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Beaumont College. Ways of using mainstream computer hardware in place of specialist assistive technology: “The Wheeltop Project” Rohan Slaughter ( 8 th February 2011. Beaumont College e-maturity journey. We will begin by telling you a little about Beaumont:

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beaumont college
Beaumont College

Ways of using mainstream computer hardware in place of specialist assistive technology:“The Wheeltop Project”

Rohan Slaughter (

8th February 2011

beaumont college e maturity journey

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

We will begin by telling you a little about Beaumont:

We are a specialist college operating in the FE sector

We are part of Scope, the national disability charity

We cater for students with cerebral palsy and other disabilities and learning difficulties

Students are funded by the YPLA for places at Beaumont when their needs cannot easily be met at a general Further Education College

Beaumont currently has 91 learners, this is not small for a specialist college

The college has 430 staff at this time, although the FTE is around 100 lower than this

Beaumont has a curriculum focussed on basic skills, personal development and creative arts

beaumont college e maturity journey3

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Early on the management team at Beaumont college made some decisions / actions around IT:

Firstly IT had to be resourced properly to be a success

This also means that we needed to properly staff the service

Starting from almost nothing was in some ways a good thing as it allowed us to design the system almost from scratch

A clear vision was established and a plan of action was implemented in the form of a robust ILT Strategy, in IT if you do not plan carefully you will not get a good end result.

Priority areas were identified and these were focussed on by concentrating both management effort and money on them

beaumont college e maturity journey4

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority area 1: Basic Infrastructure

You can’t do any of the cool stuff if the primary systems are not up to it

The first priority was the core infrastructure:




Internet Connection

The number of computers available for the use of learners has increased from 8 total in 2000 total to a ratio of 1:1 today

The number of computers available for staff has increased so that all managers and teachers now have a laptop, plus desktop computers in all curriculum rooms

beaumont college e maturity journey5

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 2: Staffing

Installing lots of hardware and having nobody to keep it running or show people how to troubleshoot and use it is utterly pointless

The first appointment was a technologist who was in effect the college’s IT Manager, responsible to the college’s admin manager and principal

This role was aimed to sit at the interface between people and technology

The second appointment was a technician with special responsibility for the network and core infrastructure

The next few appointments were IT Technicians to provide a first line helpdesk style support service

beaumont college e maturity journey6

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 2: Staffing

We now have the following structure:

Head of Technology (this is me – Rohan)

Two network technicians who run the Servers and other core infrastructure

One technical LSW – this is a hybrid role crossing over between web development, video support and general support

Two ‘Technologists’ who work on special access IT for students, in particular the ‘wheeltop project’ (more later)

One IT Technician – who primarily works on the helpdesk – this function is assisted by all other IT staff

One Media Technician – who works on theatre, music, video tech

A senior teacher with a project management focus, also responsible to the vice-principal

beaumont college e maturity journey7

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 3: Assistive Technology

IT is more than a teaching and learning technology for our learners

It is a genuinely liberating ‘assistive technology’

This includes but is not limited to:

Communication technology or Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC)

Alternate input devices such as specialist keyboards, mice and similar

Specialist educational software such as The Grid 2, Boardmaker, Read and Write Gold etc

Other assistive technology such as environmental control systems

beaumont college e maturity journey8

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 3: Assistive Technology

The Wheeltop Project:

Is a joint project between Scope and BT’s ‘Better World Campaign’

The main thrust of the project is not about the technology, but the ‘teaming model’

The way we work together between Teachers, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists etc is key

We are using adapted tablet PC’s in place of a traditional ‘dedicated device’

We aim to integrate solutions that are as low cost as possible, whilst at the same time improving on existing systems in partnership with specialist firms

beaumont college e maturity journey9

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 4: Sustainability

We had to concentrate initially on getting as much equipment and training in as possible

Training is important, and with the teaching staff this is now easier than ever – we have a positive pressure from the teachers not resistance

We had to ensure that we did not go ‘backwards’ due to uneven investment

Once you place more technology into an environment – removing it is extremely difficult

Continuing the funding of this effort has been difficult as we have moved beyond ‘the basic’s’

This takes us into our next section -

beaumont college e maturity journey10

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 5: Foresight and development

Firstly IT is far from standing still

The key is to pick areas that really make a difference from the ‘noise’ of new developments

For example most Web 2.0 technologies are not new, they are just more accessible than before

We are constantly looking at new ways of working, and staff training for the IT dept is a large part of this

All IT staff are currently involved in some kind of development activity

We are currently working on what we would describe as ‘next generation teaching and learning systems’

beaumont college e maturity journey11

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Priority Area 5: Foresight and development

Next Generation Systems in Place at BC:

Walled garden ‘blogging’

Genuine e-portfolios

A responsive MIS (Management Information System)

A ‘prospectus live’ element of our web presence

A VLE for staff to access training materials

An Apple based video storage and retrieval network

A fully virtualised server infrastructure underway

Extensive use of ECS to create a ‘smart building’

A full redevelopment of the college estate with as much IT designed in from day one as possible

beaumont college e maturity journey12

Beaumont College e-maturity journey

Current / Recently Completed Projects:

Molenet3 – MOVE – Mobile Video Evidence (supports the e-portfolio initiative)

Innovation 3 – Supports the Staff VLE development

Karten 2: The Beaumont Digital Arts Centre

LSIS ISC e-leadership program – e-safety and e-maturity

Next Generation ‘wheeltop project’. Hoping to do a larger project with Scope, but are also looking at scaled options, funding dependent.

