Identifying the needs of a learner education essay

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Introduction

Throughout our lives communication plays a vital role. From birth, communication skills start to develop and it is crucial that children are given all the support that can be provided to enhance their language and literacy skills. Developing phonological awareness and skills is a crucial basis from which language and literacy develop. It is for this reason that English is one of the core subjects of the curriculum. The DfES (2001a) strongly assert that the acquisition and utilisation of "communication and language is at the heart of young children's learning". Reading is basically performed by the skill of phonological awareness that is defined as segmentation of a given word into phonemes. Consequently, phonology was established as an area of linguistics, which is related to phonemes, their functions and interactions.

A learner who has been identified as requiring additional support and who is also the focus for this report is a Year 2 boy. The learner who shall be referred to as Sam, is identified by Bentley, Chamberlain, Gray, Lynch, Burman, Clipson-Boyles, Holderness, Reid, (1999) in Kay, J (2005) as demonstrating challenging and diverting beahviour who therefore, may require alternative activities. He has been acknowledged as still struggling to hear letter sounds effectively and thus identified as having additional learning needs. Although he is a highly verbal and articulate child, diagnosis of an early ear problem has left his hearing depressed. As a result Sam is often mishearing the initial sounds in new words. In addition, he is having problems in identifying final sounds in words. Consequently, complications have already arisen where Sam is becoming easily distracted through frustration, during literacy sessions. Without proper and effective support, these difficulties will continue to have a negative impact on his confidence, behaviour and in his ability to read and write. Discussions with key members of staff (e.g. class teacher, Literacy Support Teacher) and personal observations have revealed that he is outstanding at drawing from which he derives a great deal of pleasure, especially when showing it to others and explaining what is occurring in the pictures. Therefore his interests will provide an insight into his preferred learning style.

The school has reviewed practices in the teaching of reading, particularly in relation to struggling readers. On advice from the Literacy Consultant, the school has developed a program of direct phonics teaching to provide further support on an individual basis for those learners, achieving below average expectations in reading and writing. The Head teacher has recognised that I am in a position to facilitate such a program. Therefore, I was offered temporary work to support children's Literacy skills on this programme, working on a one to one basis, in order to bring them up to standard. The school's primary aim is to raise achievement in Literacy through a program of Direct Phonics Teaching. The secondary goal is the hope that the program will encourage those children to engage more with adults and peers so that motivation, confidence and concentration levels increase, thus encouraging children to make more positive contributions in the classroom setting. In order to successfully support Sam, several varying types of technology were utilised to assist him with developing communication skills and learning.

Audit

The DfES (2001b) advocates that the culture, practice, management and deployment of resources in a school or setting are designed to ensure all children's needs are met. Increasingly, the use of ICT is seen as integral to the teaching of most subjects and is a tool which can be used to enhance education and learning in all areas of the curriculum. This is a view supported by Tyldesley (2002), who, also states that ICT is an efficient and suitable tool for learning and teaching in order to support subjects across the national curriculum. The following resources have been employed to support Sam's learning:

The most significant ICT 'tool' to be introduced has been the interactive whiteboard. BECTA (2003) defines interactive whiteboards as being a large, touch-sensitive board that is linked to a digital projector. An image is projected from the computer screen onto the board. Users are able to control the computer by either touching the board or by utilising a special pen.

Utilising computers in other classrooms, which are already connected to the school intranet (and therefore the Internet), whereby a wide range of subject activities and current software programs are available and can be accessed.

Utilising software packages such as: '2 Paint A Picture'. '2Paint A Picture' is a straightforward to use educational art and painting program that is specifically designed for learners in the primary phase of school education. 2 Simple Software (2008) further describes '2Paint A Picture' as being a progressive software package, which takes learners on an imaginative voyage from the Foundation Stage, where, children are given the prospect to experiment with conventional 2Simple felt tips, through to constructing simple patterns and various brush strokes in Key Stage 1. Older learners are provided with opportunity of utilising a range of advanced tool options and special effects.

Refurbishment

UNESCO (1994) comments, that in order to promote inclusive school, educational facilitators should endeavour to discover and employ resources that are imaginative and innovative. For those learners who face challenges in the development of communication skills (e.g. those with hearing difficulties, dyslexia and autism etc…), educators should ensure the appropriate resources are utilised. Granada Learning (2007) concurs with this opinion by further stating that educational facilitators should ascertain, which is the most efficient and suitable tool for the individual. This may include, refurbishment of the learning environment with new and innovative hardware and software solutions as well as improving the area itself with fresh fixtures and fittings:

Lighting, comfy chairs, wall painted with calming/relaxing colours that are not too vibrant to cause distraction, room for displays of children's work, can be installed to improve the learning area.

Equipping the learning area with a computer (and with speakers) and a wireless connection so that Sam can connect to the school intranet (and therefore, the Internet), whereby a wide range of subject activities and current software programs are made available and can be accessed.

As mentioned the computer will be able to connect to the Internet, and therefore will be able access a diverse assortment of resources.

