Background

For the 2019/20 academic year, the DfE reported that 3.3% of all pupils in schools in England have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and an additional 12.1% of all pupils have SEND support. We must consider how inclusive our practice and delivery is for this 15.4% of our schools population.

Evidence

The EEF Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools Guidance Report presents five recommendations for schools seeking to improve their provision for pupils with SEND.  One of these is to ‘ensure all pupils have access to high quality teaching’.  It is without doubt that as highly trained teachers we possess the necessary tools to impact high levels of learning in the classroom and these can be easily adapted to ensure we cater for those with SEND.  One of the strategies recommended by the EEF in this ‘high quality teaching’ guidance is the use of technology.

Barriers

I have found both huge benefits of using technology with SEND pupils but it is also important to reflect and be aware of the potential setbacks.  Reflecting on our school’s practice with Maria Staples, a Teaching Assistant at our school, we were able to identify the main barriers that we feel teachers may experience when looking to improve their provision.  

  • Teacher assumptions – there is a danger that we presume the pupils will know our digital expectations and can access resources easily.
  • Organisation – the use of google drive is fantastic, however, documents can be easily misplaced or forgotten about in a sea of online documents and resources.
  • Digital poverty – issues with damaged and/or forgotten devices, lack of wifi at home, limited parental support due to lack of knowledge/training themselves.
  • Self-esteem & confidence – feeling self-conscious about using differentiated learning tools (although we have found this does not happen often), others in the class accessing online resources/tools more easily. 
  • Digital fatigue – some pupils study multiple vocational qualifications which require extended periods of time writing coursework on devices/computers, alongside mobile phone use outside of the school day, some pupils may be more likely to go off task or be tempted to access other applications (emails, other subjects google classroom notices etc.).

Recommendations

First and foremost it is crucial that technology use in the classroom is carefully and appropriately planned for.  If there are no relevant learning opportunities or necessary support in your lesson that will benefit directly from technology, do not use it!  However, when supporting our pupils with SEND there is a wealth of online learning resources which can be used to incorporate a fantastic blended learning approach in the classroom.  Below I outline a range of whole school and classroom specific strategies you may wish to consider.

Invest time in teaching and embedding digital literacy

BYOD may be embedded in the school policy but it is crucial that pupils are taught how to use their technology effectively.  As part of the Futures & Careers unit in our Personal Development curriculum, Year 7 are taught explicit digital and media literacy skills to enable them to be ‘work ready’.  Having specific lesson time allocated to developing these skills grows pupil confidence in using the schools digital platforms, for example, the Google Suite (email, google classroom, docs etc) and is crucial in setting digital expectations.  Alongside this, pupils with SEND should be given additional support, through 1-1 meetings or group sessions to check for digital skills understanding.  It is also worth investigating the parental support of the pupil and identifying whether the parents/carers are also aware of how to assist them when using their technology at home.  Spending time doing this at the start of the academic year will hugely benefit the pupil and save you time in the long run.

Ensure the organisation of materials is clear

If pupils use a device/laptop as their normal way of working and perhaps replace the traditional use of a book/folder, it is imperative that the organisation of all documents, lesson resources and classwork is a priority.  This sounds simple, and it is, however, pupils with SEND can really struggle with this and it can be overwhelming.  I have found that when I have spent time ensuring pupils are confident with how to add and download resources, uploading them to specific Google Drive folders, their work quality and time spent ‘finding that piece of work’ is reduced.  One of my Year 11 GCSE PE pupils uses a word processor in all lessons and at the start of the course I encouraged him to make a ‘PE theory’ folder (which was shared with me) with additional folders for each unit of the course (see image below).

Before every lesson I ensure that any worksheets, articles, tables/charts etc that I am using in the lesson are uploaded in the correct folder, quick for him to access and refer to.  Not only does this save me time in distributing material, but it also instills confidence in him that he has exactly the same access as the rest of the class.  As a tutor or member of support staff, if a pupil is struggling with online organisation, I would start here first.

Key things to consider:

  1. Do they have a specific folder for each subject? 
  2. Do they have subsequent folders for each topic for this subject?
  3. Encourage students to open ‘new docs’ in the folder they want to store the work – this saves having to move it into the correct folder at a later date. 

Digital housekeeping 

Just as you would with a set of exercise books, pupils must be held accountable for ensuring the quality of their online learning space.  I simply use an online folder check document in their google drive folder for pupils to access, I have the same expectations that pupils react to my feedback and check this has happened for the next folder check.  Checking pupils online note taking and responses is key to ensuring there is quality in their work.

 

Specific tools/apps to support SEND

It is worth experimenting and researching specific tools/apps that may support your learners, given their specific SEND.

Here are a few of the great tools we recommend:

  1. Google classroom/drive – the google suite is a fantastic resource for all SEND pupils.  There are many features that you can utilise when delivering lessons, for example: you can ask questions via the google classroom if pupils have limited speech or you marking work live with comments while they complete an assignment.
  2. Evernote – if your school does not use a whole school platform such as google or microsoft, Evernote is a great free app that makes it easy to organise coursework and assignments.
  3. Show my homework – a whole school tool for teachers to upload homework. A handy feature allows you to select particular pupils for a piece of homework and hence you can differentiate the tasks to suit their needs.
  4. Prizmo Go – a free app, available on IOS, that captures printed text from saved photographs or a device’s camera (any printed material from textbooks, worksheets, newspapers etc.) so that it can  process them and make them accessible to its built-in text reader.  Pupils can use this document to swipe across the text, select and export key sections, transcribe handwriting into text, read text aloud and translate from any language. 
  5. Quizz apps – there are a huge range of online quiz apps that are loved by pupils, look into apps such as: kahoot, quizizz, quizlet, formative, mentimeter, plickers, socrative etc.
  6. Talk for me – a paid app on IOS, this is specifically for those with speech communication difficulties and is a multipurpose communication tool that allows pupils to communicate their needs using images that they take with their iPod, iPhone or iPad.
  7. Omoguru Reader – a free reading tool for dyslexic pupils that improves their reading skills in an enjoyable way.  It changes the appearance of text and background to support the dyslexic reader.