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Generating Graph Paper

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 12th February, 2014 at 1:41pm

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Incompetech logo



We just found out about the Incompetech web site, where it is possible to generate a huge variety of graph papers, lined papers and papers with a multitude of shapes as PDF files - all for free! For graph paper, you can specify the size of paper, margins, spacing between lines, thickness and colour of lines.

Other available options, included varous styles of lined paper, paper for musical notation, hexagonal grids and lots more. Some examples are shown below.

If we'd known about this site earlier, we could have saved ourselves some time when producing graph paper for accessible versions of maths books for the Books for All Scotland database!


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Further clarification that MiniReader CAN be installed on school computers

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 7th February, 2014 at 5:34pm

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Text-to-speech is one of the most useful accessibility tools for learners with and also without literacy or access difficulties. Pupils with dyslexia or reading difficulties can use text-to-speech to access digital text; pupils with English as a second language, or with language or learning difficulties can use text-to-speech to aid their understanding; learners with visual impairment who have difficulty seeing the text can use it to read faster and with greater comfort; and ALL learners, with or without additional support needs, can benefit from using text-to-speech to proof read and improve their work.

In our view, text-to-speech is an accessibility essential and all school computers should have a text-to-speech reader available, along with the free Scottish computer voices.

There are a many text-to-speech programs available, but if you need a free, simple program for windows, take a look at Ivona MiniReader. I introduced MiniReader in a previous blog and on our MiniReader web page:and the purpose of this blog is to reassure local authority and school staff that it is legal to install MiniReader on school computers.

On 12 November 2012, I asked Ivona whether MiniReader could be installed on all the computers in a school and was told that:

"Of course you can use MiniReader at schools. I hope that it will be good promotion for our other products like IVONA Voices and IVONA Reader."

On 16 September 2013, following some questions from local authority technical staff, I emailed Ivona to ask:

"Can you confirm again that it is acceptable for your free MiniReader software to be installed on school computers in Scotland?"

to which Ivona responded:

"Minireader is free so it can be installed on school PC's."

And on 7th January 2014, a colleague in a local authority asked Ivona to clarify whether they could use the MiniReader with the school's own computer voices. Ivona said:

"Our Minireader is for free. You can download this product by clicking "Free download" on"

I hope that this provides clarification and reassurance! Let's get on with reading.....


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New Maths in Action Large Print Books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 3rd February, 2014 at 11:10am

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Thanks to Marie Lawson from the Vision Service in Shetland for contributing a new 18 point Large Print copy of New Maths in Action S22. It's available as two parts and you can find them on the Database by clicking the links below: 

Marie previously contributed Large print copies of New Maths in Action S1-1 and S1-2Click here to see all the New Maths in Action books on the database.

Remember also that you can get some Nelson Thornes Maths in Action books as PDF files from the Load2Learn database. Load2Learn currently has PDFs of New Maths in Action S2/2S3/2 and S3/3 and also PDFs of the new Curriculum for Excellence titles - Maths in Action: National 4 and Maths in Action National 5Load2Learn is like a 'sister' database of Books for All and is run by RNIB and Dyslexia Action. 


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National 5 Specimen papers with answer boxes are now available

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 6th January, 2014 at 4:03pm

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The SQA Question Paper team have added 'answer boxes' to the National 5 specimen papers and these can be downloaded from the SQA Digital Question Paper pages. Feedback from students is that it is much easier to type in answers directly on the paper, than to use a separate digital answer booklet. Papers in question-and-answer format that have answer boxes include for example Biology Section 2, Computing Science, Drama, French Reading, Gaelic Reading, Music, Physics and Philosophy.

Papers that are not in question-and-answer format (such as English and History) do not have answer boxes, and learners either hand-write their answers into a paper answer booklet, or use use digital versions of answer booklets which can be downloaded in PDF and also Word format.

The papers and answer booklets can be freely downloaded by teachers, parents and learners for revision and practice. 

To find out more about how to use Digital Question Papers visit the CALL Digital Assessment web site and refer to SQA's Digital Question papers Guidance pages.


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What's the sign for....?

By Sally Millar on Friday 13th December, 2013 at 2:57pm

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Maybe others already know all about this already but I just stumbled upon a really useful online sign dictionary  (search for videos of BSL signs)

As both Makaton and Signalong are based on BSL, this site can offer rapid support to staff and family who may not have instant access to an SLT  or sign tutors or materials to plug any gaps in their sign vocabulary knowledge.

How often do staff just avoid or give up on using signs, - even though they really know that a child REALLY NEEDS this visual support to help language comprehension -  just because they just can't quite think of the right sign....?  

(NB. you MUST make sure you've used the 'change language' window, top right on the screen, and got the Union Jack flag symbol ticked to get BSL, or you might wander off by mistake into a different European language or different version of English, such as ASL) is also available (free, I think) as an app for iPad or Android.

