As we draw to the end of what has been a challenging and extraordinary year, CENMAC have taken a moment to reflect on some of our many highlights. Here is our month-by-month breakdown of just some of the exciting times the team have shared throughout 2020…
On the first day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … discussions at the Excel.
The annual BETT show at the Excel centre is always a technological treat for the CENMAC team. We attended lots of brilliant seminars and talks, and enjoyed catching up with all the amazing companies whose products we loan to students. Visiting teachers and lecturers from the Netherlands came to CENMAC for the day on their way to BETT and observed excellent practice of the use of technology in our base school, here at Charlton Park Academy.
At the BETT show, there were inspiring comments from Chris Skidmore (previous Minister for Science) about the importance of global collaboration to drive EdTech innovation in schools and universities. He ended his keynote speech (which you can view in full here) by saying “The future looks bright, then, both for the UK and the EdTech industry as a whole.”
Little did we know that in just a few weeks from then, the world would see sudden and drastic change with the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Excel exhibition centre would be repurposed as an emergency hospital.
On the second day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … the incredible Clicker 8.
Well ok, it wasn’t exactly CENMAC that brought Clicker 8 as that was done by the fantastic software team at Crick. However, CENMAC have been championing the update since we had a sneak peak of the changes in late 2019. We went ahead with a bulk purchase to allow us to upgrade our CENMAC students to Clicker 8. The new version includes the ability to create Cloze Procedure activities, better and more in-depth Analytical tools, instant Picture input, and a revamped and growing online library of ready-made resources.
CENMAC love Clicker 8 and so do our students … one Year 7 student recently reported that using it has “revolutionised the writing process for me”!
CENMAC love Clicker 8 and so do our students …
one Year 7 student recently reported that using it has
'revolutionised the writing process for me!'
On the third day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … the Communication Chat Group with Abdi Omar.
At the start of this year, a new project began with long-time CENMAC collaborator Abdi Omar. Abdi is an AAC user, motivational speaker and aspires to be the Disabled Ambassador for the United Nations. He joined several CENMAC staff, the Charlton Park Academy communication team and students for three chat sessions before lockdown. Students were keen to meet and interact with Abdi and staff listened with interest as he recounted his personal AAC journey. Abdi definitely has a talent for facilitation and held the students attention and enabled interaction skilfully through the sessions
We are now taking our chat group online as bubbles are stopping the mixing of students. You can also sign up to Abdi’s own AAC weekend sessions, if you are interested follow him on Twitter @abdiomar
On the fourth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … new CENMAC staff!
As the COVID-19 grip on the country tightened, CENMAC found that our phone lines and emails became busier and busier. New referrals, support for existing students, families and staff, and getting as much equipment delivered to those in need as possible kept us all occupied while we got used to working at home.
It was clear that our team needed to expand to keep up with demand and in March we welcomed our specialist TA Toby to the team, followed by another Advisory Teacher Wayne who started in April. Our new Administrator Amorel arrived in July, and a further Advisory Teacher David in September. It was a little strange meeting new colleagues via video calls, but we have all now met in real life, and it has been wonderful to be able to support each other and develop our capacity and strengths within the team.
On the fifth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … a celebration of collaboration.
The 14 May would have been CENMAC’s annual ‘Communication Works’ event. Sadly, like many other events we had been looking forward to, this had to be cancelled, but will hopefully make a big return next year.
CENMAC spent the day celebrating collaboration and sharing information from the exhibitors who should have been attending our event. It was to have been the first time we organised a joint North/South event, with two days of seminars, talks and workshops, one held here at CENMAC headquarters, and one in the north of England in conjunction with the Ace Centre and New Bridge Schools.
Despite not being able to hold our events as planned, it was a lovely chance to reflect on all our partnerships with various hardware and software companies, and to think ahead to how we can develop closer links and more joined up working.
On the sixth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … robots in the classroom.
As everyone grew accustomed to working and learning from home, the new normal, blended learning and synchronous and asynchronous learning, it was time for some cohorts of students to make a return to the classroom. Schools opened their doors to particular year groups for a short period before the summer holidays, to provide some kind of transitional experiences, especially for those leaving their primary schools and moving on to secondary.
However there remained a number of children who could not join their peers at this time, and CENMAC were able to support by making use of our stock of AV1 No Isolation robots. Students were able to send a small, friendly looking, table-top robot to school to relay live teaching and learning experiences back to an iPad at the student’s home. The robots can also be transported around the school by peers, allowing students at home to participate in other events such as assemblies and break or lunchtimes.
CENMAC were delighted to assist students in this way, who would otherwise have missed out on an important time in their education.
On the seventh day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … the CENMAC TA of the Month Award.
