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Free Event: Developing Teachers in a Post PC Era

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 29th January, 2013 at 11:40am

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Dr. William Rankin holding an iPhone in a libraryAn opportunity for senior educational leaders to consider the requirements of preparing and developing teachers for the challenges and opportunities presented by the post PC classroom. The increasing presence of mobile technologies such as the iPad in our schools requires a new strategy in teacher development to realise the full potential of these new technologies. These technologies have the potential to support and meet the needs of learners across a full spectrum of abilities while transforming pedagogy and the whole learning and teaching process.

Keynote presentation from renowned international speaker Dr. William Rankin as well as presentations from Scottish Educators.

Early booking is advised so find out more and register!


  • Cost: FREE
  • Date: March 22nd 2013
  • Time: 10.00am to 1.15pm (registration from 9.00am)
  • Address: St Cecilia's Hall, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
  • Location map


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More 'Best Apps' for ASN: language and literacy

By Sally Millar on Monday 28th January, 2013 at 10:58am

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Another list of 'best Apps - this time from a US parents website, targeting Apps for language and literacy.


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Access to Work

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 23rd January, 2013 at 12:51pm

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Towards the end of last year we had a visit from Yvonne Baird, from the Department of Work and Pensions' Access to Work scheme. This was described in a recent report as "one of the best-kept secrets" within the Government. Money can be provided through Access to Work for people with disabilities in, or starting, employment. The money can pay for things like:

  • specialist equipment.
  • travel when you can't use public transport.
  • a communicator at a job interview.

To qualify for an Access to Work Grant, You must be disabled, 16 or over and either:

  • in a paid job or self-employed - you can’t get it for voluntary work.
  • unemployed and about to start a job or a work trial.

Support for Adults from CALL Scotland

CALL is funded, primarily by the Scottish Government, to support pupils with communication difficulties in schools in Scotland, and the staff who work with them, but we also get a small amount of money that allows us to provide limited support for adults with disabilities, through the Information and Advice and Loans services. Here are a few examples of the support we have provided in recent months:

  • Advice on different speech recognition systems for a speech and language therapist working with an adult in employment (who was probably eligible for Access to Work funding).
  • Advice (and loans of mini keyboards and a glidepad) to an occupational therapist with clients with MND wishing to access a computer in a day centre.
  • Information on use of Kindle software to allow an adult switch user to access electronic books (and loan of switch / interface).
  • Information and advice for adults with dyslexia looking for low cost software to support reading and writing.


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Terrific new 'AACknowledge' resource launches

By Sally Millar on Friday 18th January, 2013 at 11:07am

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A terrific new AAC resource has recently been launched, in the form of the AACknowledge website. This is an outcome of Communication Matter's AAC Evidence Base project.

The new website provides a wealth of useful information for both experienced AAC specialists, who get summaries and links to all published research, and beginners, who get basic AAC definitions and case stories, factsheets, FAQs and more.

It's a actually a well-researched - and much needed and eagerly anticipated - comprehensive database of research and publications in the field of AAC - but cleverly presented in an informative and easy to use way.


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First Thoughts on the Kindle Fire

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 16th January, 2013 at 1:51pm

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I got myself a Kindle Fire HD earlier this week as it is hard to respond to inquiries about a piece of equipment that we haven't seen. Interestingly, Amazon could not deliver until the middle of February so I got one from our local branch of Argos for the same price - sometimes it pays to shop local!

The Kindle Fire (bottom left in the photo), with a 7" screen is roughly the same size as the old keyboard Kindle (bottom right), just a fraction wider), but it is nearly twice as heavy. It is significantly smaller and lighter than the iPad (top). The display has a very decent resolution (1,280 x 800 pixels) and is clear and sharp.

The onscreen keyboard is as good as most others and works in either portrait or landscape orientation, with white lettering on black keys. There is built-in word rediction, with predicted words appearing in a row above the keyboard.

