ICTWilts: engaging children with learning difficulties using iPads

Andrew and Alison from Exeter House Special School.

Six students were identified in the first instance that were disengaged with school. Alison was inspired by a talk she attended by Barry Carpenter about the changes in school populations, especially in SEN. Better survival rates among premature babies, for example, means some children’s brains develop differently and they don’t learn in the same way. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is going to crop up more and we need to adjust curriculum pathways for those students.

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Complex learning difficulties and disabilities: children might have a range of co-existing conditions. Attainment may be inconsistent and they can be working at any level. The key thing has to be personalisation, which develops from what the child wants to do. Meaningful learning only happens with engagement; but how do you measure engagement? SSAT do an engagement scale. It’s not an exact science but is helpful when you’re starting out.

Once planned, they identified project leaders and began to implement the project first by identifying students based on selection criteria, then base lining. They were insistent that it be blended in with everyday learning so encouraged teachers to drop something else to make room for it.

They share their successes with the kit they bought, including Eyegaze which allows for eye control of computers. This can be useful for dyslexic children to track where they are stumbling and how they read through a page. They also use the Kinect sensor which runs with an x box or a computer. He uses his with Visikord, a program used by nightclubs to creative psychedelic graphics of people dancing. This is very engaging for students and encourages collaboration. The Wii Music program gives students an opportunity to play musical instruments along to a computer generated track. Looper Dooper records sounds and then loops them, building up a sort of sound texture. This was helpful when engaging a student with cochlear implants. We also see an example of a student at the start and at the end of the project which demonstrated the increased engagement.

Really, really interesting to see the impact that well-planned intervention and personalised learning can have in a completely different setting.


The biggest impact has been on mindset. If tech can engage the most complex pupils, what are he possibilities for the others? Find the right kit and think it through carefully. Concrete evidence is difficult to gather and case studies of the pupils were a more helpful way of measuring impact. The biggest outcome of this was that personalised learning is now at the heart of the school development plan, which is really great to hear – technology supporting pedagogy at its best!

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