Saturday, 4 July 2015

Digital Competency for SEN- initial thoughts.

Digital Competency in SEN. 

In our last Digital Leaders meeting we looked at Digital Competency.  

This post gives some initial thoughts on what 'Digital Competency', as outlined in the Donaldson Report, would look like for pupils with SEN.  The Donaldson Report proposes a big shake up and redefinition of what the curriculum will look like in Wales and Digital Competency is put on the same level as Literacy and Numeracy as a cross-curricular skill.

'Digital competence plays an increasingly powerful role in the lives of children and young people, for communication, networking, information, leisure and entertainment as well as for an increasing range of transactions and educational applications.

As recommended by the ICT Steering Group, the competences ‘should not primarily be predicated on rapidly changing technologies, but should focus on pedagogy, deeper skill development, transferability, and understanding, as well as potential application of these competencies’. All teachers and other staff should have responsibility to support the development of digital competences, and the skills and knowledge to do this.'

So a cluster of SEN schools in south Wales are looking at what extra considerations we need to make for our pupils- the (mainstream) 'Routes to Learning Digital Competence' framework is going to be available nationally from September 2016.  The Welsh Government has had it's initial 'Blue Sky' meeting on the 21st September, and these are only my initial opening thoughts. 

(P- level is a pre- National Curriculum level that we widely use in the SEN sector and I only use the three categories as a general way of defining the principle level and need of the pupil.)

P1 to P4 level- Profound and Multiple Learning disabilities (PMLD).

I don't feel there is a need to redefine a 'digital competence progression framework' for pupils on the Routes for Learning stage.  Routes for Learning is an established and competent progression framework that allows for inclusion of 'digital competency' elements for pupils working at this level.  Existing technologies can be used as a means for pupils to achieve the majority of RfL steps.  

Particular ones would include:

At the 1-14 stage digital resources can be fundamental as the source of the stimulus (e.g. sensory equipment, music, digital content on PC's, large screens or tablets.)

Aided exploration of the environment (16)
Random activities cause and effect (19)
Action on reactive environment (21)
Contingency Responding (23) 
Contingency Awareness (26) 
Does two different actions in sequence to get reward (35)
Selects from two or more items (36)
Initiates actions to achieve desired result (exerting autonomy in a variety of contexts (43)

Given the limited physical abilities of the majority of pupils on the RfL these steps often require digital resources in the form of assistive technology for pupils to achieve them.

Examples would include switch work, touch screen work, eye gaze access and other gesture based technologies such as Soundbeam.

There are further well researched 'progression framework' documents for the main technologies here- namely the Switch Progression Roadmap. the SEN Switcher Skills Progression document (a derivative of the progression road map. and the Eyegaze Progression Protocol. 

Proficiency in providing these technologies to pupils should already be at the core of good school provision.  

Possible Recommendations
Updated examples on how modern technology can support RfL development - new examples of good practice.
Training on this technology e.g. switch and eye gaze progression, tablet use etc for teachers and support staff- existing best practice needs to become the norm and support change from reliance on others (passive) to independent actions (active). 

P4-P8 Severe Learning Disabilities (SLD)

The Assistive Technology (AT) element is a large focus here- as switch work and eye gaze work for instance can be used by pupils at any educational level so those progression frameworks are still valid  e.g. switch work and eye gaze.  Environmental controls also forms part of this. 

Widening what pupils have access to is important- including accessing online content, making intentional choices of digital resources, using technology to control things around them and operating a wider variety of digital devices- e.g. camera's. 

Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices should also be a focus for pupils with communication difficulties to enable them to communicate, make choices and access digital content. e.g. using communication grids to access websites,  using specialist literacy resources e.g. Clicker 6 to create content, contribute to social media and express simple ideas through technology.  Controlling devices to make digital content, simple sequencing, choosing appropriate technology for a task, finding and assessing information, coding elements are also emerging aspects. 

Increased independence from P5 onwards means digital safety also begins and would be included in focused PSHE/ social skills based lessons according to ability.  The contents of this need not be any different to mainstream approaches although ASD specific content would help. 

This in the upper P8 levels will dovetail into mainstream frameworks for digital competency- pupils will begin to make their own online searches, assess content, share digital content, use a range of devices for a range of purposes, creating instructions and beginning simple programming tasks. 

Specific Progression Framework details:

A Digital Competency Progression Framework for SEN could take the format and principles of the 'Prerequisite skills in Using ICT across the Curriculum' document from the NI Curriculum

This seems to cover P1-P8 and could be a good way to give examples of delivery, content and meaning. 

Possible Recommendations:
AT and AAC a focus for pupils and placed on the same level as literacy and numeracy in schools. 
ASD specialist approaches to digital safety. 
Age appropriate adaptations of existing digital safety material aimed at young children. 
A Digital Competency Progression Framework for SEN- possible using same format as mainstream one but probably at a pre- Foundation Phase level or incorporating more age appropriate activities assisted by AT and AAC. 
'Peaks' or 'spikes' in ability need to be provided for here, e.g. some of our population have abilities with using digital technology that are often far greater than other social and communication skills. 

P8+ Moderate Learning Disabilities (MLD)

This level- National Curriculum Level 1 onwards should be served by mainstream frameworks for digital competency.

Accessibility is the keyword here-  a focus on adapting digital resources and technologies to make them accessible is a focus for this group.  e.g. VI/HI considerations, AAC working at all levels, accessible websites, e.g. YouTube, creating cross platform content for social media- e.g. blogging and Twitter. 

General Considerations: 

The focus of 'Digital Competency' is to assist all pupils to develop their communication, independence and their ability to interact with the world around them.  The end goal for the SEN sector is the same as mainstream pupils but the journey may be different and require consistent, specialist and imaginative approaches from teachers, parents and school staff.  

Current (and possibly underfunded and under-rated approaches) such as SLT, AAC and AT services need to be expanded and funded appropriately.  

The role of the traditional ICT co-ordinator. as a subject co-ordinator akin to DT or Geography, needs to be elevated to the same level of Literacy/Numeracy co-ordinator in all schools and the role defined according to the Digital Competencies model.   

Another focus is on use of digital competency skills in all situations- more than mainstream these technologies need to be able to be used at home and in the community too. 

Best practice needs to be widely shared and used as a model to show what can be achieved with all pupils regardless of their ability- individual pupil progression and access to resources and equipment need to be monitored in all schools to make sure that all potential is being realised. 

and that's it for now..... I will have missed large and important things I know- please help with thoughts and comments!

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