CENMAC meet so many awe-inspiring members of staff at so many schools, but with the introduction of our new CENMAC TA of the Month Award, we wanted to recognise the outstanding work and commitment shown by TAs supporting CENMAC students.
So far, we have had three TAs nominated by the CENMAC team, in acknowledgement and appreciation of the tireless work they do to ensure that technology is implemented and that students have all the support they need with using their CENMAC loaned equipment.
Remember that if you are a parent, SENCO, senior leader or other professional, you can also nominate the TAs that you know who support students with their CENMAC technology. We look forward to many more TA of the Month Awards in 2021.
'... we asked one of our learners, Khamani of the Oasis Academy,
to make a short video about his experience of lockdown.
We were blown away by Khamani’s work.'
On the eighth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … reflections on lockdown learning.
Khamani's video: vimeo.com
School closures this year have impacted on all students this year. Digital learning has become more important as ever, as young people have adapted to working from home and parents have had to take on teaching responsibilities. CENMAC has worked hard to ensure that our learners have had access to their devices at home. We’ve been very impressed by the resilience of our learners and their families.
As part of our submission for the BETT COVID Response Award, we asked one of our learners, Khamani of the Oasis Academy, to make a short video about his experience of lockdown. We were blown away by Khamani’s work. Unfortunately, The BETT Awards have been postponed. However, do look at his video here. We feel it showcases Khamani’s humour and positive outlook, as well as the challenges that families everywhere have faced as they adapt to educating their children at home. Khamani hopes to work in TV as an adult, so if there are any TV executives reading, do get in touch. We may have discovered a budding future media star.
On the ninth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … digital creativity.
After a postponed start in June, we could not have been prouder when the Animation Project was completed in September. A huge thank you to Richard and Hannan at The Rainbow Collective. During the height of the first national lockdown, at a time when working from home and home learning was still new to us all, they were flexible and creative in facilitating the project over Microsoft Teams.
Under the guidance of Richard and Hannan, our students created their story, designed their set and sketched their characters. They also produced a poem during a class from the multi-talented spoken word poet Shareefa Eneragy. They eventually went on to narrate and direct their own fantastic short animation.
A special thanks must also go out to Kirsty, a Teaching Assistant at Southwark Park, who supported the students to access the online course as well as complete the course work in between sessions.
Follow this link to see their wonderful animation, we are sure you will love it as much as we do! – NHS STRIKES BACK on Vimeo
On the tenth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … a glove that speaks.
We are always searching for the most up-to-date and innovative assistive technology to offer to the students we work with. One piece of equipment we have been following closely through the early stages of development has been the BrightSign Glove, so, we were delighted to be amongst the first in the country to get our hands on some (excuse the pun) to trial with students and adults.
When worn by someone using sign language and linked to an iPad app and mini-speaker, the glove translates signs into text and speech output. This is a really helpful way of removing barriers between different types of communication and for users to communicate to a wider audience.
On the eleventh day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … access to digital learning platforms from home.
The lockdown and the continuing high levels of student absence from school due to the pandemic have brought into focus the importance of schools embedding robust digital learning platforms so that learning can continue at home. Unfortunately, not all students have the access to equipment and internet required for learning online. Given that education is a right, we feel that all students need access to the internet and the appropriate equipment so that their learning can continue at home. Fortunately, there is some government help for families that need it. Get help with technology during coronavirus (COVID-19) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Families who qualify can also get assistance from (www.familyfund.org.uk) Also any schools without digital education platforms can get free access to either G suite or Office 365 (www.gov.uk) and don’t forget the remote learning resources available in the specialist classroom (The Oak National Academy)
'Given that education is a right, we feel that all students need access to the internet and the appropriate equipment so that their learning can continue at home.'
On the twelfth day of Techmas, CENMAC brought to me … some fun Christmas games and activities.
To keep you busy and entertained there are a range of online Christmas games you can try, from building a snowman (do you want to build a snowman?) to sending a letter to Santa. All these wonderful games and activities are available at www.northpole.com. You will need to register for a free account to access the resources.
- Top Marks has a great selection of Christmas themed learning games, involving simple matching, sequencing counting and ordering. There are also some Christmassy wordsearches and a memory game.
- To build the excitement throughout the festive period try one of these apps that offer a countdown to Christmas: Christmas Countdown (2020) on the App Store (apple.com)
Here are a few more Christmas activities, from colouring to crosswords, you can play memory games and read some Christmas jokes – Visit: www.whychristmas.com/fun/email to view the different range of games and activities on offer.
We hope you have enjoyed reading our round-up of the year and we look forward to working with many more amazing students, staff and families in 2021. Season’s Greetings to all and wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy and Technological New Year!