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Parent Information Day on iPads

By Allan Wilson on Monday 26th November, 2012 at 3:33pm

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Nearly 50 parents of children with additional support needs came to CALL on Saturday for our Parent Information Day on iPads.During the course of the day there was a series of presentations by CALL staff on different aspects of the use of the iPad to support learning and communication, along with exhibition space with various stands where visitors could have more in-depth discussions with CALL staff and browse through some of the extensive information downloadable from the internet on the use of iPads to support learning.Stuart and Paul provided an overview of the use of the iPad to read books available in different electronic formats (primarily ePub and PDF), using apps including iBooks, iWordQ and VoiceDream Reader.

In a parallel session, Sally demonstrated a number of picture-based apps that could be used to support communication, including BitsBoard, Book Creator, Sounding Board and GoTalk Now.

The morning finished with a presentation by Craig highlighting basic functions of the iPad, such as file management and the creation of folders, and the accessibility features of the iPad.After lunch there was time for people to browse through a vast array of information resources (listed in a handout) and to ask questions. Many people took the opportunity to buy CALL's book on the iPad, iPads for Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning, available as a free download, or to purchase in paper format from CALL.

What people thought of the Information Day

Here are some comments made by people attending the Information Day:

  • "CALL is a brilliant discovery for us, and I feel it should be promoted to EVERY dyslexic kid as a matter of course - by law!"
  • " I liked the depth & breadth of experience and approachability of presenters."

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Talking Glove

By Sally Millar on Friday 23rd November, 2012 at 10:12am

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A rather amazing new development by two engineering students - a glove that  'translates' a hand gesture into a spoken output. The glove can 'learn' a large number of differentiated gestures (but would different wearers, if physically impaired,  be able to make clearly differentiated gestures consistently?)

This is like signalling / simplified signing rather than 'traditional' use of voice output technology, or rather is an interesting kind of merger between the two.

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Recordable Bar Story Sequencer

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 22nd November, 2012 at 2:44pm

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We recently loaned a Recordable Bar story sequencer to a Scottish charity which provides day services for people with disabilities. They were initially going to use it in their cafeteria to help people make choices from a menu. Feedback on the loan has been very positive:

"We used this piece of equipment as a menu board for a group with diverse communication needs and they all loved being able to make their choice."

The device was "really accessible, met the needs of most of the group and could be used for so much more."

The charity have now bought eight of the Recordable Bars from Inclusive Technology and will be using them for a variety of purposes to help the people who use their services.

The CALL Loan Bank can be used to assess whether a piece of equipment meet's a client's need without having to risk spending money on a device that may or may not be suitable.

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New Books on Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 21st November, 2012 at 12:49pm

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The British Dyslexia Association have recently published some new books covering different aspects of dyslexia. The full list is available from the store on their web site. We have purchased six of the new titles for the CALL Library:

  • Dyslexia and Useful Technology, edited by EA Draffen
  • Dyslexia in Education: A Guide for Teachers and Teaching Assistants, by Sue Thurtle
  • Dyslexia and Parents, by Margaret Malpas
  • Dyslexia: Early Intervention by Judith Stansfield
  • Maths Learning Difficulties, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, by Steve Chinn
  • Dyslexia Friendly Schools: Good Practice Guide, edited by Katrina Cochrane and Kate Saunders

CALL Scotland has a reference library, generally open between 9am and 5pm, available to teachers, therapists, students and anyone else with an interest in augmentative communication, assistive technology and education. It is best to phone beforehand to make sure that the Information Officer will be available to give you any help you need. Tel 0131 651 6235.

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How (not) to teach AAC use

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 20th November, 2012 at 12:08pm

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Brilliant (and honest and funny) insights here from a parent of a young child learning to use a Talker. Every single Teacher, Additional Support Needs Assistant, therapist, parent - and everyone else -  needs to read this! It is a summary of the three most important things about teaching and learning AAC.

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Ivona MiniReader free text-to-speech reader

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 20th November, 2012 at 11:10am

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One very common question we get asked is "what do you recommend for reading out the SQA Digital Question Papers?" 
 
There are several good programs for this such as TextHelp Read and Write Gold, ClaroRead, Co:Writer and Penfriend but if you have no money and you want a nice simple tool for your Windows computer, take a look at the Ivona MiniReader. It's very straightforward - select the text you want to read and click 'Play', and it reads reliably from PDFs, Word files, the internet - anything provided you can select the text.
 
