Interactive Communication (PECS) Books on iPads.

Lets start at the very beginning, for those that don’t know PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or Picture Communication is a system used for children with additional needs, who find it difficult to articulate their needs. This tends to mean the child has a book full of a variety of phrases, items, objects etc all linked to an image, with a Velcro backing. The child is then encouraged to use these items and stick them onto their ‘sentence strip’, thus allowing them to communicate simple ideas, such as: I would like an apple. PECS is a very exact system that suits the needs of children on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, working through a variety of levels to progress the children’s communication skills.

An example of a Picture communication book is pictured below:

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There is an official PECS app which retails for £79.99, at our school we have numerous users and using VPP to buy these apps individually for each user would cost a lot of money. There are other alternative apps too, such as Iasku but the entry level version is £3.99 per user, quite a price. Using iPads in the school and making simple books for numbers with our training partner, Neil Emery from Trilby, got me to thinking of a better, more interactive and all round 21st century way of a child communicating their needs to an adult in the classroom (or outside), using the apps we already use and some free ones too!

As with most schools that are using iPads, Book Creator, is one of my favourite Apps and seldom does a day go by when I don’t get some use from it! Within Book Creator you can add audio files that are recorded inside the app. This got me excited about the possibility of creating communication books using book creator and adding a voice to each picture that the child requested. Giving the child an actual voice, and also allowing them the chance to hear their requests vocalised in real time, possibly helping them to say the word.

In this example I was working on the idea of creating a Communication book about fruit selection, as this is something that happens in all the schools classrooms on a daily basis, so I could easily share at a training session as a ready to go resource for the classrooms.

I started off by collecting images by taking photographs of the items, searching for images on Google (checking for Creative Commons) or using the FREE app FlickrStackr (allowing you to search for Creative Commons images).

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We would need to add the images to Book Creator in a neat grid form, we could import each image into Book Creator and manipulate them all inside the app, but as there are loads of apps that do this exact thing, why not use one! Some of the apps that put photos into a grid form are: PicCollage, Moldiv, Photo Grid to name but a few…

I created my grid of photos using Moldiv, which is easy to use, but so are all the others! It’s a simple process of selecting the grid layout you desire to use, then selecting the images you want to add, resizing or editing as necessary and then exporting the finished grid of images back to the camera roll. This ended up looking like this:

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From here I open a new book in Book Creator and opted for the square layout, as this would allow me to fit my previously made grid easily without any bother of resizing or editing! Once I have added this picture to my book, it’s then the simple task of recording new sounds to vocalise what each image is, an easy task by simply clicking the add icon and selecting ‘Add Sound’. Press the record button and say ‘an apple’ for example. Once recorded we resize these sounds to cover the individual images. After this step, highlight each sound, click on the ‘inspector’ icon and toggle the button for ‘Invisible in iBooks’.

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Once completed for each small picture, we can export as an eBook to iBooks. This will give the children one simple space with all their communication books stored, all neatly on a virtual bookcase. They can select the one that suits the situation that they need to communicate.

NB. This is influenced by the PECS system and is NOT a direct replacement for this.

Safer Internet Day 2015 App Session!

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Safer Internet Day 2015 (SID2015), has been and seen my annual e-safety assembly in school, something that is hard to ‘pitch’ at the right level, as the children differ in ability from low P levels upto (old) National Curriculum level 2. I spoke about the Internet and how the children used it, got scared by their use and their vulnerability and then the older children watched the CEOP video Lee and Kim, here.

When my class returned to our room, we discussed at length the four key points highlighted in this film, and how these may effect us when on the Internet, the adults included. We then spoke about how we could help others to understand these four points. The children (thankfully) came up with the idea of posters and videos (phew!, did they know the plan!?)

We started off by creating a simple poster with a SID2015 headline and an engaging picture of someone using the computer. While they were creating these, I distributed Aurasma logos to attach to the posters. The children knew what was coming later in the day at this point and they excitedly talked about their videos (that they were yet to create!), a buzz filled the classroom! Perfect!

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When most of the posters were nearing completion I quickly asked to be reminded of the four key points (my ‘old’ memory is getting bad) and the  explained that I wanted to create a movie explaining these four key points. The children were allowed to use any apps they wanted, with the proviso they were to use at least three different apps and put all their content together in iMovie.

The class quickly got down to work and created a variety of videos and animation using Apps including ChatterKids, YakIt Kids, DoInk Green Screen and Tellagami. They have been using all of these apps since September and have become quite skilled at using them, so it is a pleasure to observe them excitedly create content and come to you with a big grin whilst shoving their iPad screen in your face, for you to watch their creation.

Once they had created their content and they had saved it all into the photos on their iPad, it was a case of adding it into iMovie, they are less experienced with this process and the less confident and brave of them need some assisting with some of the editing process. I’m sure it’s only a mattter of time before they are fully independent with this task too!

For the final part of this task, we made the posters made earlier in the day come to life by adding their video content to them using Aurasma. I have posted before about using Aurasma to make interactive Christmas cards, here. This is quite a simple process and the children love the outcome. They have spent the subsequent days scanning each others posters to watch each other’s videos, giving some great feedback to each other! We also exported the final videos to their SeeSaw learning journals, as the work was so amazing and completed almost independently, in most cases!

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A great days learning for the children and by the end of the day the children knew these four key points to staying safe in the internet! This model could work for virtually any learning, we used a very similar idea to show our learning at the end of our Healthy Me topic. A great example of pushing the boundaries by using iPads and technology in the classroom, not to mention extending the children’s learning.

 

Numeracy App Workflow

After reading an excellent post by ADE Marc Faulder(@MarcWithersey) about a workflow that he employs in his early years classroom for maths journals, here, it made me think about the workflows that have been working so well in my SEN classroom. We had a great Twitter discussion about this and exchanged some App ideas too, I love having lots of ADEs in my Personal Learning Network (PLN), as we get to bounce ideas off each other, and push classroom practice as a result!

I’m not for one second suggesting that this is a one size fits all approach, but I have found this to be successful (with some slight tweets) over the last couple of years!

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The children in the class start a new ePub each week using the excellent Book Creator App (the bread and butter of my classroom suite of apps!). We are sure to title the book so that we can easily find it and put the week date on it (normally Monday’s, but things happen in schools!) I always print out an A4 copy of the WALT (substitute with other letters such as LI) and the success criteria for each group, each day, they use the camera and take a snapshot of this and add to their book. They then complete the work using whatever tools they decide to use, some of our current favourites are: ExplainEverything, camera, recording each other on video, the write tool in Book Creator. This is then marked in the Book Creator app against the WALT and SC, next steps added if needed and verbal feedback given to the children. The next day the same process takes place in the same book and so on, until we reach Friday.

When a week is complete, this normally coincides with a change of Numeracy topic, we then need to ‘move’ the work to a suitable location, for moderation and future assessment. We used to do this by exporting the ePub to FileBrowser Or WebDAV App, to get it onto the school network and then print off a copy for the child’s folder (a process that frustrated me and others!) This was so overly complicated that it was an adult led task.

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Since the introduction/discovery of SeeSaw Lourning Journal (more here) we have handed the final step of the process over to the children too, they now create and export/file their work independently (I wonder if they’ll be able to mark their own work!?!)

The quality of the work the children are creating using this method is fantastic and I’m pretty sure they are making greater achievements compared to conventional maths book and pencil learning.

I feel I also need to mention the app, RNG (Random Number Generator) which has been used a lot in the last few months to give the children numbers to use in a variety of tasks!