Using iPads with SEN Learners

August 22, 2012

From April this year my main responsibility in the new eLearning Team for Sheffield City Council has been working with the Special Schools in Sheffield. We have 7 Special Schools signed up to our service for 2012-2013, which is great news. Across these schools, there has been a lot of interest in the use of touchscreen tablets with SEN learners, as they are very accessible and have a number of uses – for example as communication aids or tools for independent exploration of cause and effect. So far we have been concentrating on the iPad, as there are many excellent (and free) apps available. In future I hope to trial some LearnPads too, which use Android as their operating system, and are more affordable.

During the summer holidays I’ve been working on two documents for our schools, as it seems that iPads are often used without much structure and purpose. The first document maps iPad apps to P Levels in ICT, so for example at P1 a student may show a simple reflex response to a music app like Magic Piano when played loudly next to them. At P4 a student can use ChoiceBoard Creator to indicate a preference, whereas at P8 they may be able to use Pic Collage to create a collage of their images with some text to present information.

The second document looks at Motor Skill Development using iPad Apps. These range from gross targeting using Pocket Pond to letter formation in ABC Phonics Animal Writing, to complex pinch and rotate gestures with multiple digits to create patterns in Somantics.

Both documents are very much works in progress, and I’m looking forwards to working with teachers and students to see how they can aid learning and development.


Seven Hills World War II Project

May 16, 2012

The Blitz

I worked with four different phase two classes from Seven Hills School before Easter to help them bring alive their topic on World War II. Each class chose a different aspect of the war and wrote a script for a short film. We filmed using the green screen, both at the CLC and in school, and added voiceovers, backgrounds and music. The finished films were:

  • 2BT – Evacuation
  • 2SM – The Blitz: with information on  the different types of shelters.
  • 2DS – D Day: including poems written by the pupils.
  • 2JL – Rationing: with dishes cooked by the students based on wartime recipes.

Using the green screen was a great way to put the students into an era very different to their own, and helped them to understand how life was for young people at the time.


Done Up Like Tommy Ward’s Elephant

May 2, 2012

A year 7/8 class from Talbot Specialist School bought a Sheffield legend to life this term through animation and artwork. Lizzie the elephant was used by T W Ward and Co scrap metal dealers during the First World War, to replace horses that were conscripted by the military. The Talbot class brought to life a number of stories about Lizzie, using stop-motion animation.

The students worked really hard on the film, recording the voice-over, writing the titles, drawing the backgrounds and models, animating the stories, and finally editing the film. We were also very lucky to find the perfect soundtrack, a song called “Lizzie Wards Elephant” by a songwriter called Steve Birks (you can see his MySpace page here). He very kindly gave permission for the song to be used in the film.

For more information about Lizzie’s story, see the Sheffield Jungle  page on the University website.

Lizzie the Elephant


Traditional Japanese Stories Brought to Life by Bradway Y6s

June 30, 2011

Two year 6 classes from Bradway School spent a full day each at the CLC to animate the traditional Japanese stories they had been learning about in class. The students had also being studying Manga comics, and each group created some fantastic 2D characters, props and sets for the animations. They were the most ambitious characters I’ve seen at the CLC, with a huge number of moving parts, with different eyes, mouths and profiles. I was very impressed with how the students managed to keep track of all the bits and use them to full effect in their films.

Once again the difficulties of animating enough action to match the scripts came to the fore. The problem partially lies in recording the voice-over separately, rather than straight onto the animation, but this isn’t really practical. However I think that any problems like this teach the pupils a lot, and they hopefully will be very aware of the issue for future animations.

Here are some of my favourites from the sessions (I just love the Windy Bride story!):


Y1 Animations from St Thomas of Canterbury

June 30, 2011

The year 1 class from St Thomas of Canterbury attended the CLC in two halves this past couple of weeks in order to animate the stories they had been learning in lessons. The first half animated The Gruffalo, each group taking one or scenes to work on. These were all put together at the end with the voiceover recorded in class. We used the software Zu3D, as it is very easy to use and primary friendly, with the ability to add titles and audio to the animation without having to export it into another application. The pupils worked really hard to get the animations completed in a morning, although we had the common problem of struggling to have enough action to fit the voice-over. This is where one of the Zu3D features is particularly useful – the frame rate slider means you can quickly reduce the number of frames per second, in order to slow the film down.

The second half of the class animated a Funny Bones story which you can see below.


OMi-Vista use with Norfolk Park School

May 13, 2011

A class from Norfolk Park School visited the CLC over the last two weeks to use the OMi Vista interactive floor projector. The class members have a range of Special Educational Needs, and they really enjoyed the time on the mat.

Their teacher, Laura Cryer, talked about the benefits for the pupils of “learning that their actions cause a reaction on the mat”, and having “a safe environment to play with water, a media that they are wary of normally.” The water activities were particularly good for one child who could use his whole body to interact with the projection, by jumping into the pond to make ripples. She also explained that “experiencing pictures of objects in different environments helps to extend and reinforce their language”.

If you want to book your class in to use the OMi Vista, please call us on (0114) 2587728.


Totley Primary’s Eggcellent Animation Day

April 1, 2011

The Totley Primary Year 5s had a smashing time at the CLC yesterday, creating some eggcellent animations using painted hard-boiled eggs. Each group had written a story and built a set in a cardboard box for their egg characters. Unfortunately they only had a morning to complete their films, but they worked really hard and I was amazed at how much they got done – the finished films had titles and sound added, as you can see below. The biggest problem was getting the eggs to stand up, but they did make excellent characters for squishing.