I’m the Head of Inclusion at Aldar Academies Al Bateen Academy – a leading secondary English Curriculum and IB Diploma School in Abu Dhabi. I previously worked in a primary school where we used Clicker 7, and I was a massive fan! I thought it was a fantastic support tool for so many of our pupils because, regardless of whether or not they had special educational needs, English is a challenging area – especially in terms of writing. I had a group of year 2 pupils that would write just one sentence in an hour, and with Clicker they were producing whole paragraphs – it was so fantastic!
Last September, I moved over to secondary at Al Bateen Academy and was looking for a more ‘grown up’ version of Clicker for my students. I met with Phil at Crick Software and the minute he started talking about DocsPlus I knew we needed it. The big issue we have is exam access arrangements. When I started here it was really evident that our year 11s and 13s were going to need a lot of input – I soon realised how many students required readers and/or scribes, and I was thinking ‘there’s no way we’re going to be able to find the human resources to do this’! I went on a DocsPlus training session and I was blown away when Phil demonstrated Exam Mode – that was a real wow moment.
I used to be a reader for students doing A Level exams and I found that often students would be too embarrassed to ask you to repeat something, because they felt too self-conscious. That whole element has been eradicated with DocsPlus, and I just love it! With the number of students we have requiring access arrangements, and the number of exams that they’ve done, I estimate that we would’ve had to pay about AED 29000 (£6000) this year alone to cover the cost of readers and scribes! So not only is DocsPlus a massive saving financially, it’s a huge save on human resources. But more than that, it gives those students the independence to know they’re fully in control - there’s no one listening; they’re not embarrassed to keep listening back. I am massively sold on it!
As a dyslexia specialist teacher, I can also really see the benefit of using DocsPlus for learners with dyslexia. Very often, students will be trying to work out how to spell a word and because it’s just too difficult, they will use a different, easier word instead. So it’s brilliant that with tools like the Predictor, they’re able to show me what they know and be independent. It gives them that extra little bit of scaffolding and confidence to let them flourish.
At the moment, I’m looking to train one staff member in each department to be a ‘DocsPlus expert’ and share their knowledge with the rest of the team. Many of our skilled teachers across a range of curriculum areas are embracing this technology, recognising the benefits for students in building confidence and independence, and in raising attainment and engagement.
A large percentage of our learners are not native English language speakers and therefore they need a frame or scaffold to help organise their written work. It’s so easy to create a DocsPlus Wordbar (a key word bank) or enable students to practise their speech with the Voice Note tool, which allows students to write far more in less time and of far better quality. There’s so much scope to support EAL students.
Recently I was teaching a year 9 EAL class, and the second they sat down with a Wordbar they could just get on and write. It was brilliant for me, and so good for their own self-esteem – being able to produce a whole side of A4, when they would’ve previously struggled to write even a few sentences without DocsPlus! They were all, obviously, proud of themselves.
DocsPlus just ticks all the boxes! Having worked in special needs for so long, I know the impact this can have on students. To be struggling so much, spending every lesson having to really stop and think ‘how am I going to word this?’ or ‘how can I show what I know?’ it’s really tiring and demoralising for them. So, I think it’s great that they’ve got this new sense of confidence and are so happy using DocsPlus.
Regardless of all the human resource and money it has saved us, the most important benefit has been the hugely positive impact on our students and their writing.