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New activities and having fun with HelpKidzLearn!

By Gillian McNeill on Thursday 11th September, 2014 at 2:14pm

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I noticed an e-newsletter from HelpKidzLearn sitting in my inbox today which mentioned the arrival of some new activities. I hadn’t visited this site for a while, so decided to investigate further…….

HelpKidzLearn really is a great online resource for teachers and parents of younger children and children with complex additional support needs, providing 80+ accessible learning games. It’s a paid for subscription based facility with a free user option allowing you to try out a sample before parting with any money!

So my email said that 10 new free activities were now available, although not new for subscribers, but rather newly available sample activities for you to try out. (This sample then seems to change from time to time to provide different activities for trying out). Having viewed the new activities, for me 2 of them stood out, although you may have a different view on this!

Here they are: 

Card Maker Lite – this could be a fun way of making cards for any birthday or even Halloween next month! 

“Create your own cards. Add the recipient's name and click the mouse, touch the screen or press a switch (Spacebar or Enter) to choose a colourful design for Christmas, birthdays, Easter or Halloween. Choose the colour of the card and the writing and decorate the card before printing it out.”

 

Mandy’s House – great for developing traditional grid based switch scanning skills!

“Use one or two switches (Spacebar and Enter) to explore the house. Go to a room with a light on and see what happens there. Can you find the gym, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, TV room, chill out room, games room and music room?”

 

If you would rather have access to the full set of activities, a year’s subscriptions starts at £49 for a single user, with other options for multiple users and site licences.

 

Brand new games are added every month, and most recently:

More Crazy Cats – an early years activity involving brightly coloured cats popping out of dustbins and heavy rock music – cool! Great for encouraging watching, waiting and timed selection.

 

If you would like to view more from the HelpKidzLearn resource, we have an archived CALL webinar to view; it’s approximately 20 minutes long and provides a useful overview.

The HelpKidzLearn activities can be played using different access options including keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, eye gaze, joystick and switches. I’ve been checking out the HelpKidzLearn EasySwitch bundle (2 switches and 1 USB dongle) which looks like a cost effective switch option and is described as easy to set up. (I haven’t laid hands on them yet to try out, although I’m hoping to do this soon!).

The switch looks similar to the small Smoothie type (75mm), so this would need to be a suitable size and type for your child. Also, to stop your switch from sliding around, you might want to look into using it with a non-slip mat or attaching Velcro on the back and using mounts such as the Maxess Mounting System or Flexzi Switch Mount from Inclusive Technology.

And finally for information on running the HelpKidzLearn resource on your iPad visit Sally’s blog. You CAN run your favourite websites on iPad

Hope this provides you with hours of fun and learning!

 

 

 

 

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New TeeJay National 4 and 5 books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 10th September, 2014 at 1:07pm

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Our grateful thanks to Tom Strang and colleagues at TeeJay for providing us with PDFs of their new National 4 and 5 maths textbooks. The CfE Books N4-1, N4-2, N4+ and N5 are now available from the Books for All Scotland Database.

The books are PDF files and we have added bookmarks to aid navigation, and reader-extended them so that learners can use the comment, markup and drawing tools to type answers and complete some of the exercises on screen.

(We've not added answer boxes to these books because: there are few questions that can be answered with plain text answer boxes (the maths is more advanced); in many cases there isn't space on the page to insert the answer boxes; and we're still working on the earlier levels.)   

These books are for learners who cannot read or access the paper copies, and we've had feedback that they are helpful for learners with visual impairment, physical disability, dyslexia and ASD. 

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Who says men can't multi-task?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 10th September, 2014 at 9:56am

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"Six-screen Stuart" testing some new adapted Teejay Maths books on a variety of devices (from left to right: PC laptop, iPad, PC desktop, iPhone, Mac (off picture to the right). The white heat pace of technology continues....

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Doran Review - Perth Event Thursday 23rd October 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 9th September, 2014 at 12:00pm

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Find out more about and contribute to the discussions on Doran review of services to provide better outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs. The Perth Doran Review event gives people a chance to hear about the work of the Doran Board, what joint Strategic Commissioning is and  how commissioning intends to improve services for children and young people with complex ASN. This, the fourth and final Learning and Communication event planned, will give plenty of scope for discussion and to have your questions answered.

