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ICT and Inclusion 2012 - Two Great Days!

By Allan Wilson on Monday 18th June, 2012 at 3:15pm

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This year's ICT and Inclusion days, held in Aberdeen and Edinburgh last week proved to be a great success. We would like to thank all of the suppliers and presenters who attended, as well as the 200+ delegates who came along. It was good to see that so many people found the days very useful.

We've been looking at the feedback from the days. A number of presentations given at both venues proved particularly popular, including those on Google Chrome and Using iPads. In Edinburgh, the presentations from Longstone Primary School on supporting pupils with dyslexia and from the Edinburgh Hospital and Outreach Teaching Service on Film Making and Animation to Support Social, Emotional and Behavioural Needs in Primary School went down very well.

This year, we experimented with holding a prize draw at the end of the day to encourage people to stay a little longer. Thanks, again to the suppliers who donated prizes - some of the prizes were VERY worthwhile! It was good to finish each day on a 'high'.

How can we fit it all in?

This year, space was an issue, particularly for Edinburgh. It can be hard to physically fit everything in when so many companies want to attend and when we want to balance the supplier presentations with presentations from CALL, BRITE and local schools, colleges and services. Timetabling can also be a bit of an issue. Ideally, we'd love to be able to provide longer sessions, with longer gaps between them, with some of the more popular sessions being repeated, but we know that people would like to get home before midnight! There were also requests for facilities to allow 'hands on'. We have the technology - it is just a matter of working out how to fit it in.

Go West!

Some of the people who came through to Edinburgh from the West were requesting that we hold ICT and Inclusion in the West next year. We were in Glasgow last year and plan to return to the West next year.

Comments from Delegates

"A good opportunity to see a variety of resources available to enhance communication and use within Early Years ICT."

"Lots of interesting presentations - sometimes 30 minutes wasn't enough!"

"Great opportunity to make connections with various organisations and professionals."

"Exhibition was well laid out and the presentations I attended were informative and well-presented."




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New Deal for Augmentative Communication in Scotland

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 13th June, 2012 at 10:38am

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Scottish Government yesterday announced publication of a new report, 'The Right to Speak: supporting individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication' (report downloadable here) which provides Guidelines for the improvement of services to children and adults in Scotland who need to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

The Guidelines are accompanied by government funding of 4 million spread across the next three financial years. From this, funding will be provided to Health Boards to help them buy AAC equipment, and a proportion will go to NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to develop an infrastructure to ensure efficient implementation of the report's recomendations, including commissioning of research, and development of quality standards, education and training for NHS staff.

At the launch yesterday at Corseford School, the Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson met a number of people who use AAC. Presentations were given by school leaver Steven Sweeney and Dumfries and Galloway resident Rachael Monk, using their voice output communication aids, explaining how important it is for all those who cannot speak, to have rapid access to the equipment they need, and also, very importantly, access to skilled specialist support and training, on an ongoing basis.

The group Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland which includes SCTCI, CALL Scotland, FACCT, KeyComm, TASSC and AAC Ayrshire & Arran, were key members of the AAC Campaign back in 2008/2009 that originally stimulated a review of AAC services.

The launch photos below show the minister between Steven and Rachael, representatives of Capability Scotland and Kim Hartley of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists who co-hosted the launch, Janet Scott of SCTCI, and Alison Gray who authored the report.

It is wonderful that AAC is at last 'on the map' publicly and nationally, and that the government has not only recognised the needs of people who use AAC and those professionals and families who support them, but has also provided funding.

The job of the next few years is to ensure that this new initiative is implemented in a way that doesn't just fill cupboards with equipment that could quickly go out of date, but genuinely builds sustainable and quality AAC services equitably across Scotland-not only in Health but also in Education and Sooial Work .



