Flip Cameras for Autistic Boys

Teacher Ann White describes how the introduction of Flip Cameras opened up classroom possibilities for her class of Year 7 boys in a special school.

I teach in Falconer School, a secondary special school in the UK for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Pocket Money

After discovering some ring-fenced funding for the purchase of Flip Cameras and having seen a convincing demonstration during an INSET session, I decided to go-ahead and invest in this new technology hoping that it would add a bit of ‘razzmatazz’ into my teaching as well as address a few of the issues I face on a daily basis.

The following observations are not ‘rocket science’. They will not be referenced in a scholarly fashion due to the large pile of marking currently sitting on my desk.  However, they might prove helpful by encouraging practitioners to invest some of their budget, even in these cash-strapped times, on the purchase of these nifty little gadgets. It will be money well spent.

My Boys

The boys I teach arrive with an array of special educational needs. Basic difficulties in literacy are a given. Peel away the layers and there are the familiar issues; dyslexia, problems with short-term memory; hearing problems, eye-sight problems (how many students need an eye test?) organisational difficulties, poor handwriting, poor motivation and low self-esteem. In fact, on reflection, I am amazed that aged 11 some of these boys are still willing to try!

I start my Year 7 English classes in the world of newspaper reporting. With the help of the site-manager and school secretary we managed to create an incident on the playground that needs reporting. Amidst the ketchup and hysteria a story emerges and the results in terms of finished article are usually worth it. However, the amount of support needed in terms of recalling what happened, sequencing it and spelling it, is as you imagine.

Enter the Flip Camera

Easily recording the whole incident and any additional comments from passing senior staff, the boys were literally begging to get back to the classroom to start writing up. I feared a ‘verbatim transcript’ but instead I got a pleasant surprise. With the pressure of writing notes on the action removed, the boys were able to make much more detailed observations of the action. This enhanced power of observation led to more sophisticated vocabulary choices, for example, ‘then’ was replaced with ‘immediately’ and ‘went’ with ‘sprinting’.

The simple writing frame provided proved enough structure because the playback option allowed easy sequencing of the story. Individuals could work at their own pace without the endless ‘recaps’ that frustrate some.

Most importantly, work was completed with increased independence which as we know is a boost to self-esteem. The technology is so simple that the video can be exported and saved into student folders on the school network with ease. Record students reading out their newspaper reports and attach the files to your CASPA tracking system and you have your evidence for assessment.

As I write I am using the Flip Cameras to assist with a speaking and listening task: Save My Dog! My group of high-functioning autistic students have been using playback to monitor their use of eye-contact, voice intonation and gesture- all things that can be potential difficulties. But that is for another article.

Ann used the Flip Video Mino Camcorder (Flip Video UK Ltd)

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