Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference – Day 2 Summary

Day Two of the conference and can I just say it is the best little conference I have been to in AGES! Although I was corrected on that earlier by Angie Hibberd who did remind me it isn’t that little!
At some random point this morning today (unofficially) became Slipper Day. Yes, you heard right. Slipper Day. Remember those slippers that I said were in the conference satchel? Harmony threw down a challenge for people to wear theirs today

I only saw her and Trina in them but rumour has it there were a couple of others floating about, yes including me.

The day proper started with a very entertaining  keynote presentation: What works? Assistive technologies + Literacy Strategies for learner success delivered by Jason Carroll. Now Jason went through four common categories of applications; Text-to-Speech, Study Supports, Word Prediction and Graphic Organisers. With each category he delved into the technologies that work, the facts surrounding the efficacy of the category and final offered up some strategies for implementation. For text-to-speech for instance he described how it increases comprehension, speed & endurance, attention and accuracy of text editing. Strategies for deployment include tape assisted reading, paired reading (which can be a person and a computer), and writing and revision processes. The key takeouts for me from Jason’s session was a repertoire of strategies can improve student performance, but the strategies need to be properly modelled with explicit instruction. My quote of the day also came from this session:

Make one change for one student and they could change the world.

Introducing Improv: The breakthrough AAC Framework was the next session up for me. I thought it was a good session, and I think the other 5 or 6 people that joined me thought so too, plenty of lollies in the room. Definitely the smallest turnout so far! Improv is aimed at users that are literate, it is all text-based as opposed to a lot of the graphical systems out there. It is also Windows-based, no iOS platform needed! On the surface it looks like a nice bit of code. There is a ‘quick chat’ menu that users can use to say hello, goodbye, positive responses and negative responses, all of which are customisable and randomization of responses is available. Different ‘stories’ as they call them can be opened based on time parameters. A story is simply a grouping of predefined sentences that relate to a particular topic. For instance, at 9am a new story for school may be available with school-related sentences pre-built and the appropriate vocabulary on stand by. Creating a new story appears really easy and it will automagically run off to Google to download articles relating to it to create a new vocabulary.

After lunch I really got into the ‘Taking AAC on iPad to the next level: Overview of the new Proloquo2Go Features‘ session. Its a product we are already trialling on four iPads in respite so I am reasonably familiar with it. David Niemeijer was presenting and he mentioned that the product stops the ‘therapyizing’ of people, in that instead of someone asking the individual if they want a particular thing it allows the individual to express what they want, when they want it. I would take it a step further and suggest that it allows the individual the same freedom of expression as the next person, it enables them to have a voice of their own. The next release (which I am led to believe is a free upgrade) has a number of nifty enhancements including the ability to change the screen layouts, prioritising words and in the next release again multi-lingual support and the ability to record words in your own voice. The big new feature I am personally looking forward to is the ability to have profiles. In a respite setting there may be multiple users accessing the tool. It is going to be fantastic to be able to create custom profiles for them, so they have the words they want, not what someone else wants.

Free and easy?‘ was my last session of the day, and nothing against David Harraway the presenter, but I didn’t get anything out of it. For me it was all a little disjointed and haphazard, a bit like free software at times really. I am hoping for the sake of the others in the room that some little gems were discovered in it all, but for me it was a fizzler….

I was smart in my session selections and deliberately left a couple of slots free so I could get around all the exhibitors stands. Past conferencing experience has taught me that tea breaks and lunch breaks are THE worst time to visit them so I was pretty chuffed with myself as I sauntered around them. Saying that, I still have half of them to pester! I think tomorrow is going to be a very busy day!

One final note. For the past two days every session I have been to has had a person-centred approach towards people with disabilities, whether it be the way an app can be set-up for the individuals personal preferences or how different models and strategies are applied. This really shows a maturing of the disability sector as a whole across a number of different countries and I think we should all be applauded for this.

And with that, it is time to think about a nap before the conference dinner – where what happens at dinner stays at dinner!!

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