The three events so far have been attended by staff from education authorities, social work, health, grant aided special schools, independent special schools, and voluntary organisations. A report on these events is available. If you do intend to go it is worth reading the report in advance as it will help frame your questions (it isn't necessary to do so).

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Scottish Children's Book Awards Bookbug Symbol Pack

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 3rd September, 2014 at 11:05am

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The shortlisted titles for this year's Scottish Children's Book Awards were announced on August 28th by the Scottish Book Trust. The Bookbug books are Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray, Robot Rumpus by Sean Taylor and Ross Collins and Lost for Words by Natalie Russell.

CALL Scotland has produced accessible versions of the shortlisted books to allow children with print disabilities (which make it hard for them to access a standard book) to take part in the scheme.

The Bookbug books are available as Adobe PDFs, PowerPoint files and as Keynote files for iPad. You will need to have PowerPoint 97-2003 installed (or FREE PowerPoint Viewer) to play the PowerPoint stories and have Keynote installed on your iPad to play the Keynote files (£6.99 from the App Store).  Note that there are also commercial eBook versions of some of the books - if your pupil can use them, then you should go for this option.

This year CALL has also created a pack of symbolised resources to accompany the Bookbug category of short-listed books, which can be used with pupils with Additional Support Needs and those with communication difficulties. These include Go Talk 9+ overlays or printable symbol boards to go with each story, for general shared reading and for voting for the winner! There are also vocabulary sheets to go with each board to help with recording the messages.

We hope this pack will make the Book Awards into a fun and inclusive project for all your pupils to enjoy and really take part in!

As well as resources for reading the stories, we’ve provided a symbolised teaching activity and vocabulary sheet to go with each story book, adapted from the Scottish Book Trust’s Teacher Pack; Woolly Good Fun, Track Tapir down and Give Wash-bot a scare! So go on, get involved.

We’re sure that your creative minds can come up with your own activities in addition to those we’ve provided and we would LOVE to hear about what you’re doing to get your pupils involved this year!

Use them on your iPad too!

For those using iPads in the classroom or for pupils using an iPad as an AAC device, SoundingBoard app versions of the boards, using SymbolStix symbols (c) 2014 SymbolStix LLC, are also available for download. There are 5 boards in total, 1 for each story +shared reading+ voting, which all link together and are pre-recorded ready to go. So make sure your iPads have the FREE app SoundingBoard installed ready to join in the fun!

You can also watch videos of the authors reading the Bookbug books on the Scottish Book trust’s website. A nice ‘Golden Time’ activity for those darker Autumn afternoons!

Happy Reading! You must register to vote by 31st December 2014 and you have until 6th February 2015 to vote for your favourite. The winners will be announced on the 4th March 2015 at a special awards ceremony held by the Scottish Book Trust. You can register to vote here.

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New Project - the S'up Spoon for those with shaky hands

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 3rd September, 2014 at 10:46am

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Hey - an exciting new project by CALL Scotland friend and ex-Steering Group member Grant Douglas, with 4c Design

 

It’s the brilliantly designed S’up Spoon that allows people with cerebral palsy or unwanted hand/upper body movements from other causes, to load up with food that otherwise might be difficult or impossible to manage independently. What a boon!  Grant has been scoffing soup, sweet corn, peas and Chinese rice dishes with ease, and in public, for the first time ever (and there’s video material to prove it!)

The project needs funds to get the product to market, but if you donate now you can receive discount /spoons hopefully by Christmas, so it’s a kind of ‘pre-order’ set up.  Check out the Kickstarter website for more details, and to make a pledge. Read what Grant says about the challenge of creating a new solution to this frustrating barrier.

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Voice Dream Reader app for iPad Half-Price till 7th September 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 4:55pm

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To mark start-of-term (USA style!), the Voice Dream Reader app is available half price until 7th September 2014. 

Voice Dream Reader is one of our favourite text-to-speech apps. Although originally designed with blind and visually impaired people in mind it was quickly taken up by many people struggling with literacy because of dyslexia, Indeed, Winston Chen the developer, mentions the story of the mother of a 10-year old boy with dyslexia using the app. It's an interesting account because it draws attention to a few of the specific features of the app that enhance the experience of literacy. 

Incidentally, we've been in touch with the developer a couple of times to make a plea to include the Scottish Voices as options for user. No luck so far but we'll keep trying!

