Monday, July 30, 2007

Clicker 5

A few weeks ago I attended the Redbridge ICT and SEN exhibition @ the teachers centre. The event was super-organised by Garry Gayle and Claire Warner who together make up SERC or Special Educational Resource Service for Redbridge. In the words of one parent both these people `should be cloned` because they are extremely knowledgeable about ICT software for SEN children. I once spent the morning with Garry @ Newbridge school, just listening to him click through tried and tested software he was using with children in a special school environment, many of these applications were also being used by SEN children in mainstream. And I guess it is my passion to see this expertise shared and it is why Garry has (and will be again) attending our subject leaders events.

It seems to be that programs like Writing with Symbols, Lexia and (the age old favourite, but downright effective) Clicker can (and should) be utilised by children of all abilities in mainstream schools.Certainly where children have English as an additional language, a resource that utilises symbols or meaningful pictures may prove an accessible tool for composition or an effective means of curriculum engagement.

While at the exhibition, I met up with Neil form Crick soft again and he showed me the new Clicker Phonics which looked very impressive. having spent days searching for appropriate Phonics software for our recent Keys to learning courses, I wish I had seen this package back then. I also bought a home version of Clicker 5 to try with Dylan and some of his classmate visitors. I had previously worked with Clicker writer in my class, combining it with the symbols from writing with symbols to help children with limited English to become independent writers. the results were exciting and it meant that I often struggled to keep up with the output that the children produced. By having an on-screen word bank that utilised picture cues and the motivational effect of a laptop turned writing into something that these children looked forward too. The downside was that I wanted the practise to go beyond my class and that meant training- which I didn`t accomplish as well as I'd like! However having seen this tool work I will push on. It was good to see Coordinators converted to Clicker @ a subject leaders evnt earlier this year and I know one school who is now using it and using it well!

As I said I had used the software in it's Writer application, however I have begun to experiment with the book making application and been amazed at the ease of book creation!. Su (my wife) and I had been looking at using Powerpoint to make ebooks to help Dylan and these had been successful, yet Powerpoint can be a little fiddly for the newbie (Su not me!!!) and so we were thrilled at how quick and easy it was to drop pictures into the frames and add text that would later be spoken in a non-robotic voice in our new Clicker grids. Obviously as children move up the school they would be creating their own ebooks, in fact I know one of our leading teachers does this regularly with her year 2 kids without thinking boasting or blogging about it. The children just find the tool an easy one for writing stories. I'd like to see teachers using the software to tell stories or recount events such as school trips.

My task this holiday is to properly explore Clicker Paint and integrate it with Clicker. My task next term is to see Clicker come out of some of the cupboards in schools and onto the screens. There are on or two dissenting voices who complain that the word banks mean children are not encouraged to have a go at spellings. I think this is a shame as for some children a visual on-screen word card that is enhanced with images will work as a scaffold for writing, helping them to write without fear or the need to build up difficult words key by key. Using Clicker does not mean that children have to have all words on screen, they can be limited to a list of adjectives, technical terms or just the word that a child would not be able to cope with.

Anyway below are a few screenshots of the Colchester ZOO book we made for Dylan and Leo (3) who is also loving 'reading' and listening to the books.

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