Posted in Accessibility, Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software, ICT Support, Inclusion, Personal, Teaching & Learning

GPS, Geocaching & Inclusive Education

I dabbled with Geocaching when it started to become popular a few years ago but time, the arrival of the children, and a variety of other intervening factors meant I never really ‘got into it’. However, when I bought a GPS enabled phone (iPhone 3G) last year I decided to revisit the sport/activity/game. I’m always out jogging or cycling with the kids, walking in the woods and hills that surround where we live so it seemed an obvious additional facet to our trips out.

I was directed to a blog today via Ollie Bray that detailed how Clackmannan Primary School embedded the use of GPS into an Eco Project they were involved in and I thought it was about time I put something up here to try to stimulate some local participation in this fun, inclusive activity.

So – what is it and what do you need to get started? Watch the 2 minute video to get an overview.

I can envisage geocaching being an excellent opportunity for teachers and pupils to take part in a healthy, outdoor pursuit while engaging in cross-curricular activities that would give rise, quite naturally, to team work, problem solving, and creativity. Pupils could, for example, learn more about their local environment through geocaching and go on to develop a deeper knowledge to enable them to plan, prepare, describe, and lay their own caches. Success is not all tied up in an ability to read and write so it offers wonderful opportunities for those who have differing learning styles.

GPS devices start around £60 Have a look here and here (thanks Iain Hallihan) although for a bit more (if you hunt around) you can get something a bit better in terms of facilities and robustness. Remember, though, there’s a good chance your phone has GPS facilities that are more than enough to get started.

My son, Finlay, finding a geocache in Clashwood, Muir of Ord.

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software

Students at IBM aim to aid deaf and blind

The technology pages of the BBC website recently report exciting research from computer giants IBM for the deaf and visually impaired. 

Technique links words to signing.

Technology that translates spoken or written words into British Sign Language (BSL) has been developed by researchers at IBM.

The system, called SiSi (Say It Sign It) was created by a group of students in the UK.

SiSi will enable deaf people to have simultaneous sign language interpretations of meetings and presentations.

It uses speech recognition to animate a digital character or avatar.


IBM says its technology will allow for interpretation in situations where a human interpreter is not available. It could also be used to provide automatic signing for television, radio and telephone calls. 

Read the full article here. 

Virtual worlds open up to blind

Online virtual worlds could soon be accessible to blind people thanks to research by students at IBM in Ireland.

Some estimates predict that 80% of active internet users will be using a virtual world in four years’ time.

The company said that it is keen to ensure that blind people are not excluded from an environment that sighted people will take for granted.  

Read the full article here. 

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, ICT Support

Taking better photographs – thinking beyond ‘point & shoot’.

The ATS Service is very keen on the extension of the use of digital photography. We think that since it’s not text-based it offers inclusive opportunities in many areas of expression (including the curriculum) and that it deserves a higher profile both in terms of usage and in quality of execution. See Making more of Digital Cameras.

I found this link on the BBC website today and thought it looked really useful. It’s part of a programme series about architecture in Britain over the past 1000 years – couldn’t see much about Scotland in the synopsis so don’t know if I’ll follow it for its main thread. However, I thought this supporting page on how to take better photographs of buildings looked fantastic and might be useful to teachers and pupils – whether or not they take part in contributing pictures to the programme.

Click here to see Tom Ang’s top tips on how to get the most out of your digital camera. He looks at:

PEOPLE WITH BUILDINGS: Scale, Timing, Complementing, Providing context

BUILDINGS: Wide-angle, Symmetry, Clouds, Verticals, Colour of dark

LIGHT: Light source, Temperature, Flash, Time of day

LANDSCAPE: Composition, Framing, Zoom, Perpective, Proportions

COLOUR: Use of colour, Light, Contrasts, Black and white

COMPOSITION: Use of lines, Rule of thirds, Focus, Zoom

A selection of examplar photographs © TOM ANG:

Further advice from Tom Ang.

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software

Books for All: Accessible curriculum materials for pupils with additional support needs


It’s fantastic to hear that the Scottish Executive has taken the step of publishing this document that sets out ways in which we can provide accessible materials for students who experience difficulties with reading. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make this all happen but the apparent backing from the Executive hopefully puts these issues beyond a stage where they can be ignored. A small number of Support for Learning teachers from Highland primary and secondary schools were involved in helping with some local research for this work.

We are contacting you to let you know of an important development in the area of curriculum materials in accessible formats.Today the Scottish Executive posted a report titled Books for All: Accessible curriculum materials for pupils with additional support needs to its website.

The report is available at:

The report is the outcome of a project funded by Scottish Executive Education Department and carried out by the Communication Aids for Language and Learning (CALL Centre) at the University of Edinburgh.