Technology Exemplar Network

TSB: Mobility Bridge

LSIS Flexibility and Innovation fund – replicate the Technologist role, our technology service profile and disseminate case studies of our assistive tech.

JISC InfoNET: Strategy Work

the wheeltop project

The Wheeltop Project

BT have funded the project for 3 years 2007-2010.

4 strands to the project:

provide customised systems for 3 – 4 students per year at Beaumont College

work with schools to support development of similar services elsewhere (outreach)

influencing new technology development (specialist and mainstream)

Scope’s No Voice No Choice campaign.

Funding for equipment and Technologist role over 3 years.

Work with individuals in college.

Outreach work with local schools.

Outreach with Ingfield Manor.

the wheeltop project14

The Wheeltop Project

The Wheeltop Project (As funded by BT)

Origins of the project (pre – 2004)

Problems with existing communication aids are:

high cost

expensive repairs

poor computer functionality

inadequate support from some companies.

Natalie’s experience

the wheeltop project16

The Wheeltop Project

Initially planned to develop bespoke systems.

Began to test different prototypes

Mini box PC and separate screen

Itronix tablet PC

Motion and Electrovaya tablet PCs - below

the wheeltop project17

The Wheeltop Project

Used some devices from SmartboxAT.

Advantages of collaboration:

external technical support and upgrade path

good relationship benefits both parties

potential for future development work.

We have also continued to innovate our own solutions, but continue to use the award winning Grid 2 Software.

the wheeltop project19

The Wheeltop Project

In summer 2008 we were approached by the director of GlobiGames, an InfoLab21 spin off / knowledge transfer company.

We made a joint application between Beaumont College, Lancaster University’s Infolab21 and GlobiGames to the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

We have obtained a £15k grant from the TSB to develop a feasibility study, and subsequently a £50k grant to carry out phase 1 of the project.

The study ran during 2009 and we hope to look for opportunities to continue the project.

  • Aims of the project:
  • Develop interface software with visual and auditory feedback on ‘smart phones’.
  • Develop a prototype of the ‘contactless’ sensor – an alternative to a single switch – now called the ‘neeron’.
  • Get feedback from our student group to improve the interface and sensor design.
  • Identify avenues for continuing the project if deemed appropriate
moving on

Moving on . . .

We are seeking funding for a successor project(s).

We made an approach to LSIS – (Learning and Skills Improvement Service) to fund our Technologist positions for two years in order to develop case studies for the entire education sector – this has been successful.

LSIS DART – Disseminating Assistive Roles and Technology begins now:

We hope that TechDIS and the RSC’s will be instrumental in it’s success

We hope to support the replication of our Technologist role, or elements of it in other GFE / ISC contexts

More information to follow . . .

moving on21

Moving on . . .

  • Digital Visions, Technological Futures: A BT/Scope Project Proposal
    • Further opportunities for joint working
    • Explores the use of ‘environmental control systems’
    • Further exploration of ‘outreach scenarios’ and ‘move on services’
    • logical continuation of the work begun in the Wheeltop project
    • Essentially doing to ECS what was begun with dedicated communication devices and tablet PC’s.

“Powered by an Intel Atom N450 processor with 2GB of RAM, the performance of the Zoostorm SL8 is likely to be closer to a netbook than a laptop, although the included 32GB of solid-state storage should provide plenty of room for software installation. The included mini-HDMI port allows the device to be connected to an external display, while several USB ports mean that external gadgets such as keyboards, printers, and cameras can be connected.” From :

so i m in a mainstream college so what s in it for me

So I’m in a mainstream college, so what’s in it for me?

  • What I have described is highly specialised, we however feel that:
  • In meeting the needs of the ‘most complex’ learners we generate solutions that have wider applications.
  • Grid 2 Based solutions with a mainstream application include:
  • Kiosk style touch screen interfaces
  • Literacy and Numeracy Grid sets
  • Simplified Computer Control Grids
so i m in a mainstream college so what s in it for me23

So I’m in a mainstream college, so what’s in it for me?

You don’t have to go to specialist suppliers for everything:

Companies like CPC and Maplin are outstanding sources of cheap equipment and accessories:

CPC: - good for cables, connectors etc

Maplin: - can be good for computer accessories

BT Business (formally - good for laptops, netbooks etc

Specialist Suppliers such as Inclusive Technology can really make it easy, and they are very teacher focussed:

so i m in a mainstream college so what s in it for me24

So I’m in a mainstream college, so what’s in it for me?

It’s going to be hard to not talk about Apple . . .

Apple have always been good at defining new product categories:

The all in one computer:

PDA / Tablet PC Music Player

so i m in a mainstream college so what s in it for me25

So I’m in a mainstream college, so what’s in it for me?

It’s going to be hard to not talk about Apple . . .

Some good stuff on the iPad/iPod:

Proloquo to go:


An opportunity to ‘have a go’:

I have four devices with me:

Powerbox 7:

FizzBook Spin:

Apple iPad with Proloquo2go:

Zoostorm SL8 windows 7 tablet:

More on the Software:

The Grid 2:

Find out More:


Find out More: