The coronavirus pandemic has made us all think about different ways of working with young people and Sense College Loughborough has had to be creative in developing the curriculum to fit in with the restrictions and challenges, as well as ensuring students at home were able to access the curriculum. The Karten Network funded technology has played a big role in making this happen.
The majority of students have continued to attend Sense College throughout the lockdown period and have accessed the curriculum in College.
Our Sensory Pathway students have been using iPads and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) equipment to communicate with their peers and with staff. The sensory tent has a range of equipment to stimulate or relax students. This includes technology that was purchased through the Karten Network grant, for example the projector, fibre optics and colour changing equipment, as well as bubble tubes and switches. Every Friday, students in College and at home attend a live Zoom drumming workshop, using the smartboard.
Students with sight loss have continued to use a range of appropriate technology from the Karten Network Sight Loss Hub to enable them to access the curriculum. All of the equipment that is available is out on loan with students who use it daily. Students are able to use video magnifiers, colour detectors, and scanner readers as well as other access technology to complete their tasks. The iPads and tablets have a range of apps that can also support students with sight loss.
Media students have found the Media Hub iPads funded by the Karten Network to be very useful for their learning. Students have been making stop motion films and designing a food truck. They have also been filming around College with a 360 camera mounted on a bike helmet in order to make a virtual tour film of the College for prospective parents and students. These students have been able to gain valuable transferable skills when completing their tasks, eg working as a team and good communication.
The Interns are writing a blog supported by College marketing staff, as part of a work placement. Students at home have been able to take part in blog team meetings and complete their tasks remotely. The Interns have also been writing a half termly newsletter and a professional newsletter for employers who work with us. These activities would not have been possible without the use of a range of technologies, and have been a key vehicle for learning important work focused skills. This is particularly important as the Interns have not been able to attend external work placements during lockdown.
Students have been able to join sessions via Teams so that they can take part in different sessions, tasks and activities, as well as see their peers. The work sent home has also been linked to different sessions so that students can also join in and carry out the same tasks as the students who are in College.
In the Team Work session students are working together to prepare for a Hidden Disabilities Awareness Day that they are organising. The students in College have been making sunflowers to decorate the College, as well as making sunflower badges, sending emails, making films and PowerPoint presentations about the Sunflower scheme. Students at home have joined in sessions to take part in or lead team meetings, as well as to chat with their friends. They have also been able to join in with the team to make sunflowers and films and PowerPoint presentations etc.
Media students have taken part in a food truck design project from home and have joined in with their peers in discussions and votes to choose their favourite food truck designs. The students used graphic tablets and iPads as well as pen and paper to make their designs. Some of the students have also made films at home about health and safety signs and other topics and been able to share their work with their peers.
Some staff have had to shield and work from home. Technology has had a huge impact in making sure staff can continue to teach. Staff have been able to deliver sessions from home to students who are in College as well as those who are working from home. The ICT tutor has had live Teams sessions, which has enabled her to remotely provide 1:1 support, resolve issues and give feedback to each student in the group. In the Sensory bubble students used Teams and a projector to connect the students with the teacher who was shielding. The iPad was placed on a tripod so that it was easily moved around. This meant that the member of staff could interact with the students, see their work, and provide instant feedback and support as needed.
As well as remote learning, tutors have used Teams and Zoom to carry out tutorials, discussions and attend Annual Review meetings. The Vocational Pathway students and Interns who are at home also meet with a tutor daily via Teams to make sure work is being completed, and to provide feedback on completed work, as well as to ensure that students are not feeling isolated during lockdown. Students have found this particularly helpful in terms of their mental health, as they also have opportunities to chat with each other and with staff during the daily meeting.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have been challenging, the College staff and students have risen to the challenge. This would not have been possible without the use of technology. The Karten Network funded equipment in the Sight Loss Hub and the Media Hub have proved to be invaluable in maintaining an at home curriculum for students who are not in College, as well as helping students in College to access a fun, varied and useful programme of study. The use of appropriate technology in College has increased and it is now just a normal part of everyday College life.
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