Transitions with Technology in your Pocket

Transition is a part of the educational process, it happens between years, between schools, between classrooms, and between teachers. It continues through every stage of the educational process and getting it right can make or break learning progression; it can support or undo emotional and wellbeing strategies.

Some students will have a lot of supporting information that travels with them. For these learners, additional needs may be well documented. The pack might contain an IEP(1), IBP(2), EHCP(3), or a ROS(4). If families regularly take part in wider discussions about health, care, or social needs with a wider team of professionals, the transition support package is usually very thorough. Transition can take place over many months and professionals may meet frequently to ensure learning needs can be met.

For the majority of learners, transition happens without an individual support package and without a learning or behaviour passport. This is because; in a busy school environment it is tricky to ensure that the strategies you have been using flow to the next teacher or school. Teaching is not a time rich profession and as such, with the best will in the world, some information does not get shared. Some of the work will be replicated, and often professionals spend a lot of time re-testing and re-presenting strategies that may have already been tried with students who are not typical learners.  

So what gets lost?  For the individual, it is the relationships with the class teacher that gets lost in transition. There are the strategies and nuances that cannot be quantified in a data-base, gems that flow from great teaching take time to crystallise. Think of a teacher who knows their students really well. They know that in order to establish an individual’s self esteem and willingness to learn, a fist bump and a smile is essential at the start of the day. They may have put in place simple wellbeing support, established basic routines and have soft strategies that enable a reluctant learner to take part. Tools like C3B4Me which encourages self directed learning or break out time with a Sensory Box may not get shared and if it does, it may not translate to the next learning experience.

So how can we manage successful transition and what is the most essential information to share when so many things are important? There is a huge list we could choose from that includes ensuring that friendships can be maintained, sharing emotional health concerns, or providing evidence of success or areas of gifts and talents.  All of these are important but, I would strongly suggest that the most important factor is ensuring that the strategies used for literacy are shared.

Literacy is at the heart of educational progress and when learning gaps emerge it is because the support that was previously in place and the routines and adaptations made to support literacy are not sustained after transition. Because of this many students with additional needs go through transitions with no flags raised.

This is my transition top tip to record the normal way of working in class that has been experienced. At the end of the day, ask your students to take out their learning tools and arrange them on the table top. You may find colour overlays, reading pens, writing slopes, pencil grips, traffic lights, volcano cards, or a card requesting use of speech to text software. Pop the learners name tag on each desk and take photographs of each work station. If you produce learning passports then attach the photo to the document. Other ways to share this information is to send the picture home to parents, and give a copy to the student themselves.

The best way to support successful transition is to support independent learning and awareness of the tools that are essential to that learner. When you have worked so hard to support students with great ideas and strategies through the year, make sure that they can still benefit from your insight. When your door closes and the next door opens you will know they have a literacy strategy picture that they can talk about.  

 

1. (Individual Education Plan)

2. (Individual Behaviour Plan)

3. (Education, Health and Care Plan)

4. (Record of Support)

Four Essential Assistive Technologies For Your Curriculum

Building assistive technology into a future strategy for your students is an integral part of designing your curriculum for the year. Schools have committed to planning a structure for homework and frameworks aiming to deliver spiritual, moral, social, and cultural knowledge, all essential to the healthy development of a child. If however, EdTech planning is not in place, then your school is heading in the direction of a strategic learning gap. Assistive Technology in education, or “EdTech”, can give every student an advantage. Hopefully tools like visualisers, voting boxes ‘classroom clickers’, and tablets are already part of the wider strategy being employed in classrooms across your school. EdTech is no longer just for students with additional needs. It is a tool to raise achievement for all. There is a wealth of technology to embrace that can ensure that all students benefit. As you plan your strategy, it is important to ensure nobody’s needs are left unsupported, particularly SEND students who can gain the most from well deployed EdTech. Without strategic planning we could end up without the tools we need the most. We all know that value for money is an essential factor in our planning, so too is finding ways to maximise the benefits of our spending decisions. With this in mind, here is a list of four assistive techs that are SEND specific, but could be used as a schoolwide learning strategy.

1- AI teaching platforms

In more recent years, AI teaching has become more prevalent in schools. This kind of technology will be an integral part of all education at some point in the future, but right now it’s a fantastic tool for SEND students. With the help of this advanced AI, we can identify and address the weaker areas in their knowledge.

Platforms like CENTURY allow for a real-time analysation of student performance by creating sophisticated algorithms based on student response. Teachers can access at this information at any point in the students’ learning. Not only would this make it easy to track the success of SEND students, it can be used for ALL students. This whole school approach allows for a quick overview of usage and progress made. At the present time AI is at the spearhead of EdTech but there are other less expensive options that also have a huge impact with similar routes of access from home and school.

2- Online learning portals

Similar to AI teaching, online learning portals are a great way to keep track of your students’ progress while constantly updating their curriculum and extracurricular needs. These portals can be used from home and are the perfect tool for students that may have extended periods out of school for medical (or other) reasons. Not only will they not miss out on their learning opportunities, they can even collaborate with peers from home. This is obviously enormously beneficial for every student in school, not just those with extenuating circumstances.

One fantastic use of online portals is the manual control teachers can have over each student’s learning strategy. Everything you need; from homework, essays, and even revision, can be uploaded and tracked on these portals.

In programs such as Moodle and Show My Homework, deadlines and important dates can be assigned and highlighted in an online calendar, a useful feature the importance of which is highlighted in the next section.

3- Time schedulers

A skill that we often find underdeveloped in many students at all key stages is their time management. Knowing when a test is coming and how much time they should spend studying is essential support that makes a huge difference.

Abilia, an online scheduler, is just one of example of a great piece of assistive tech that could inspire a whole school approach. This support was originally made for students with ASD and ADHD. By scheduling their day-to-day activity, students are able to become independent where they otherwise may have struggled.

Previously, ASD students might have had a serious anxiety attack if their pattern were to change without warning. With the help of a detailed online scheduler, they can now be informed in real time of these changes to their day. A change in a regular teacher, form of transportation, study time, and any other daily activity can be updated well in advance to leave these students well prepared for their day. It doesn’t just allow teachers and family to update their schedule, students can also manage themselves while informing others.

This approach to independence and self-empowerment can be introduced schoolwide with easily downloadable planning aps to tablets and mobile phones.

4- Assistive Readers

Very few assistive technologies are accepted in examinations. Often, they require lengthy paperwork to be completed and need to be arranged and validated long in advance of the exam. There is an exception that can give many students a boost without the need for any additional accommodations to be made, not even a Form 8. Where students have weak literacy skills, the text-to-speech scanners like the ExamReader from Scanning Pens are the exception. Provided the pen has been used in advance of the examination, and has become a normal way of working, it can be used in any JCQ exam to support reading fluency.

The ExamReader also gives struggling readers the confidence to approach their exams independently. It reads aloud, or via headphones, any text scanned, in a clear and natural voice. Students in the U.K can sit any of their exams with their peers, and without any extra accommodations or a human reading assistant. This inclusion tool gives independence and provides a boost to student mental-wellbeing during exam periods.

For students with reading difficulties like dyslexia, this EdTech allows them to comprehend questions that they may otherwise have answered incorrectly. We also know that students reject human support because they do not want to repeatedly ask for help through embarrassment.

Fortunately this tool is not limited to supporting those with dyslexia, anyone is welcome to use them. That means undiagnosed or borderline dyslexics can use the ExamReader. So can those with weak literacy or slower speeds of processing.

Assistive technology is the revolution ahead. While you count your coins and choose your strategies, consider the maximum impact for all. Think universal and think smart!