A technician recently asked if the licence allows for it to be installed on all the computers in a school, and so I contacted Ivona to ask: Piotr Syrokwarz of Ivona says "Of course you can use MiniReader at schools".
 
 

MiniReader Quick Guide (download it from here)

Ivona MiniReader is a simple text reader which adds a floating toolbar on the screen and can read out text from almost any program – Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, internet browsers etc.. MiniReader can use the free Scottish voice Heather and Stuart and most other voices on your computer.
 

Download and install

 
Go to http://www.ivona.com/en/mini-reader/ and click on the Free Download button. Follow the instructions to install MiniReader.
 
When you install the software, it offers you the option to install some of the Ivona voices for 30 day trial – we suggest that you decline this offer and untick the Start the Ivona voices installation, unless unless you are interested in evaluating the voices. 
 
 

Reading text with MiniReader

 
 
Click Start > All programs > IVONA > IVONA MiniReader
 
Open your PDF document of web page, select some text then click on the Play button (or press CTR+SHIFT+SPACE), and MiniReader will read it out. Click Pause or press the keyboard shortcut again to pause the speech. 
 
 
Double click on a word to select it, triple click to select a line and quadruple click to select the whole page.
 
 
 
 
You can switch between the Mini and Full toolbar by clicking on the Show/Hide button. The Full toolbar lets you change voice and adjust speed and volume:
 
 
 
 
Some limitations of MiniReader compared to other paid-for text readers are that you have to manually select the text to be read, it doesn’t highlight the text as it reads, and there is no pronunciation dictionary. The hyperlinks to encourage you to 'Buy IVONA Reader' and 'Buy IVONA Voice' might also be distracting for some learners.
 
 
The paid-for Ivona Reader comes with extra voices, can convert text to MP3 files, has a reading window that does highlight the text as it reads, and adds reading buttons to internet browsers, Word and email.
 
 
The paid-for text readers like Read and Write Gold, ClaroRead, Co:Writer and Penfriend also have many other features and tools such as word prediction, phonetic spellchecker, dictionaries, scanning and OCR etc. 

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Switch adapted Nerf gun

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 16th November, 2012 at 4:07pm

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Yesterday we hosted a course delivered by the great Ian Bean, on switches and switch-operated technology, and during lunch I gave a short demo of my latest favourite switch-operated toy: a Nerf Havock Fire dart gun.

I set this up for the CALL Family Day earlier this year, and it was pretty popular with the young people on the course. And the adults too. And me.

Ian seemed to like it and his tweet has apparently being doing the rounds, so I thought it was worth a blog.

Craig shot this video of it in action.....

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CALL Live Webinar: Clicker 6

By Craig Mill on Thursday 15th November, 2012 at 10:46am

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CALL Live webinarWhat’s new in Clicker 6?

Bryan Adamson, who recently joined Crick Software as their Scottish Educational Consultant, will be hosting the next CALL Live webinar (free) on Tuesday 20th November at 1pm. 

Clicker is well established and widely used to provide literacy support for pupils with a wide range of additional support needs.

The latest version, Clicker 6, allows pupils to work more independently. Clicker 6 also helps teachers to easily and quickly create Clicker Set resources  for individual pupils or groups of pupils.

What will the Clicker 6 webinar cover?

The webinar will provide an overview of the ways in which Clicker 6 supports reading and writing  and will also show how Clicker 6 can be easily tailored to meet the needs of individual pupils.

The new ‘wizards’ that are used to create resources will also be demonstrated.

Read more and book your place on the free Clicker 6 webinar now.

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Periodic Table of AAC

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 14th November, 2012 at 10:10am

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There was considerable interest in the 'Periodic Table of AAC', displayed on the CALL Scotland stand at the Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland Study Day on the use of iPads for communication in Dunfermline last week.

The Periodic Table of AAC very cleverly presents key points relating to Augmentative and Alternative Communication in the visual form of a Periodic Table. The key points are categorised under the following headings:

  • Guiding Beliefs
  • AAC Competencies
  • Instructional and Implementation Tips
  • Communication Functions
  • Adult Support Tips
  • Assessment Considerations

If you have access to an A3 colour printer, print it out as a poster providing useful tips and points to remember when using AAC in school.

