Skip to the content \ accessibility

Archive for the 'Education' Category

« Previous Entries

Free online learning course opens up accessibility to all

An online learning course on digital accessibility, designed by field experts from a computer science team, has been launched.

‘Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society’ is free and open for anyone to enrol on, and no previous accessibility knowledge is required. The course aims to teach learners how accessible digital technologies can aid people with a range of impairments, as well as explaining the universal benefits of inclusive design.

(more…)

Innovation and impact honoured at Tech4Good Awards

A digital audio navigation system and a portable asthma management device are two of the winners in this year’s Tech4Good Awards, which recognises projects and individuals that are using technology to improve lives.

People honoured at the event included an IT volunteer who helped to set up a charity by establishing its ICT systems, and digital inclusion expert and campaigner Robin Christopherson.

(more…)

Integrate accessibility into teaching practices, says field expert

Accessibility should be weaved into more educational curriculums and demonstrated in teaching, a specialist consultant told delegates at a recent conference.

Speaking at the ‘Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education Conference 2016’, David Sloan, a user experience engineer from accessibility agency The Paciello Group, said that accessibility needs to be integrated into the fabric of any curriculum featuring digital content creation, and can no longer be taught in isolation.

(more…)

Technology company wins award for ‘helping kids learn’ across the globe

A UK assistive technology company has been given a prestigious business award for exporting an e-learning software package for children with disabilities.

Inclusive Technology – which provides equipment for individuals with physical disabilities, sensory impairments or learning difficulties – received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its HelpKidzLearn product. HelpKidzLearn features games, activities and tools designed for young children with a range of specialist learning needs.

(more…)

‘Immersion box’ wins educational technology contest

A project to create interactive video and multi-sensory environments for people with learning disabilities has been awarded almost £80,000 in a competition to find the most innovative learning technologies.

Project Immersion, from technology and design company seeper, won the award in the ‘Learning technologies: design for impact’ competition organised by government agency Innovate UK with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Among its key elements is an ‘Immersion box’ that projects video onto walls. Learners can interact with the footage and control aspects of it using gestures or touch. Project Immersion aims to help those with learning disabilities increase their skills, work with others and adjust to new environments.

The competition, announced in 2014, sought proposals for innovative ways of using technology as an educational aid.

In total, 15 winning projects were chosen to receive funding. Other winners included SafeReads, a tool to help children aged 8-14 with dyslexia. Created by assistive technology company Dolphin Computer Access, it offers learners literacy advice and support and can be installed on a range of devices. Teachers and parents have access to an interactive web portal where best practice on using the SafeReads tool can be shared.

Low-cost eye gaze tech shortlisted for education award

A low-cost eye gaze computer controller for schoolchildren is among technologies shortlisted for the 2015 Bett Awards for educational ICT. The shortlist was announced this month by i2i Events, organisers of the annual London Bett conference, with the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

Inclusive EyeGaze Foundations combines myGaze eye tracker hardware from German firm Visual Interaction with Eye Gaze Attention & Looking software from accessible early learning software specialists Inclusive Technology. It is portable, and works with any Windows computer.

Students can learn to track, fix their gaze and interact with images on screen. The system also allows real-time recording of students’ progress, so teachers can review where they looked and for how long using line trace, video and heat maps.

Sandra Thistlethwaite, specialist speech and language therapist at Inclusive Technology, told E-Access Bulletin the system’s cost of just under £1,000 was less than a tenth of the average previous cost of similar technologies, opening up new possibilities for eye gaze ICT in schools.

“Traditionally, devices have cost more than £10,000 so they have not been in the reaches of most schools, and you had to go through individual funding streams”, Thistlethwaite said. “So we have been working hard to get units up at a reasonable price that can be afforded by a much wider range of schools and pupils.

“We had already identified those with a physical need for eye gaze but this is now giving us the insight into how we interact with and teach pupils with more profound and complex needs, where we are not sure about their cognitive skills, or what they can understand from what they see on screen.”

It is possible that as much as 10%-20% of the UK special school population could experience some benefit from using eye-gaze technology, she said. “I was talking to a special school in the North East this morning with 120 pupils which has 20 pupils now using eye gaze and possibly more in the pipeline.”

Plans for future developments include more sophisticated learning analytics, with systems that can help users through a learning progression and return more detailed data on their work to teachers and therapists, Thistlethwaite said.

The seven other finalists in the Bett Awards special educational needs category are the Clicker Books literacy app for primary school children, from Crick Software; ReadingWise English literacy software from IdeasWise; the Dynamo Profiler online dyscalculia assessor from JellyJames Publishing; Forbrain, an auditory feedback headset for speech improvement, from Sound For Life; Read&Write literacy support software from Texthelp; Predictable, a text-based augmentative communication app, from Therapy Box; and Exam Pen, a scanner and assistive reader to help students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia take exams independently, from WizCom Tech.

