There are a significant number of print-disabled learners in schools in Scotland who have specific support requirements. Traditional approaches to meeting these needs, including classroom assistants acting as reader scribes, although providing short-term support, do not necessarily promote a longer-term solution. Approaches involving the use of ICT can promote a level of independence in learning, even for those with very complex needs.
Provision of suitable software can be a concern for schools in relation to a number of issues, such as the ability to have the software, often licensed for school use only, available at home or in other settings which the learner might visit, and restrictions in adding software to managed IT systems, as well as the costs involved in providing the software.
Portable software pilot group
A group of schools, supported by Learning and Teaching Scotland, investigated using portable, open-source, freeware programs designed to meet the accessibility needs experienced by print-disabled children and young people. The software used was from the EduApps initiative, which was developed by the JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland North and East, and consists of eight useful software collections that are free to download and use, and cover a range of user requirements to support teaching and learning.
Within the suite of software collections, most of the schools chose to use the MyStudyBar, which is designed to support learners with literacy-related difficulties such as dyslexia.
The schools involved focused on evaluating:
- the impact on the children and young people in terms of overcoming barriers
- the effect on the confidence of the pupils involved
- the effect on pupils’ independence in terms of their learning
- the portable nature of the software
- the technical issues related to the inclusion of this software within the current IT systems present in their schools.
Each school approached the use of the software in different ways.
In the following pages, read what each school has to say about the process, and listen to the staff and pupils explain what the outcomes and impacts have been.