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New French books on the Books for All Database from VTSS in Edinburgh

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 3rd March, 2015 at 5:58pm

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Just before Christmas Mary Matson from Edinburgh and Lothians VTSS transcription team kindly gave us over 15,000 files to add to the database.

Rebecca Gow here in CALL, with help from James, a student, have gone through this treasure trove and sorted and edited the files into complete books. Some of the books are beautifully laid out Large Print, whilst others are scanned copies of paper books. The scanned files have been converted into text, but (as you can imagine) we've not had time to proof-read and correct them, so you will find some errors.

Over the next few weeks we will check and upload books for different subjects to the database and post a list of the new titles on the blog and on the Database News page.

The first batch are French books:

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tha e air beagan Gàidhlig?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 25th February, 2015 at 3:00pm

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We are pleased to report that we have received funding to work with CereProc to develop and license a Scottish Gaelic computer voice for the Scottish public sector. CereProc are a world-class text-to-speech company based in Edinburgh and the Gaelic voice development is funded by The Scottish Government Gaelic and Scots UnitScottish Funding CouncilScottish Qualifications Authority and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The new Gaelic voice will be available to schools from The Scottish Voice website for the start of the 2015-16 academic session, alongside  Heather and Stuart, which are high quality computer English voices with a Scottish accent. We first licensed Heather from CereProc in 2008 and she was followed by Stuart, in 2011, and they are now used in computers in schools all across Scotland in a variety of ways by learners with additional support needs. For example:

  • students with reading difficulties use the voices to read digital textbooks, assessments or digital exam papers;
  • learners with visual impairment use the voices to read and access the computer screen;
  • pupils who have difficulties with communication use the voices in their electronic voice output aids for personal communication.

By licensing Heather and Stuart nationally, schools and other public agencies are saved the cost of buying the voices or buying computer reader software with high quality voices. We estimate that we have saved Scottish education at least £2 million compared with the cost of schools or local authorities buying the voices commercially. 

However, there is no Scottish Gaelic computer voice available and so Gaelic learners and speakers do not have the same opportunities as Scottish English speakers. The new Gaelic voice will we hope address this.

The Gaelic computer voice will not just benefit learners with disabilities and additional support needs:  anyone who reads Gaelic could find it helpful to read web sites, documents, or to check and proof-read their own letters or emails. The voice will be licensed for use by Scottish schools, colleges, universities, local and national government agencies, NHS units and for use at home by pupils and staff.

    

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Free online course, iPads for sensory level education

By Sally Millar on Friday 13th February, 2015 at 10:56am

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Did you know that there is now an online training course on using iPads in education for learners with additional support needs? This has been put together on his website by the redoubtable Richard Hirstwood (famous for his energetic and imaginative sensory education training), and is FREE! 

The course is divided into 7 sections (each of which includes text and video material), plus 4 sections covering lists of Apps for particular topic areas. Altogether, there is maybe up to about 7 hours of learning in there, though of course, you can break this up into small chunks of time, as you please. 

It works well on tablets and phones, as well as on computers with larger screens

Ideal half-term browsing!

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How accessible are your school computers? Are we meeting legal obligations?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 4th February, 2015 at 6:01pm

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On 31 October the Scottish Government published Guidance on “Planning improvements for disabled pupils’ access to education” which "describes the requirements the Act places on education authorities and schools to work to improve the education of disabled learners and to help ensure that they are properly included in, and able to benefit fully from, their school education."

The Guidance contains two appendices that refer specifically to measures that local authorities should take to improve the accessibility of school ICT and computers. It covers things like installing the Scottish computer voices; having text-to-speech software available; providing access to control panels so that students with disabilities can make adjustments to enable access; etc. The document is available here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/10/8011.

Now that the guidance is published, it would be helpful to get a snapshot of how accessible school computers are across the country, and what might need to be done to improve the accessibility of ICT used in schools.

To accomplish this, please help us by completing a survey that you can find here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/accessICT.

We know that in some parts of the country, learners have the benefit of readily-available accessibility software and adjustments, but in other schools the provision is not so good. By completing the survey you will help identify areas where improvements might be made. Please also pass the link on to your colleagues.

Many thanks,

Paul

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More AAC Professional Learning Opportunities

By Sally Millar on Monday 2nd February, 2015 at 12:13pm

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Check out the upcoming CALLlive Webinars on AAC Topics - you are welcome to join!

CALL Scotland delivers regular short  (approx. 30 minutes) free webinars on a range of topics, many of which relate to AAC. You can join these 'live' at 4pm - 4.30 pm
  • 11 February Text-based AAC Apps and iOS8 keyboards 
  • 25 February; Apps for Skills Assessment, to support AAC Choices 
  • 4 March Go Talk Now App
All at 4pm (register in advance and check in a few minutes early, for tech. checks).If you can't manage to join these 'live' you can replay them from the bank of Archived Webinars. Recently archived AAC Webinars include:
  • 2nd December 2014 (Introduction to the Right to Speak resources, including videos, online training modules, downloadable posters, resources)
  • 21 January 2015, Tools2Talk App

 

 

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AAC courses in Scotland, in March 2015 - book now!

By Sally Millar on Thursday 22nd January, 2015 at 3:39pm

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Good news for AAC folk - there are TWO upcoming courses  - in March 2015 - that promise be not only valuable and interesting but also FREE!

  • Liberator AAC Awareness Day: 27th March, Kilmarnock
  • One-day PODD Training:  31st March, Alloa Campus, Forth Valley College

Book early to be sure to get a place!

Flip across to the AAC Scotland website right now to get the full information and links to booking form etc.

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TeeJay books are available on the Books for All Database again

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 13th January, 2015 at 10:59am

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Following the incident where a TeeJay book was found available on the internet (see the 7 January blog post), we have modified the wording of the Books for All Database records and we hope that it is clearer and encourages staff to read and understand the terms and conditions.

Tom Strang at TeeJay is happy with the wording and so we have made the TeeJay books available once again. We are very grateful to Tom for his understanding and for allowing us to share his publications, free of charge, so that learners with print disabilities can access them.

You can see all the TeeJay books by clicking here

This is the arrangement:


These accessible copies are made available under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency Print Disability Licence to be used only by a learner who is visually impaired or otherwise disabled and by reason of such visual impairment or disability is unable to read or access the original printed book.

Under the terms of the licence you must download or obtain an accessible copy for each learner who needs one. All learners must have a print disability.

By downloading this book I confirm that:

  • I am downloading this book for a learner with a print disability.  I will not supply the book to learners who do not have a print disability.  I will not upload the book to the internet for public access.  
  • I understand that I am legally responsible for the file and for its usage.  
  • I agree to the Books for All Database Terms and Conditions.

Books for All Database Licence Conditions for TeeJay Books

  • The user of this Accessible Digital Copy must have legal access to a print copy of the book, bought either for personal use or as part of a class set.
  • The Accessible Digital Copy should be deleted once the pupil has completed the course for which it was supplied.

 

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Wot? No TeeJay Books?

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 9th January, 2015 at 3:17pm

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You may have found that the TeeJay maths PDFs are not on the Books for All database any more. We have temporarily removed them because just before Christmas one of the files appeared on Wikispaces, freely downloadable, and this is not permitted under the agreement we have with TeeJay.

We are discussing how we can prevent this from happening with TeeJay and once we have a solution we hope to have them available again soon.

This emphasises how important it is to abide by the Books for All terms and conditions and to ensure that the files are only provided for learners with print disabilities. If we collectively don't protect the publishers' rights and property, they won't let us share their files. 

Watch this space - we'll let you know when they are available again.

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New resource - Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults

By Stuart Aitken on Friday 9th January, 2015 at 1:13pm

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A new free resource book on dyslexia is available. Although written mainly for adults who have dyslexia it may be of interest to a more general audience that includes parents of children with dyslexia.

Written anonymously by an adult who has dyslexia it takes a holistic approach to reading. It describes skills, alternative formats (large print sources, audio source, audiobook sources etc.) and dyslexia friendly options,  Also, it considers why an adult might want to engage with books (benefits, strategies), the position regarding copyright and more.

The resource uses a font that is readable with good size and line spacing and sections that are  split into manageable chunks. A 3-page synopsis is included as an Appendix. For those who prefer a more visual approach a spider diagram is also provided to  guide people to the relevant section of interest.  

Additional information provided to us by the author -

‘Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’ is a free resource which:

  • explores various options that dyslexics can use to succeed with books;
  • provides tips, ideas and information; and
  •  is written by a dyslexic adult

Downloading the guide

The guide is available to download in PDF from one of these three options:   

  1. http://bit.ly/13wIPvO
  2. Download from Google Drive
  3. WordPress blogpost​ - then click on the text at end of post ‘Accessing Books – A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’ 

As some may find an online or digital copy difficult to use you are free to print the downloaded guide or any part of it.

Members of Dyslexia Scotland can borrow a paper copy (including a CD). 

Non-members can consult it at the Dyslexia Scotland Resource Centre.

Dyslexia Scotland Resource Centre
Dyslexia Scotland
2nd floor - East Suite
Wallace House
17 - 21 Maxwell Place
Stirling FK8 1JU
Tel. 01786 44 66 50

 

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Digital Exams in New Zealand

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 6th January, 2015 at 9:48am

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Back in 2006 Naomi and Ross Forrester from Speaking Solutions in New Zealand visited us to find out about digital exams. Naomi and Ross are experts in speech recognition and digital tools to support learners with disabilities and difficulties. Since then they have been working with Louise Oliphant at Auckland's Sacred Heart College to introduce digital assessments and examinations and Naomi sent me a copy of an article published in the New Zealand Interface magazine, which makes interesting reading.

The school are now using digital exams and assessments for students who would normally require a reader and/or writer and have found that the students achieve similar grades to their mainstream counterparts. They are at the point where they can hold multilevel assessments for more than 30 students in one room with 2 invigilators and this gives an 80% saving to the school in terms of wages, room costs and administration. The article notes that "the results from digital examinations have been astounding" and digital exams are regarded as a "fair and equal way of testing their abilities". The article gives an example of using digital maths papers, where students use text-to-speech to read the questions and handwrite their answers, and points out that this tests "knowledge of mathematics rather than whether a candidate could read the questions."

The article concludes that "Overwhelmingly, the research and experience at Sacred Heart College demonstrates that all students – not just those who have special learning needs – should be extended the opportunity to choose a digital format as an option to complete examinations, thus expressing true subject competency, rather than their ability to read and write.​"

Great to hear about digital assessments and exams having a positive impact on the other side of the world.

 

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How to speak to an Android

By Craig Mill on Monday 15th December, 2014 at 3:59pm

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Voice personal assistants are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now. 

Siri and Google Now have a lot of features in common, such as location services, e.g. asking for the nearest restaurant, setting up calendar events and reminders, searching for personal contacts, launching apps, playing music and so forth, and both rely on a strong Wi-Fi connection in order to search and collate information. The Android TipBot blog provides a full list of Google voice commands.   

Voice Searches with Siri and Google Now

Siri and Google Now will both respond to questions such as ‘What is the capital of Scotland?’,’ ‘What is the population of Scotland?’ and if the appropriate Settings are activated, both will reply with a combination of text and spoken answers, offering multi-sensory feedback.  

Google Voice Search

Where Siri and Google Now differ is the source they use to compute answers and provide knowledge, i.e. Siri relies on Wolfram Alpha (a computational knowledge engine – as opposed to a ‘search engine’). Google Now gathers information using its famous search engine compiling answers into the Google Card format; combining text and images (as well as voice feedback) laid out in a series of categories (which can be customised), e.g., weather, temperature, places to stay, local restaurants etc. 

