December 2018 archive

Immersive Reader in Office 365

What is it?

During 2018 Microsoft brought out a few changes to both their online product, Office 365, and updated their installed version, MSOffice. Both now have a ‘Dictate’ function, that can operate in several different languages. They also introduced a ‘Read’ function, which, in the installed version is  a button on the toolbar.

However, the most exciting development was the introduction of the ‘Immersive Reader.’ This is available in both versions, however, I think it works best in the online product, so that’s the one I shall focus on here.

It is a tool to aid reading, and to analyse the make up of a text, through a number of easy to use functions. These include text to speech, changing the colour scheme, widening the space between letters, breaking the words into phonemes, and an on-screen ruler to isolate particular lines. There is also a function to highlight different parts of speech – nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs – to focus on them.

Who is it for?

It could be used by both teachers and students. When teaching from the board teachers can use it to make points about grammar, or to focus on spellings.

For pupils it offers ways to customize the text to make it easier to read, or to have it read to them, as well as helping them to make sense of it.

How do I use it?

Using it is fairly straight forward. Opening, or creating, a document in Office 365 puts the Immersive Reader option into the ribbon at the top of the screen. Clicking on this changes the appearance of the screen, taking away the usual toolbar and providing only the Immersive Reader tools, with a ‘Play’ button at the bottom of the screen, and the other options sitting at the side. Operation is simply a matter of clicking them on and off.

For instance, the Text Preferences button allows for enlarging the font, changing it to something that may be easier to read, increasing the spacing, and changing the colour scheme, to high contrast, perhaps, or to a blue background.

The Grammar Options are where you can highlight different elements of the text, and break it down into syllables, and the Reading Options provide the on-screen ruler, in three sizes. There is also an option to link to a Picture Dictionary (using Boardmaker PCS symbols) where hovering over a word brings up an image to illustrate it.

What else is there?

You can probably find a way to provide  all of these functions in other ways. For instance, there are free on-screen rulers that allow you to provide a line focus. Or you can download overlays to change the colour of a screen, and there are now a number of screen readers, several of them free, to use as add-ons in your browser – such as Googlevox.

You could also put a text on a white board and use coloured pens to pick out the  different elements of grammar. Or even load a document in MSWord then use the highlighter tool, in various colours, to provide the same sort of analysis.

What’s useful here, though, is that all these tools are available together,  in a very commonly used product. They are easy to find, simple to use, and serve a very useful purpose, either for accessing the text, or for understanding it better.

Person Centred Planning? What’s that?

Person Centred Planning? What’s that?

It’s a way of approaching planning and reviews that puts the learner at the centre of the process. The 2015 Code of Practice for SEND   talks of it focusing on, “the child or young person as an individual,” and of involving them and their parents in decision-making (Paragraphs 9:22 and 9:23). It is a more holistic approach to viewing pupils than simply focusing on academic achievements and learning needs.

Tower Hamlets has taken a lead on putting it into practice. A good overview and guidance for putting it into practice can be found here.

How can ICT help?

With person centred planning (PCP) putting children and young people at the centre of deliberations there are many ways that ICT can help.

The use of collaborative tools, such as Google Docs or Office365 can allow professionals and parents to share information prior to the meeting. A Google form could be used to ask for reviews and reports.

Another obvious way it can play a role in this process is in recording and evidence gathering. It has become common practice for staff to capture achievements through the use of photos and videos, including those taken outside of school and at home. An easy way to prepare these for use in a review is to create a Photo Album in PowerPoint. This is very straightforward. Start a new presentation, then choose Insert, and Photo Album. This will direct you to go to the folder where the images are. You select those you want, click ‘Done,’ and they will automatically be placed on one slide each. From there you, or better still the learner, can add captions or record a commentary.

Are there particular resources that will help?

A useful model for appreciating how far a learner could expect to be involved in the PCP process is the Ladder of Participation. This suggests eight levels of engagement.

The bottom rung is ‘Absent,’ where the learner isn’t in the meeting and their voice, their views and wishes, are not considered. Here technology might help the adults present to consider evidence from photos and videos and come to their own conclusions

Next up is ‘Informed,’ where the child or young person is told that a meeting is happening, and about the outcomes, but they are not asked to become involved.

A pupil may be ‘Considered’ when the adults take account of what they think their views are. The absence may be because they are unwilling or unable to participate, but the outcomes should be considered as available for amendment, should the child or young person decide to make their views known at some point. Here technology can help to share the outcomes and be a means for commenting on and changing them if need be.

The child or young person is ‘Represented’ when their views are shared with the meeting either by being quoted, or as a report on choices they have made. For some pupils with more challenging SEND this could be through the use of approaches such as Talking Mats, with its associated app, where questions are based on previous responses and become more granular as information is added. Alternatively a video, perhaps using iMovie on an iPad, or a PowerPoint presentation, could be used where the learner is reluctant to come into the room, so that even in their absence their  voice can be heard.

When they are ‘Consulted’ a child or young person is present at the meeting and is able to answer questions put to them, or they can respond to decisions being made. They might start the meeting with a film or presentation, giving others present a chance to find out more. If they are reluctant to participate in the meeting they might be able to join in through a video-link such as Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts.

As a ‘Participant’ in the meeting the learner asks their own questions of the adults present, and contribute to the decision-making. One useful resource for this could be the Rixwiki . This is a secure, online, space for them to post information, not just from school but  from any aspect of their lives, and share it with others. This can just be used as a presentational tool, and it provides a solid scaffold for that, but it also allows for others to contribute and for farther reaching information to be included than might not ordinarily be the case at a review.

When a child or young person becomes a ‘Partner’ they will be helping to set the agenda, to determine outcomes and targets, and even to take a lead on achieving them. Technology can be a useful resource for planning and structuring this participation.

Once they become a ‘Planner’ the learner is able to provide feedback to the adults involved with them on what works, and what doesn’t work, for them, and how  services could be improved. Here technology might help to present evidence, and be used to share information, and provide feedback.

Is there anything else?

Technology helps in many ways. It can;

  • Provide tools for gathering, and sharing, information. Gsuite, Office365, Rixwikis, Typeform, and even Surveymonkey can do this.
  • Give them a voice. For some this might be through a communication app, such as Clicker Communicate, Proloquo2go, GoTalk or The Grid. For others it could mean recording a video or working through a Talking Mats exercise.
  • Demonstrate their achievements and present a fuller picture of their lives. Whilst videos and photos will help here, putting them into a framework such as a Rixwiki will help to structure their thoughts.
  • Presenting their idea and views. Here PowerPoint can be very useful, but there are many apps that can be simple to use, even independently, such as Our Story, Story Creator, Clicker Books, Book Creator, and 2createastory.
  • Let’s others contribute. For instance, people who can’t attend, or fellow classmates, can record a video to share at the meeting.
  • Making information more accessible. Here Widgit’s Communicate InPrint, or Widgit Online can help, or something such as Commtap’s symboliser for PowerPoint. This is a toolbar that will help to add symbols to presentations.

Technology also makes it easier to see progress over time, and to reflect back on previous meetings, not just through the record of the meeting, but also by reviewing the evidence, the photos, videos, work and comments from last time to see what has changed.