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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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World Autism Awareness Day

By Craig Mill on Tuesday 3rd April, 2012 at 12:39pm

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World Autism Day

Reduced price and free Apps to mark World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day took place on April 2nd and to mark the event a number of App developers such as Good Karma Applications offered over 60 discounted Apps (including many free Apps) to download from the App Store. The Apps are predominantly for the iOS, ie, iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad with only one App available for the Android platform.

Don’t worry if you missed the offer as many of the Apps are still available at the same discounted price. 

The list of Apps is divided into 10 categories such as Social Behaviour, Social Stories and Communication with Images. Each App has a short descriptive overview of its functionality as well as a list of languages supported by the Apps.

There’s even a link directly to the App Store so you don’t have to spend hours of searching through thousands of Apps to find the right one.

The Apps list is hosted on the iAutism site which also offers a wide-range of useful resources including Autism related Apps Reviews, Technology and Tutorials.

Visit the iAutism site to find out more.


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Looking forward to the Family Fun Day 2012!

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 22nd March, 2012 at 10:00am

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We're gearing up for the Family Fun Day which will be held here in CALL this Saturday March 24th. The Fun Day is a day of general mayhem where children and their families have a chance to try out lots of different technology and activities in an informal way. The day is staffed by CALL, FACCT, KeyComm, SCTCI, TASSCC and their friends, families, relatives, mates and anyone else who happens to be passing. There appear to be 184 children and young people and their families coming (eek!) to play with toys, switches, computers, video games, smart wheelchairs etc and to make art, music, cakes, and a most satisfying all round mess. Take a look at this video that Craig made last year to see the sort of thing that is going to be happening......


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Vocaroo - an Online Digital Recorder

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 21st March, 2012 at 12:05pm

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We've been looking for an alternative to the Voice Notes / Voice Comment feature of Microsoft Word / Windows XP, as a tool for allowing a pupil to use their voice to record a spoken answer to a question in a Word document. Unfortunately, this feature cannot be used adequately in later versions of the Windows operating system. Note that this is NOT speech recognition - voice notes / comments allowed a recording to be embedded in a Word Document so that a teacher could listen to it later.

Vocaroo is an online digital recorder, storing the voice file on the web and allowing a link to the file to be embedded in a Word document (or any other electronic document).  The computer obviously has to be online for recording the answer and playing it back. Vocaroo is not the perfect solution to the Voice Notes / Comments problem, but it is certainly worth a look.

Using Vocaroo

To use Vocaroo, alongside a worksheet in Word, make sure that the computer has an internet connection and a microphone, and go to the Vocaroo web site. Vocaroo will tell you if it does not see a microphone. The Vocaroo web site is very simple to use - just click where it says 'Click to Record' and agree to allow Vocaroo to access your microphone.

You will be given a chance to listen to your recording and re-record it if you are not happy with it. Once you are happy with the quality of the recording, click on 'Click Here to Save'. You will be given a link to your recording, which you can copy to Word and paste into the document as your 'answer'.

To answer a second question, go back to the Vocaroo web site and re-load the page - otherwise you could accidentally record your second answer on top of the first one. Then just record your new answer and copy and paste the web link for your answer the way you did before. When you finish, save and close the document.

A teacher could then check the answers by moving the mouse to each link and pressing CTRL-Click to open the web link. The recorded answer will be played automatically and can be replayed, if necessary.

Vocaroo isn't just useful for recording answers to questions in a worksheet - it could be a valuable tool for recording notes on, say, information on a web site. Vocaroo also integrates well with social media sites such as Facebook, allowing you to add voice recordings to your Facebook Page, etc.





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Switch Access on the iPad

By Craig Mill on Wednesday 14th March, 2012 at 1:02pm

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iPad Accessibility Options

iPads have a range of built-in Accessibility options such as text-to-speech (VoiceOver) and screen magnification (Zoom) which are particularly useful for learners with a visual difficulty. For example VoiceOver will read information on the iPad's screen including icons, settings and text-based apps such as email, word processing and web pages. These options will allow a pupil who is blind or has a visual impairment to independently access, use and enjoy an iPad in the same way as a sighted user. 

