This latest extract from #TheFeed is written by teacher Gerald Haigh, the piece focuses on a special school, with the majority of the students on the autism spectrum. The school has just updated the way technology is used in the classroom to enhance learning in ways like never before.
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#TheFeed – Special Report: The Fosse Way Document, by Gerald Haigh
Fosse Way School, a special school for 209 pupils, a majority on the autistic spectrum, in Radstock, near the City of Bath has just had a complete update of the way technology is used for learning.
In preparation for the change, Justin Philcox and Graeme Athey, respectively Principal and Assistant Principal of the school, engaged in a fundamental re-think of the place of technology in education in general, in special education in particular and, most immediately, in the context of their school’s needs and future plans. The detail of this preparatory thought and study, which probably goes further and deeper than is usual in schools considering changes to technology, is set out in a very full but highly readable think piece by the two authors.
It’s available in full here, fully argued and referenced, and we’ll return to its main points, but for the moment it’s worth starting at the other end and looking at some of the changes that have come about at Fosse Way.
The most radical of these has been the formation of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) by opening a new special school, The Mendip School, in Shepton Mallett. In order both to upgrade the IT infrastructure, and enable the schools to work together, Microsoft Gold Partner Joskos was engaged to provide a Cloud-based solution that worked across schools. As Philcox and Athey explain,
“We fully embraced the idea of working with Microsoft Office 365 recognising the opportunities it presented for both students and staff to work across different settings”
The school already had a post-16 Enterprise Centre, located in a nearby business park, and, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, equipped as an office rather than a classroom. As part of the technology upgrade it was decided to equip the students there with devices to support Office 365.
The Surface devices, together with easy access to Microsoft technologies such as Outlook, both supports learning and considerably enhances the school’s emphasis on employability and enterprise. OneNote has also become important.
‘Extensive use of OneNote allows for students to create journals to record their work. The staff have ensured that Class Note enables all students to be able to work independently on their tasks without adult direction all of the time. The constant ability to refer to work wherever they are, interacting in real time with other students and staff has revolutionised the way students work. This gives staff greater freedom and time to develop individual skills with students.’
The importance of that last point in the SEND environment cannot be overestimated.
“The constant ability to refer to work wherever they are, interacting in real time with other students and staff has revolutionised the way students work. This gives staff greater freedom and time to develop individual skills with students.”
Key points from the Fosse Way Paper
Educational technology can reduce the learner’s dependence on adult mentoring or direction; in some case redirecting it to the technology itself – provided that technology is adequate to the task and affordable.
This is particularly important in the case of children with SEND who, with appropriate technology, can be provided with a level of access to learning which increasingly closes the ‘gap’ which they encounter between themselves and mainstream learners. The paper sets lists examples of two ‘mind-sets’ .
‘The first mind-set assumes that the contemporary world is essentially the way it has been throughout the modern-industrial period, only now it is more technologized or, alternatively, technologized in a new and very sophisticated way. In addition, the second mind-set assumes that the contemporary world is different in important ways from the world we have known, and that the difference is growing. This is related to the development of new digital electronic internet worked technologies and new ways of doing things and new ways of being that are enabled by these technologies.’
“If it’s good for special needs, it’s good for everyone – remains as true as it ever was, and is given massive impetus by the arguments of these two deeply thoughtful school leaders.”
Traditional pedagogy is based on knowledge and instruction, and simply adding technology to it is to court failure. And yet simple technologies, known and used by children with smart phones, and listed in the Paper, ‘…bring about emancipation and equity among young people, regardless of disability.’
Importantly, this does not downgrade the role of the teacher, but demands that the teacher/student relationship be renegotiated.’
In my opinion, the paper from Fosse Way is well worth reading in full and discussing. The key message, for me, is that the authors, by necessarily bearing in mind the requirements of SEND learners, have done a huge favour for all learners.
Once again, an old rubric which I learned from an authority adviser long ago – ‘If it’s good for special needs, it’s good for everyone’ – remains as true as it ever was, and is given massive impetus by the arguments of these two deeply thoughtful school leaders.
Explore more from this issue of #TheFeed on Docs.com: