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Low Cost/No Cost Apps and Software to Support Learners with Literacy Difficulties

Most schools have access to a reasonable number of computers and tablets (usually iPads), and access to basic software to help with their learners, but cannot always afford expensive additional software (increasingly on awkward subscriptions) that can support learners with literacy difficulties. At the same time parents, who wish to support their children, may have a computer or tablet at home, but cannot afford to pay for some of the specialist literacy support apps and software that the school may be using.

Fortunately, there are free or low-cost equivalents to many of the more expensive tools that can provide similar levels of support. Many of these tools are built-in to the operating systems used by the computer or tablet. Since free voices are available for these devices, the literacy support tools are useful for learners with English as an Additional Language. Other programs / apps are available as free add-ons for standard software such as Word and OneNote, or as standalone programs.

In the morning seminar, we will give you the basic knowledge of many valuable features of a range of hardware, software and apps to support learners with literacy difficulties as well as ideas, links to resources and activities that will engage everyone. We will highlight resources relevant for learners with English as an Additional Language.



25th January 2018
University of Edinburgh

Morning Seminar £40
(9:30am - 12:30pm)

with Workshop £80
(1:30pm - 3:30pm)

What you will learn

Morning seminar

  • Using literacy support tools
    in Microsoft Word and One Note
  • Changing the appearance of text
    to suit a learner's needs
  • Free text-to-speech and other literacy support options
    for Windows software
  • Apps and software that can be used to support mindmapping, planning and organisation
  • Exploring the iPad's built-in literacy support tools
  • Free speech recognition options
    for Windows, Android and iOS devices
  • Using an iPad to scan, read and translate printed text.

Who is the seminar and workshop aimed at?

  • Class teachers, Support for Learning Teachers, EAL specialists
  • Classroom assistants, Additional Support Needs assistants
  • Anyone working with a student with an Additional Support Need
  • Parent / Carers

Afternoon workshop (optional)

The afternoon session will be capped at a maximum of 16 participants. No prior knowledge or expertise is required. You will get the chance to have hands on practice with Windows laptops and iPads using the software, apps and resources that have been talked about in the morning session.

You will have time to explore, ask questions, share ideas and take home ideas that can be immediately embedded into your practice and support of learners with Additional Support Needs / English as an Additional Language.

Meet your presenter(s)

Craig Mill
Assistive Technology Advisor

Probably better known for developing the AccessApps, a suite of portable open source and free learning support tools that can be run from a USB drive.

Craig is also the developer of the awards winning MyStudyBar - a handy tool to support learners with literacy difficulties. Craig is keeping abreast of new developments in technology, particularly technology to help overcome barriers to learning.

Shirley Lawson
Assistive Technology and ASN Officer

I bring my teaching experience into my role at CALL as Development Officer for Assistive Technologies and Additional Support Needs. I lead the CALL Scotland Professional Learning and am focussing on providing a programme of relevant, quality assistive technology training to those working with children and young people with additional support needs and / or disabilities.

Allan Wilson
Information Coordinator

Has been Information Officer with CALL since 1993, having previously worked in computer training for young learners with support needs. His areas of particular interest include speech recognition and the use of technology to support learners with reading and writing difficulties.

What the research says

Using text-to-speech applications and extensions is one way to assist students with disabilities who struggle to independently complete reading assignments.
Reference: Bone, Erin K & Bouck, Emily C (2017). Accessible text-to-speech options for students who struggle with reading Preventing School Failure, Vol 16.1.


About the day

Morning Seminar

  • Duration: 9:30am - 12:30pm
  • Class size: No more than 50
  • Refreshments: Tea, coffee and water will be available throughout.

Afternoon Workshop (optional)

  • Duration: 1:30pm - 3:30pm
  • Class size: No more than 16
  • Refreshments: Tea, coffee and water will be available throughout.


  • Room: , University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