Reading eBooks on the Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire can access the same Kindle library as other Kindle devices, but the colour screen makes children's picture books much more inviting. Some picture books have been provided with 'popups', enlarging small passages of text in a box with a cream background, using a standard, slightly enlarged, serif font to replace the various more graphical fonts used in picture books. Unfortunately, in the book I tried ('Twas the Night Before Christmas') it was not possible to further enlarge this text, or have it read out loud by the Kindle. I could not find any books in the Picture Book section of the Amazon Shop which claimed to be 'speech enabled'.

Books made up primarily of text can be read the same way as in earlier Kindles, with options to change line spacing, style and size of the text. Six fonts are available. Given that that the more 'traditional' Kindles available from Amazon (basic Kindle and Paperwhite) no longer provide text to speech support for reading eBooks, I was particularly keen to see how this performed on the Kindle Fire. To turn speech on, simply tap on the screen to bring up the Menu and choose Settings, then turn Text-to-Speech on. Tap again and press the Play icon at the bottom left of the screen to listen to the speech. Speech quality is better than on the earlier Kindles, but still isn't great.

I was disappointed to find that Immersion Reading is not yet available in the UK. This has been introduced for Kindle readers in the USA, allowing people to link their Kindle eBook to an audio book downloaded from Books can be read with a human voice (generally the author, or an actor), with text highlighted on screen as the words are spoken. When I tried to find out whether this would become available for the UK, the response from Amazon Support was somewhat cryptic: "We've made no announcement about implementing Immersion Reading in the UK, so unfortunately I can't answer your question."

What else does the Kindle Fire have?

The Kindle Fire HD has a dual-band Wi-Fi connection, which I have found to be pretty fast. The web browser is OK, but pretty basic, without any facilities for improving accessibility. You can connect to email, Facebook and Twitter accounts

Though the Kindle Fire uses the Android operating system, you are restricted to using apps available from the Amazon App Store. There's a good selection of mainstream apps available, many of which are free, but there's a shortage of the more specialist apps. Anybody looking for a budget communication aid will be disappointed.

The Kindle Fire has a built-in front facing HD video camera, aimed primarily at people using video chat - it can be used to take photographs, but it is awkward as you cannot see what you are taking a picture of.

Although it isn't documented, it is possible to take a screenshot of the Kindle screen by simultaneously pressing the Lower Volume and Power buttons. This can be tricky as it is easy to get it slightly wrong and just get the Volume Bar, or the Shut Down menu on screen.

The Fire can be connected to an external display, e.g. a data projector, by means of a micro HDMI cable (not supplied, but very cheap)

Overall Impressions

Basically, I like the Fire - screen quality is good, it is portable and has access to a wide range of facilities. Some tasks are pretty fiddly (like taking a screenshot) and I was a bit disappointed with the text-to-speech quality - and the absence of Immersion Reading, but overall I was pretty impressed, especially as it only cost 159.


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For your Christmas photos - Pictello is going cheap until 1st January - or go even cheaper!

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 19th December, 2012 at 7:13pm

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From now until 1st January 2013, Pictello, the versatile photostory App for iPad is going cheap - at 8.99 instead of 13.99.  There's also a competition to enter - prizes available.

But don't worry if that's still too dear- there are lots of similar Apps for much less money

Go to the iTunes Store and check out

  • Fotobabble (iPhone version works fine on iPad) - free - talking postcards
  • My Story - 1.49 - you can write or draw on the photo
  • Book Creator (the absolute (Rolls Royce of photo story makers) - 1.49  - also plays video & sound files
  • My Pictures Talk - 2.99 -plays video as well as photos, super easy and quick to use


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It must be Christmas!