It considers:

· The numbers of pupils with literacy support needs in Scotland.
· What learning materials are required in alternative formats.
· Which alternative formats would benefit pupils with literacy difficulties.
· What benefits are achieved by having learning materials in alternative formats.
· Issues of equity and provisions under copyright exemption legislation.
Finally, the report discusses how accessible materials might be made more widely available, the duties of responsible bodies such as local authorities in this regard, and what steps should be taken to address these issues.

The report will also be available from CALL’s Books for All web site at or here in PDF format (3.8mb)

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events

Highland & Moray teachers and therapists gather for ICT & Inclusion event

Over 100 teachers, occupational therapists, and speech & language therapists from Highland and Moray attended the ICT & Inclusion Roadshow at Victoria Park, Dingwall on Wednesday 28th March. This SEED funded and CALL Centre organised event has always proved popular and this year’s event was the best ever. Some twenty exhibitors displayed and demonstrated a wide range of hardware and software to support pupils with additional support needs. Well-attended seminars ran throughout the day focusing on literacy issues, communication, photojournalism, Books for All, visual impairment, and physical access. Laura Compton’s (West Lothian) seminars on the use of iPODs with reluctant readers was a particular hit with those who attended.
A superb lunch was provided by Highland Catering Services and teas and coffees were available all day thanks to Donnie & Edna MacBean.

Pictures and accounts from seminars to come……

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events

ICT and Inclusion Roadshow in Highland

logo-eu.jpg logo-se.jpg

As previously intimated, Highland is hosting one of this year’s ICT & Inclusion Roadshows on Wednesday 28th March, 2007 at Victoria Park, Dingwall. These roadshows are organised by the staff of the CALL Centre at Edinburgh University and supported by SEED.

Paper copies of the programme and booking form are being distributed to schools this week but if you can’t wait – download it from here.

Highland staff should book their places via the CPD Online facility rather than by completing and sending off a paper form. Click here to go to CPD Online.

This event looks really exciting with some 20 companies represented, providing an in-depth look at their hardware and software as well as a range of seminars to show how these might be used.  

Additionally, the ATS Service has arranged three seminars to augment the existing programme of events.

  • Sarah MacAlpine, SfL – Crown & Muirtown Primary Schools, will be looking at how to use core software to support pupils who have English as an Additional Language.
  • Liz Roberts, Development Officer – ATS Service, plans to explore the use of digital photographs and images to provide alternative learning and teaching opportunities for pupils with ASN.
  • Laura Compton, ICT Development Officer – West Lothian Council, will detail a project she instigated in her own area using iPods and audio books for reluctant readers.
Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support

Interactive ICT in the Classroom Feedback & Summary


Our two-day drop-in event proved to be very popular and mutually informative. Many of the questions and issues we raised were further borne out by the comments and experiences of practising teachers.

Around 40 Head Teachers and 20 others, attending on behalf of their Head Teachers, took the opportunity to have a closer look at the options available for providing interactive ICT in classrooms.

We promised to summarise what we had on display and try to provide other useful information relating to alternatives to interactive whiteboards. I have prepared an information/summary sheet which I will email to all Heads in the New Year but am also posting it here.

Get the summary here………

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software

ATS Service in Thurso

Clicker bigclicker-4.gif

The ATS Service delivered training to the special unit in Thurso High School on Clicker 4 software on the Tuesday November closure day. Teachers and Learning Support Auxiliaries joined together to spend a whole day learning the software and how to apply it to their students. As well as looking at the software consideration was given to the pupils’ access methods as some of them use switches to control the computer rather than through mouse and keyboard.

Trainer: Liz Roberts, Development Officer ATS Service


Arrange this, or similar training, in your school.

Posted in Assistive Technology Hardware

The Alphasmart Neo

The Alphasmart Neo

The Alphasmart Neo was released at the end of 2004 to replace the ground-breaking Alphasmart 3000. The AS3000 was the first to give us ‘applets’ such as Co:Writer prediction software in a truly portable format. The Neo boasts a larger screen, a choice of fonts, longer battery life (a whole term on 3 x AA they claim), while still being light and small enough to fit in a school bag. Currently available for as little as £150 (£200 with Co:Writer installed).

These portable word processors have proved very useful for pupils who experience difficulty with writing. Coupled with the Co:Writer applet it’s especially useful for dyslexic pupils but is in use across the world supporting those with poor motor control, handwriting problems, and organisational difficulties.

The Co:Writer applet can make use of the famous Don Johnston Topic Dictionaries that are hugely supportive of project/subject specialist writing. It worked brilliantly with AS 3000 but the Neo version is a little ‘clunkier’ and slower. While most Alphasmarts are used directly by pupils many support staff scribe their students’ work to an Alphasmart rather than to paper. This enables the scribed text to be edited and even read back via text-to-speech word processors. Text entered into the Alphasmart can also be utilised when creating Topic Dictionaries for Co:Writer – two birds with one stone!!

Alphasmart history.

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