(and I really like how the signer in this clip looks so like the wee PCS / Boardmaker symbol guy! lol)




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Using Word Grids in the Clicker Books App

By Allan Wilson on Friday 13th December, 2013 at 9:15am

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My colleague, Craig, quite likes the Clicker Books app, particularly the word grid/bank support, but it took a while to work out how to create word grids/banks – unfortunately it isn’t very intuitive and not immediately obvious. Craig has now created a very, very quick guide.



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You CAN run your favourite websites on iPad

By Sally Millar on Thursday 12th December, 2013 at 9:54am

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Have you tried running your favourite websites on your iPad and then been devastated to find that they won't work?

I did - HelpKidzLearn  is a vital day by day necessity, as is Doorway Online.

They don't run on iPad, seemingly because these are Flash based websites, and iPads don't talk to Flash.

However, it seems 'zere are ways of making zem talk'.....

Well, maybe you guys all know this already, but I didn't, until my colleague Sandra told me! 

Go to the App store and get Rover - the Browser for Education (apparently free).

Then when it opens, go to the supermarket trolley at the top right of the screen and buy the £2.99 Upgrade.

(Without this paid upgrade, you will just get a message to say 'Website is blocked' when you try to open your site.)

Now type in the URL of the site you want to access in the browser window, Go / Search - and there you are!

Happy Bunny! 

P.S. it only works when you have a good WiFi connection, of course.


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The Scottish Voice: latest version available

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 10th December, 2013 at 10:58am

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The latest version (3.1) of the Scottish Voice is now available to download. It is available for both Windows and Mac (Intel). They will also work on the latest version of OS X (Maverick 10.9).

Once installed on your computer, you can use Heather or Stuart with most 'text-to-speech' programs to read:

It's recommended that you uninstall any previous version of the voice first. This can be done via:

  • Windows: 'Add/Remove Programs' on Control Panel;
  • Mac:or delete them from the Applications folder.

The voices are licensed for: State-run schools, pupils at home, Scottish Colleges, Scottish Universities, Scottish Open University students, Scottish charities dealing with pupils and NHS patients, Scottish Local Authorities, NHS Scotland, Scottish government agencies and the public sector in general.

The voices are not licensed for: Independent schools, private companies, Scottish students studying abroad and individuals not covered by the above. If you wish, you can purchase a copy from the CALL Scotland shop.



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Word prediction is confirmed as a reasonable adjustment for assessing writing in National Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 9th December, 2013 at 7:00pm

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SQA have confirmed that word prediction software is a reasonable adjustment for learners with disabilities for the writing assessment of Literacy at National 3 or 4. 

Word predictors analyse text as it is typed on the computer, and try to ‘predict’ the words that the learner is most likely to want, from a dictionary or lexicon of words. The writer types or selects a letter and the program offers a list of the most common words beginning with that letter. If the required word is on the list, the writer selects it with mouse, keyboard or other access tool. If the word is not on the list, the learner types the next letter and a different choice of words is offered.

There are many word prediction programs available, such as Co:Writer, ClaroRead, LetMeType, Penfriend, Read and Write Gold and Write:Online. Some Scottish local authorities have authority-wide licences for some of these programs.

Word prediction can reduce the number of keystrokes needed to type by up to 50% and so learners with physical disabilities use them to reduce effort and to increase endurance and therefore the amount that can be written in one session.

Word prediction can also help learners with even quite severe spelling difficulties because the writer only needs to type the first few letters of the word and then select it from the list of words offered. Most of the predictors can cope with letter reversals (e.g. b/d) or phonetic spelling errors and still offer a valid list of words. Learners with reading difficulties can usually point or click on the words in the prediction lists and have them read out by the computer, to make sure the correct word is selected.  

Some literacy skills are necessary to be successful with word prediction. The writer must be able to decide what they want to say, type a reasonable approximation to the first few letters of the word and then recognise and select the word in the list. Some writers cannot get the first letters right at all; others may miss the word when it is offered in the list or choose a different one by mistake. Some pupils also find that shifting attention between the text, the keyboard and the predicted list interrupts their flow of thought and slows them down. (If this is this case, it can be helpful to use an on-screen keyboard so that the writer maintains focus on the screen.)

Research and experience shows that word prediction can be very effective method of support, particularly for learners with more significant literacy difficulties for whom spellcheckers are not sufficient. 

Word prediction in assessment of literacyat National 3 and 4

SQA regard word prediction as a reasonable adjustment, but staff should ensure that the software is not providing inappropriate levels of support. For example, the predictor should:

  • only offer single words or paired words in the context of the writing topic (e.g. ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’;
  • not offer whole phrases or sentences;
  • not be programmed such that the learner can simply hit one key to regurgitate an entire text.

