The art of decision making

Sally McKeown

Out and About is a CD-Rom designed to teach life skills to those with learning skills. Sally McKeown looks at how its aims were realised.

Alison Webber and Phillip Valentine are the stars of SEMERC's Out and About CD-Rom, launched earlier this year by Princess Anne (patron of the Home Farm Trust - HFT- a charity for learning disabled adults)at the BETT educational technology show. They are both mature students with learning difficulties, based at Oldham College, and feature in the video clips on the CD designed to teach life skills to disabled adults. Out and About is a CD-Rom designed by HFT, in conjunction with SEMERC and Keele University.

SEMERC has invested 18 months of development time and considerable resources to realise the vision of Ann Aspinall of Home Farm Trust. She started as a typist five years ago, but is now the development manager, advising the scheme on ICT provision. She was aware of how computers could be used to enhance the learning experience for adults with limited literacy skills and was keen to use video and interactive technology to help them cope more effectively with everyday activities.

The registration process of Out and About sets the tone for the program. Users have to put in their name, address, post code, phone number and date of birth. These are essential items of information which adults have to provide on a regular basis. There are several options to develop visual awareness: "Jigsaw" and "Spot the Diffrence" provide opportunities for users to work with screen shots from one of the five life-skill areas - banking, travel, leisure, travel and college life. "Picture Matching" uses social signs and Highway Code symbols which users will see every day on the street. "Money Skills" and "How Many" reinforce everyday number activities, while "Put in Order" contains helps with memory and reasoning.

"What to Wear" and "What's Wrong" are the revolutionary part of the program. These are about decision making and focus on appropriateness. So often in colleges it is appearance and behaviour that single out learning disabled adults from the rest of the students. Instead of being streetwise and laid back, they are sometimes noisy and wear bizarre combinations of clothes. "What to Wear" takes them through the process of choosing clothing to suit the circumstances and will make them more aware of the image they project. Similarly, "What's Wrong" tackles social skills. Users watch a video and look for social gaffes. When they spot inappropriate behaviour, such as taking your own food into a restaurant, pestering other diners or shouting out for service, they click on the screen to take a picture of the incident.

Out and About will help unleash the potential of individuals to live more independent lives all over the country.

Out and About CD-Rom from SEMERC Price: pound;59 single user; multi-user lcences an extra pound;10+VAT

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