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Talking in Exams Project

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 17th April, 2015 at 1:11pm

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Speech recognition has been around for many years, and many people have tried it without much success. It could be made to work, but often involved a lot of training, time and effort. Today though, computers are much more powerful, speech recognition software is much more accurate and reliable, and we believe it is now a viable option for many more learners.

There has been a lot of interest in speech recognition recently in Scotland, partly because the technology is now more common and better, and partly because of the introduction of the National Literacy assessment, where scribes cannot be used for assessment of writing, but technology, including speech recognition, can.

On 15th January 2015 we held a seminar, supported by SQA, where we discussed the use of speech recognition software in assessments and examinations. You can view a recording of the seminar on CALL's web site: scroll down to 'Speech Recognition in Practice'.

We heard very positive reports about speech recognition from practitioners in East Lothian, Scottish Borders and Stirling, and the participants on the day were keen to continue the conversation and try out speech recognition. So, we thought - how can CALL help?

The Talking in Exams Project is our response, and this is the plan:

Create guidance materials for getting started with speech recognition.

We are creating web pages on the CALL site, with general information covering the SR software and links to tutorials, videos and research. The web pages initially cover Dragon Naturally Speaking, Windows Speech Recognition, WordQ+SpeakQ and Siri on the iPad, but later we will add more for MacOS Dictation, Android and Google Chrome tools. 

Build a community of practice where we can share what works and what doesn’t.

We will organise some more free sessions where we can get together and share experiences. We will set up online collaboration via CALL's web site, and/or via a Glow blog / wiki / Learning Space for project partners to talk and share. We anticipate running these sessions during this term so that work with students can start before the end of term. 

Provide (a limited number of) Dragon and SpeakQ+WordQ licences to schools.

Schools who take part in the project can use the free speech recognition tools built into Windows, MacOS and on tablets, but we also want to include Dragon NaturallySpeaking and WordQ+SpeakQ in the project, so we have a small number of licences for both programs that we can provide free to schools. We anticipate having more schools involved than we have licences and so we will probably choose who gets the software by drawing lots. 

Schools can use one or more of the above, e.g. Dragon NaturallySpeaking on one machine, Windows SR on another, and/or Siri.

Support schools to trial speech recognition software

As well as the web pages, we will organise (free) sessions to introduce the speech recognition tools. We’ll have these on a few dates across the country.

We will suggest a procedure for staff to follow to teach students and record results, possibly based on  Speech Recognition as AT for Writing, by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key, or the Speech Recognition Trial Protocol, by Cindy Cavanagh.

Gather and publish case studies / reports.

We hope that participating schools will share case studies or reports on their experiences and we intend to provide an outline format for schools to use to collect information about learners as they learn to use SR. The main question is whether SR is viable for implementation at the end of the trial.


If you are interested in taking part, register an interest by emailing by Thursday April 30th. We will get back to you after this date to discuss next steps. 


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CALL Course - Using Symbols in Schools

By Gillian McNeill on Wednesday 1st April, 2015 at 4:22pm

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Don't miss out on our next professional learning opportunity to increase your skills and knowledge in -

'Using Symbols in School: Supporting Language, Learning and Communication'

It's on Thursday 30th April from 9.30am to 3.30pm at CALL Scotland.

The course will be of benefit to Support for Learning and ASN staff in all sectors of Education and to Speech and Language Therapists working with pupils with a range of support needs, including those with complex communication support needs.

You'll find out the why,what and how on symbols as visual supports for learning, including hands on time on PC and iPad.

Further information is available on our professional learning page.

Booking is required by Wednesday 22nd April, so best get on your marks, set and go!


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Work at CALL!

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 30th March, 2015 at 4:15pm

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Development Officer - Assistive Technology & Additional Support Needs

As a result of recent and upcoming staff changes, we are looking for a person to come and join the CALL team. This post is full-time and fixed-term until 31st March 2017 - although we hope and expect that funding will continue beyond this date. Secondment is also a possibility. If you would like to discuss the post informally please call Paul on 0131 651 6235 or email

The post details are on TES jobs.

"You will be a qualified teacher with extensive experience working with children and young people with disabilities and/or additional support needs. You will have expertise with specialist assistive technologies.

This post includes elements of research, capacity building, and knowledge exchange in addition to direct work with learners in schools. The post is diverse, exciting and challenging: it involves providing assistive technology assessment and support for learners with additional support needs in schools; developing and delivering Continuing Professional Learning; resource development; and the opportunity to develop projects and developments with schools, local authorities and national agencies. The post is an exciting opportunity to work in a rapidly changing field and to promote and develop good practice in assistive technology, both in Scotland and internationally. The post involves working across Scotland and you will have a car licence and access to a car.

CALL is based in the Moray House School of Education and is funded primarily by the Scottish Government to lead and support the use of assistive and communication technologies by learners with disabilities and/or Additional Support needs."


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New Large Print books from Inverclyde

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 30th March, 2015 at 3:48pm

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What the Ladybird Heard-Spring has Sprung for Accessible Books!

By Joanna Courtney on Tuesday 24th March, 2015 at 1:13pm

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Now that Springtime seems to be upon us at last, you'll be looking for some suitably 'fresh and lively' reading material for your Young Readers!


Just to remind you that CALL's PowerPoint bookshelf is available for download with links to lots of ready made PowerPoint switch prompt books for you to use with pupils who have a Print Disability


Why not start by downloading 'What the Ladybird Heard,' a fabulous story by Julia Donaldson about a ladybird who spoils the plans of two thieves trying to steal the prize cow from the farmyard!