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Please tell us what you think about the 2012 SQA Digital Question Papers

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 11th June, 2012 at 1:27pm

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2012 Digital Question Papers Candidate Survey

We are researching candidate’s views and opinions on the SQA Digital Question Papers and a survey is now available at

If you are a candidate who used digital question papers, we would be grateful if you could complete the survey. If you are a member of staff, could you forward this survey link on so that candidates who used Digital Question Papers in the 2012 diet can complete the survey. The survey will be available until the end of June 2012.

The survey should only be completed by candidates with additional support needs who used Digital Question Papers in their 2012 examinations. 

We hope that the feedback from candidates will help us, and SQA, to develop and improve the digital papers and associated procedures.

Thanks for your help!




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ICT for Disabled People

By Allan Wilson on Monday 11th June, 2012 at 9:22am

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) has produced an interesting short research briefing on ICT for Disabled People. It summarises the issues that people with disabilities face in using ICT and looks at progress towards achieving equivalent access to services for disabled and non-disabled users. The main points made by the briefing are as follows:

  • In the UK, almost half of disabled people do not access the internet regularly. 
  • Reasons that disabled people are not online include social exclusion, accessibility issues, costs, motivation and lack of support. 
  • When disabled people are not in education or employment there is a gap in funding for ICT equipment. 
  • Many websites and devices are inaccessible to many disabled users. 
  • Despite a legal duty on service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, no cases involving ICT have yet been brought to court.
  • Mobile technologies, and in particular the rise of ‘apps’, are reducing the costs of many assistive technologies.
  • Voice recognition software is increasingly providing benefits for many disabled users.


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SQA digital exams and assessments with an iPad

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 6th June, 2012 at 3:51pm

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Quite a few people have been asking if candidates can use iPads to complete the SQA Digital Question Papers. Previously, the answer was 'no' partly because SQA prohibited use of iPads in the same way they do not allow mobile phones in the exam room. However, this policy has now changed and some pupils at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock did use their iPads to access the digital papers this year. 

PDF Expert

The SQA Digital Question Papers are PDF files which can be read using many different apps including, for example, iBooks and Adobe Reader, but for digital exams we suggest PDF Expert which is the only app we have found that actually lets you type your answers into the digital paper answer boxes. PDF Expert lets you open the digital paper, type into the answer boxes, highlight and underline text, and add drawings and notes to the exam paper. Completed papers can be printed, saved and emailed. Cedars used PDF Expert on their iPads for the 2012 exams.



The digital papers work very well for question and answer exam papers which require short text answers. The screen shot shows how text can be typed into the answer boxes on an Intermediate 1 Computing Paper. To 'tick' the answer box, you tap with your finger.

The answer boxes can only accept text and so maths and science, where the learner has to produce equations and formulae, can be tricky to do digitally. 

With a stylus, it is possible to draw diagrams, graphs and maths and science expressions on the digital paper although I still don't find it as easy as using a pencil and paper, personally (must be an age thing?). Note that candidates have the option of writing their drawings and equations on the digital paper, or on a paper copy.

The second screen shot shows my scrawled attempt to draw a graph and work through an equation with the stylus. 



