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The big picture

Interactive white boards are huge, colourful and easy to use - so almost all children can join in the fun. Ian Bean reports

We often overlook the fact that an interactive white board can be used simply as a huge display device. But imagine immersing students with severe or complex learning difficulties in an environment of ever-changing colours, patterns and sounds.

Simple programs such as Windows Media Player can be used to create fantastic visual stimulation and tracking activities; or try using presentation packages, such as Microsoft Powerpoint, and images from a digital camera to make slideshows of familiar images and sounds.

INTUITION IN ACTION

Can there be a more intuitive way to experience and develop cause and effect than by touching with your hands and being enveloped in the effects you have created?

Interactive whiteboards can work like huge touch-screens, enabling traditional cause and effect programs - such as Big Bang - to take on a whole new life. And, of course, everyone in the class shares the results.

Many of our students need to learn to target and drag and drop objects accurately. IT Mouse Skills breaks these skills into small steps, so they can be practised in a fun, engaging way.

Others lack the hand-eye co-ordination necessary to move the mouse pointer and click the correct button. But interactive whiteboards free children from the mouse, enabling them to concentrate on their task.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when creating artwork. Whether drawing with fingers or a stylus, most children do better work using a touch-sensitive board than using a fiddly mouse, choosing colours confidently and really thinking about their composition.

2Paint, part of the 2Simple Infant Video Toolkit, is an ideal first tool.

It is a powerful, easy-to-learn program that shows just what can be achieved when designers think hard about who is going to use a program and how it will be used.

MAKING MUSIC

Music software can also benefit from an interactive white board. Many of our older students enjoy using sequencing programs, such as Super Duper Music Looper, to create music by simply "painting" the instruments into a piece with their fingers.

After the tracks are done, they are put on CD and the students work on the board to design a cover and promotional posters.

CAUGHT ON VIDEO

Don't forget it is simple to connect your video camera to your projector.

Children love to see themselves on the big screen. Pupils at Priory Woods school, Middlesbrough, use this to great effect when learning how to operate the video camera because everyone can see what is happening on the screen while they wait for their turn. Try using a variable friction arm to mount the camera for wheelchair users.

It is easy to underestimate the power of digital video. Children who struggle with a pencil can use video to share their knowledge, ideas and opinions in a way that is meaningful and relevant. Interactive whiteboards make the complex process of editing digital video accessible to almost all.

Priory Woods students use the board to drag and drop their chosen scenes into a timeline, previewing and redrafting as they go. With a touch of a button their video is written to a DVD, ready to share with school, friends and family.

RESOURCES

* Big Bang and IT Mouse Skills: both from www.inclusive.co.uk

* 2Simple Infant Video Toolkit; www.2simple.comivt

* Priory Woods is a beacon special school for children with complex learning needs. It runs free professional development days on ICT (see www.priorywoods.middlesbrough.sch.uk) Ian Bean is an advisory teacher at Inclusive Technology and former teacher at Priory Woods

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