Published: 09/08/2017 20:03
Let’s see what Caryl Hynes, a teacher at Liverpool, England’s Sandfield Park School, has to say about using Pathways with her students and her thoughts on Snap Core First!
Tobii Dynavox: What steps did you take in preparation for using Pathways with one of your students?
Carly Hynes: I read all of the top tips. Most I already knew, but they are absolutely wonderful for a new staff member, or a new parent starting out--perfectly pitched and not too long. I looked at the Build Skills section and the ideas for everyday activities. There were many options, most of which were actual daily activities in our classroom.
Tobii Dynavox: Please tell about the first time you used the app and the person (communicator) you were using it with.
Carly Hynes: I chose the “Building Blocks” lesson, got the Duplo® box from the cupboard, put it on the table, then read the lesson plan that I used with a young man, 14, who has cerebral palsy and uses an AAC app on a tablet mounted to his wheelchair. He desperately wanted to communicate, be involved in everyone’s conversations and see what people’s faces look like when they are talking. Sometimes he would almost tip himself out of his wheelchair to gain eye contact when telling you his message.
Now, I would usually spend most of my time commenting on what my students were doing. But in this case, I built with blocks alongside him. He commented on my project, saying “big” using his device. Pathways suggested I model how to describe it a different way (“tall”) and tell him I liked what he built. Then, the structure broke. He became cross and took a swipe at the tower I’d been building. I told him not to break mine (“Stop”) and how that would make me feel (“Sad and angry”), still using the Pathways app because it offers suggestions for what vocabulary to model. Then he folded his arms and refused to do any more. As secondary teachers, we must remember that we were all teenagers once and not take away our students’ right to be angry. When hormones kick in, they need to be able to explain what’s going on inside instead of letting it all bubble up. So I modeled ways my student could express his feelings using words such as “frustrated,” “angry,” “annoyed,” “broken” and “fix.” He started building again and we continued for about 20 minutes.
Trying to deliver this lesson without Pathways would have been hectic. With eight other pupils and four other adults in the classroom, it is a very busy, visually overstimulating and very noisy environment. I cannot generally turn off my “teacher” head and concentrate on one child, as I am constantly scanning the room to figure out what each or my students need at that moment—a bathroom break, a drink, someone to take them to music class or make sure they’re ready when their parents come early to pick them up. Part of being a teacher is the constant guilt of not doing enough, not having enough time, not spending enough time with one particular pupil and so forth. Pathways helps me concentrate on one student and really focus.
It is worth noting that even though Pathways is tailored to teaching Snap Core First in a step-by-step approach, it is extremely easily transferable to other software, such as the speech app my student used during the building blocks exercise. Pathways, for instance, lists vocabulary you can use to prompt dialogue (“I like blue,” “My turn,” “This is fun”) and gives prompts you can use to remind the student to comment, respond, request, give facts and describe while building.
Tobii Dynavox: Tell us more about your experience with Snap Core First and your plans to use it in the new school year.
Carly Hynes: As with Pathways, I also got a heads-up about Snap Core First before its release last spring. One of the features I really like about Snap Core First is that vocabulary stays roughly in the same place on every page. Modifying, editing or adding content is easy. I like that all of the navigation buttons are always in the same place across all pages for speedy navigation between pages. I am going to be making really good use of the topics page. The search feature is one that cannot be overstated. Searching, when you are under pressure at the front of a classroom, with 12 pairs of expectant eyes waiting for you to find a word you have no idea where to find is enough to make anyone panic! Having this search feature at your fingertips is really important and powerful. Snap Core First is definitely one of the apps we will be trialing with emerging AAC users within the coming year.
Got a Pathways or Snap Core First success story to share? Don’t be shy. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us all about it. We’d love to hear from you!