The Table was devised by Kate Ahern, a teacher of learners with multiple or significant special needs from Massachusetts. Kate writes the fabulous Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs blog - a great resource for anybody using Augmentative and Alternative Communication and other technology to support pupils with severe and complex disabilities.

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iPad Scotland Evaluation is published

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 13th November, 2012 at 4:10pm

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Earlier this year eight schools in Scotland participated in a study which asked “How does the use of tablet devices (e.g. the iPad) impact on teaching and learning?”

Given the huge interest in iPads, this is a good question to ask, and even  better to answer!

Researchers at the University of Hull have just published the project report here, and it makes interesting reading for anyone interested in iPads and tablet computers in schools. The Key Findings are reproduced below:

"1. Use of tablet devices such as the iPad was found to facilitate the achievement of many of the core elements required within the Curriculum for Excellence framework and could be further developed in order to achieve these aspirations.

2. The adoption of a personalised device such as an iPad significantly transforms access to and use of technology inside the classroom with many attendant benefits:

  • Many teachers noted that ubiquitous access to the Internet and other knowledge tools associated with the iPad altered the dynamics of their classroom and enabled a wider range of learning activities to routinely occur than had been possible previously.
  • The device also encouraged many teachers to explore alternative activities and forms of assessment for learning
3. Personal ‘ownership’ of the device is seen as the single most important factor for successful use of this technology:
This is seen as the critical element:
  • in increasing student levels of motivation, interest and engagement;
  • in promoting greater student autonomy and self-efficacy;
  • in encouraging students to take more responsibility for their own learning.
Evidence suggests that greater personal ownership of the iPad may also contribute to more interdisciplinary activity.
4. The individual possession of and early familiarisation with the iPad by teachers was seen as being responsible for the significant ‘buy in’ and low level of resistance from teachers:
  • The iPad engaged both teachers and students equally well.
  • Many members of school and Local Authority management teams commented that the deployment and effective use of iPad technology had been the most easily accepted, successful and problem-free initiative they had ever witnessed.
5. As a result of the pilot initiative schools are reconsidering their existing technology deployments with a view to more mobile provision:
  • Some schools have decided that because of their experiences with the iPad their existing ICT suites of computers will not be replaced in future.
  • Many schools reported that teachers and students were using iPads every day and in most lessons.
  • Little formal training or tuition to use the devices was required by teachers; they learned experientially through play and through collaboration with colleagues and students.
6. The device is bringing about significant changes in the way teachers approach their professional role as educators and is changing the way they see themselves and their pedagogy:
  • Teachers noted that iPads had promoted more collaboration between them and students
  • Teachers now see many students coaching and teaching their peers without the intervention of the class teacher
  • Software and applications (e.g. screen recording apps) support these processes and resultant changes in pedagogy
  • The use of iPads has enabled many more students to express their creativity, to engage in peer assessment and in group critique.
  • Teachers have seen the emergence of a real learning community that extends beyond the academic to include a partnership between students and teachers who work closely together.
  • Students report that within a month of the pilot starting, they noticed from their perspective that the quality of teaching seemed to have improved.
  • Class teachers feel that the functionality of these devices better supports students of all abilities.
  • Teachers reported that iPads allowed them to develop and extend homework and provide better feedback to students about their learning.
7. Parents also appear to become more engaged with the school and their child’s learning when the iPad travels home with the student:
  • The overwhelming majority of parents believe that students should be allowed to use mobile technologies in their school before they reach the secondary stage and reported that their children gained significant positive dispositions towards learning as a result of access to the iPad.
  • Over 80 per cent of parents considered the pilot project to have been valuable for their child despite its short duration and say it has significantly changed their child’s enjoyment of and attitude towards school.
  • Parents say that greater motivation, interest and engagement of their child with learning have been the single largest benefits.
  • Over 90 per cent of students believe that the iPad has helped them to learn more and to learn more difficult concepts and ideas better.
  • 75 per cent felt that their children were now more willing to complete homework.
  • Many noticed that their children were now more willing to talk to them about their school work.
8. Education departments and associated services within Local Authorities were perceived to have been helpful towards the iPad initiative and to have worked hard to support its use although corporate systems sometimes found this challenging:
  • Some concerns surrounded data security and eSafety but schools felt that corporate structures should recognise the need to place more trust in schools and students.
  • Schools felt that the appropriate use of the Internet is primarily a behavioural and educational issue that was within their abilities to address.
  • Schools saw many central or corporate eSafety protocols as unhelpful and counter productive and most felt they prevented them from making full use of iPads.
  • The physical safety of the devices has proved unproblematic and schools reported that students displayed high levels of responsibility and care even when taking iPads home.
  • The iPad itself is simple to operate and is robust and reliable although a number of bulk maintenance and upgrading issues remain to be resolved in schools.
9. Many teachers and students wish to have access to the iPad after the end of the trial and are convinced it has changed learning for the better."

