Learning about inclusive technologies through collaboration

There are all different ways of running a training day. One approach is to beat delegates into submission by talking at them all day long. Another is to get them to do something. Learning by doing is a well-known approach, having been perfected, I believe, in the Neanderthal era. In short, it has a good track record, and was the method of choice adopted by Load2Learn (delivered by Dyslexia Action and RNIB) for their Technologies for Print Disabilities Training Day.

But how do you pack in a lot of learning when you have only a few hours available rather than a full day? One solution is what a group of us called Collaborate for Change. The folks at Load2Learn thought a similar approach might work for them, so they’ve put together a very interesting-looking programme, more of which in a moment.

Collaborating with others is a good way to learn! Photo by Mike Baird http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/

So what is the Collaborate for Change model? It involves people attending several short discussions throughout the evening, and is based on the following principles:

  • Generally speaking, concentration tends to drop off a bit after 20 minutes, so a change in activity is a good idea at that point. Hence the discussions are 20 minutes long.
  • Note the use of the word “discussion”, not “talk”. Delegates are expected to do some work themselves, by being prepared to ask questions, pose challenges, debate the issues and share their knowledge.
  • It’s a sort of organised ‘unconference’. You can choose your own ‘route’ through the evening. For example, at one event I was involved in organising, delegates interested in literacy could attend a session on using technology to get children reading, followed by one on using text-to-speech and audio books, then one on digital literacy and reluctant writers, then SpLD/Dyslexia, engaging reading and writing, and finally a session on using Kindles in the classroom. Alternatively, people could do what I did and attend a real mix of sessions just to try and find out more about several different areas.
  • ‘Presenters’ are delegates too. You can be facilitating a discussion in one 20 minute slot, and attending one as a delegate in the next time slot. In fact, I’d recommend you facilitate no more than three sessions, to allow yourself time to attend others, and to network.

Now, if you have an interest in using technology in the education of children with special educational needs, and you’re attending the TES SEN Show in London in October (12th and 13th), then consider attending the Collabor8 4 Change in Inclusive Technologies conference in the evening of the 12th. It’s free, in the same venue as the SEN Show, and some light refreshments will be provided. The kind of topics expected to be covered include:

  • text to speech,
  • free and open source technologies for accessibility,
  • accessible and alternative formats,
  • teacher training in use of technology for accessibility,
  • peer support in accessibility,
  • print disabilities (dyslexia, visual impairments, physical disabilities) and
  • projects supporting SEN and technology in schools.

Find out more from Load2Learn's Collabor8 for Change information page, where you can register as well.

Having attended similar events, and having experienced a Dyslexia Action training day, I think this conference will be very useful and enjoyable. I also think it will be good to attend if, like me, you have an interest in technology in the field of SEN but would not classify yourself as an expert.

In fact, it’s always been my contention that if a programme, or website, or any other kind of resource is good for children with special educational needs then it is almost certainly going to be good for all pupils. But that’s a subject for another article.

I wrote this as a guest blogger on behalf of Dyslexia Action, but my opinions are my own.