There are many ways to make a learning space more engaging, one of the quickest and most versatile is… the teacher. Running a close second is by using technology. In terms of interactivity specialist sensory room equipment cannot be beaten, it is hard wearing and well designed. However it is quite expensive.
An effective sensory room is not just a place to calm down, relax or listen to music. It is a fantastically immersive learning environment, with some imagination and a few resources a true multi sensory learning experience can be built up. I was looking for a way to enhance how our existing, and in some cases quite old technology could be used for this purpose.
We have a number of iPad 2’s that have been repaired over the years, sometimes the button is a little clicky, sometimes the glue holding the screen on starts lifting off. But not once has the actual device itself stopped working. These devices needed a second life.
One of the best aspects for using iPads in SEN is guided access. I have written about this before, when should it be used etc but for the sensory room it is perfect. The teacher can load up the apps and lock them on. this enables the session to remain focussed and prevents distractions.
By favourite buy was the stand to the right. This is angled and perfect bean bag height. the wire is velcroed on now. Very secure if that is an issue in your setting but also by being static allows zones to be created in the room.
This box secures the iPad to the wall, we have set it again in easy reach whilst sitting-on-a-beanbag height. It is unobtrusive and adds a real element of interest to an otherwise dark corner. with a little bit of planning around which apps work well in conjunction with each other you can quickly built up a great atmosphere. You could use an app that plays music to input. Others have sound only when touched so the atmosphere doesn’t get overwhelming.
Combined with matching colour fabrics and other sensory tools a great environment can be created. I am going to try the jungle for book week.
Next to our bubble tube I have mounted a kindle fire 7″ on a sticky backed mount, very easy to remove and take back to your room to continue exploring or to set up before the session. for the price (under £40 excluding VAT) this combo is great.
The apps I am using at the moment are all free Fluidity is great for making fantastic patterns with a range of themes that would link well with literacy.
Electra is great it changes colour and is multitouch, great noises as well, great for science, maths work, or Superhero stories.
The classic Pocket Pond is the first app I installed 5 years ago on our very first iPad, excellent for science, storytelling or relaxing.
I hope this has given you some ideas to revitalise some old technology. Feel free to recommend the apps you are using in the comments.