Using iPads for the first time in a SEN school

These two short films show iPads being used in music sessions for the first time with young people on the Autistic spectrum at Uplands SEN School in Swindon (Jan – Feb 2013).

The first film shows a group session, the second film shows a one-to-one session.

Please note – both films will start playing automatically at the bottom of the page! You’ll need to pause them, then play them one at a time.

In the group session, one pupil is using the Bebot app on the iPad to create sounds that sweep up and down in pitch, while the music teacher and teaching assistants encourage the other pupils to imitate these Bebot sounds using a long piece of blue elastic that is stretched around the perimiter of the table.

It’s a great example of how a single iPad can be used in a class music session, giving one pupil the opportunity to solo while others express and respond to their sound through physical movement.

Stretchy elastic can perfectly imitate the nature of the Bebot sound. I have also seen a similar result obtained by stretching a large sheet of Lycra in the middle of a group of students.

This was the first time an iPad had been used in group music sessions with this class of pupils on the Autistic spectrum.

It was introduced as an additional option during a music session around a resonance board which also included singing and tapping on the resonance board, supported through the use of sensory resources.

These music sessions were being assessed against P-Levels focussing on the Social component of PSHE. However, staff at the school were also attending training in Sounds of Intent to focus their assessment more rigorously and usefully on musical outcomes.

In the second film showing a one-to-one session, a pupil on the Autistic spectrum is exploring the TNR-i music app for the first time.

He demonstrates an excellent level of engagement and understanding, creating music over a sustained period of time, which is an achievement for him.

The TNR-i app can be played in two ways:

  1. if a dot is touched and held for a short time then it turns blue, meaning that a note has been entered that will play automatically as part of the looped sequence
  2. running a finger quickly over the surface of the app also plays notes in real time, (though they do not turn blue and become part of the sequence unless held for longer).

In my experience, loop-based ‘matrix sequencer’ apps such as this hold a particular fascination for some young people on the Autistic spectrum. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that they are inherently very logical and there is a process that can be learned and repeated.

It is also useful that the loops carry on playing by themselves, because if a pupil’s attention wanders to something else, the iPad continues playing and usually draws their attention back to the app.

There are other cheaper, simpler matrix sequencer music apps available, but the TNR-i is the only one I have found which can be played in two ways simultaneously as described above – looping sequences are created by colouring in the dots AND it can be played in real time by running fingers over the surface.

This dual-functionality makes it much more engaging than those which can only be played by colouring in the dots, but can’t be played in real time.

This activity was assessed using the Sounds of Intent framework.