Google Card example

A benefit of Siri is that you only need to press and hold the Home button and Siri jumps into action (or by tapping the microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard), assuming you have an iPad 3rd Generation or later. 

However, things aren’t so straight forward on Android as much will depend on the version of Android operating system (OS) (Jelly Bean, KitKat etc) that’s installed on your mobile device. Since there are so many manufacturers that use Google Android's OS the implementation and updates can and do vary significantly, i.e. Samsung, Asus, LG, Sony etc. Even when Google announces a new updated Android OS, some devices may never receive the update. 

On a positive note, the Google Play Store offers a number of apps that can be downloaded for free which can help to overcome some of the issues described above. The Google Now Launcher app integrates into the Android operating system so you can access the search features from anywhere on the device by tapping the Google Now/Search microphone icon. Similarly the voice command, ‘OK Google’ will also stir Google search into life. The Google Chrome web app also offers voice searches from within the URL form field or from within the search box.

Hey Google example

Google Voice Typing 

But both Siri and Google Now go beyond doing web searches and voice commands (or even asking funny or unusual questions such as 'Why did Apple make you?) and can be used for dictating text directly into word processing apps, such as Notes or Pages (for the iOS) or Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft OneNote, Office Suite etc.for Android. 

Google Voice Type with Google Docs

Google Voice Type with Microsoft Onenote

In the case of the iPad, the microphone icon (Siri) is integrated in to the iPad’s default on-screen keyboard. Google Voice Typing, the Android’s version of speech recognition requires a few steps to set up before you can start using it, but once it’s ready to go Google Voice Typing is every bit as impressive (if not more) as Siri.   

Setting up Google Voice Typing 

The process for setting up Google Voice Typing may differ between device and operating system but hopefully the following steps should help. On some devices you may be prompted to set up Google Play Services which is used to update Google apps and Google Play. 

On newer Android devices Google Voice Typing may be set and ready to go as default. 

1.    Tap the Settings icon, 

2.    Under ‘Personal’ tap Language and input,

3.    Tap Google voice typing. Check in settings (to the right hand side) for additional features and options. 

Setting up Google Voice Type

Depending on the keyboard you’re using will determine how Google Voice Typing (indicated with a microphone icon) is accessed. I would recommend you use the default Google Keyboard (the icon is located on the far right hand side of the keyboard) which also features word prediction as standard. 

To correct any errors or wrongly pronounced words you can either delete the word and repeat it or simply go back to keyboard mode and make corrections with the keyboard.

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Create your PDF prelims, assessments, worksheets and activities on your iPad!

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 12th December, 2014 at 5:36pm

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Previously if you wanted to create an interactive digital prelim, assessment or other resource with answer boxes on screen, you had to use Adobe Acrobat Pro, which costs around about £60 per license under a special licensing arrangement from Education Scotland. Even though this is a very good deal (the full commercial rate for Acrobat Pro is £440), some staff have commented that it is a significant outlay for each department in a school to buy a copy. 

However, there are now some alternatives to Acrobat Pro that are worth considering. I'll outline the Windows software options in a blog next week, and today I want to introduce PDF Office, which is a brand new app that lets you create digital question papers and prelims on your iPad!

DF Office lets you open a PDF, do small edits to the text and add drawings and other annotations, and most importantly, you can insert form fields for answer boxes. There is a form field detection feature that adds fields automatically for you. In testing on my standard prelim paper, I found that it works very well: it even detected the difference between a field where I wanted a tick box, and other fields where I wanted text boxes. (This is better than Acrobat, which puts text boxes into tick box fields that you then have to delete.)

You can change the properties of the fields to make them look like the SQA Digital Question papers, i.e. red borders, multi-line where necessary. I couldn't find a way to select all the fields in the whole paper to make these changes once, but it was easy to select all the fields on one page and set the properties for that page.

