PowerPoint for Special Educational Needs

The time estimates and educational goals for this page are pretty open ended, and depend on the depth of your prior knowledge of power Point, and of computer applications for SEN. The Camera Mouse software is a bit of fun, and should take about ten minutes to download and install. Apart from that I find building an interactive test in power point can take anything from twenty minutes on up, but that depends on your goals for the interactive artifact and your skills with the medium

Introduction and Background:

This section differs somewhat from the others. In this section we are concentrating on using PowerPoint as part of a process of adapting a computer interface for SEN.
Two input modes are discussed, push buttons and roller balls. for a user with very limited motor control, and camera mouse, which allows the computer cursor (mouse) to be controlled via a webcam. This would be of value to a user who was paralyzed from the neck down. With this software and a webcam it is possible to control the cursor using facial movement alone.

We then describe how a simple quiz could be constructed using power point, where the correct answer can be selected with a single mouse click.

Finally some other examples of interactive PowerPoint use are presented which could be used in training a student to use a limited mobility computer interface.

PowerPoint is not a tool for social or group education per se, but is a widely available tool, whose power is sometimes underestimated. In this section I discuss some sample files which were created for students with special educational needs. The key insight here is that we are creating computer based interactive educational objects. Running PowerPoint in Kiosk mode, allows these to run independently, and using hyperlinks within the pages of the PowerPoint allows for a more complex user interaction than just the normal linear slideshow we associate with PowerPoint.

The assumption here is that you will have access to MS office, and thus you will have access to this program as a matter of course. This is a reasonable assumption, particularly if you are operating in a situation where you are behind an institutional firewall and are not in a position to install software.
If you don't have MS Office, a free open source alternative to MS Office is the Open office suite, available here:
Open Office Download

Input Devices
If a user has limited motor control, the standard mouse can be problematic. Alternatives include roller balls, and mice which can be controlled via a series of switches, as shown here: Listing of assistive technology mouse alternatives Pricing for these seems to be wildly variable, and I would suggest buy cheap with a view to replacement rather than throwing a lot of money at something only to find that it is inappropriate. An alternative input mode is provided by “Camera Mouse” . Camera mouse is a free program that uses a webcam to enable you to control the mouse pointer on your computer screen just by moving your head. I have written a somewhat tongue in cheek blog post about trialing this software here

The computer interface

There are a number of changes which can be made to the computer interface to help people with motion difficulty. Hover mode, and the on screen keyboard are both particularly useful. Microsoft have more information on this here Details of Microsoft's accesability options (XP)
Details of Accessibility options (Windows 7)

Simple activities (Sample files are below).
Creating quizzes and activities for students with limited motor control.

First activity creating a quiz. The above file describes the structure and then demonstrates a simple quiz.
In the quiz we create a red outline which floats from answer to answer, and a student with limited mobility can click when the red box is outlining the correct answer. This is done by duplicating the slide with the answers and moving a box outline from answer to answer. The properties of each slide are then adjusted so that if the correct slide is clicked on it jumps to to the correct answer page, while the others lead to a sorry incorrect answer page. In order to make the entire slide respond to the mouse click, after we have created the slides, we insert an invisible button which covers the entire slide.

A second example, this time of a picture which is revealed from beneath a Jigsaw puzzle, one piece moving aside each time the mouse is clicked, was also shown. The effect is achieved by using between slide transitions and animations to move the pieces out of the way. This would be of use where you were looking to build co-ordination for student with extremely limited skills.
The built in windows on screen keyboard was then demonstrated. This is a slow method whereby a user with only mouse control can enter text via either a click on screen or a “Hover “ interface. Hover is an alternative windows input modality whereby if the mouse hovers over a location for long enough it is considered clicked.

Educational Use
Within the SEN context PowerPoint can generate quizzes and interactive computer based educational objects. The Camera mouse software can be a cheap interim solution to mobility and control problems for students with a high level of physical handicap. More specialized software may be more appropriate, but is often specified, acquired and then found to be unsuitable for unanticipated reasons. This approach of using PowerPoint in conjunction with Camera mouse allows one to get a clearer idea of what a student may be capable of before a more elaborate and expensive intervention is carried out.
Sample powerpoint files
Chase the spider. In this file, designed for developing mouse control students try to chase the spider using the mouse. This file consists of seven linked slides, each with a small picture of a spider. By selecting the picture when building the slide, and then using the insert action tab we can choose on mouse over to result in ether a return to the start, or a transition to the next slide. This file is compatible with Office 2003, 2007, and open office Impress, and would be of value if you were teaching a student how to control the mouse, or a mouse equivalent interface, such as Camera Mouse mentioned above.
This file contains a single slide, which has two images, one a background image and the second which is a clip art image of a jigsaw puzzle placed in the foreground. The un-group command was used to split the clip art image into individual pieces, and the custom animation tool was used to make one of the pieces disappear each time the user clicks. This could be used with a student of very limited ability, where you are training them to just click the mouse.
An excellent collection of files is at the following web site:
Start with the Jungle and move on.

Other links with an Irish emphasis

A link from Mocrosoft

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