By Allan Wilson on Friday 14th December, 2012 at 3:14pm

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This is the time of year when lots of people make available Christmas-themed materials suitable for pupils with additional support needs in schools. Here are a few of the resources that we know about:

  • BBC CBeebies site - Their home page features an Advent Calendar, with games and short video clips featuring popular characters from children's television. There are lots of other Christmas resources available on the site - just search for Christmas.
  • Ian Bean has created a page of simple cause and effect Christmas resources that are accessible for switch and touch screen users. Great fun!
  • Makaton Advent Calendar - Very nice calendar featuring video clips of children signing along to songs and stories. The 'door' associated with each activity cannot be opened until the appropriate day.
  • SpecialBites - Switch accessible videos with a Christmas theme.
  • HelpKidzLearn - Advent Calendar with a new accessible actvity every day (Advent Calendars are definitely in fashion this year!
  • Father Christmas - Video Webchat - Schools are invited to send questions in to Santa in time for the Times Educational Supplement webchat on 19th December.
  • Christmas Treasures for Children with SEN - TES Special Needs Pinterest resource with links to lots of Christmas resources.
  • Spread Some Christmas Cheer - blog by Katie Lyons from Spectronics featuring a number of Christmas resources, including the Toca Hair Salon - Christmas Gift app for the iPad.

Feel free to add other ones that you know about!

In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas from everybody at CALL Scotland!


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New Clicker Apps

By Sandra O'Neill on Friday 14th December, 2012 at 12:42pm

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Crick have just released 2 Clicker Apps they had said the official launch would be at BETT so they have actually got this out earlier than expected! I’ve just installed them and these are my first thoughts.

In the Clicker Docs App (17.99) there are some grids/WordBanks available from Learning Grids which is just a couple of taps away in the app itself. It then automatically saves the grid so it is available whenever you want to use it. Or you can create your own wordbanks. The speech option allows you to have it set letter by letter, word by word or full sentence. You can also use the ‘Shift Speech’ button to have individual words/cells read out from the grid, predictor or document. There is a choice of 3 voices (Rachel, UK; Heather, US; Tyler, ANZ). Prediction is available and SoundsLike Predictor is an option. There is a choice of number of words from 250 to 60000 but you don’t seem to be able to add new ones. It did seem very slow as I typed in or used the word grid.

Clicker Sentences app (14.99) is for writing sentences using whole words. You can add pictures to the grid from the iPad photos library (or take a photo).

To get to the next screen you have to swipe so you can build up the piece of writing. You can choose to have a ‘model sentence’ or a ‘model sentence pop’ for pupils needing a bit more support. Using the speech is the same as in the Clicker docs.


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The Grid 2 Webinar: Introducing Fast Talker 2

By Robert Stewart on Friday 7th December, 2012 at 3:06pm

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  • Event date: 12th December, 2012
  • Event time: 1.00pm - 1.30pm
  • Presenters: Craig Mill and Dougal Hawes

Fast Talker 2 is Sensory Software's most complete text-based grid set for use with The Grid 2. It combines powerful communication grids with some of the most popular modern computer applications such as Facebook, YouTube and Skype. Best of all, Fast Talker 2 is very easy to use.

About the presenter

Dougal Hawes has been working in the field of assistive technology since 2004. He worked on the development of The Grid 2 AAC software and now works as Business Development Manager for Sensory Software and Smartbox Assistive Technology.

He has a wide range of experience and has worked a lot with people with Motor Neurone Disease. This is the user group that inspired his latest development project, Fast Talker 2 a complete communication and social networking solution.

Find out more about our CALLlive webinars and book this webinar!


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Accessible Versions of Scottish Children's Book Awards Shortlist

By Allan Wilson on Friday 30th November, 2012 at 12:58pm

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We've been distributing CDs with accessible versions of the shortlisted titles for this year's Scottish Book Trust's Scottish Children's Book Awards for the last couple of weeks. (See previous Blog for details of the Awards and the shortlisted titles.)

