“Built for the things you do every day. And every way you experience them.” – Apple
Before reading any further, watch this short clip.
Technology is designed to make our lives easier, make tasks quicker and support independence. Who knew that I would get so used to asking Siri whether I need a coat today? Or asking it to play me ‘something I like’, or setting a kitchen timer without needing to clean my hands. These are all simple, frivolous things that have helped make my life easier by saving time or making repetitive tasks less onerous. This is an important part of how we utilise technology in education: making our lives easier, reducing workload, reducing photocopying and printing. But it can also make life easier for students who find aspects of school life difficult. It can help to level the playing field. Some things are simple – taking a photo of the board or zooming in on a PDF. Even something as simple as knowing that lesson resources are available online so that students can process information after the lesson and recap anything that may have been missed, can have a real impact. But others are more difficult or it is obvious that support is being given within the classroom.
Whilst researching and writing our successful Apple Distinguished School application, I looked in to how iPad has been supporting students within the SEN department. Some comments that came from this were:
“Rather than printing/photocopying enlarged papers/worksheets, teachers can simply provide them with an electronic PDF copy that they can zoom in on using their iPads. The additional value to this is that they can choose how much they zoom in, so they are not restricted to the enlarged paper copy.”
“Many of our students with visual/dyslexic difficulties make use of the colour filters to support them in reading worksheets. This allows them to select the most appropriate overlay for their preference.”
“Students that have dyslexic difficulties, dyspraxia, motor skill difficulties or illegible handwriting, have made use of the iPad in lessons when recording notes. This alleviates the need for them to handwrite longer answers and means they are able to re-read notes that they have taken.”
The power of technology to help those with complex barriers to learning and help students to become independent and not stand out amongst their peers is invaluable – and something which we should harness. The iPad has powerful assistive features built right into the device that can support students’ learning and most of the time, they aren’t complex to set up and work right out of the box.
The following suggestions are only scratching the surface of what is possible with the iPad and accessibility, but they are a great way to get started and can be invaluable in the classroom.
Below are 3 simple ideas you can do today in your classroom to not only make your life easier, but the lives of the students in your classroom as well. They can all be found in the Accessibility section of the Settings App on your device.
3 simple ways iPad cans support accessibility
Speech selection allows you to add the ability for your iPad to read highlighted text back to you; this can help support student comprehension. Once it is turned on, you simply highlight the text you want to be read and tap the ‘Speak Selection’ option. The voice and the speed can be adjusted as well as the ability to highlight the text as it is being read. This is not only useful for students with speech and language difficulties but can also be used for students to hear what they have written. This may highlight errors in their writing when they hear it read back to them.
This adds the option to overlay a colour to the whole screen of the iPad. The use of colour overlays is not new and is used to support students with visual stress. Most commonly, this can be seen through the use of coloured lenses in a pair of glasses or a coloured overlay placed over reading materials. The power of having this feature built into the iPad is that the hue, tint and saturation can be easily adjusted for each student. It can also be used across the entire device and not just at specific times. If you are not looking directly at the screen you cannot tell that there is anything different about the user experience but for the person using the device, it can have real impact.
This is a feature that allows the device to be used within a single App. This can remove distracting features of the device and limit visual stimulation as well as the ability to switch Apps and possibly become off task. It also means that menus don’t appear from erroneous taps and gestures to get in the way of what is on the screen. It can be a real support to students with autism, attention or other sensory challenges.
These simple features are a way to ensure that all members of the school community can feel fully included in activities that may otherwise be inaccessible or cause undue anxiety. Every one of our students has the technology in their hands to do this and we need to make the technology work for us.
- An excellent blog from fellow ADE Louis Perez is well worth a read.
- Find out more about the accessibility features built into iOS by visiting the Apple website here
Jonny Marrows, Digital Lead, Apple Distinguished Educator