is it a laptop? (There is no traditional keyboard.) Is it an e-reader? (Kind of expensive just to read books off!) Is it a phone? (No, but it is a mobile communication device.) Well, its all of these things, and a lot more. Via its ‘apps’, a tablet computer allows the user to interact intuitively with the device, removing the barrier of a keyboard and mouse, which can be limiting for people who haven’t grown up using them. Its an internet browser, plays video and does basically everything a laptop will do but its in the palm of your hand and is much simpler to use. The variety of apps available are mind blowing, and there are a whole lot of them for use in the classroom. This makes them an amazing tool for use in schools, indeed many schools are quickly adopting them as they see the benefits that there kids are getting from them. Children have grown up with this kind of technology, so it is no great leap to use them in the learning process. The kids love them! It’s a whole lot more engaging for them They are simple to use, with a touch screen interface the technology stays out of the way. The cost is extremely competitive – tablets on the whole are cheaper than there less portable rivals Mobile versions of websites can be built into your VLE. There is an excellent video blog post from Moorside College about using iPads in a PE lesson: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=KR_bOGaE09Y. There are a couple of different options when looking at purchasing a tablet for your school. The iPad is far and away the most famous of all the tabs, and has a host of apps along with it. Android-based tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy tab, are the next most popular and based on Google’s Android operating system. They both have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and availability of apps. While the iPad seems to be proving most popular, the Android is definitely holding its own.
APPS For Education 1. Zebra Paint Paint with your fingers! 2. Maths Workout Test your mental maths and exercise your brain once a day. 3. Brain Genius Deluxe Get a head start to getting smart by playing through a daily dose of brain exercises. 4. WordPlayer Art of War WordPlayer is a book reader that allows you to add to your library from thousands of instantly downloadable books or load epub books. 5. My Maps Editor by Google Create, edit, share, and view personalised maps on your phone. 6. WikiMobile Encyclopedia Being a walking encyclopedia is now at your fingertips. 7. Google Sky Map Google Sky Map: A star map for Android. 8. Pintail (not educational but useful) Lost your phone? Find it with an SMS: Pintail replies automatically with your phone’s location to a PIN-protected message 9. School Email (UK-only as of yet) An easy and safe service for pupil and teacher emailing. Emails are checked for sexual predators and bullying. 10. Keepy Uppy A good reward for good work. With thanks to John McClear of mcclear.co.uk
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