Purchase software program 'Clicker 5'. The latest incarnation of the 'Clicker' line is 'Clicker 5'. 'Clicker 5' is a user-friendly writing support and multimedia tool that enables young learners to write with complete words, phrase or pictures. 'Clicker 5' can be utilised as a writing-support feature for any curriculum subject element. Through employing its features, learners are able to construct a wide variety of sentence by choosing words, phrases and pictures. An especially useful characteristic of 'Clicker 5' is the option to listen to words spoken by lifelike software speech before learners start writing. Additionally, the same feature can be used for learners to listen to completed sentences, which are spoken back to them. Clicker enthuses children to work independently through features such as to create multimedia presentations and talking books, use animation and video, and record your their speech.

Rationale

Fewings (2008) is of the opinion that there is a broad spectrum of techniques in which educators can adapt the learning environment, with the intention of catering for the physical requirements of learners. Edwards and Springate (1995), also assert that it is important for young learners to have access to areas, which will encourage them to do their best work. Consequently, an environment that is devoid of stimulation will not be beneficial in order for children to produce creative work. Edwards and Springate (1995), advocate that in order to cultivate and develop learner's academic work, it is necessary for the working environment to have access to natural light, harmonious colours, relaxing and child-sized areas, samples of the student's work and inviting materials. Fewings (2008) further clarifies that the classroom should be tidy with a friendly atmosphere. Fixtures and fittings need to be comfy and easy to move in order to guarantee variety. The layout of the space should be attractive and appealing thereby suggesting the expectation of an interesting session. Displays of posters, models, learning resources, etc. will encourage queries and interest. An additional feature can be the computer, which is capable of providing a useful stepping-stone in garnering further interest and fascination for curriculum subjects.

Haugland (2000) is mindful that it is important for primary school learners to be able to have access to computers that have developmentally suitable software. Haugland (2000) advocates that learners of all ages, especially children, require opportunities to formulate decisions relating to several of their experiences with computers. The advantages of providing computers to children in the primary phase differ depending upon the nature of computer knowledge and understanding that is offered and how regularly learners have access to computers. The possible benefits for primary children are immense, consisting of enhanced motor skills, improved mathematical thinking, better developed creativity, higher grades on assessments of critical thinking and problem solving. Additionally, through utilising computers, learners are able to develop and enhance levels of spoken communication and cooperation. Haugland (2000) is adamant that through the utilisation of computers, learners are capable of sharing management roles more frequently and, thereby ultimately, developing a positive appreciation towards learning. Another useful feature of a new computer and the current computers is the connection to the intranet network, which provides access to all learners and staff to a wide variety of resources, such as the Internet.

Connected to and utilised in conjunction with the school 's intranet, thereby providing access to resources on the world-wide-web, the Internet thus becomes a source to support Sam's learning and development. Used effectively, the Internet can be a very valuable asset/resource, which can be employed as an aid to stimulate and extend learning. The Internet has great potential for developing learning provided it is proficiently utilized with discernment. Apart from the traditional and recreational uses of the Internet, educational use of the Internet is growing slowly, in a rather uncoordinated fashion. However, effective use of the Internet requires skill in formulating search requests to ensure that the search produces relevant material without wasting valuable time on non-productive searches. Searches will doubtless produce many potentially useful websites, but educators will need to evaluate sites carefully in terms of content, ease of navigation and suitability for purpose. There is little doubt that ICT and the Internet are invaluable aids to learning considering that nearly 100 percent of all primary schools in England have access to the Internet (TeacherNet, 1995-2004).

In addition to employing the Internet as a tool to support learning and teaching, Haugland (2000) states that primary educational facilitators will desire to utilise the computer for directed sessions that coincide with their learning aims and outcomes. For example, to develop language skills, young learners can create a letter to an acquaintance or relative utilising the template provided in 'Clicker 5' or similar software programs. Buckleitner (2006) is mindful that although a child's level of development, prior knowledge, and character are important elements in computer-child interaction, it is the disposition of the computer activity whose aim will eventually establish the nature of the learner's engagement.

Crick Software Ltd (2007) estimate that nearly 95% of primary schools based in the UK and over 40,000 schools worldwide (Littler, 2006) employ 'Clicker' products to support children's learning. Crick Software Ltd (2007) state the reason for this product being so popular is that Clicker software is versatile and easy to use as well as being supported by hundreds of free teaching resources at LearningGrids.com. Crick Software Ltd (2007) believe that 'Clicker 5' will encourage reticent readers to become motivated as well as providing poor spellers with a boost to literacy. Crick Software Ltd (2007) comment that 'Clicker 5' is a completely affable for those with additional learning requirement (such as Sam). It allows learners to attain success where he or she might not have felt it before, which helps build self-esteem and confidence. Through utilising 'Clicker 5' educational facilitators are enabled to assist literacy activities and the development of non-readers. Crick Software Ltd (2007) comment that 'Clicker 5' has imparted students with increased opportunity to develop literacy skills using a visual and interactive approach. However, in a case study of the predacessor to 'Clicker 5', Ltscotland (2006), states that the only identified drawback was that the voices within 'Clicker 4' were not clear. Additionally, it was difficult to find a female voice and a non-American older voice. Another software program that can support the development of communication skills is the art package '2 Paint a Picture'.