Capacitive touchscreen

However for those pupils who have fine motor difficulties the iPad’s touch screen can be difficult or impossible to use. The iPad has a capacitive touchscreen and requires finger and hand gestures such as ‘Pinching’, ‘Swiping’ and ‘Tapping’ to move between and open and close Apps. Increasingly there are Apps which support fine motor skills and contain 'tap' and 'hold' or 'delay' settings but these only work from within the App. This means that a pupil with a motor difficulty can use certain Apps with these features but would be unable to access other areas of the screen independently. Companies such as BeyondAdaptive offer keyguards which can be placed over the screen but as there are so many varied touch and tap positions between Apps, this option is impracticable and expensive. 

Another option is to connect a USB keyboard (with a keyguard) to an iPad using a USB Camera Connection Kit but again this would only allow access to text input based Apps such as Notes or Pages.

Switch Access

Switch access is another option but developments in this area are still in the early stages. Currently the conventional way of setting up a switch to an iPad is by pairing a Bluetooth device using the Bluetooth option in the Settings menu (Settings – General – Bluetooth).

Bluetooth examples include RJ Cooper's Bluetooth Super-Switch; the Switchbox by Therapy-Box and AbleNet’s Blue2 Bluetooth Switch. Another option is the ‘it-iClick - iPad Switch Interface’ by Inclusive Technology which plugs directly into the iPad but still requires to be ‘paired’ before it can be used. Pairing devices is not an exact science particularly if there are other Bluetooth devices active in a small area. Setting up Bluetooth switch access can be challenging and time consuming. 

Unfortunately not all Apps are switch accessible and the range of options between switch enabled Apps vary from a range of comprehensive settings such as Step-scan, Row/column, Auditory scanning to very basic settings such as ‘Turn Scan On/Off. Jane Farrall’s Blog provides an excellent guide to ‘How do I use a switch with an iPad’ and a comprehensive list of switch accessible Apps (in PDF format).

However a more recent development is the exciting work by Komodo OpenLab and the Inclusive Design Research Centre who have developed a full switch access solution to iOS devices  and claim that it is “the first-ever single-switch solution providing access to the entire iDevice, not just a few apps!”

The following video provides a preview of the switch access system in action.


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Calling all Parents! Be sure to have your say!

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 13th March, 2012 at 5:26pm

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There are just a few days left before the Consultation of the Doran Review closes (Friday 16th March).  Please - Scotland only - all parents of children with complex additional support needs, and all professionals who work with such children  -   send in a response to have your say! 

Your input could have a huge effect on the kind of changes to be made to educational provision for children with complex additional support needs in Scotland, for the future.

There is a form to fill in here or you can send in your own letter or email, with your answers and comments on the 4 key questions:

* How satisfied you are with the processes to identify your child’s care, health and learning needs.* How well informed you feel about schools and services that could help their child.* How well nurseries or schools and other services such as Health and Social Work are meeting your child's needs.* How well supported you and your child feel when he or she is preparing to leave and settling into a new school, or leaving school to go on to adult services.

Children and young people with complex additional support needs face multiple barriers to their learning and development.  These factors may relate to the learning environment, family circumstances, disability or health needs or a combination of these.  To make progress and achieve their potential, the children and young people with complex additional support needs require assistance from specialist professionals in addition to parents/carers and staff in schools and education authorities.

The Doran Review is currently looking at how best to provide for the needs of Scottish children and young people with the most complex learning needs.  Children and young people with additional support needs may attend a mainstream nursery or school in their local education authority or a specialist nursery, day or residential school, within or outside their home area.  Children and young people with complex additional support needs require individualised programmes of support from educational services and other services such as health, social work and voluntary organisations.  The Review will consider how well the assessment, support, funding and decision making processes that already exist locally and nationally are working. The Review Group will use their findings to make recommendations to the Scottish Government by Summer 2012 as to how these aspects could be improved or changed.  


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