Download CALL's symbolised 'Shared Reading' resources to accompany the book and enable children with Communication Support Needs to take part fully in the fun. The resources include a printable symbol board (or Go Talk 9+ overlay), Step by Step and Big Mack switch tops and a Vocabulary Sheet with ideas of what vocabulary to use. The Shared Reading set of resources appear near the bottom of the page.






There are also some great teaching ideas and resources to go with this story on the Teaching Ideas website as well as from the Scottish Book Trust's website.


Please also remember that CALL's symbolised resources to accompany ALL the short-listed Bookbug books from this year's Scottish Children's Book Awards, including the 2015 winner Robot Rumpus by Ross Collins and Sean Taylor, can still be downloaded from our website until the end of March.

So download the resources now before time runs out!





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Bright Red to provide digital files for Learners with Print Disabilities

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 19th March, 2015 at 4:02pm

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We are excited to announce that Bright Red Publishing are the latest Scottish textbook publisher to agree to provide digital copies of their books for the Books for All Database. Bright Red publish Study and Revision Guides for Intermediate, National 5 and Highers and also SQA Past Papers. Over the next few weeks we will be adding their books to the database and we'll list the books on the blog and on the Database News pages as they become available.

This is particularly good timing since the 2015 exams are looming ever closer!

Staff and learners should also check out the free Bright Red Digital Zone. This "is a fully interactive online resource where teachers can find useful information and students can put in that extra effort to help them get the best possible grades". The website has been developed in collaboration with Professor Bill Buchanan at Edinburgh Napier University.


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New books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 18th March, 2015 at 5:08pm

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Rebecca has uploaded some more books from VTSS in Edinburgh to the Books for All Database. Some are scanned copies and some are Large Print. The new books are:




Home Economics 


Modern Studies


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EmergencySMS service to call 999 - great for nonspeakers!

By Sally Millar on Monday 16th March, 2015 at 10:19am

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Police Scotland are offering a new Emergency SMS service which could be very valuable for people with speech, language or communication impairment, or deafness (who cannot easily use a voice based phone service).

If someone can access a mobile phone reliably, they can send an SMS text message to the UK 999 service to call for help. The emergency services will be able to reply and pass your message to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard as required.

You will need to register your mobile phone before using the emergencySMS service. Do it now - don't wait until an emergency happens! Click to Register your phone ​

Click to download the emergencySMS leaflet.



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Friday Games for switch and touch users

By Sally Millar on Friday 13th March, 2015 at 1:01pm

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You will find some fun online games (free!) for early level learners using switch or touch, or mouse click, on Ian Bean's SENICT Software website.  Lots of other great resources, links, and information etc. there too.


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Red Nose Day 2015 resources

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 12th March, 2015 at 3:08pm

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As you will know, it's Comic Relief's Red Nose Day tomorrow!

Download a Red Nose Day symbol board to enable pupils with Additional Support Needs to take part fully in all the fundraising shenanigans!

-this can be used as a printable low tech board or as an overlay for a Go Talk 9 + communication aid. Or, just cut up the symbols and use them as you see fit!

To celebrate, I'm also sign posting you to various games and resources to help you and your pupils take part fully in the fun!

Fun games and activities 

-'Nose need to panic' uses the 'space bar' so could be accessed via single switch-very quick though!

Or Make your Face Funny using a photo, like me! 

Red Nose Day Song for schools

-download the song 'Making Funny Faces' and a PDF of the lyrics and sheet music

Download a funny face kit

-make your face 'Funny for Money' using the ready made stencils and face paints or make up!

And lastly, if you are needing new jokes to record into a simple AAC device e.g. Step by Step for the big day tomorrow, download the CALL joke sheet here!

So, enjoy raising money for a great cause and having lots of fun at the same time!






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Scottish Children's Book Awards 2015 winners announced!

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 5th March, 2015 at 11:13am

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Congratulations to the Winners of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2015! The awards are run by The Scottish Book Trust and the winners were announced at an Awards Ceremony at The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on the 4th March 2015 in front of 600 school children. The winner for each category was

Bookbug Readers (3-7): Robot Rumpus by Ross Collins and Sean Taylor

 Younger Readers (8-11): The Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens by Alex McCall

Older Readers (12-16): Mosi’s War by Cathy MacPhail

This is the first year that, along with digital versions of the books in all three categories, CALL Scotland has produced symbolised resources to accompany the 3 Bookbug Readers short-listed books; Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray, Lost for Words by Natalie Russell and Robot Rumpus by Sean Taylor and Ross Collins. 

These 3 books were given FREE to every P1 child in Scotland by the Scottish Book Trust during Book Week Scotland 2014, in the Bookbug Primary 1 Family Pack.

CALL's FREE resources include paper-based symbol materials, ‘GoTalk’ communication aid overlays, Big Mack/Step by Step symbols and SoundingBoard app boards for use on the iPad. There are specific resources for talking about each of the 3 books as well as for shared reading and for voting.

 Download the symbolised resources here

It was great for me to meet the authors of these books at the ceremony; Alison Murray, Natalie Russell and Sean Taylor and Ross Collins to chat to them about the resources and how they have enabled children with communication support needs and physical difficulties to take part in shared reading of their books and in the voting process. The authors were also keen to try out their book’s resources on a Go Talk communication aid!

The symbolised resources are all still available to download FREE from The Books for All website as well as digital copies of the last 6 years’ Bookbug books in PowerPoint format from our PowerPoint Bookshelf

A great way for ALL of your pupils to access books and additional resources on this World Book Day!  



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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:

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:

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,



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