StoryPhoneBy Sally McKeown
When you see StoryPhones, they seem such a good idea that you cannot imagine why they didn’t happen earlier. Their creator Eleanor Johnson must be a very sensible person. She was an early years teacher at South Stanley Infants School in County Durham and found it very irritating that the audio kit was stuck in one area of the classroom.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to put an MP3 player in a flexible rubberised headset and then children could listen to sound anywhere in the classroom? And wouldn’t it be nice to have the headsets in lots of bright attractive colours instead of a dull grey? Probably lots of teachers have had similar thoughts but Eleanor also had the good sense to marry an electrical engineer.

Simon works at Durham University and he produced StoryPhones. Last year their good idea won two gold awards in the Practical Pre-School Awards. And this year their company, Ameeca, won the Newcomer of the Year Award in the annual Durham and Wearside regional heats of the North East Business Awards and was a finalist in the Innovation Award category.

StoryPhones are very versatile. Yes, children can listen to pre-recorded stories on them but that is just the start. Teachers can record a bank of audio materials: instructions for poor readers, rhymes, simple games and 'treasure hunt' clues.

The children can listen independently which is a great aid to concentration, but can also listen in groups which helps with social skills. Pupils can record their own voice which makes them a great tool for developing speaking skills, and because StoryPhones are wireless the children can take them outside. They can use them to record what they see on school trips or create a podcast for the rest of the class to share. They can be used for singing and dancing activities too.

Now Ameeca is developing Bookshelf, an online store of stories, music and rhymes. These MP3 downloads are from a wide range of publishers including Oxford Reading Tree, Walker Books and the delightful Shoofly.

Not content with resources in English, the company is branching out into other languages with Collins French and Spanish Club. The rhymes, jokes and tongue twisters are a great introduction to other languages and children learn as they listen, which is what StoryPhones are all about.

Ratings (out of 5)

Fitness for purpose   5
Ease of use              5
Features                   5
Quality                      5
Value for money       4

Six-way system £595+VAT. Includes six MP3 headsets, remote console, six-way base unit, Bookshelf software, USB and power cables


SallySally McKeown McKeown is a freelance writer and is an expert in special needs and inclusion. She is currently working with Accessible Futures Ltd and Northgate, supporting a group of special schools in Kent through BSF wave 4.

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