Using iPads in assessments and exams raises questions and issues particularly in relation to security. 
For obvious reasons, it is important to ensure that candidates who use technology in assessments and examinations cannot access files stored on the device or on the internet or on other electronic devices that could connect to the iPad. In Scotland, SQA state that it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that candidates cannot any electronic sources or files via the internet or on USB drives or mobile devices.
In addition, any tools that may help the pupil, such as spellcheckers, word prediction or the iPad Auto-correction must be turned off, unless you have permission for the student to use them, from SQA.
Here's how to do it manually, although I suspect the best approach is for the school technician or engineer to use the Apple Configurator or iPhone Configuration Utility to set up an 'exam profile' with these restrictions on your exam iPads. See Fraser Speir's blog on how he set up the Cedars iPads. 
  2. Back up the iPad. 
  3. Delete all the apps on the iPad that are not required in the assessment. This leaves the apps required for the assessment (e.g. PDF Expert, maybe Pages etc,) plus the built-in Apps on the device. 
  4. Delete all photos, music files, videos, contacts, reminders and other documents. Clear the browser history.
  5. Go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and delete all the accounts. This prevents access to Mail, Contacts and Calendar.
  6. Remove any 3G SIM card.
  7. Prevent access to the school Wi-Fi using the school network settings. Check that there are no other wi-fi internet access points available.  
  8. Turn off Bluetooth: Settings > General > Bluetooth > Off.
  9. Now you need to prevent access to the built-in Apps, which are Newsstand, iMessages, Mail, Safari, iBooks, FaceTime, PhotoBooth, Reminders, Photos, Music, Videos
  10. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions.
  11. Click on Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode
    1. Turn off any apps that you don’t want the candidate to be able to access (i.e. all of them). This will remove the following apps from the iPad screen: Safari, YouTube, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes, Ping and installing and deleting apps. Note this still leaves Mail, iMessage, Calendar and Contacts that the pupil could access the internet to find previously hidden answers, which is why you need to prevent access to wi-fi or the internet.
  12. Allow Changes: 
    1. in Location, Don’t Allow Changes (this stops the iPad connecting to Wi-fi hotspots or devices)
    2. In Accounts, Don’t Allow Changes (this prevents anyone adding a new mail or other account)
  13. Turn off Auto-Correction and spellchecking (unless you have permission to use them):
    1. Settings > General > Keyboard > Turn off Auto-Correction and Check Spelling
    2. (Note that the candidate can easily turn them back on we haven’t found a way to prevent this.)
  14. You should now have an iPad with:
    1. no stored files, emails, photos, videos, sound recordings or other documents;
    2. only the apps which are required for the assessment;
    3. no spellchecking or auto-correct;
    4. no access to the internet or wi-fi;


and so the iPad should be secure.

If you have an iPad why not download some past papers from SQA's web site, try them out, and let us know what you think.


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Free online Oxford Reading Tree eBooks from Oxford Owl

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 29th May, 2012 at 3:49pm

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I've been meaning to blog about this for ages and have finally got round to it!

The Oxford Owl web site has over 250 free Oxford Reading Tree eBooks for teachers, children and parents to read online. The books have a recorded narration (i.e. human, not computer speech) and you can zoom in and out to make the text and pictures bigger or smaller. Turning the pages is done with a click of a mouse - you can't use the keyboard or switches directly.  You could however point the mouse over the 'next page' button and then use a switch to click, to turn the page.

The books are ideal for using on a whiteboard or for individuals to read on their own computer (but not iPad - the books are Adobe Flash format which don't play on iOS).

There are also some activities for each book (although they didn't work on my computer - no doubt got the wrong version of Java / Flash / other plug in) and the 'Kids Barn' has a lot of information and games about Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy and the other characters. 



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Helping People who use AAC to attend ISAAC 2012

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 24th May, 2012 at 9:02am

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Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland, the network of AAC specialist centres in Scotland, have a small amount of money available to help people who use AAC in Scotland to attend the ISAAC 2012 conference in Pittsburgh, USA. The ISAAC conference is a great opportunity for people who use AAC to find out more about the latest technology and approaches that can be used to support their communication and provides opportunities to meet people in a similar situation from all over the world to compare experiences and develop friendships. The money available from Augmentative Communication in Practice is not enough to pay for any one person to attend, but could provide a useful boost for somebody who has already raised some money towards the cost of the trip.

The simple application form is available from the Augmentative Communication in Practice web site, but must be returned by 31st May.


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Which Spellchecker?

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 23rd May, 2012 at 5:20pm

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CALL's Supportive Writing Technology  book, published in 1999, contained detailed comparisons of most of the spellcheckers available at the time. We recently had a look at some of the new spellchecking tools that have become available over recent years and compared them with popular writing support tools used in schools and colleges. Ghotit, and Ginger are context-based spellcheckers which analyse text sentence by sentence and require an internet connection. There are restrictions on the programs that they can be used with: Ghotit can only be used within Microsoft Word, while Ginger can be used with other programs within Microsoft Office. Oribi VeritySpell is a more traditional standalone spellchecker, that can be used with any program, provided that you can select individual words with a mouse. We compared all three with Microsoft Word, Read and Write Gold and ClaroRead.

