In this article, we’ll discuss how to better integrate technology into teaching to support pupils with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND).
We heard from the EdTech Demonstrator Consortium (ETDC) to look at best practices, innovations, and methods to provide the best and most inclusive education for all students.
About EdTech Demonstrators
The EdTech Demonstrator Programme was established and developed by the English Department for Education.
Over 4000 schools and colleges have received free expert advice from education technology specialists across the country, supporting over 200,000 classroom staff and 2 million learners. 
The ETDC has demonstrated excellence in the use of technology to support teaching and learning across all ranges and phases of education.
The consortium has a diverse make-up of a Microsoft specialist secondary school, a Google-based primary school, and a specialist school offering education to 2-19-year-olds with complex needs.
They’re able to provide a ‘real life’ view on how technology can be used to support the whole organisation, how easily it can be embedded, and remove some of the fear towards technology in education.
Supporting Pupils with SEND
The ETDC prioritise establishing universal good practice when integrating technology into teaching pupils with SEND.
This includes utilising relatively basic technology that may already be at their disposal, such as immersive readers, and turning on captions during videos.
The Graduated Response SEND support cycle is the framework used by EdTech Demonstrators to operate within and set up the technological integration plan.
Some of the benefits to using EdTech in this way is the ability to tailor specific technology for individual needs that pupils have, and constantly review that process.
For students who struggle with reading, some of the EdTech examples given such as immersive readers removes the high dependency on adults for reading and scribing.
It allows more time for those with processing difficulties to fully comprehend and understand the available learning, and their progress can be tracked alongside the support cycle to see where best to improve and continue integrating that technology in their education.
Reviewing the process constantly and tailoring the plans as necessary can help set up pupils to use lifelong strategies to become more independent, supporting them in further education and later on in the world of work.
Assistive technology covers a broad range of tools, software, and methodologies. Some examples include:
- Enlarged resources using a magnifier or equivalent
- Alternative access methods such as eye gaze technology or alternative keyboards/mouses
- Read aloud/dictation software
Implementing assistive technology aids self-paced learning, which is a crucial part of SEND learning plans.
It enables teaching staff to vary delivery style to support those who need a longer processing time, and gives greater opportunities for SEND students to self-correct and ease anxiety about being wrong in front of a room of classmates.
Self-paced learning also allows the teacher to provide more targeted support, seeing where students are struggling and offer solutions.
However, it does create a challenge in allowing SEND students to contribute to class discussions if they are not at the same stage of the activity or task, so considering how best to create opportunities for contributions is important.
Positioning the users of assistive technology can aid in this, with their location in the class being an opportunity for them to contribute, or do not contribute if that will benefit the learner.
Other considerations when implementing assistive technology include funding and choosing which technologies to invest in, which is part of the assessment and planning phases.
Training staff to be comfortable and confident using any assistive technology is also an important part of the process, as well as for deciding who will maintain and update the equipment if necessary.
There are plenty of learning tools available, many for free, online and within existing software that the majority of schools will already have access to.
Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in immersive readers, grammar options, and line focus add-ons.
Both also offer dictation abilities, allowing students to speak rather than write. For those with additional needs, Dragon is a more advanced tool that learns pupils’ speaking patterns and will adjust the words as necessary. 
Downloadable apps for tablets include Google Lens and Office Lens, which also offer text-to-speech functions and other aids to improve literacy skills.
More quick wins include sharing resources in advance to support pupils with SEND. This doesn’t have to rely on technology, with aids such as visual timetables, lesson plans, and printed handouts being a low-effort and high reward.
 EdTech Demonstrator Consortium. 2021. EdTech to support pupils with SEND.
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