November 2019 archive

Inclusive teaching with PowerPoint

Much maligned  – who hasn’t suffered ‘death by PowerPoint? – but a classroom perennial, PowerPoint can be a really useful tool, but, like with all tools, it works better in the hands of a trained user. It can be a really useful tool for inclusion.

Teachers use it extensively: at  registration, for instruction, to structure lessons and help keep the pace, to introduce  each new topic, as a prelude for a visit, to give out notices, and to create personalised resources. You might also use them as a framework for activities, scrolling through automatically on the interactive whiteboard to give the class an immediate reminder, a prompt, of what they have been asked to do.

So the  first thing to be sure of is that what you are creating is accessible. Here there are three main considerations: can all pupils see it; can they understand it; is it ‘Goldilocks Compliant’ – content that is not too little, nor too much, but just right.

There are a number of things you can do to help meet those criteria;

For instance;

  • Make it plain. Don’t bother with ‘designer’ colour schemes and lots of bells and whistles.
  • Use a high contrast design, maybe with a ‘cold’ colour for a background, and a ‘warm’ colour for the font. Yellow text on a dark blue slide, for instance.
  • Keep the background plain, without effects or logos or other clutter.
  • Use a Sans Serif font, such as Arial or Comic Sans, that is at least 30 point so it can be read from the back of the class.
  • Put the text towards the top of the slide so it can be read over other pupils’ heads.
  • Use no more than six bullet points on a slide, with no more than six words in each.
  • Write in note form, you don’t need to use full sentences to get content across.
  • Use images and graphics to connect the learning, particularly symbols.
  • Be wary of using gifs and animations that might distract attention. And don’t use transitions or animated text either.
  • The presentation provides the framework to scaffold the learning on, you, the teacher, – along with the other resources you use – provide the substance.

Put simply – keep it simple. Remember, the focus of teaching and learning in the room should be the teacher, not what’s on the board, however, it may be your principle means of instruction, so you need to get the most out of it.


Soundfields – improving focus and outcomes

One of the challenges  in many classrooms, particularly in older schools, is their acoustics. Every teacher has found themselves raising their voice, even to the point of straining it, to be heard above the general chatter and hubbub of the room, even when everyone is on task.

This may be because it is a big, airy, spacious room, with parquet floors and big windows, perhaps from Victorian or Edwardian times, or even from the post-war period, with concrete walls and linoleum on the floors. They are not, generally spaces, where the focus has been on  acoustic properties and the ability of the teacher to be heard without raising their voice.

The result is that teachers struggle to be heard, and pupils find it hard to make out what they are saying, even more so if they have a hearing impairment. A Soundfield might the answer.

What is it?

Essentially it is a classroom amplification system. The teacher wears a discrete microphone and anywhere  between one and six speakers ensures that their voice is subtly enhanced. Louder, yes, but also clearer. So everyone in the room distinctly hears what is being said. Handheld microphones can also be used, perhaps for pupil contributions and questions. And, with enough speakers, any space can be catered for, regardless of size, or additional distractions, such as extractor fans in design technology or science labs.

Who is it for?

Whilst pupils with hearing impairments will undoubtedly benefit from having a better quality version of what the teacher is saying – there are also add-ins that can connect directly to hearing aids – anyone in the room can find it helpful. It means not having to strain to hear clearly, which makes it easier to focus on what is needed to be heard, without extraneous sounds, and getting information clearly and accurately the first time – meaning less need to ask peers or staff what was said, or what needs to be done.

How do I use it?

At the most basic level you plug a speaker into a socket and put a microphone on, then adjust the volume to a comfortable level. For more complex installations speakers are hung on the walls at optimum intervals and peripherals added.

When learners hear clearly they understand better, and respond more quickly and accurately. Hence, outcomes improve.

What else is there?

It is possible to get classroom amplification very cheaply. Even an 8watt speaker hung on your belt, such as a tour guide might use on a walking tour of London, can make a significant difference, and can be had for as little as twenty pounds from Amazon.

You could also use a commercial amplification system. The difference with a Soundfield is in working to ensure even sound across the space, at volume levels that are not particularly loud.

There are a few companies providing Soundfield systems. For more information try these




Using Chromebooks for SEND.

Working in Tower Hamlets over the years, amongst other things, we have recommended software for PCs & laptops, apps for iPads & Android devices and more recently resources available for chrome books.

Chrome books are a budget friendly and portable computing option. They use Google Chrome operating system and are designed to be connected to the Internet. They’re an ideal choice if you use mainly browser-based apps.

Chrome books switch on quickly, automatically update and come in various sizes. Their versatility for SEND relies on useful and engaging web apps. Chromebooks have built-in accessibility options that can be adjusted to suit individual needs and have USB ports that allow a variety of assistive devices to be connected. Overall, the accessibility options are quite good, though there won’t be a solution for everybody. In addition to the built-in features of Chrome OS, the Chromebook can use Apps and Extensions to enhance access. Apps are individual, web-based programs and activities, while Extensions provide enhancements to Chrome OS working across a range of web pages and apps, in the same way that extensions add functionality to some other web browsers. Here is a guide to using Accessibility Options on chromebooks from

A lot of software that once had to be loaded onto networks is now available online. You can now  find Word shark online and the much-loved 2Simple software  you can now find on their online primary software suite PurpleMash.

All schools have got different systems for making devices available to children. Many schools no longer have ICT suites but use trolleys of devices that can be wheeled around to different classrooms. For ordinary curriculum purposes this is a great idea but some children (particularly those with SEND) need to have a device available to them for their exclusive use at any time.

Schools have got different systems in place for the devices made available to children with SEND. The system needs to be efficient and needs to consider the geography of the building, the whereabouts of the SEND students and keeping the devices charged and ready for use as needed. If you are using iPads and chromebooks it’s vital that your school has efficient Wi-Fi.

One of the disadvantages of a chrome book is that you cannot load special SEND software like Clicker 7 or Dragon “Naturally Speaking” onto it.  So if you have a particular need, you have to hope that there is a chromebook app or extension  that will provide for that need. As far as “speech to text” software goes (like the Dragon software) the problem is solved by Google incorporating Voice Typing as a tool on Google Docs. As far a Clicker is concerned Cricksoft have created Clicker apps for chrome books.

The Clicker apps for chrome book are the same as those for iPad however the pricing is different being. Clicker Apps for chromebook cost £30 for a years subscription for one app and then various degrees of pricing for site licenses. To find out more look at

Here is a list of Chromebook apps and extensions that can be used by learners with Dyslexia