“Technology is the tool to help achieve goals, it’s not the goal itself.”
(From C Sutherland workshop VIEW Conference 2019)
Recently, we have been considering the details of the proposed new Ofsted inspection framework, in particular, the Quality of Education and in this article, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how working in our two new Technology Hubs is enabling students to achieve their goals by looking at the:
When we applied for the Karten Network grant the intention was to develop an innovative way for the College to use technology, to enhance the curriculum and encourage all students to embrace technology in order to prepare them for as fulfilling an adult life as possible by maximising their independence. The use of technology was the tool for students to achieve their vocational and living goals and included skills to move into employment, voluntary work, mainstream education or active involvement in community activities. We wanted more students to use the equipment and technology in order to develop skills that they can take away to use in their lives outside college.
At RNIB College Loughborough we have now had our Media and Sight Loss Hubs up and running for 5 months, and we have been rather busy.
The equipment that was purchased for the Sight Loss Hub is out with students. In fact, the cabinet that holds the equipment is practically empty, which is positive.
The Enterprises have access to iPhones and iPads, and the Microsoft Seeing AI app is being used to help several students with sight loss read labels and prices, thereby making them more independent. One of the iPhones is currently being used by a Sports Massage student. He uses the Microsoft Seeing AI, as well as other accessibility features on the iPhone, as a note taker, to complete client forms and to remind him when his assignments are due. The Samsung Synapptic phones and tablets are being used by three students, on work placement to access telephone numbers and to help them in their studies.
Students and staff in the Sight Loss hub have been involved in 25 different projects where the technology was demonstrated and participants were able to try out the range of equipment or talk to students and staff about the access technology. These projects have ranged from designing accessible games to looking at the built environment for people with sight loss. We have helped to design make up, looked at tactile outdoor spaces, tested different textiles and worked with three local schools to help them design a VI friendly product for a competition run by a local business.
“Thank you for letting the students visit the RNIB yesterday they told me they had a really great time and the visit has really helped them focus their designs for the Viztech challenge.” (Quote from school visitors)
We have also delivered training a number of times to FE Colleges and to local businesses, including sharing knowledge and expertise with colleagues from another Karten Network member in Manchester. The Sight Loss Hub is currently working with a PhD student who is doing research on the use of technology for those with sight loss.
The most popular and useful piece of technology seems to be the Orcam and Microsoft Seeing AI – and it is good to be able to show both ends of the budget and compare the two.
In the Media Hub we are currently working on setting up YouTube reviews of equipment for people with sight loss. The films will demonstrate how to use different access technology and provide a review of the product. This group of students are independently working on this project called VI-Zards and hopefully these films will soon be available on YouTube. Our other projects include adverts for the Enterprises, a film explaining what steps the College has taken to be more environmentally and a film that shows the amount of sugar in different drinks. We are hoping to launch the film with a blind taste test of a popular soft drink. We are also working on our second podcast and have created our second half termly newsletter entitled Eye Opener.
The Media Hub has also been asked to create a film for Leicestershire Police on how the Emergency Services deal with people with Autism. We have made this film using simple drawings and will be showing the film at a meeting at Leicestershire Police HQ. This has been a very exciting project for us.
We recently had a University Film and Media student (Izzy) in for half a term work placement. Izzy worked with our students and created a RNIB College Promotional film that is currently playing in our Reception area. We have also had students from the local FE College in for work placement in the Media Hub.
“I did a 10-week placement with the RNIB College in Loughborough every Wednesday. I was involved in teaching, guiding and assisting the students with media work, including photography, filming, editing and script-writing. It was an enjoyable but intense task. I was working with two groups and we produced a promotional film for the College and I also assisted with a stop motion film.” (Quote from Izzy C)
Jacob (Kuba) M
Kuba has been our most prolific Sight Loss Hub technology user. Kuba is studying Animal Care and has sight loss. He currently uses the Orcam My Eye Reader, iLoview portable video magnifier and the Samsung tablet with Synapptic software. Kuba is part of the Media Hub team working on the VI-Zards VI technology reviews.
“Technology at RNIB College to help visually impaired people is amazing. It is very easy to use and helps me a lot, especially with reading. During my time at RNIB Loughborough I have had opportunities to use different types of equipment, for example the Orcam version 8. This has helped me access a lot of written materials I would otherwise not have been able to access. Also, the Orcam is very small, attaches to my glasses and is hands-free. I even used it at the National History Museum in London and it read the descriptions of the exhibits to me.
My other favourite piece of technology is Synapptic software on the College tablet. It is good because it transforms the tablet into a visually impaired friendly one, which enlarges all the icons and reads stuff out for you. It has helped me not only at RNIB but also at my other College.
Being at RNIB has given me some really good opportunities for learning Braille. I have learnt how to use a Perkins keyboard which is used to write in Braille.
I have really enjoyed trying these different things and they have really helped me.” (Jacob Kuba M)
Niah works on Reception in a large local company and uses the magnifier on the Synapptic mobile phone to assist her in making calls, booking flights and other administration duties. Niah is planning to move on to our Supported Internship Programme next year to work in the same work place as she has done so well.
“Some of the numbers in the Reception staff extension booklet are a bit smaller but I use the phone magnifier to read the numbers so that I can make phone calls.” (Niah D)
Erin is in her second year and is studying Creative Arts in the local FE College. Erin was a reluctant technology user but she has started to use the Synapptic tablet. She now uses it to write notes, memos and email her family.
“When I started using the tablet I was a bit nervous. I like using it now and it makes me laugh. I write jokes on it on notepad, I take photographs of different things – like I made jam coconut buns and took photos of them. I email my mum and auntie. At the end, once I’ve learned it I find it easy.” (Erin R)
Laura has worked in the Media Hub since the start of the year. She has progressed from film crew and has now been the Director for our Internet Safety Film and some of the adverts. She will also be Directing the VI-zards films. Laura has been very pro-active when working on the different films and has led a small group of students when filming, telling them what to do and completing shot lists. Laura has gained a lot of confidence to take a lead role in the session.
“I like working on the films and being the Director. I am good at telling the others what to do and I like going out and making the films. I did the Internet Safety film – I was the director and used the iPad to film. I also was acting in the film. The films we have made are good.” (Laura S)
The overall impact of the Karten Network grant at RNIB College Loughborough has been substantial.
“We are delighted with the impact the Media and Sight Loss Hubs have made in such a short time. Our students are really enjoying using the equipment and we can already see the difference it is making to their lives.” (June Murray, Principal)
RNIB College Loughborough
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