For the avoidance of doubt, SQA have confirmed that the following facilities can be used where available:

  • phonetic prediction (e.g. Co:writer’s FlexSpell);
  • ‘next word prediction’, where the software offers a list of words immediately after the last one typed;
  • topic dictionaries matched to the writing task.

This information is provided for guidance: it is the responsibility of the teacher to assess whether a learner has achieved the standard for writing in literacy, and so staff should use their professional skills and judgement to ensure that the support provided is appropriate.

Find out more about how ICT can be used in assessment of writing on our web page.


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Using networked computers in examinations

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 2nd December, 2013 at 12:31pm

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Staff often ask whether to use standalone or networked computers in exams, and so we have written a quick guide (below) and also available for download.

Exam Profiles for Digital Question Papers

In an exam you can either use standalone computers, or you can use machines attached to your school network. The best way to run digital exams is to use networked computers and for your technicians to set up ‘exam profiles' on the machines.

The Exam Profiles should:

  • prevent access to internet, USB memory sticks, Bluetooth and any folders or files on the school network or computer – to prevent cheating;
  • have the software required for the exam (usually Adobe Reader and Microsoft Word, plus text-to-speech software);
  • give access to an ‘exam folder’ on the network.

Each Exam Profile – Exam1, Exam2 etc. – has a network folder with the same name, with read and write access for the pupils.

Prior to the exam, staff should create a planning table which matches the pupils against the computers and the Exam Profiles - e.g. Joe Brown will be on computer 1 with Exam Profile 1; Jane Smith on computer 2 with Exam Profile 2; and so on.

On the day of the exam, the SfL teacher or technician, in the presence of the invigilator, puts the CD into their own networked computer and copies the papers from the CD to the network folders for each pupil.

Spellcheck on/off

SQA provide two versions of the Digital Question Paper on the CD: one with the spellchecker enabled (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckon’), and the other with spellchecker turned off (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckoff’). Make sure you copy the correct papers to the correct network folders for each pupil – for example, you might designate Computers 1 to 3 for candidates who are not using the spellchecker, and Computers 4 and 5 for learners who do have permission to use the spellchecker.

Digital Answer Booklets

If Digital Answer Booklets are required for the exam, they should be downloaded in advance from the SQA web site at and then copied to the Exam Profile network folders.

Data Booklets

If required, PDF versions of Data Booklets for sciences and Technological Studies should also be downloaded from the same SQA site and copied to the network folders.

Paper copies

SQA provide paper copies of the examination for all the candidates that are using Digital Papers:  learners can use both at any time during the examination.

On the day

Pupils sit down at the computers and are told the computer and the Exam Profile they are to use. They log on to Exam1, or Exam2 etc and they can see the correct paper sitting for them in the network folder. They open it, work on it, and save it frequently as they go through it. (Staff should also ensure that the Adobe Reader ‘auto-save’ is turned on.)

At the end of the exam candidates print their paper and/or answer booklets out on a networked printer (preferably in the room next door to give easy access and to avoid disturbing candidates in the exam room). The candidate should have an opportunity to check over the paper (within the overall time allowed) and if necessary amend and re-print answers before the paper is given to the invigilator.


Using networked computers with profiles and folders in this way gives security and is MUCH easier and faster for staff than using standalone computers. If you use standalone machines you will run round sticking the CD into each computer in turn, and then at the end of the exam, run round copying the completed papers off to a USB stick to get them printed. This takes a lot more time and is generally less reliable and more prone to error and high blood pressure than using networked computers with Exam Profiles.


Further guidance is available from SQA ( and CALL Scotland ( 


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Use of ICT in Assessment of Writing for National 3/4 Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 2nd December, 2013 at 10:33am

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We have added some notes on using ICT to support learners with additional support needs in National 3 and 4 assessment of writing. As you probably know, human scribes are not regarded as a reasonable adjustment when assessing writing for National 3 and 4 Literacy qualifications, but learners can use ICT. 

The writing assessment at National 3 involves writing at least 80 words on a topic that is being covered in class; National 4 requires 300 words. The assessment is not 'an exam' - it is carried out in class as part of teaching and learning. It is not time-limited and learners can use dictionaries, word banks, mind-maps and other tools to support their writing.

All learners can use (and are encouraged to use) ICT for writing and this includes spellcheckers and autocorrect tools that are bult in to the word processor or device. Pupils with additional needs can also use more specialist access devices and software.

You can read the guidance here and also download the booklet as a PDF.

The booklet on assessing writing complements the notes on using ICT in the assessment of reading already available.


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Parents ACT NOW to save 27

By Sally Millar on Friday 22nd November, 2013 at 12:27pm

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The 'must -have' PC software for all parents with younger children and children of any age with complex additional support needs, is HelpKidzLearn - Games and activities. 