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New App, SimpleAAC

By Sally Millar on Thursday 8th November, 2012 at 8:08pm

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Well,  just one day after yesterday's very successful Using iPads in AAC Study Day, I've just discovered that yet another new AAC App. It's called SimpleAAC, produced by Tony Jones / Unliimiter, and marketed through Ability World.

Have to say, CALL is not endorsing this App as such,  just passing on the info. 

It's confusing - when you find it on the App Store, it says it's Free, but in fact you get a free 7 Day trial (so, time your download carefully) and then after that you have to buy the full App (£124.99) or you are left with 5 non-editable demon screens.

Allowing for 1-20 location screens, the App seems to sit somewhere between the Go Talk Now app (which is top of the range of the simpler AAC Apps, costing £54.99 + £34.99 for a symbol library)) and the full scale symbol AAC Apps like Sonoflex, Touch Chat and P2Go etc. ( £69.99.£99.99, £129.99 respectively)

Interestingly it has a nice English sounding CereProc voice (only if you buy through the UK App Store)  - so maybe we'll figure out how to get the Scottish Voices Heather and Stuart on to iPad some day (not possible right now).

There's an introductory video to view.

The App uses the Unlimiter symbols, which are maybe a bit 'cartoony' for some.

 

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WordTalk problem after Microsoft Office Update?

By Robert Stewart on Thursday 8th November, 2012 at 2:28pm

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A number of users of WordTalk on Windows 7 (64-bit) have reported an error with WordTalk installed with Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010 which looks like it is caused by an Office update and causes the following error:

"Dialog Box Title: Microsoft Visual Basic, Compile Error in Hidden Module: This Document"

A fix for this is detailed on the WordTalk FAQs and goes as follows:

  1. Click the 'Start button' (bottom left) and select 'All Programs';
  2. Click on Accessories;
  3. Right click on 'Command Prompt' and select 'Run as administrator';
  4. Type in: regsvr32 /u c:\windows\SysWOW64\mscomctl.ocx and press return;
  5. Type in: regsvr32 c:\windows\SysWOW64\mscomctl.ocx and press return;
  6. Start-up Microsoft Word and WordTalk should function again.

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Parent Information Day: A focus on iPads

By Robert Stewart on Thursday 8th November, 2012 at 1:59pm

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There are still places available for parents interested in attending CALL’s Parent Information Day on Saturday 24th November 2012. We will focus specifically on the use of iPads and apps for children and young people with additional support needs or disabilities. 

The day will run 10.00 to 2.00pm at CALL Scotland (Edinburgh) and will be a mix of displays, presentations, hands-on and a chance for one-to-one sessions with CALL Scotland staff and, of course, meet other parents.

In response to the many questions raised by parents, teachers and others who work with children with additional support needs CALL has written a new book on the iPad - iPads for Communication, Access, Literacy, and Learning (iCALL). CALL has looked at loads of apps (and there are thousands more), many of which will be discussed and there will be opportunities for hands-on use at workstations. This is an opportunity to have many of your questions about iPads answered in an informal, supportive setting.

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Great wee video celebrating communication & AAC

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 6th November, 2012 at 10:57am

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Call Me Maybe

Take a few minutes to watch this uplifting wee video made by new graduates in speech and language therapy, Queen Margaret University College, as part of the RCSLT's Giving Voice campaign. Terrific enthusiasm, good for them!

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StandUp Comedian using AAC

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 6th November, 2012 at 10:02am

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Look out for comedy gigs by 'Lost Voice Guy' Lee Ridley, and do go and see him if you get the chance - he's FUNNY! Breaking down barriers as the first ever stand-up comedian who uses augmentative communication.

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