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Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 4:35pm

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The shortlisted titles for this year's Scottish Children's Book Awards were announced on August 28th by the Scottish Book Trust. The Book Awards scheme encourages children in schools throughout Scotland to read a selection of the best Scottish children's books of the past year and to vote for their favourite in three age categories, Bookbug Readers (3 - 7), Younger Readers (8 - 11) and Older Readers (12 - 16). Here are this year's shortlisted titles:

Bookbug Readers

  • Robot Rumpus by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Ross Collins
  • Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray
  • Lost for Words by Natalie Russell

Robot Rumpus coverPrincess Penelope coverLost for Words cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Younger Readers

  • Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Pyrates Boy by E.B. Colin
  • Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens by Alex McCall

Precious coverPyrates Boy coverAttack of the Giant Robo Chickens cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Older Readers

  • Mosi's War by Cathy MacPhail
  • Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnot
  • The Wall by William Sutcliffe

Mosi's War coverDark Spell coverThe Wall cover

 

 

 

 

 

Accessible Copies of the Shortlisted Books

CALL Scotland has produced accessible versions of the shortlisted books to allow children with print disabilities (which make it hard for them to access a standard book) to take part in the scheme. The Bookbug books are available as PowerPoint files and as Keynote files for iPad users, with options for switch access and for the text to be read out loud by a human voice. The Younger Readers and Older Readers books are primarily available as PDF files, which can be read out loud using text to speech software, e.g. Ivona MiniReader. Note that there are also commercial eBook versions of some of the books - if your pupil can use them, then you should consider this option.

CALL has also created a pack of symbolised resources to accompany the Bookbug category of short-listed books. These include Go Talk 9+ overlays or printable symbol boards for storytelling, shared reading and voting for the winner! There are also SoundingBoard app versions available for FREE download. So make sure your iPads have the FREE app SoundingBoard installed ready to join in the fun!

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Doran Review Strategic Commissioning 2nd Newsletter

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 11:58am

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Scottish Government has published the 2nd Issue of the Doran Newsletter on the review of services to provide better outcomes for children and young people with complex additional support needs.

Included in this issue are:

  • Feedback from the recent Doran Learning & Communication Regional Events.
  • Spotlight on a model for National Strategic Commissioning of services.
  • Summary of the work of other four workstreams

Feedback from the recent Doran Learning & Communication Regional Event

Events held in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow (with one in Perth postponed now scheduled for 13 October 2014) were attended by a wide section of staff from education authorities, social work, health, grant aided special schools, independent special schools,  and a number of voluntary organisations.

Topics covered at the events and highlighted in the Newsletter include:

  • The work of the Doran Board - what it was set up to do, covering the five workstreams
  • Joint Strategic Commissioning - what it is.
  • How strategic commissioning may improve services for children and young people with complex ASN.

The report and additional information from the events are available from the Doran website.

Spotlight on a model for National Strategic Commissioning of services - interview with Richard Hellewell

In a Q&A session Richard Hellewell, Chief Executive of Royal Blind, which manages the Royal Blind School, gives his perspective on one of the five workstreams. Workstream 3 has to come up with a suitable model for Strategic Commissioning of services where the principal objective is to improve educational outcomes for children and young people with complex ASN. Richard represents both Royal Blind as well as the six other schools and his account gives valuable insights into the process required to set up a model that will stand the test of time. 

Workstreams 1, 2, 4 and 5

Workstreams 1, 2, 4 and 5 The newsletter provides brief updates on the progress of the remaining four workstreams set up by the Doran Board.

Find out more

Additional information including previous reports, membership of the Board and discussions is available from the main Doran website

 

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Bargain alert! New symbol apps, introductory offer.

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st September, 2014 at 10:18am

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Widgit Vocab

Widgit has just launched a new series of iPad apps called 'Widgit Vocab'. These apps introduce and develop basic vocabulary around a range of different themes, and are specifically designed ​to help extend a user's vocabulary range with listening, speaking and reading activities, supported by Widgit symbols. They could be useful for a range of listening, comprehension and other types of language development work for learners at a pre / emergent literacy stage​, ​who need picture support (including those who might happen to use other symbol systems for their AAC) .

There are currently eight apps in the series, covering a range of themes:  

ourselves; around the home; supermarket; town; countryside; seaside; animals; time.

