Portable consoles help deaf to sign

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
It would not be unreasonable to assume that the child curled up in a taxi with a games console was playing God of War or Final Fantasy
It would not be unreasonable to assume that the child curled up in a taxi with a games console was playing God of War or Final Fantasy.

That assumption would be wrong. In fact, the taxi drivers who ferry the pupils of Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham to and from school say they are glued to their sign language homework on PlayStation Portables (PSPs).

The school has bought 25 of the pound;160 consoles. In class, pupils film their British sign language (BSL) lessons, then revise on the way home. At home, their parents - deaf and hearing - can view recorded messages from teachers, and share signed bedtime stories.

Alison Carter, Longwill's deputy head, has worked with Birmingham East City Learning Centre and ConnectED, the supplier, to adapt the consoles for educational use.

"One of the taxi drivers said pupils' behaviour had improved because they were busy with their work," she said. "If you went to one of their homes and saw one of them with the PSP, you'd assume they were playing games. But they're probably filling in their diaries."

Mustafaa Basharat, 11, said he liked taking photos and videos of his family and home, and showing them to his friends. But he can also take his school life home. "My mum looks at the videos and learns signs from them with me," he said.

Zeeshan Khan, in the same class, said he used the console to help him with English, maths and spelling. "I sign into the diary every night," he said. "My brother watches with me and learns BSL."

The school has also given consoles to foundation pupils. Emma Cook, whose son George, 4, has one, said the console brought home and school together, and helped her communicate with her son.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has also embraced games as a way of engaging children with learning. It funds games such as Buzz! The Schools Quiz, which allows teachers to write their own questions to supplement the 5,000 national curriculum key stage 2 questions already included.

At Longwill, Mrs Carter hopes that all the children will soon have a PSP. For now, it is just foundation pupils and those in Years 5 and 6.

And some things never change: the older pupils were quick to ask whether they were allowed to load games. Permission was granted - as long as the content was appropriate and they did not play in class.

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