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Something Positive to End the Term

by Paul Nisbet

on Wed Jun 27, 2012

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Today I received a very positive evaluation back from a pupil and teacher who have been evaluating some equipment, and I thought I'd share it: seems like a nice way to end the term. (Mark is not his real name.)

Background

Mark is a Primary 6 pupil who attends his local primary school. Mark has cerebral palsy which affects his fine motor control, and although he has good ideas, he does tire easily when he writes by hand. He has support from staff to help him lay out his written work, and also on occasion for scribing, but this does mean he relies on staff and is not independent. Staff say that his reliance on others is also affecting his self-esteem. Mark has some difficulties with spelling and also with maths, organisation and spatial skills. Despite these barriers to learning, Mark is an enthusiastic member of the class.

Mark has tried specialist pencils and pencil grips, and writing adaptations. He was referred to CALL for advice on assistive technology to help him to learn and work more independently and productively.

Following an assessment, we loaned a Toshiba netbook computer with Co:Writer 6 and Inspiration software, plus an EasiSpeak microphone, for Mark and his teacher to evaluate. The assessment had shown that Co:Writer has the potential to help Mark write more independently, and with greater accuracy. Co:Writer should also reduce his fatigue and help him to produce higher quality work. (Click here to find out more about Co:Writer and word prediction).

Inspiration was suggested to help Mark organise his work. We loaned a headset microphone for Mark to record his ideas directly into Inspiration, and the portable Easi-Speak recorder, because his verbal output is currently better than his written output.

(Both Inspiration and Co:Writer 6 are available for reduced cost under a special licence for Scottish Schools, from Education Scotland.)

This is what Mark and his teacher thought of the technology.

Class teacher evaluation

1.    What impact has the netbook had on the pupil’s ability to access the curriculum?

There was an immediate impact on Mark’s enthusiasm and attitude to attempt and produce work.

Used for:

  • Word processing: planning, drafting and publishing. Mark is more able and willing to work independently on these three steps without an adult scribe. Mark is eager, and able, to be involved in adding to his Co-writer word bank. 
  • Typing answers to spelling activities a task which Mark dislikes when he is writing by hand. He now produces work of a higher level.
  • Spelling has improved.

An adult currently scaffolds Mark’s work by asking questions about his text, to encourage him to develop his answers/writing. It is planned that if the teacher is checking/marking Mark’s work in his absence, s/he will insert the questions into his text. This will enable Mark to develop his work in line with his peers, working in their jotters.

Mark enjoys paired work with the netbook.  Previously, being left handed the mouse was cumbersome and this was awkward when he was working with a partner.

2. How has it impacted on his/ her written work (quantity and quality), in comparison with what s/he was able to produce without it?

Mark has immediate success which encourages him to keep on task. He is willing to expand and build on his work after further class discussion or  with an adult. 

Previously Mark found typing laborious but Co-writer is changing his attitude and he is very willing and able to type for a much longer period. He finds the netbook keyboard easier to manipulate. It is anticipated that this will be helped further with touch typing lessons.

Mark now copes with thinking up his answers/ideas, typing and spelling. This has resulted in better and lengthier pieces of work produced quicker. Previously these tasks were done separately.

Mark’s work is legible. He willingly shares it with peers, allowing them to read it independently of Mark.

3. Has it helped him/her to develop the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence?

  1. Successful learner.Mark is able to show and do the best he can.  He thinks of new ideas and is more interested in tackling writing activities by himself.
  2. Confident individualMark is happier and more confident. His  self-esteem has been raised.
  3. Effective contributorMark is no longer excluded by the position of the computer system. Previously he had to sit with his back to the class because of the location of the computer.Peers are more ready to allow Mark to tale a role in ‘scribing’ .Mark is able to type his ideas and share with peers, who previously found his handwriting very difficult to read.
  4. Responsible citizen.Mark is much more confident about working as part of a group during tasks that require planning/writing. Mark takes the responsibility of looking after the netbook seriously, and making sure it is switched on/off when needed.

4. Any further comments....

The netbook and software have much more potential for enabling Mark to be included more into the class and to access literacy activities.  As I, and assisting adults, become more familiar with it, and Mark learns to touch type, I foresee that we will be able to take full advantage of the equipment.

Mark’s evaluation

This form is to help you think about the use and effectiveness of the writing tools you have tried out and to compare the technology with handwriting and jotters.  Fill in the evaluation form when you feel you have a good idea about what it is like to use the devices(s). Please send a copy of the form to CALL.

Use a scale of 1 to 10. Score 1 if that factor is so bad that you would not dream of ever considering it. Score 10 if it is so brilliant that you could not do without it.

 

Handwriting & jotter / paper Score 1 to 10 1=rubbish 10=brilliant

Netbook & Co:Writer Score 1 to 10 1=rubbish 10=brilliant

Writing / typing speed

5 sometimes 4

10

Legibility / quality of writing

4

10

Spelling

5

10

Effort needed to write / type

5

10

Portability (weight / size) lines/size

2/3

10

Ease of use

5

10

Ease of getting a paper copy

-

10

Screen (size / text size / clarity)

-

10

Keyboard

-

10

Battery life

-

10

Word processor & software

-

10

Appearance / cool factor

1

10

Opinions of friends

3

10

Opinions of family

4

10

Opinions of teachers

4 + occasionally10

10

Your opinion!

1

10

OVERALL SCORE

39 approx

160

Please write any other comments here:

1. Makes me feel I can keep up when working with the rest of the class.

2. I am really missing being able to use Inspiration to plan my writing and make a summary of what I read. [This was because Mark had been using a school netbook without Inspiration for a short time.]

3. Co-writer and inspiration really help me to get on with my work. I am looking forward to using it again in Primary 7. 

4. I don’t mind sorting mistakes and making my ideas bigger and better.

Thanks Mark and his teacher for these positive and helpful comments!

Paul

Tags: assistive technology, netbook

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