Simple changes for pupils using technology Updated May 2016
The set up of the computer is an essential point to enable the user to work safely. There are various areas that need to be looked at in regard to the working area which is referred to as ergonomics. The following are things that demonstrate good practice:-
Monitor at arms length
Eye line should be level or slightly under the top of the screen
Don’t have light shinning in your eyes or on the screen
Screen and keyboard should be square to the line of vision
Your forearms and hands are in a straight line about 90o from your spine
There should be a clearance under the work space (bench/table)
The workspace needs to be clutter free for any additional peripheries required.
Often space is difficult for the amount of workstations in a room, such as in an ICT suite, but with careful planning and using the above as guidance this should be possible.
All these factures should be taken into account when pupils are using portable devices such as laptop, tablets etc.
Time spent on technology should be monitored and if pupils need to do a long piece of work they will need to take regular breaks which should include change position such as standing up.
Remember to think of the users rather than what the set up looks like.
There are lots of things to think about for those using tablets. The nature of tablet use will immediately put you in a poor ergonomic position but here are some things that demonstrate good practice.
Do not use flat ideally it should be at eye level or positioned on a table
Take breaks often at least every 20/30 minutes. This can be looking around but ideally moving around
Blink eyes the tendency when staring at a screen for a long time is to get dry eyes
The following are changes that could be made on the system to allow easier access for many pupils. In some cases setting up a pupils profile may be required to include some of the features mentioned below. This will probably need to be done by an IT technician.
Customising the look of the desktop to allow easy access to the software pupils need such as program shortcuts, make sure there aren’t too many icons displayed
Process for saving and finding work is easy
Folders set up clearly where work needs to be saved could be subject specific.
Naming and dating files when saving for easier retrieval
When using Word set to full screen (useful if pupil tends to want to spend too much time altering fonts etc) or Normal which is found in View on the main toolbar.
In some Primary schools the right click is disabled but this can cause staff and pupils working in programs such as Clicker 6/7 problems, as the right click is used to activate some features such as the speech. I would suggest schools get advice about allowing the right click on their computers from the school technician.
Here are some alterations that could be made to make accessing text easier on either computer or tablet.
Change colour of background (Format – Background)
Set the default font size in programs to a suitable size
Set the default font. Generally Sassoon (fat) or Comic San (fat) for Primary Schools more flexible for Secondary Schools most popular is Arial (fat)
Alter spacing between words and lines
Use Auto Text for adding in date and pupils name
Set up Speak in a Word document for text to speech
Primary Schools often have class or year group log on e.g. group.a. In Secondary Schools they will have individual log on e.g. John.Smith.
Alterations to a group log on will mean that all those using that log on will have the same settings. This might be beneficial to lots of pupils however it may be more appropriate for an individual profile to be set up to meet their needs. This will need to be done by the school IT technician.
For some pupils the log on can be difficult for various reasons and is an unnecessary barrier for them to access the computer.
Shorter log on e.g. just initials or first name
Use lowercase letters only
Start with shortened first name e.g. tom rather than Thomas
There are various alterations that can be made to allow simpler access to the computer. Here are some things to think about.
Keyboard stickers – focus on letter keys and space, enter, shift, backspace the main keys pupil will be using
Colour combination of sticker, good contrast
Use the legs at the back of keyboard to angle keyboard for better access
Change setting repeat rate on control panel so line of letters doesn’t appear when key held down
Size of keyboard from the standard desktop/laptop or smaller devices such as Netbooks, tablets
Variety of different sized keyboards available which can be plugged into a computer using the USB cable
Smaller keyboard maybe easier for those who type using one hand as it reduces the movement around the keyboard
Some pupils need to have that sensory feedback from pressing a key on a keyboard which you do not get when you are typing directly onto a tablet. There a Bluetooth keyboards which can be used with the tablet which may be a solution.
There are various alterations that can be made to allow better control when using a mouse to access the computer. Here are some things to think about.
Size of mouse compared to size of hand
Pointer size and good colour contrast to background – various settings within Windows e.g. Extra Large Black but there are also some free download on the Internet
Double click speed can be changed in Control Panel – Mouse – Pointer Options
Alternately to double click - single click then press enter
Alternative device that could provide better control trackball, joystick, touchpad etc
Putting a sticker or piece of Blu Tack on the select button so pupil can feel which side of the mouse to click
Disabling the touchpad on a laptop if pupil tends to rest hands in that area when typing
Many of these suggestions require access to the Setting and Control Panel to make the alterations. With Network set-ups these options may only be available to a few people and this may mean getting either the schools IT coordinator or IT technician to make the required changes to a pupils profile.