We compared the performance of all six programs at identifying incorrect words (including the ability to cope with 'real word errors') and offering the correct word at the top of a list of options. The ideal spellchecker would always recognise incorrect words and offer just one alternative - the correct word. No spellchecker comes close to achieving this, but Ghotit, Ginger and VeritySpell all performed very well in tests and showed that they can be very effective tools for correcting spelling..

Details of our tests, the results and details of the programs can be found in our free quick guide,  Advanced Spellcheckers Compared: Ghotit, Ginger and Oribi VeritySpell.


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What Parents need

By Sally Millar on Monday 21st May, 2012 at 10:23am

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In the latest Newsletter of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, parents spell out how they need professionals to behave

Additional Support Needs: Supporting children, young people and their families A Plea from Parents

In the spirit of sincere partnership, we ask that you:
  • Make us feel comfortable and ensure that we know the team around our child, in name and in person
  • Look at the whole situation and the family around the child. Many different things will affect how we and our child cope with learning e.g. transport, housing, respite, other family circumstances
  • Share all the information you have about our child, in a format and in a way that we can understand, in good time for meetings or telephone discussions. Please check that we have understood it or been able to read it
  • Are clear with us about whom we should contact when we seek information, wish to raise a concern or share information about our child, and how we should do this to not cause unnecessary inconvenience
  • Allow enough time for meetings or phone calls
  • Ask us what range of times/dates would be possible for us for meetings we may have childcare to organize, or several other appointments relating to our child
  • Are specific about the topics of discussion at meetings in advance, and ask us if we have anything we would like to talk about
  • Let us know who will be at meetings, in advance, and describe what their role is in relation to our child
  • Ask us if we would like to bring someone to support us to meetings
  • Arrange meeting rooms so that they are as informal and welcoming as possible. A row of professionals can be really scary
  • Try to understand our situation if we become upset or angry and make provision for us to have a bit of space/time/privacy. Remember it is because we want the best for our child that we may get emotional! It’s not personal!
  • Are kind and understanding of our situation it takes us many years to come to terms with, and to understand, our child’s learning difficulties and the challenges in their lives
  • Understand that our lives change, our child’s needs change and our expectations have to be continually readjusted. Plans have to be reviewed and changed to allow for this
  • A cup of tea and a box of hankies would be really, really nice!


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AAC: Can it ever be effective?

By Allan Wilson on Friday 11th May, 2012 at 11:48am

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The AAC Scotland Special Interest Group is meeting to discuss current topics in Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the Auchterderran Centre, Cardenden, Fife KY5 0NE on Wednesday 30th May.

Topics include:

"Can AAC ever be effective?" with Dr Joan Murphy

"Impact of the Scottish Government's AAC Report" with Janet Scott and Sally Millar

"Effective AAC for Transition" with Karen Kerr

Further information is available here.

If you have any questions, contact Jane Donnelly at FACCT. Tel. 08451 555555 Ext 441951, Email 


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Come to CALL and learn about Proloquo2Go Version 2.0, FREE training session 24 May

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 8th May, 2012 at 12:53pm

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You are invited to come to a FREE training day in CALL on Thursday 24 May, to learn more about the widely publicised App for communication, for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone -  Proloquo2Go (the new Version 2.0)

This is a brilliant chance to learn more about this widely publicised and award-winning AAC App. The training will be done byAnne Verhulp of AssistiveWare.

Morning session - 10.30 - 12.30 is an introduction and overview of Proloquo2Go V2.00, plus a look at Pictello, and is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Afternoon session - 1.15- 3.30 is a hands-on session (numbers limited to 12 - priority to ACiP:S and ICTSLS colleagues) for AAC specialists who are likely to be training and supporting others in their use of P2Go.

