The SHAPE Project, technologies to enhance learning for young people on the Autism Spectrum

The OpenSen blog reviews some recent developments for children on the autistic spectrum including a variety of humanoid robotics, kinectwiki, Cospatial, Reactickles magic and a virtual environment- Echoes:

Echoes is a technology enhanced learning experience, where young people with ASC can explore in a virtual learning environment by interacting with Andy an intelligent virtual character.  Andy encourages exploration and provides opportunities for social communication in a virtual magical garden and during some hands on time with the software I was able to sort and move flower pots, collect items, throw a bouncing ball, shake rain clouds to create raindrops that allowed me to grow flowers and burst bubbles, all with Andy’s encouragement.  Andy could helpfully look at items to prompt further interaction and sign to me using Makaton, even when we tried to be unhelpful by playfully soaking Andy with a rain cloud, we weren’t scolded or corrected, instead Andy continued to provide prompts to other areas of interest and opportunities that would create a more positive result from our interaction


Video and in full


Technology use in the classroom helps autistic children communicate

The Economic and Social Research Council report findings from Topcliffe Primary School in Birmingham. The project received a grant from the ESCRC and the EPSRC. The children are using a large multi-touch screen and explore the virtual environment, interacting with an agent called Andy. The staff were surprised at the level of social interaction.

Research shows that children with autism often find computers and technology safe, motivating and engaging, particularly in the areas of social interaction and communication. Autistic children often struggle to communicate and learn effectively, but it seems that this technology can tap into their motivation and enable them to communicate in a way in which teachers simply can’t get them to do in traditional classroom settings.

Echoes 2 project

In full

Hiding behind my avatar

Sharon at NUI, Galway reflects on how she has used an avatar image on her Twitter account and what that meant to both her and connections she has made. She originally had a cup of coffee then moved towards a graphic that more closely resembled her physical appearance

I have been told that I look a little bit like my twitter image (or should that be the other way round?). I have even been recognised at conferences, twice. But it’s clear that most people don’t recognise me when they meet me in real life. I’m fairly comfortable with that. But, I wonder if I’m still hinding behind the avatar and is it prohibiting me from a deeper engagement with my PLN when I meet them in real life?

In full

School Improvement Plan 2012-13

Nikki Robertson is thrilled that her school has made  ‘Building Your PLN with Twitter’ one of three three School Improvement Goals  for the school year. She ran a professional development session for the staff, complete with donuts and coffee. She described her experiences on Twitter adn the Twitter basics and terminology but has encountered resistance from staff afterwards.

This sinister underlying resistance was verbalized by one of our teachers at lunch the other day and has been echoed in one way or another by several other teachers.  So what is this resistance?  Well, here is a paraphrased quote:

“I’m not sharing my lesson plans or activities with anyone.  I worked to hard to make them to just give them away.”

In full


Visiolibriphobia: Fear of Facebook

Afshan Jafar on Inside Higher Ed reveals why he is currently not on Facebook and starts an interesting discussion. Whilst he sees many possibilities for extending professional networks he is concerned about some of the social connections and also the commodification of ourselves and our lives.

FB seems to have brought everyone together under the guise of one big happy “friendly” family: why would I want to shatter that illusion by not “friending” people? People who couldn’t have cared less about each other in high school and maybe even tormented each other, now devour every single update and picture posted by their “friends”: “Ate the best strawberries ever today!!!”, “Vacationing in Hawaii and Italy and Switzerland”, “Going into labor”, “Awesome party this weekend”, “Have a headache” (I wonder why?!) and so on. I have friends whose “friends” lists exceed 1,000 people! How many hours a day do they spend in front of this beast?

In full

Do we need ‘social butterflies’ in Online Learning Communities?

Debbie Morrison asks in Presence, part 2 of 3 about online communities. She notes that some students like lurking in online learning communities and MOOCs.  She notes that social presence cannot be easily defined or designed by educators

Social presence is felt by learners, yet is created by the course design and participation of other learners, in contrast to instructor presence which is mainly driven by instructor behaviours and participation

She also provides some suggestions and resources for exploring further

In full

Using Social Media to Engage and Improve Learning in any Medical Conference.

Christian Assad mentions that traditional conferences are difficult to digest

It is like trying to give someone a boiled chicken thigh with no salt or spices. If you are vegetarian it would equal an uncooked piece of Tempeh.  They are both good for you but good luck swallowing more than 3 pieces

He reveals examples of presentation slides he created which have a twitter link from an idea by Timo Elliott

In full

Lifelong Learning and Technology Ties

Patsy ponders about the impact of technology in people’s lives.

I’ve begun to realize this is a real dividing factor among people and how they feel about technology and particularly things like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. People often say to me, “it’s just junk.” My response is that if all you’re finding is junk on blogs and social networking sites, you need to connect with different people. You’ve chosen poorly. Find smarter, more interesting people. I find more useful and interesting material everyday online than I can possibly read and absorb

She appreciates and is motivated by her connections with other people online and tools such as Facebook allow her to see information from people she is not able to connect with face to face but can carry on conversations online

In full

Presentation: New geographies of learning: distance education and being ‘at’ Edinburgh

Clare O’Shea provides a fascinating presentation and link to their report, where they have explored what it means to be a student and their relationship with their institution.

In this paper, we report on our exploration of how distance learners construct and describe their relationship with their institution, using visual and narrative methods within a group of 150 students from 35 countries studying on the fully online, distance MSc in E-Learning. Students told the tales of their own ‘arrival’ at Edinburgh at the start of their studies, an ethnographic trope which problematised academic geographies and brought together the ‘concrete’ campus and the ‘distant’ place of study.  Students also provided visual and aural data in the form of digital ‘postcards’, creating a vivid sense of the land- and sound-scape of their study environment.

She explains the themes that began to emerge from the project including a sense of place and placelessness.

In full

What I learnt at school

Stacey Sewell looks at an article referring to what was gained from a music degree and reflects that she learnt more than how to market herself for a job

My music degree has proved to be an invaluable preparation for almost all of these roles and for life in general. While I don’t support a view of higher education that sees it as little more than a tool for getting a job, Dartington, for all its flaws, struck a good balance between the vocational/practical and learning for its own sake. I learned a lot

She lists what she has learnt including to be different, to be self-reliant, to explore, to play a part

In full