Children in schools throughout Scotland are asked to choose their favourite from their age category:

  • Bookbug Readers (3 - 7 years)
  • Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)
  • Older Readers (12 - 16 years)

Pupils with a print disability (e.g. visual impairment, dyslexia, some physical disabilities) who are not able to use standard books can benefit from having the books in an accessible electronic format available from CALL Scotland. This year, we have made the books available in the following formats:

BookBug Readers - PowerPoint and PDF. The PowerPoint files have recorded narration, i.e. children will hear a human voice reading the text on a page when they turn it. There are PowerPoint files specially set up for children using a switch. The PDF files have been set up so that the text can be read out loud by computer using either Adobe Reader and Read OutLoud, or Nook Study. Instructions for both are provided. We recommend using either of the Scottish Voices, Stuart or Heather, available for schools and parents from the Scottish Voice web site.

Younger Readers - Standard and Large Print (18 point) PDF and Daisy. Again, there are instructions for reading the PDFs using Adobe Reader or Nook Study. AMIS Daisy Reader software is provided for reading the Daisy versions.

Older Readers - Standard and Large Print (18 point) PDF and Daisy. Full instructions are provided.

Getting Accessible Copies of the Shortlisted Books

If you need an accessible copy of the books for a particular pupil, go to the CALL Scotland Books for All web site and fill in the form giving your name, the pupil name and letting us know which set of books is required. We'll send you the books on a CD.

Taking Part

Schools wanting to take part in deciding the winners in each category have to register with the Scottish Book Trust by 31st December and pupils can vote for their favourite book until 8th February.


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Customising the background/wallpaper on the iPad

By Craig Mill on Tuesday 27th November, 2012 at 4:34pm

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Despite the popularity of the iPad it is surprising there are only 23 background wallpapers to choose from.

These consist of a range of mellow or atmospheric images and scenes including dewy grass, a cobbled street, tree rings, a carved totem pole, flowers, crashing waves, denim and other patterned options.

Although you can download many other wallpaper scenes from a range of online sources, they tend to follow a similar vein and lack the simplicity of a plain natural background.

Many users may find the selection of wallpapers currently on offer (or as the iPad’s default) unsuitable, distracting and/or even difficult to view. I personally use a yellow background/wallpaper, and although it isn't a perfect solution, it does help me when I'm looking at the screen for long periods of time.

Example of background/wallpaper for the iPad.

Choose and download a colour wallpaper of your choice

To help, CALL have developed a selection of plain, simple and natural coloured wallpapers which you can download and use on your iPad for free.

Although you can’t set the wallpaper to function as a global colour (e.g. in Settings and other Apps) you can use one of the plain coloured backgrounds when viewing the main screens and when moving between screens of Apps.

Choose from 11 different plain colours

We currently have 11 colours that you can freely download and use on your iPad, regardless of the model (iPad 1, 2 or New iPad).

I recommend that you download your chosen background by using your iPad. If you are unable to download the background then try sending it by email to your iPad (see below for instructions to set the background/wallpaper).

Montage of iPads with colour backgrounds

Download the Yellow background

Download the Cream background

Download the Mauve background

Download the Rose background Rose background

Download the Purple background Purple background

Download the Orange background Orange background

Download the Mustard background Mustard background

Download the Blue background

Download the Green background Green background

Download the Grey background Grey background

Download the White background

Changing the background with your chosen wallpaper

First, you will need to download one of the backgrounds and save it to the Photos App which comes as a pre-installed App with your iOS. When the downloaded file appears tap and hold your finger until the pop-up menu appears. Select 'Save Image' - the image automatically saves to the Photos App.

Next, choose "Brightness & Wallpaper" from the menu on the left side of the settings screen.

Choose the Wallpaper tab under the brightness settings to go to the Wallpaper settings there is also an arrow just to the right of the two iPad images.

Look for the wallpaper you have just downloaded and select it.

After choosing your selected wallpaper, you will be taken to a preview of the picture you want to use for the iPad's background. 

To set the background, either tap the button labelled 'Set Lock Screen' to set the photo for your lock screen, 'Set Home Screen' to make the photo appear underneath your app icons or 'Set Both' for the background to be used as the global image or colour for your iPad.

If you require a 'global' colour solution you can purchase transparency coloured overlays which you fit onto the iPad's screen.

You can download the complete tutorial in PDF by selecting this link


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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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