On robust resources

Al Noor DubaiLast week I was working at the Al Noor Center for Special Needs in Dubai where they were holding a  tech expo to raise awareness of assistive technology and how their students benefit from it. A major feature of the expo was an exhibition which blended stands from assistive technology vendors together with stands run by staff and students from the center where they demonstrated how their students benefited from the various technologies. A rather brilliant idea which helped visitors understand who and what the technology was for.

BeamzAs I was walking around I saw a table where the a member of staff was demonstrating BEAMZ. I’ve seen this device many times and think there is real potential for a device that students can use to create music with their movements. So I sat in the chair in front of the device and listened …

While the staff member was talking, I pulled the cable out of the device. She smiled at me and plugged it back in again. So I did it again… and again the staff member smiled and plugged it back in. I decided to up my game. As she was talking I started to slowly push the Beamz off the table. She took hold of the device, gave me a rather more stern look and put the device back in the centre of the table. Undeterred, I did it again. This time I got a much more stern look and the Beamz was put back in the centre of the table. So I went for it again…

This time the staff member had had enough. She took the device from the table put it on the floor beside her and gave me a VERY stern look before continuing with her talk.

So why was I pulling out wires and trying to push the device on the floor?

I was trying to prove a point. While I love the idea of the Beamz and what it can do, in reality the device is built from rather flimsy plastic with trailing wires to connect it to a computer. Hardly the kind of build quality that will survive some special needs classrooms. The Beamz isn’t cheap, it costs £200+ so it’s a significant investment for schools. My little stunt helped staff understand that the devices we use in our classrooms need to be robust. If they are not… we’ll spend our whole lesson trying to protect them from our student’s inquiring but often heavy hands. This is exactly what was happening with me at the expo. Learning doesn’t happen if you don’t dare let your students use the resources.