More information about these apps can be found on the Widgit website 

You can download these apps now from the App store while they are at an introductory price of £1.99 each - probably only for a limited time - they will be £2.99 each after that it seems (so not a HUGE saving, but still worth going for..).

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Hodder Gibson Textbooks now on the Books for All Database!

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 28th August, 2014 at 5:58pm

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For a few years now we have been distributing digital versions of Hodder Gibson textbooks on CD, and the service has become increasingly popular with schools.

We're very pleased to say that the publishers have now given us permission to make the books available for download via the Books for All Database which will be much faster and more convenient for you, as users, and also much more efficient for us (Rebecca won't need to process your paper application forms, burn CDs, and send them to you in the post.)

Over the summer we have been preparing and checking the files and Sven, the Man from Scran (Scran host the database for us), has been uploading the books and they are now all available for download.

Click on this link to browse the books.

So far, we have 217 books available including many of the National 3/4/5 textbooks and we will be adding to the set when we can get more books from Hodder.

The books are PDF files and so they can be opened and read using Windows or Mac computers, iPads, Android and Windows tablets, as well as smartphones. The books are for learners who have a print disability and who cannot read or access the standard paper books.

We are particularly pleased to have taken this next step in our relationship with Hodder Gibson, and our huge thanks to John Mitchell, Managing Director of Hodder Gibson, for his valuable support in making these files available to learners with disabilities.

It has always been our goal to work with publishers to provide files via the database, rather than re-create or scan paper books, and  it means we now have PDF versions of both Hodder and TeeJay textbooks available for download.

This term we will be asking the other Scottish school textbooks publishers (e.g. Leckie and Leckie; Bright Red) if we can make their books available to print disabled learners via the database as well. Watch this space!

Here's a comment from a teacher who got books from us on CD: "Sincere thanks for the digital copies of the National 4 & 5 Physical Geography book. My pupils were absolutely delighted to hear and see their textbooks being used with Read and Write Gold. Fantastic service."

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Getting and Installing Ivona MiniReader

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 28th August, 2014 at 11:59am

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Over the past couple of years we have generally recommended that schools in Scotland should use the free IVONA MiniReader for reading out PDF files (particularly digital exams and accessible books), web pages and other electronic resources. (We generally suggest that people use WordTalk if they need text to speech support in Microsoft Word.) Used with the Heather and Stuart high quality Scottish computer voices, we find that MiniReader and WordTalk provide the support that many pupils with reading and writing difficulties require.

We were concerned to discover recently that MiniReader is no longer available as a separate download from IVONA, but that it is only available as part of IVONA Reader, which is a more comprehensive program that costs money ($39). IVONA Reader is a useful program for people requiring text to speech support across a number of applications and the IVONA voices, available for many different languages are excellent, but we don't actually need them in Scotland, unless a pupil is working with text in a foreign language.

Fortunately, IVONA MiniReader can still be downloaded and used as a free standalone product, but it is a bit complicated!

1. Download the IVONA Text Reader Free Trial

Go to the IVONA web site home page, click on For Individuals, and select Voices and Text Reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now click on Download a Free Trial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Install Text Reader

Depending on your web browser, you may be asked to run or save the installer (Ivona_Reader_inst_wi_ne). It is best to save it, then run it.

The first couple of screens are a Welcome screen (click Next) and a Licence Agreement (click I Agree), then you get to the Choose Components screen. If you want to use just the MiniReader, de-select each of the options. If you want to experiment with Text Reader for the 28 day trial, by all means leave each of the options selected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Setup program is now ready to begin the installation - you just have to choose where you want to save it. Go with the default, unless you are on a network, or have another preference. Installation will take a few seconds. You will now be given a warning about Integration with other programs (even if you turned this option off) - just click on Next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Install MiniReader

Now you will be asked to Download IVONA voices. You need to go through this step even if you don't want to use the Ivona voices as this is where the MiniReader is installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new installation program now begins with a Welcome screen - just click Next and then click on I Agree, in the Licence Agreement screen. You will now move on to the Choice of Ivona languages, voices and components screen. Select I would like to have the possibility to choose which voices, languages and Ivona components will be installed then click Next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can now make a Detailed choice of IVONA components. Deselect all of the voices (unless you want to try some on a 28 day trial basis), then scroll to the bottom of this window and make sure that IVONA MiniReader is selected. Click on Next to install MiniReader, then click on Finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Uninstall Text Reader (unless you want to give it a try!)

