Learning with independence at The Wimborne Academy Trust


The Wimborne Academy Trust provides education for children between the ages of 2 to 18 across 13 schools in the county of Dorset in the UK. It aims to be a forward-looking trust that provides supportive, creative, and innovative learning opportunities, nurturing every child as an individual.

Supporting this objective, Natasha Bartlett, the School Improvement Lead for Digital Technology, across The Wimborne Academy Trust, recently led the introduction of OrCam Learn, the new learning solution that combines practical reading support, intuitive web and mobile apps and robust analytics and reporting, to its schools.

Here she explains why they have introduced the OrCam Learn and how students and teaching staff are benefitting from it.

How do your students use the OrCam Learn?

We’ve been using OrCam Learn with our students that have reading difficulties and it’s really helped the children to be able to access their learning more independently. Without having to rely on an adult to help them.

This is particularly the case with our older students where there is a need to do more independent work and for subjects where reading is not the main learning goal such as history or geography.

Often, we’ll use workbooks for maths where children need to be more self-sufficient and able to read a word problem to answer a question. Where those students might be able to complete the sum, they struggle with the text, so they can’t show what they know.

With OrCam Learn the student can quickly take a picture of the text and have it read back to them, so the problem instantly goes away so the student is not held back by their reading ability.

How does OrCam Learn help children with learning challenges?

First and foremost, OrCam Learn helps our students with reading challenges to access different areas of the curriculum that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to access without it.

It also supports and encourages our students to read independently, building confidence, and reducing reliance on teachers and teaching assistants. We’ve found the OrCam Learn useful in our afternoon activities where we don’t always have as many adults in the class.

From a teacher’s point of view, it’s amazing because I can go around the whole class, rather than sitting with a small group of children who have reading challenges. Giving me the freedom to cater to every child in the classroom and provide extra support to those that need it. It’s almost like having a bonus teacher in the room.

We also use the OrCam Learn in history. Recently we’d set a group of students the task of writing instructions to make an Egyptian Mummy, using a set of directions that had been mixed up. For the students with learning challenges who struggle to read large chunks of text, they used the OrCam Learn to read each instruction, therefore enabling them to sort the instructions in the correct order. The students are still showing their understanding but it removes the pressure of having to read and understand all the difficult words such as sarcophagus or mummification.

But one of the most rewarding benefits of OrCam Learn is that it allows our students with reading challenges to engage in texts that are age-appropriate and more exciting for them. For example, our children in Year 4 don’t necessarily want to read the Biff, Chip and Kipper books, they want to be reading Beast Quest or Lightning Thief. But they can’t because the words are too complex. But using the OrCam Learn means they can pick books that align to their interests and for the first time really develop a love of reading.

How did you introduce OrCam Learn into the Trust?

Introducing new technologies into schools can sometimes be challenging. But this hasn’t been the case with the OrCam Learn. We’ve spent time one to one with a select number of students that we knew would benefit from the technology, and within a matter of minutes they were using it seamlessly.

The best thing about the OrCam Learn is that it is very intuitive to use. Any student or teacher can pick it up and almost instantly start using it. For support staff, we don’t have to worry about scrolling through menus to set up the device, as it’s all voice controlled and it also automatically updates itself. When we want to unlock extra features such as Reading Pal, all we do is scan a QR code.

What features are you using?

OrCam Learn’s Reading Pal has been a particularly useful feature. Our aim at the school is to make sure that our students feel empowered to take charge of their own learning, which improves self-confidence and self-esteem. Reading Pal harnesses the benefits of reading out loud in boosting literacy, engagement, and comprehension amongst our students.

The students don’t always have to read to a member of our teaching or support staff, as OrCam Learn gives them the chance to practice reading without an adult having to be there.All they do is take a photo of a page of text using the OrCam Learn, they read to the OrCam Learn which then listens to them, and then it provides feedback on the number of sentences read correctly. Giving the child a way to practice reading without an adult sitting next to them all the time, and without the fear of getting it wrong in front of an adult. Which they love.

It also comes with an App that allows the teaching staff to then see the analytics such as fluency and difficulty of reading. For us this is invaluable as staff as it provides a reliable, measurable picture of each student’s activities so that we can understand how they are progressing. We’ve also been using OrCam Learn’s Exam Mode for tests, where reading isn’t the core skill being demonstrated. With the solution, our students can demonstrate knowledge, without the need for an adult reader to be sat next to them. This gives them a sense of
independence and reduces stress. Exams and tests can be stressful for any child, but this is exacerbated when they need an unknown adult to support them with reading questions. So OrCam Learn really helps our students feel calmer when tackling tests, allowing us to get the very best out of them.

What feedback have you had from your students who use the OrCam Learn?

All our students love using OrCam Learn. Even those who don’t need it, want to use it, and to me that represents a technology that has taken assistive tech to a whole new level. OrCam Learn has moved way beyond what we traditionally think of as technology for those with reading challenges to something that is at the cutting edge and exciting, but also really delivers on making a difference to the learning environment of our students and staff.

One of our younger children has named the OrCam Learn the ‘magic pen’, a phrase he came up with when trying to explain how it worked to his mum – “it’s just magic, it’s a magic pen!”.

Learn all you need to know about our OrCam Learn.