According to Anning (1999) young learners enter formal education with a diverse range of 'forms of representation' through which, they endeavour to make sense of the world, such as: drawing, modelling, role-play, storying, developing literacy and numeracy. In sketching, students begin to explore the potential of drawings to represent what they know and express emotions. Anning & Ring (2004) comment that drawing is one of the main methods in which young learners attempt to talk about, and make sense of their world, both to themselves and to others. Anning & Ring (2004) further state that children's drawings can be influenced by a broad spectrum of media, such as: TV, videos, signs, books, magazines and computer based imagery. These factors contribute to the uniqueness of every child's drawing style. Badley (2003) and Anning & Ring (2004) recognise that the DfES does not place any great emphasis on drawing as a reliable source of children's progress in learning. Dyson (1993), as cited by Anning & Ring (2004), highlights that in order to better explain their drawings, children utilise talk and gestures as a 'graphical voice' or speech. Children's drawings can signify action, emotion, ideas, and experiences and relate complex stories in an imaginary or real life context. The presentation and effective delivery of software programs can be considerably enhanced by utilising interactive smartboards.

Having witnessed at first hand the impact of an interactive whiteboard on teaching, it is clear that this is an invaluable resource in any classroom. At the Foundation Stage and for those students with additional learning requirements (such as Dyslexic and Autistic children etc…) in particular, there should be a strong emphasis on adopting a multi-sensory approach and using ICT, and the interactive whiteboard, in particular is a perfect vehicle for this. BECTA (2003) recognize the following as being key benefits in employing interactive whiteboards. This tool for teaching promotes a more varied, creative and seamless use of teaching materials whilst engaging learners to a greater degree than conventional whole-class teaching resulting in an increase in enjoyment and motivation. This naturally facilitates learner input through the ability to relate with materials on the board. Teachers can maximise the impact of interactive whiteboards by:

Investing time in training to become confident users

Exploring the full range of capabilities of whiteboards

Collaborating and sharing resources with other teachers.

Consequently according to Smith (2001), utilisation of Interactive Smartboards enables teachers to incorporate ICT into their lessons whilst teaching from the front of the class. Kennewell (2001) comments that this resource for teaching, which encourages spontaneity and flexibility, allows teachers to draw on and annotate a wide range of web-based resources. BECTA (2003) assert that it is widely reported to be easy to use, particularly compared with using a computer in whole-class teaching and which hopefully will inspire teachers to change their pedagogy and increasingly draw on ICT to support their teaching thus encouraging professional development.

Although there are many advantages to the use of ICT in this manner, there are possible drawbacks. The greatest disadvantage is that teaching in this way is only as good as the equipment is reliable. Sudden and unexpected failure is a major problem, particularly if the teacher is not technically proficient. BECTA (2003) highlights a problem of freestanding boards (and their associated projectors) such as those utilised at School, which are more difficult to secure and have to be realigned every time they are moved. There are obvious cost implications in providing and maintaining a high level of good quality equipment and in providing relevant training in its use. The use of an interactive whiteboard offers the perfect vehicle through which to present learners with an opportunity to become motivated and proactive with their learning, thereby having maximum impact on the children.

Conclusion

Working within the early learning goal of 'communication, language and literacy' gives children the opportunity to be involved in activities that are enjoyable in their own right, but which also contribute to the development of literacy skills. Teaching will provide opportunities for discussion and conversation, immersing children within a literacy rich environment essential to future literacy competence. Teaching assistants such as myself need to understand that our main role is not only to provide a stimulating and safe environment in which to work and develop, but also to be aware that as educators, we are seen as role models and facilitators who can positively or negatively influence children's behaviour and learning. The Salamanca Report (UNESCO, 1994) advocated that learning should be adapted to the needs of children by designing lesson plans that are effective in motivating and stimulating learners. As mentioned, software programs such as '2Paint a picture' and 'Clicker 5' are excellent interactive tools to support, motivate and encourage learning. With its graphics, speech, and the ability to link together an unlimited number of grids, 'Clicker 5' is now widely used as a communication aid. Another software package is'2 Paint a Picture', which, introduces learners to a wide spectrum of artistic techniques, thereby allowing children (such as Sam) the opportunity to experience and re-create styles of well-known artists, both traditional and modern through the computer. ICT offers a range of extended opportunities for interactive teaching to stimulate and challenge all children. As a teaching support resource, BECTA (2003) acknowledges that Interactive whiteboards are appearing in an increasing number of classrooms and though the technology is relatively new the Interactive Smartboard can be a very valuable asset, which can benefit not only pupils, but also educators as well. Granada Learning (2007) summarises that even though all learners have a broad variety of learning and individual requirements, there are universal factors that can be considered in the successful identification and implementation of appropriate resources that can support learners. The use of I.C.T. in the classroom will raise the demand for a technological knowledge and awareness among the population as a whole. It is essential that we prepare children in schools to be confident and competent in its application, which should lead to a population that feels comfortable with this new technology.

Word Count: 3107

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