DART 2 (Disseminating Assistive Roles and Technology 2) is a JISC Advance funded project which aims to:
- improve assistive technology practice in the further education sector
- enable the replication of the innovative assistive technologist role
- produce assistive technology case studies for the sector
In addition to an initiative providing ‘deep support’ to help specific colleges develop a high quality assistive technology service, DART 2 is working with partners to provide free training events across the UK, including three events hosted by the College Development Network in Stirling, Scotland:
Assessment for Assistive Technology: 7th February 2013
Developing an Assistive Technology Role: 30th April 2013
Learning more about specific Assistive Technology: 12th June 2013
One of BRITE’s assistive technologists, and a regular contributer to the BRITE blog, Fil McIntyre, will be at the first event. While these events are free, booking is essential as places are limited (note that DART 2 events elsewhere in the UK have quickly become fully booked).
The way we use language and communicate significantly shapes how we engage with learning. Some students may experience difficulty understanding certain concepts, while others may use alternatives to speech.
If you support students who have communication difficulties, or you would just like to learn more, some new resources provide background information and examples of support strategies.
The Hello campaign marks 2011 as the national year of communication. Hello is a campaign to increase understanding of how important it is for young people to develop good communication skills.
A number of resources have been made available on the Hello website. While the focus is often on children, many of the resources have relevance to those working with school leavers.
Use of eye-gaze technology has increased over the last few years. It is a way for individuals with little or no physical movement to control a computer screen by moving their eyes.
Fil McIntyre, one of BRITE’s Assistive Technologists, recently attended an event entitled Eye-Gaze Technology: From the Ground Up.
Run by Tobii and hosted by KeyComm, the event was a chance to catch up on recent developments in this rapidly changing area of technology, while also revisiting some basics.
The focus for the day was about working towards a method of introducing users to eye-gaze which is both motivational and developmental. Until recently the dominant model of usage had been an on-screen grid which was used for communication (via electronic voice output) or control (e.g. on screen keyboard, mobile texts).
While BRITE is a Scottish initiative, the success of our virtual training which takes place entirely online, has enabled participants from further afield to join us.
At the moment, many of our online trainees are based in Northern Ireland. With this in mind, we’ll endeavour to include news of events relevant to all our trainees as our readership expands.
On June 21st 2011 the Communication Matters Road Show will visit Belfast. These days are free to attend, but you do need to register in advance.
The focus of the day is on the latest technology for people with complex needs who may require specialist technology to communicate and/or to access a computer by alternative means.
This full and informative day was held at Stirling Management Centre on 9th November. Eyegaze technology has been growing in usage and availability in the last few years. It enables users with very little movement to have meaningful access to communication and computer technology.
Dr. Mick Donegan who has been involved in research in this area for over six years summed up how far the technology had moved forward and gave several examples of users who had benefitted. Other practitioners including Janet Scott from SCTCI in Glasgow gave key advice on how, why and when to consider eye gaze technology for individuals.
There will be a chance to find out more about this exciting area and to try some eye gaze systems at a BRITE seminar entitled Computer Access for Students with Profound and Complex Needs which takes place in March 2011. To book onto the seminar click here or ring 0131 535 4756.
A Study Day to be held on Tuesday 9th November 2010 will explore issues surrounding eye gaze within both low tech and high tech communication systems and will help to raise awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of such systems.
Eye Gaze or Eye Pointing has long been used to enable individuals with little movement to communicate. In the last few years there has been a massive growth in the availability of high tech systems which allow users to control a computer or communication aid using only their eyes.
- Dr Mick Donegan from the University of East London and previously coordinator of the User Requirements element of the COGAIN project, which led research into the use of eye gaze technology by people with disabilities
- Janet Scott, SCTCI, will present a number of short case studies providing a glimpse of some of the people who have worked with SCTCI to use eye gaze as their means of access to communication.
- Claire Latham, formerly from the ACE Centre in Oxford will describe their Look2Talk project on learning to communicate by eye pointing to low tech systems.
The day is being run by Augmentative Communication In Practice: Scotland. Full details of the day and how to register can be found on their site www.acipscotland.org.uk
Communication Matters is a UK-wide organisation of members concerned with the augmentative and alternative (AAC) needs of people with complex communication needs.
The Communication Matters Road Show is a FREE event, which presents a valuable opportunity to learn about communication aid technology. A number of the UK’s leading suppliers of adaptive devices, voice output communication aids and signing systems will demonstrate and provide ‘mini-master classes’ on their latest products and services. There will be opportunities for questions and hands-on trials of systems, and lots of valuable handouts and literature to pick up.
AAC encompasses a range of strategies used by people who cannot speak, or who have speech that is difficult for others to understand. Some forthcoming staff development events will focus on techniques and issues.
Staying on TrAACk on 26th October, is a one-day event at St John’s Hospital in Livingston. Appropriate for people with some experience, or a particular interest, in working with AAC users, the day will look at a range of topics, including: facilitating and reviewing transitions; AAC in a community adult service; and literacy and AAC. With lots of opportunities for questions and networking, the cost to attend is £20. For more details and to book a place, contact Jane Donnelly at FAACT on 08451 555555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Using Digital Images for Communication will be hosted at KeyComm in Edinburgh on the afternoon of 9th November. This course focuses upon using digital images to support communication. Looking at how to use images within PowerPoint, Word and Boardmaker, a small part of the course will also look at using digital images within specific communication aids. Please book online using the booking form in the downloads area at www.keycommaac.ik.org.
You might remember I flagged up this event a few weeks ago on the blog. Sorry for not posting feedback sooner, however I’m pleased to say that the study day definitely lived up to, and exceeded, expectations! The visiting speaker, Caroline Musslewhite, was full of enthusiasm for her subject, which made for an inspiring and packed day. The focus of the study day was developing emergent literacy skills, particularly with learners who use AAC – i.e. people who use augmentative and alternative communication techniques such as symbols, right through to high tech voice output communication aids.
While part of the day focussed on developing literacy in young children with complex communication needs, this section was nonetheless fascinating to me as someone working in further education, as it provided context and important background information. Useful tips were shared on good practice when choosing texts and using symbols in the classroom.
Caroline moved on to look at emergent literacy in adults and emphasised the importance of enabling learners to freely express themselves to generate ideas for topics they’d like to write about. I’m used to demonstrating software which supports students at the beginning stages of writing to construct sentences – great for exposing learners to correct words and patterns which they can learn and gain confidence from. However, Caroline also demonstrated the importance of also providing lots of opportunities for free expression and shared some great ideas for engaging literacy activities. At the end of this post, I’ve included links to some online resources that were flagged up.
If you are able to come along to next week’s BRITE seminar looking at alternative ways to access computers, one of the developments you’re likely to find most exciting is that of controlling a computer using only eye movements. (NB a few places are still available on this FREE seminar, click here for booking details.)
The technology has been around for a while now, but has typically been prohibitively expensive for many users and used primarily in research settings. However, while eye controlled devices are by no means cheap – ranging from around £4000 to around £12,000 – the cost has come down at such a rate to suggest that this is becoming a more available option for those who need it. It is a highly specialised area of technology, but one which could be of great use to students who have very limited movement and difficulty speaking. Careful assessment of a student’s needs, together with expert input is of course essential.
We’re excited about getting the opportunity to find out about and try the ERICA (Eye-gaze Response Interface Computer Aid) next week, as Andy from PRI Liberator will be bringing it along for the BRITE seminar. This is an innovative device which I’ve seen at various exhibitions but not previously had a chance to try, so I plan to be first in line to have a shot!