Winners will be announced in January 2015.

Practitioner heralds ‘new phase’ of digital learning for disabled children

New technologies such as tablet computers and techniques such as online data analysis are heralding a new age of customised learning assistance for young people who are severely disabled, a practitioner has told E-Access Bulletin.

“We’re entering into a really interesting phase where technology is starting to make massive changes in the way we teach and assess children with the most complex difficulties, allowing us to give them independence and access that we haven’t seen before”, said Sandra Thistlethwaite, specialist speech and language therapist at Oldham-based firm Inclusive Technology.

“For example, we have seen some extremely interesting results using eye gaze technologies with children with complex difficulties, and in using iPads and tablets that people now have as a mainstream device.

“With a good scientific grounding – the right content, structure and theory behind what people are doing with those devices – technology opens up massive potential for health, therapy and learning.”

Thistlethwaite was speaking after one of Inclusive’s software packages, ChooseIt! Maker 3, won the ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions category at last week’s 16th Bett Awards for education resources and companies.

The software allows teachers or parents to help students create and play personalised learning materials. It uses photographs and sounds – including those taken or recorded by the user – with symbols and text to build activities, helping learners who respond best to familiar sights and sounds including those with autism spectrum disorders, communication difficulties, language impairment, developmental disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, Aphasia and traumatic brain injury.

Desktop computers, tablets, touch screens, interactive classroom displays, switches and eye gaze devices can be used with the software, and materials created can be played online or downloaded to mobile, playable offline.

Because the system automatically records learners’ progression, and online activities can be shared between users, a new world of analysable data is being built up that could help not only to improve future products but to determine which interventions work for which children, for the good of all, Thistlethwaite said.

“We are looking at undertaking data analytics over a range of products. We are still at very early stages of looking at how teachers and children are using our software, and it will also give a chance to see how children are learning, what they are looking at, what access methods are used.

“Eventually we plan to have data research tools that would inform education, communication and health, as well as real feedback and real data to inform our practice and improve future products.”

The Bett awards are co-hosted by education suppliers’ association BESA with the organisers of education technology event Bett.

‘3D Search Engine’ Tested by Blind Tokyo Schoolchildren

A voice-activated machine combining web search engine technology with 3D printing is giving visually impaired school children in Tokyo the chance to experiment with what could be a glimpse into the future for the creation of live tactile teaching aids.

Called the ‘Hands On Search’, users speak the name of an object into the machine which then searches the internet for modelling data. The 3D printer then creates a miniature model of it, using materials such as plastic, carbon and metal. If the machine cannot find enough modelling data, a request for the data will be posted onto the Hands On Search public website.

(more…)

Personalisation Is Key To Draft E-Learning Standard

Public comment is being invited on a newly updated accessibility standard for students and learners, which focuses on personalising digital learning resources as a method of maximising accessibility for each learner.

The standard, Access for All version 3.0 (AfA v3.0), is produced by IMS Global Learning Consortium, a non-profit body whose members include more than 180 leading universities, educational organisations and technology companies worldwide. It aims to give a personalised experience for learners through use of a “common language” which describes a learner’s needs and preferences.
(more…)

New Resources Promote Inclusive e-Learning

Two free new learning resources have been released by JISC TechDis, a education advisory service on accessible and inclusive technology, to boost skills for learners with and without disabilities.

The first resource will help learners who use text-to-speech applications: two new voices for text-to-speech were commissioned from specialists CereProc available for free to learners and learning institutes.

The male and female voices – named “TechDis Jack” and “TechDis Jill” – are designed to be easy to understand, “youthful and modern”. TechDis Jill possesses a Northern English accent, which its creators believe is a first in text-to-speech.

According to the TechDis website, “all staff and learners over 16 in every publicly-funded learning provider in England should be eligible for the TechDis Voices, which can be downloaded after registering.

The second project to be launched was the JISC TechDis Toolbox, with information to help people use ICT and online technologies more effectively in employment.

This information is divided into five main categories: ‘using technology’, ‘planning and organisation’, ‘communicating’, ‘teamworking’, and ‘different needs?’ It includes guidance on how to carry out effective Google searches; and how to operate text-to-speech on some mobile devices.

The resources were launched at ND’12, the seventh national digital inclusion conference, held in London last month. In a launch video, Alistair McNaught of JISC TechDis said: “We spent eight years working with learning providers from the top down, helping to influence senior management teams, librarians, learning support staff, tutors, etc, and telling them about the kinds of tools and technology that could make a difference to their learners.

“But while that was fantastic in some areas, in many places it just wasn’t trickling down to the learner, so we decided to flip it over and work form the learner upwards. The whole point of the Toolbox is to take all the things you wish your tutor might have told you about but never did, and take that to learners directly.”

The work was funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

« Previous Entries