You will now have two icons on your desktop, one for IVONA Reader and one for IVONA MiniReader. The Reader is on a 28-day trial - feel free to try it, or remove it. (To remove it, go to Control Panels then Programs and Features. You will have three IVONA programs listed, Ivona ControlCenter, Ivona Reader and IVONA MineReader - uninstall the Control Center and Reader, but keep MiniReader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information about using Ivon MiniReader is available in a Quick Guide.

 

 

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My Hospital Passport

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 12th August, 2014 at 4:42pm

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A variant of Personal Communication Passport has recently been published, designed for use by people with autism who might need hospital treatment and/or who need to communicate their needs to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

This was developed by Baroness Angela Browning - an NAS Vice President - in collaboration with The National Autistic Society.

Read more about the ideas behind it, and download the Hospital Passport Template and Guidance for its use, on the National Autistic Society website.

Check out Personal Communication Passports, the dedicated CALL mini-site, for more information about Passports ('Creating / Making Passports' for Templates)

 

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Using Balabolka to Read e-Books

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 6th August, 2014 at 6:04pm

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Balabolka is a very powerful, free text to speech program that can be used for a lot of different tasks, including basic text to speech, changing the appearance of text to make it more accessible, reading eBooks and creating audio files. This blog will focus on the use of Balabolka to read eBooks in different formats.

When you open Balabolka, it can look complicated, with a busy screen and lots of functions, but don't worry, we can simplify the display - and you won't need many of the available functions for reading eBooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Configuring Balabolka

The first step to take is to set up the voice that Balabolka will use. Balabolka searches automatically for all of the voices installed on your computer. SAPI4 voices are old, low quality voices so it is best to choose a SAPI5 voice. At the time of writing, there seems to be a problem with the Heather and Stuart voices, available from the Scottish Voice web site, but we expect this to be resolved very soon. Choose the voice you want to use, and adjust the Rate, Pitch and Volume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now click on View and Show, and then uncheck Configure Voice. You can also uncheck the Status Bar if you want, but keep the Toolbar. This will simplify the appearance of the program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can make the program appear less complicated by removing buttons you are not wanting to use and making the remaining buttons a little bigger. Do this by clicking on View and Buttons, then unchecking the ones you don't want. This is an example of a more simple set of buttons:

 

 

 

Reading your e-Book

Balabolka can read text from most e-Book and document formats, including AZW / MOBI (Kindle), EPUB (iBooks and lots more), PDF and DOC / DOCX (Word). You may have the files you want on your computer, download them from an online store of e-Books, or have them on an e-Book reader. See my previous blog and the Finding Books section of the Books for All web site for more information. There are various ways in which a file can be transferred from such devices to a computer. A Kindle, for example, can be connected to a computer using its USB cable and will appear as an external disk drive. You will find the books available on the Kindle in the Documents folder. Copy the book file onto the computer. There isn't space here to go into all of the possibilities for other devices - if in doubt, use Google to search for something like "Transfer file from iBooks on iPad to computer".

Open the file using Balabolka (click on File, then Open and navigate to where you copied the file). This is what the Kindle version of 'Diary of a Nobody' looks like when first opened:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can change the appearance of the text by clicking on View, followed by Font and Colours. You can now choose a font and size for your text and you can change text and background colours. You can also increase line spacing by adjusting Line Height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have set up your preferences, your book may look something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can now have Balabolka read the text to you by inserting the cursor at the start of the text you want to have read and then clicking on the green 'Play' button. Balabolka highlights the word that is being spoken at any time and changes the colour of text that has been read (by default, from black to blue, but this can be changed), to make it easier for you to see where you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What else can Balabolka do?

  • Creating Audio Files - Balabolka can convert text files into audio files in MP3 and other formats. If the original text has been structured properly, Balabolka can be set up to automatically create a new file for each chapter in a book.
  • Translation - Balabolka can use the Google Translate facility to translate text from one language into another and, if you have an appropriate foreign language voice on your computer, will let you hear the translated text in a suitable voice for the language. We recommend foreign language voices from Ivona or Cereproc.

 

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