The SEN village has gone but there is still plenty at BETT 2018 for SEN teachers, writes John Galloway
The Bett Show, the world’s largest edtech exhibition, is back at ExCeL in London's Docklands next week (January 24-27), and while it continues to attract criticism for becoming increasingly corporate there are still plenty of reasons for classroom teachers to visit.
Even specialists in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will have plenty to interest them, despite the lack of a SEN village and only four seminars that are tagged as of interest.
More tools for assessment and monitoring achievement
For a start there are tools for recording assessment and monitoring achievement. B Squared, (Stand B241) long the leaders in this area, will have their refreshed recording system, updated to take the Rochford Review into account (even though this isn’t finalised, yet). They will also have their Evisense evidence gathering tool. This is an online resource that can run on any device and accept all types of media. So you can catch a child showing off what they can do and quickly post for reports and sharing with parents.
In the same field is Boardworks, (Stand C143). Its big news is Doddle. This not only provides a space to record and monitor but it also provides multimedia teaching materials right across the curriculum so you can respond to a pupil’s identified needs. The materials can be differentiated at a range of levels, and parents can have accounts too, so they can share their offspring’s successes.
More specialised assessment is provided by Neurotech Solutions (Stand F34) with Axon. This is an online ‘attentional profiling engine’ which can apparently help to identify elements of ADHD and provide online interventions.
A broader look at pupils' behaviour, along with their well-being, is offered by Kanda Care (Stand FS18). This is a tablet-based system for all staff to contribute to and share evidence of concerns about children and young people, which can help to lead to effective interventions. A similar approach is demonstrated by People Diagnostix (Stand G70) whose focus is mental health more directly. They provide survey software and staff development materials to identify and support children and young people at risk of developing mental health issues, a growing area of concern in schools.
A long established area of concern continues to be learners who struggle with text, particularly those thought of as dyslexic, and there is plenty on offer to help. The well established Matchview (Stand C142) – a high specification mind-mapping tool – has become even more dyslexia friendly with greater control of colour contrasts and an improved ability to structure documents in Word and PowerPoint. Then there are the offerings from Kurzweil (Stand B454) , Claro (Stand A4), and ReadSpeaker (Stand C66) who have different varieties of bolt-on toolbars providing prediction, screen-reading, smarter than usual spell-checking, study aids and so on.
Texthelp, (Stand C141) has a similar product with Read and Write Gold, but will also introduce two new products at Bett. The first is WriQ, a free add-on for Google Docs which keeps track of technical aspects of a student's writing, such as sentence length and the typical age level of vocabulary – this could be particularly useful for monitoring the growing language development of EAL learners.
The other one is EquatIO which provides support for recording mathematically, whether for equations, graphs or formulas. All can be transcribed via the keyboard, writing on the screen, or even by voice. This should make it easier to demonstrate learning in maths for those with a broad range of difficulties.
Spellbots (Stand E140) is a website that uses alien characters to teach spelling, while Actiphons (Stand C40B) encourages movement as a way of learning phonics. Then there is Ascentis on stand G399. This company will showcase its IDL system, a multi-sensory approach to addressing dyslexia.As well as means of supporting pupils' recording of work, there are also offerings of helps with learning and reinforcement.
While there might be something familiar in those resources, Yellow Door (Stand G95) and Magikbee (Stand FS8) could both have something that combines traditional approaches with newer technologies. The first of these has a number of apps that use tangible objects – such as 3D letters – that interact with what’s displayed on the screen. The second uses similar objects but also has printed books with augmented reality – where objects become three-dimensional when viewed on a screen, such as a smartphone or iPad.
Another good use of newer technologies comes from NoIsolation (Stand B390). This is a highly portable camera that can sit in a classroom on behalf of a student should she or he be absent for long periods. The built-in webcam observes the lesson and the learner can even join in by answering questions – or chatting to mates – but while the audio is two-way the video is not. This is so those undergoing medical treatment can sit in bed in their pyjamas but don’t have to miss their lessons. A fellow student can carry the device, known as AV1, from room to room, with the long-distance learner logging-in when they feel up to it.
There’s a novel use of established technology from WeCanRemember (Stand FZ15), too. Here a QR code is used along with a voice recording. This could mean a teacher does the marking by sticking a code at the end of a piece of work to give feedback orally. The student listens to it by scanning the code with a smartphone.
This is a highly flexible, versatile, tool, ripe for creative uses by SEND teachers. For instance, instructions for a task could be provided with a sticker at the top of the page, listened to with a mini iPad in class. Displays could become multi-sensory with the text read aloud when scanned. Home/school liaison books might include pupils' spoken comments. It's a simple tool with lots of possibilities.
Myriads of toys and devices to play with
Lot’s of possibilities are also available from TTS-Group (Stand C195) with its myriads of toys and devices, always worth dropping in on for a bit of a play. Among all the other stuff to keep you happy for hours there is now the Chatter Chum, a toy bee with a voice recorder and a motion sensor. This means that you can record a message which Chatter Chum will speak when it detects movement nearby. Great for creating multi-sensory displays or engaging activities when pupils move around, even outdoors.
And once you’ve finished playing it could be time for a story with their Storytime Phonics. This is a well made resource for teaching phonics using real books read by the Phonic Fairy (pictured above). These are high-quality videos that use good practice in sharing books with children, along with activities that teach the focus sound. A very useful resource for supporting the teacher, and for small groups run by specialist teaching assistants.
There is also loads on offer from the London Grid for Learning (Stand D260). Its SEND and inclusion resource bank continues to grow, now with materials on job seeking for older pupils, bereavement support for staff, a comprehensive EAL package, and whiteboard materials for SLD learners. Through its Trustnet offshoot these are now available across the country.
So, there are still plenty of reasons to head on down to ExCeL for, even if SEND stalwarts like Crick, Widgit, and Helpkidzlearn (a brand of Inclusive Technology) aren’t there. Although if you want to know what they are up to they are all putting on free or low-cost seminars across the country throughout the year as their way of keeping connected with classroom practitioners. Visit their websites to find one near you in 2018.
John Galloway is an expert in the use of technology to support teaching, learning and communication for children and young people with SEND. He is also a successful author. His latest book, Learning with Mobile and Handheld Technologies, co-authored with Merlin John and Maureen McTaggart, won the Book of the Year category in the Innovation and Technology Awards, 2016.