As an Apple accredited trainer in schools, I spend a lot of time in classrooms, helping teachers find ways to use iPad, iPod touch and the Apple Mac range to support their teaching style, and one area where I always see a huge amount of progress is with SEND students.
OS X and iOS, the operating systems that power all of Apple’s devices, have built-in accessibility features that mean SEND students can use the same device as the rest of the class, and apps like Proloquo2Go are a great budget alternative to specialist equipment. Here we’re rounding up everything you need to know to get started using Apple technology, including recommended apps and advice from SEND schools who have already made the switch. Remember, if you have any questions, you can always get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333 or at learning@Jigsaw24.com.
Step one: Decide which Apple device is for you
We can provide, install and configure the entire Apple range, from iPad mini to the mighty Mac Pro. However, here’s a quick guide to the devices we think will be most at home in your classroom…
iPad With customisable controls (including switching everything to voice commands) and a host of creation and communication apps available, iPad is perfect for students who struggle to communicate, and by extension involve themselves fully in lessons.
iPod touch Portable, durable and perfect for recording evidence, iPod touch’s size makes it the ideal choice if you want something students and staff will find it easy to take with them everywhere.
MacBook Air If you want something that’s mobile but not a tablet, go for the extremely light and very fast MacBook Air, which uses an SSD rather than a HDD to ensure the fastest possible startup and load times. If you have a classroom iPad deployment, you can use a lock and charge case to sync them all with a teacher’s MacBook Air overnight, so students have all the resources they need pre-loaded each morning.
Mac mini If you’re stuck for space (or strapped for cash), the sandwich-sized Mac mini packs the power of a PC into a tiny box that’ll work with your existing keyboards and displays – this is excellent if you have a lot of modified displays or assistive devices that you want to keep using, but still want to update an ageing computer.
iMac Powerful and easy to use thanks to its ultra-simple OS X operating system, iMac’s all-in-one design means it takes up less space than a traditional desktop computer and leaves far fewer cables trailing in its wake. It’s also packed with assistive technologies that make rich content much more accessible and further support SEND students.
Step two: Level the playing field with built-in accessibility tools
You can buy plenty of assistive devices to help students interact with their iPad or Mac, but the beauty of Apple hardware is that it gives SEND students the chance to use exactly the same device as their peers, helping combat the stigma around SEND. All these devices come with audio, display and interaction options that allow a huge amount of customisation if you work with students who have mobility, hearing or visual impairments, but there are also some general accessibility features built in that we don’t want you to overlook!
Modified displays Invert colours, see images in greyscale, enlarge cursors so students can find things more easily or zoom in on whole pages or specific sections of a page. If you want students to focus on one task, you can even choose to view distraction-free, text only versions of web pages.
A range of audio and visual cues Use VoiceOver to read onscreen text to visually impaired students, alert hearing impaired students to messages using Screen Flash, and choose to hear stereo audio as mono.
Personalise interaction Attach assistive devices, customise mouse and keyboard controls, or even use voice commands – whatever makes it easiest for your students to access their Mac. Use a trackpad rather than a mouse, and you can even customise the gestures used to perform common actions in order to make them easier for students to use.
Guided Access can be used to lock students into the app that they’ll need for a lesson, and lets you control which features are available so that they can’t accidentally change any settings. And all you need to do to access it is triple click!
Assistive touch lets you create new gestures, change anything that’s controlled by a multi-finger gesture to a simpler single finger gesture and lets you represent physical switches like the home button on the main touch screen.
Dictation does what it says on the tin – lets students dictate notes and messages into their iPad rather than writing, and even access features using voice commands.
Step three: Get your staff on board and up to speed with Apple Professional Development
Apple Professional Development is, unsurprisingly, Continuing Professional Development that focuses on Apple devices like iPad or desktop Macs. APD sessions are often a great way to kick off your move to Mac or an iPad rollout as they give staff the chance to get hands-on with the devices, learn skills that are relevant to their subject area and practices using key apps, so they don’t have to worry about whether they’re doing something right once they get in front of students.
The ideal APD course for educators who want to explore iPad or Mac accessibility features and build learning experiences is Reaching All Learners. This day-long course covers how to support every type of learner, including those with visual, auditory, motor and learning disabilities. It also teaches how to use the built-in Apple tools to provide students full access to the curriculum, improve access and enhance learning for all learners.
If you’re only just getting started on a new technology plan, there are also vision and planning sessions available, where an Apple Distinguished Educator will help you find the right Apple kit to support your ICT vision and help you plan a rollout. Download the course catalogue below to see the full range, or have a read about our top five courses to get a taste of what’s available – and remember, you can always give the team a call for more info.
Step four: Try new approaches to learning with apps for education
App of the Week: Somantics for iPad and iPod touch
Somantics is a free collection of apps that are designed to make the most of the touch and gesture functionality of your iPod or iPad, as well as interactive features like the camera. Everything’s designed to help students with Autistic Spectrum conditions communicate, gain confidence and increase their self-awareness. Read more
Step six: Take a look at these top resources for ideas on how to adapt your teaching style
For Mac users
Essential read: Apple’s guide to assistive features If you have a ticklist of features you know your classroom tech needs, head over to Apple’s full rundown of the accessibility features in iOS and OS X devices. As well as nicely illustrating what each device could do, it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to get up to speed on the features of the Apple tech they’ve already got.
The Jigsaw24 blog – it may be blowing our own horn, but we’re proud of our blog. Head over for case studies, resources and tips on which technology is right for you.
For iOS devices
Essential read: An iPod for SEND primer Over in Illinois, Springfield Public Schools have been compiling a master list of all their best resources and recommendations, which they’ve kindly made public for SEND teachers everywhere. Here you’ll find top tips for using iPad and iPod touch alongside app recommendations and video tutorials, all broken down by the area of SEND where they’ll be most useful. Definitely worth a read!
Which are the best SEND apps for non-verbal students? We found this great article rounding up all the best apps for SEND staff who are thinking of incorporating iPod into their teaching, and we think it’s a must-read…
Apple’s official (and helpfully illustrated) guide to the accessibility features in iOS The full list, just in case you ever need a quick reference guide to what’s available for each student.
If you want to know more about deploying iPad, iPod or any of the Mac range in your classroom, you can reach our team on 03332 409 333 or at learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and how-tos, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.