It's almost time for TeachMeet SEN 2012! Last minute tickets available here.
Our panellists have been asked to set out the current agenda for technologies for inclusion, and present and defend the issues and areas they have identified as current national priorities.
Our speakers have outlined their priorities - what do you think? Which of the panelist priorities resonate most strongly with you? Do you think there is a more pressing issue? Let us know and join in the debate by voting for the priorities you think are the most important, or contributing your own suggestions, either when you vote or in the comments below.
1. Rethinking 'Assistive Technology
What is Assistive Technology in 2012? - or should we now call it something else?
As more and more of the mainstream technologies, including some free or very low cost solutions are displaying and integrating features that can aid our learners in a myriad of ways, how do we need to think and re think what we “buy” download or access as assistive technologies?
The Assistive Technology companies themselves are now operating in a very different world and equally so are schools, colleges and universities and of course so are learners and their families. As a recent addition to the BATA Council I am very aware of the different pressures in this economic climate for both industry, and from my role as Director of JISC TechDis for the learning providers where the impact of technology (financial or pedagogical) can have such an impact on learners with specific needs.
2. Keeping staff stay up to speed with the pace of technology practice and development
What about the people? How will they gain the skills and knowledge about Assitive Technology in this ever changing world?
With the advent of apps, tablets, gesture based gaming and all manner of hand held devices - how do we expect staff to keep pace and obtain best value, the best information, and most of all the best for their learners?
The moves within the industry to more and more freemium offers and services could radically help schools and Local Authority budgets - but how do we know? Where are the sources of information? Do we need to be radical with mandatory training - what about teaching and learning, and budgetary implications?
The recent post-16 Ofsted review recommended that the Department for Education and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills should jointly create a database of assistive technologies - is that a viable or desirable solution?
3. Accessible by default
With disability becoming more prevalent, why is accessibility optional?
We know that about twenty per cent of school children will have some sort of SEN, about half of them struggling with text. We also know that computer systems aren’t specially made for school children, they are made for average adults - it’s Microsoft Office, after all. But we also know that in Europe we have an ageing population which is leading to increasing numbers of people with disabilities, approximately 80m at the moment. And we know that adopting a principle of ‘inclusive design’ makes life easier for everyone.
So why do we have ‘Accessibility options’ on our computers, instead of ‘Accessibility by default?’ Many aspects of improving access - high contrast, variable colour schemes, enhancing the cursor - would work for most of us (if we knew about them) These should be the defaults.
4. Anti-social networking
Online communities promise so much for those with SEND, so why aren’t they more accessible?
Those with special needs and disabilities can sometimes find themselves isolated or excluded. Social networking could be a way of mitigating that isolation by both connecting them with others in a similar situation, and a leveller, including them in a world without the usual barriers. Yet there seem to be limited incidences of this happening, probably because:
- the interface is complex;
- the medium is predominantly text;
- families and carers don’t appreciate what it offers.
As it stands, social networking can exacerbate a digital divide, that it could so easily help to bridge.
5. Funding for SEN technology in all schools
How do we stop schools from being left behind in the technology stakes?
As technology becomes more and more important in schools around the country what can be done to help those pupils in badly funded areas progress or have the access to the equipment they need? Some areas within Wales are particularly lacking in funding or support in this important area ( I am sure this is true of other areas within the UK too) - is it really good enough that this is still happening in 2012?
6. Bring services to pupils
Why is support for pupils with SEN so patchy across the UK? Is it purely a funding issue or are other things contributing?
In my area of Wales I have always been aware that many parents of children with SEN, in particular those with children who have autism, move into the county to access the provision available. I’m also aware of this happening between schools across Wales and, from the emails or messages I get through position at the TES, it is obviously something that happens elsewhere in the country too. Why do some school or LAs put less effort into properly supporting and addressing the needs of pupils with SEN? Is it always a funding issue or do other factors come into play?
You can vote here for the priorities you agree with, suggest additional priorities or leave your comments below.