You can draw in fields for text, tick boxes, numbers, date, radio buttons, action buttons (e.g. send by email), drop-down lists, and image fields for users to insert photos from the camera. You can tap on a field and duplicate it, which gives a faster way of inserting fields.  

You would want to use a stylus rather than your finger, to get accurate positioning (although it 'snaps' to other fields that keeps things nicely aligned), and I actually found it slightly easier and quicker than using a mouse on a computer.

The completed PDFs can be accessed and completed by students on iPad using apps like Adobe Reader, ClaroPDF and PDF Expert, or on a computer with Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader.

Cost? The app is free, but to use it you need a subscription which is quoted at $4.99/month or $39.99/year. However, when I installed it, it gave me a free year's subscription for nothing because I already had PDF Expert, one of Readdle's other apps, on my iPad. PDF Expert costs £6.99, so for just £6.99 you can get both PDF Expert, which is an excellent tool for reading and managing PDFs, and a year's worth of making digital prelims and resources on your iPad!

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iVona MiniReader and MS Word - keyboard shortcuts

By Stuart Aitken on Wednesday 10th December, 2014 at 4:48pm

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Many pupils are now using iVona MiniReader as their main text-to-speech tool in Scottish schools. One question has come up a couple of times and it came up again in today's SQA ICT & Literacy Seminar (URL).

iVona MiniReader with Play button

Today's question was how to use iVona to read out a National Literacy 3 or 4 exemplar paper using only the keyboard. The N3 and N4 papers are available in MS Word. So we are considering iVona working with MS Word keyboard shortcuts. (PDF has different keyboard shortcuts not covered in this blog.)

Pressing Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar isn't a problem for pupils who can find the word, phrase, sentence to speak! 

But what if the pupil has dyspraxia, or a physical disability or, say, a visual impairment  that makes it difficult to i) locate the chunk of text to be spoken, and ii) to then navigate to that Play button in order to press it? 

Become a Power user!

Often referred to as Power users, keyboard users also have a trick available. It uses Extend mode, F8 (Function key 8).​

 

We'll cover three scenarios.

  1. Pupils who can independently find the first word to be spoken.
  2.     Pupils who need to use the keyboard to find the first word or phrase to be spoken.
  3.     Pupils who can only press one key at a time.

1. Pupils who can independently find the first word to be spoken

  1. Open the Word document, launch iVona MiniReader.
  2. Position cursor (blinking) somewhere in the first word to be spoken.
  3. Press F8 once to turn it on. Press again to select the whole word.
  4. (Optional) To select the whole sentence to be read, press F8 a second time.
  5. (Optional) To select the whole paragraph to be read, press F8 a third time.
  6. Press Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar to speak the word, sentence or paragraph.
  7. To deselect the word, sentence or paragraph, press Esc, followed by an arrow key.

2. Pupils who need to use the keyboard to find the first word or phrase to be spoken

  1. Open your Word document and launch iVona MiniReader
  2. Press Ctrl+F to find the first word or phrase to be spoken - this opens the Find pane. Type in the word or phrase to be found.
  3. Press Enter.
  4. Use the arrow key to highlight the box containing the word or phrase.
  5. (Optional) To select the whole sentence to be read, press F8 a second time - may need three presses.
  6. (Optional) To select the whole paragraph to be read, press F8 a third time - may need four presses.
  7. Press Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar to speak the word or phrase found (iVona actually speaks it from the Word document itself rather than from the pane - clever!).
  8. To deselect the word, sentence or paragraph, press Esc, followed by an arrow key.

To close the Find pane - some pupils may find it distracting or it may take up too much space on the screen

  1. With the cursor (blinking) in the Find pane somewhere.

  2. Press Ctrl+Spacebar then W.

3. ​For pupils who can only press one key at a time

Use Sticky Keys

  1. To activate Sticky Keys press Windows key +U > Make the keyboard easier to use > Turn on Sticky keys.
  2. It is now possible to press keyboard combinations by pressing one key, then the next etc. Each key will 'stick' e.g. Ctrl then Shift then Spacebar has the same effect as pressing Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar together.

