Sensory Education Research Project - example of material developed to work with PMLD students

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The material for this project working with PMLD (profound multiple learning difficulty) students at  St Giles school, Nottinghamshire, comprised short video clips with sound designed for use with midi triggers. These clips were generated in a 3d authoring programme and fell into the following categories.

a) Video for Midi Triggers - 4 coloured boards which could be hit, 2 hand held squeeze controlled triggers and one microphone [sound] activated trigger.

Simulated colour explosions (a little like paint exploding). They used low frequency colours (red & blues) and a variety of behaviours. For example – falling down the screen and moving towards the front plane – emanating from the centre of the screen and exploding outwards. The sound used a variety of attack envelopes and always contained low frequencies (below 50 Hz) to make use of a sub speaker in the large floor cushion (pupils without sight or hearing could still be aware of the vibrations). The triggers were used to create a large event that could be controlled and instigated by the individual. Most of these were set to trigger the clip at the beginning, but over time some pupils advanced to stopping and starting them using the pause function. There was a research element to the creation and design of these video events.

    • Were pupils able to realise that they controlled these events?
    • Could pupils track the movement of the video objects across the screen?
    • Which colour frequencies were most effective?
    • How did pupils respond to the sound in terms of frequency, duration and volume?
    • Could the show magix programme provide a stable midi platform for the triggers?

b) Video for tracking and background

These video clips were designed to provide an environment for sessions and stimulate visual tracking. Authored using a variety of programmes the material comprised moving coloured spherical objects, faces of participants, colours, tree and grass environments etc. Most of these video clips also used sound and were designed to provide a background environment in which the triggers (above) would be perceived as distinct large events capable of cutting through the audio visual texture.

c) Video &  sound sessions

Sensory room sessions used two video projectors (one creating a large background and one used for the midi triggers, controlled by the Show Magix software) together with some sound processing and small touch pad synthesizers (Korg Chaos Pads). The sound processing was used to provide a delay on a microphone. This was a very successful method of working with most participants as it amplifies small sounds and keeps them in the aural space for a while. In addition it allowed Teaching Assistant’s (TA’s) more opportunity to work directly with a pupil allowing several different activities to take place at one time. As the effect in the room was clearly separate from the video, there was little confusion in terms of the individuals’ contribution. Sessions also made use of a small hand held projector which could be used to create images on trays, material, drums, people clothing etc. Most session started with the use of Microphone and delay, moving to some individuals using triggers for video and sound. The length of this part of the session depended upon the engagement of pupils in the room at any one time. Hand held synthesizers were introduced later in the session and they concluded by playing drums, together with using the triggers, microphone and hand held projector.  The TA’s played a large part in the session, encouraging participation and involvement at all levels. Some time was also spent working with existing equipment in the room – for example the light tunnel, sound meter and sound pads.

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