Blog 2! Using voice activated software

Ruth Fairley is a Special Education Needs (SEN) teacher at The Lancaster School – an all boys secondary (ages 11-16) school in Leicester. Ruth’s innovation project explores the use of iPad accessibility features and apps to support students with learning disabilities, and you can read her initial post here. The project enables her to develop her own skills, and represents a new approach to working with SEN learners in the school. Ruth updates us with her progress to date:

As writers often say, ‘many months passed reader!’ (no I didn’t marry him!)

My project to use tablets (iPads) with voice activated software for my six dyslexic and disaffected students has gathered momentum and speed! My participants were identified, my iPads set up and we were good to go.

I had done some preliminary research on the boys taking part and for this update I am going to focus on three boys who were very responsive to the project.

Firstly I reviewed staff comments on the boys’ behaviour which the school records on our Learning Management System. This provided a rough and ready bench mark to check any positive impact of the new approach against. I also took record of the boys working at levels at the beginning of the project to see if it could help them improve their grades.

The training for the boys to use the technology was very simple and straightforward, so much so that I could do it in less than a minute and that’s amazing considering my luddite ways!

I also informed the boys’ class teachers and in particular in any subjects that had a strong literacy based focus. The response from staff was generally positive, in particular from Heads of Year who often had to sort out the fallout from the boys’ lack of engagement.

I also made it clear to the boys that if they abused the usage of the devices in class then they would be withdrawn for a two week period. I had spoken to all parents involved and all were very keen to support their sons’ use of the iPads.

I started small!! As I taught a lot of the boys either for English or on one to one support basis for their learning disabilities, it was easy to find a starting point to roll out the devices. The boys, who were previously reluctant to start work in English and write, took to them like ducks to water.

I ran the project for a full term then looked at a quick assessment of impact, at this point I will focus on the three boys who have taken part in the project from the start. Two other boys who were selected to take part weren’t keen originally, but have subsequently joined in.

So, some small case studies:

Boy 1

By the end of term 2 his effort grades have improved, they have gone from 3 and 4 to 2 and 3.
His behaviour points in term 1 were 213, in term 2 they reduced to 86.
His NC levels for literacy based subjects where he has used the tablet made expected progress, one sub level per term. Whilst this may not seem much this was from a boy who had made little or no progress since he had started at the school.
On a purely selfish note, he now wants to come to English!

 Boy 2

His level of engagement in English has improved dramatically. His achievement in literacy based subjects improved by one sub level in one term and his effort grades improved in all areas.

Boy 3

His behaviour points were 112 in term 1 and this reduced to 55 in term 2. His SEN review was very positive and it noted improvement in his willingness to engage.
His NC levels had gone up in all subjects.

Based on this quick measure of improvement the initial introduction of the tablets has been positive for the three learners. There were and are some issues to be resolved, such as the boys using the tablets to access games and occasionally being off task playing them.

I wish I had a tablet with voice activated software for every boy who needed it!

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