The document Extend Selection Shortcuts Word is a slightly edited version of those listed under Microsoft Word 2010 Help - which of course can be accessed by pressing the F1 key. 

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Free symbol goodies

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st December, 2014 at 9:31am

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If you're looking for quick-to-make Winter / Christmas activities, check out the free downloadable symbol supported worksheets, from Widgit .

 

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New in iOS 8

By Craig Mill on Thursday 27th November, 2014 at 2:05pm

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The latest iOS, (iOS 8) for iPhones and iPads, features new Accessibility options as well as a few enhancements to existing tools.  

These include:

QuickType

QuickType is a new context-based word prediction feature for the iPad’s built-in on-screen keyboard. To set up QuickType go to Settings, General, Keyboard and switch on Predictive.  When you start typing in Notes or Pages QuickType will recommend your next word based on your writing style and past messages, which appear at the top of the keyboard. QuickType can also be used in combination with Switch Control.

QuickType with word prediction

Third-party keyboards

As well as the iPad’s default on-screen keyboard you can now use additional 3rd party keyboard apps, such as Keedogo Plus, Swype, Flesky, Ginger Keyboard + Page and SuperKeys – see Allan’s blog post on SuperKeys Assistive Keyboard App. These keyboards can be used in Pages, Keynote, Notes and other text-based apps that make use of the iOS keyboard.  A benefit of using integrated keyboards is that pupils do not need to ‘Send to’ or ‘Copy’ text between different apps, thereby making the workflow process much simpler.  

Keedogo plus

Vision

As well as the existing tools in Vision i.e. Full Screen Zoom (Double-tap three fingers to zoom etc.) a new feature, Window Zoom, allows users to magnify parts of the screen by moving the magnification window with a small handle situated at the bottom of the Zoom Window. Positioning can also be controlled with a new feature ‘Show Controller’ allowing you to control or specify which part of the screen is magnified and to adjust the level of the zoom. The Zoom Window can also be resized to suit different needs.  

Zoom Window

Follow Focus and Zoom Keyboard

Another addition to iOS 8 and Vision is Follow Focus and Zoom Keyboard. Follow Focus tracks the text wherever the cursor is placed when typing which is particularly useful if a document is magnified at high zoom. With Zoom Keyboard you can set the on-screen keyboard to the default size underneath a magnified window (and/or Double-tap three fingers to magnify the keyboard)  thereby making it easy to both type and see what you’re typing without having to continuously zoom in and out of different sections of the screen.

Speak Screen

By far my most favourite new addition is Speak Screen which can be found in Accessibility, Speech and Speak Screen. Once Speak Screen is turned on a simple ‘swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen’ will activate the Speak Screen bar, similar to the illustration below:

Speak Screen in iOS 8

Speak Screen will read anything where there is content on the screen such as text in Safari, Pages, Kindle Books and queries asked of Siri.

Guided Access

Guided Access is designed to keep pupils on task by ‘locking’ them into a specified app. A new feature in Guided Access is setting time limits so teachers and parents can stipulate the length of time Guided Access is to be used. This could be useful for setting timed reading/writing activities with a ‘you can play a game now ’reward (which could also be timed) after the time limit has expired.  

Enhanced Braille Keyboard

iOS 8 adds support for 6-dot and 8 dot Braille input system-wide in combination with VoiceOver. This feature involves a dedicated Braille keyboard that will translate 6-dot and 8 dot chords into text and can be used for searching apps via Spotlight Search or in Pages, Notes etc. A useful video tutorial can be found on the Luis Perez YouTube Channel.

To find out more on iOS 8 watch the CALL Live webinar on ‘What’s new in iOS 8’ which explains how to add and select 3rd party keyboards and make the most of the new tools and features.  

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