HKL is a fantastic treasure-trove of attractive, fun, and really simple to play games and activities, touch screen and mouse operated (not keyboard) and many are switch accessible.The stock of resources is updated and added to every term, so it is always changing and developing (though it keeps the old good stuff too).  

HelpKidzLearn is an online, subscription-based resource. Up 'til now, the special 'Home User' rate has been £12 per year (£1 per month) but this is  - suddenly - about to change...

As of Sunday 24 November, the price is going up to £39 per year. So you need to SUBSCRIBE NOW and save yourself £27!



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Get moving! Bobath Paediatric Powered Mobility Workshop 1/11/13

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 7th November, 2013 at 1:01pm

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Last week I was fortunate to attend a brilliant workshop on Paediatric Powered Mobility at Bobath Scotland in Glasgow. It was organised by Sandra Mackay and colleagues at Bobath, and featured Ros Livingstone and Debbie Field from Sunny Hill Health Centre in Vancouver. Ros and Debbie are presenting a paper at the European Seating Symposium in Dublin this week, and were kind enough to stop off in Scotland to give us a workshop. 

In the workshop Ros and Debbie covered several topics, and one of them was a systematic review of the evidence base for the impact of powered mobility on the development and lives of people with disabilities. Here are some conclusions based on the research:

  • lack of independent mobility makes children passive and may adversely effect cognitive, sensory and social development;
  • children with disabilities need the same opportunities to be mobile at the same age (i.e. very young, from crawling and rolling age), as other children;
  • children as young as 24 months can learn to drive powered wheelchairs;
  • use of powered mobility has positive impacts on independence, receptive language, social skills, functional skills, quality of play, behaviour, peer and parental perceptions of the child;
  • use of powered mobility does not prevent a child from learning to walk;
  • children can learn to drive a wheelchair at an earlier developmental age than they can learn to use computer technology;
  • children with learning difficulties can learn to drive powered mobility aids;
  • the main factor that effects learning to drive is time and practice.

This seems clear then: powered mobility is really important for child development. 

Here's another way of thinking about powered mobility: by not providing a means of independent mobility to young disabled children, they actually become more disabled than they would have been, had they learned to be independently mobile. 

Ros, Debbie and colleagues at Sunny Hill have created some very useful web pages with links to research, guidance on assessment, provision and training, and notes on access methods and devices, and on different types of mobility aids. 

Some of the Sunny Hill information on wheelchairs, switches and controls is not that appropriate for the UK, so inspired by their example over the next few weeks I will add some new pages to the Smart Wheelchair section of our site, with resources and links that are specific to the UK.

Powered mobility aids needn't be expensive - take a look at Cole Galloway's Go Baby Go switch adapted cars from Toys R Us.


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iPad Apps for Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 6th November, 2013 at 3:42pm

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Wheel of iPad Apps for Learners with DyslexiaWe have produced a 'Wheel' of iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties as a visual aid and reminder for some of the many apps that are available to support learners with dyslexia. It is designed to be used as an A3 poster, but the electronic PDF version is also useful as it links directly to the various apps that we have included.

It is impossible to include every app that can be useful for learners with dyslexia so we have only included a small representative group for each category. We are happy to take suggestions for other apps that could be included in later versions of the Wheel and will give them our consideration. Many apps can be useful in more than one category, but we have chosen to use just one particularly representative category for these apps, in order to make space available to include other apps.

This ‘wheel of apps’ for dyslexia is inspired by previous visual representations of apps:

These can all be found on the Apps4Stages web site.

iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning

iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties leads in to a new book that CALL will be publishing early in the New Year. iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning will provide detailed descriptions of apps that can be useful for learners with dyslexia, along with hints, tips and suggested strategies for using them.


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Strategic Commissioning - implementing the Doran Review

By Stuart Aitken on Monday 28th October, 2013 at 5:06pm

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Scottish Government has set up online access so that everyone with an interest can follow progress on how outcomes for children with complex additional support needs are to be improved.The Strategic Commissioning Project web pages provide an overview and reports on how Scottish Government propose to implement the findings of the Doran Review.

The project has five aims including the over-arching one of providing better outcomes for  children and young people with complex additional support needs, through "an improved system of aligning services to needs, and efficient use of public funding".

This piece of work has the potential to have a huge impact on the education and support of children and young people with complex support needs so it is really important that the views of all concerned are heard and can influence future provision.

A couple of useful starting points are to read the Project Initiation Document and the paper submitted on Needs Analysis

Stuart Aitken is a member of the Project Board representing CALL Scotland, Scottish Sensory Centre and Enquire as three nationla centres funded by Scottish Government. Details on membership and other information can be found in the associated documents.

For those who are interested in finding out about the lead up to this implementation phase, Peter Doran's report The Right Help at the Right Time in the Right Place, and Scottish Government's response to that report, Meeting the needs of Scotland's children and young people with complex additional support needs, offer useful background.


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