John Galloway previews the BETT 2016 developments that have caught his interest
Bett, the biggest educational technology event on the planet, will once again be at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre (January 10-13) and there are plenty of reasons for those of us interested in inclusion to pay a visit.
As well as showcasing the latest technological innovations, there are upgrades to well-established products we are already familiar with.
Widgit (stand SN74) will be demonstrating Widgitonline. As the title suggests, it’s a web-based version of its resources, combining both Communicate in Print and Symwriter and making them available anywhere you have an internet connection.
'Clicker 7' and Crick apps will be on show
Crick Software will also be showing Clicker 7 (see our review) all their apps for tablet computers, including SuperKeys a keyboard that makes it easier for people with motor-control problems to use a keyboard accurately, and the recently launched Clicker Communicator, a real rival to Proloquo2go from Therapy Box (SN52), as an iPad-based communication tool.
Other companies moving in on the app field are Mike Ayres (SN86 – see photo, top of page), with a means of setting up a sensory room through an iPad, and Numbergym (C461), which is developing apps from its well-regarded numeracy software.
New approaches from known companies also include Juno, a portable ‘soundfield’ system from PCWerth (C69), designed to support hearing impaired pupils. As well as offering clear amplification it will also record everything the teacher says, along with all the output from any audio systems such as the whiteboard.
On the innovation front there is Educater from The Publishing Foundry (F75) aimed at alleviating the administrative burden for SEN teachers, and Forbrain from Sound for Life (D130), a headset said to improve speech and language problems. While wearing Forbrain, users hear themselves via induction through their skull - in much the same way as some hearing aids. It is suggested that as users hear themselves differently, they modify how they speak and thus resolve some expression issues.
Also using headsets is Now Press Play (BFG8) already in use in some of London's Tower Hamlets schools. This is rather like a silent disco. Learners wear headsets which wirelessly receive audio input to create atmosphere – such as an air raid. It’s a facility that could be used right across the curriculum, and is reported to make lessons more engaging, exciting and involving.
Visit Optimusic to sharpen up with fitness games
If you find the whole Bett experience enervating then you can always visit Optimusic (D420). The company is introducing two technology-based games to help with fitness - CardioWall and FitLight. Both are variations on an activity where players have to touch a sequence of lights as they appear on a framework. A few minutes of that should get you going again.
Of course you don’t have to go into the BETT show itself to learn about some clever innovations as there are always fringe elements. The breakfast event held by Inclusive Technology, for example, will have some interesting news about ‘eyegaze’ technology which allows children with complex needs to control their computers and other devices by their eye gaze.
Insight, described as ‘the world’s first intelligent learning system’, is been developed from the extensive feedback provided by learners who use ‘eyegaze’ technology. The product was supported by a grant from InnovateUK for a two-year research pilot (see “First smart learning system for kids with complex needs").
Inclusive chairman Martin Littler says, “Today Inclusive is breaking new ground with eyegaze technology, paired with our growing range of online resources for learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties. It is the most exciting development in the 30 years I have been involved with special needs technology.” The breakfast, on Thursday, January 21, is by invite only.
I hope that’s enough to whet your appetites. There is plenty more to see with more than 500 exhibitors from all the corners of the world. See you there.
John Galloway, co-author of Learning with Mobile and Handheld Technologies, is an adviser, writer and consultant who specialises in ICT for SEN and inclusion. He works with local authorities, a range of schools and provides training for educators at every level. John, along Catherine Elliott of Sheffield CLC, will be talking about 'computing and assessment of SEN pupils' on Wednesday 20 (2.15pm) in the Learn Live SEN theatre.