To book your place, please contact CALL as soon as possible:  (0131 651 6235) stating clearly if you want to come morning only, afternoon only, or all day. Please be understanding that there may not be places for the afternoon session for all that request them.

We are grateful to the developers, AssistiveWare and to Logan Technologies, the new UK distributor of P2Go, for making this training available, free of charge.

Refreshments will be provided by CALL. Lunch for all-day attendees will be provided by Logan Technologies.


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109 new books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 8th May, 2012 at 12:49pm

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109 new books have just been added to the Books for All Database. They are all Large Print PDFs which have been created by the VTSS team in Edinburgh, and we are grateful to them for sharing these accessible copies via the Database. 

The books can be downloaded and printed out for pupils with visual difficulties, and they can also be read on screen, which can be helpful to learners with dyslexia and reading difficulties, pupils with physical disabilities who have difficulty holding the paper book and turning pages. 

Learners can read the books on computer using free Adobe Reader software, which lets you zoom in and out to change the size, and adjust the text and page colours. With most of the books, the text can be read out using either the free built-in Adobe Read Out Loud, or other text readers such as Ivona MiniReader, ClaroRead, Co:Writer, Penfriend or PDFaloud.  Pupils can use the Adobe Reader commenting and markup tools to highlight key passages and add their own typed or recorded audio notes. To find out more, take a look at our Video Guides and Quick Guides.

You can find the new books on the Database here. (Note you have to log in to the database see the new books).



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Have your say on the new Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 1st May, 2012 at 12:48pm

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A Dyslexia Scotland Working Group is currently developing new material for the Assessing Dyslexia Toolkit, and would like your views of the current site and how it can be improved.

The Assessing Dyslexia Toolkit was formally launched on 1st June 2010 by Sir Jackie Stewart and Mike Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. The Toolkit was developed by the Dyslexia Scotland Assessment Working Group, chaired by Dr. Margaret Crombie, with funding from the Scottish Government and provides an online resource for teachers and early years workers to use to assess literacy difficulties and dyslexia.

The new resource will become the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit in the autumn, and will have more material and resources on how educators can support dyslexic learners. 

You can give your input to the new toolkit by completing this short online survey.   

If you work with dyslexic learners and you've not already used the toolkit, why not take a visit? It contains a wealth of useful, practical advice on assessing the needs of learners with dyslexia and hopefully, the new site will provide even more support for addressing these needs.   




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WordTalk problem after Microsoft Office Update?

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 24th April, 2012 at 12:58pm

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A number of users of WordTalk have reported an error with WordTalk installed with Microsoft Word 2007 which looks like it is caused by an Office update and causes the following error:

"Dialog Box Title: Microsoft Visual Basic, Compile Error in Hidden Module: This Document"

We are working to resolve this at present and will keep you updated.

Update (4pm, 24th April)

Solution found for this problem and I will update the WordTalk FAQ page as soon as I put some instructions together.

Update (9am, 25th April)

Solution now on WordTalk FAQ page.

Update (3:30pm, 30th April)

The problem now occurs on Word 2010 and the FAQ has been updated to reflect this.


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Practise Mouse Skills with

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 3rd April, 2012 at 12:56pm

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I've just discovered a really useful and fun web site that has lots of free games to help kids practise their mouse skills  - basic eye-hand coordination, and timing skills. It is not for 'first beginner level' users  but great for kids who are mastering the basics of moving and clicking. There are very simple games to enjoy that are just about cursor control and clicking (simple painting, popping balloons etc.), but the site also offers quite testing games bringing in very simple off-screen scrolling, challenges of speed /reaction time, and click and drag skills, and cognitive skills like planning, basic spatial reasoning, judging height and distance, estimating trajectory etc., as well as consolidating basic counting andshape/colour matching.

A comprehensive free and fun playground and training ground for the mini gameplayer, in fact. (doesn't work on iPads, though)


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