Posted in Accessibility, Assistive Technology Hardware, Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support, Inclusion

Other Ways of Speaking

This June has seen the launch of Other Ways of Speaking, a new information booklet for parents and professionals that provides information on the different ways children and young people with little or no speech communicate, how to support them and where to go for further information and help.

Free copies can be ordered or downloaded here or at www.hello.org.uk/resources – we would ask you take this opportunity to raise awareness about AAC to health and education professionals and your/their clients.

This booklet explores Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), a term that describes a wide range of techniques children and young people use to support or replace spoken communication. Techniques such as using gestures, signing, symbols, boards and books, adapted computers and dedicated Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs).

Other Ways of Speaking has been produced by The Communication Trust and Communication Matters, with The Communication Consortium member organisations 1Voice, ACE Centre, ACE Centre North, The Makaton Charity, Scope and Signalong. Find out more about Communication Matters and how it is supporting the Hello campaign, visit www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/diary

Posted in Accessibility, Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support, Inclusion, Teaching & Learning

Inclusive Technology – Free Support Guides

If you work with pupils who use switches it’s likely you know of the titles mentioned below. They’re all great packages in their own ways to help the introduction and development of switch skills and for laying the foundations for more advanced uses.

Inclusive Technology has been releasing Set-by-step guides for all of these packages as well as a very useful booklet on possible routes for progression through switch skills. They’ve made these all available as free downloads from the publications page on their website – here.

I’ve placed links to each of the publications on the screenshots below.

Posted in Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support

Updates from the CALL Centre

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Our colleagues at CALL produce a regular update on new and interesting developments in the world of assistive technology. Here are a few sections from their latest publication. The complete New in CALL booklet can be downloaded here.

Making Accessible Books for All

In April 2007 the CALL Centre completed a project to investigate the need for, and availability of, learning resources in accessible alternative formats for pupils with additional support needs. The project was funded by the Scottish Executive Education Department and the report was published on the Scottish Executive web site* (and the CALL web site) in June 2007.

Local authorities are obliged to consider how they can provide material in suitable alternative formats for pupils with disabilities ‘if the pupil may have difficulty reading information provided in standard written form’. Many local authorities provide learning materials in Braille, enlarged text or audio format to visually impaired students and Disability Discrimination legislation requires consideration of how this provision can be extended to any pupil who has difficulty reading or accessing information. (Read more.)

Using Technology in SQA Exams

Every year thousands of students in Scottish schools require ‘reasonable adjustments’ to sit SQA exams. Many of these students are using technology to assist with reading and writing tasks on a daily basis in school, but have to use a reader or scribe in exams. (Read more.)

Assistive Technology on YouTube

The YouTube web site is not just a collection of video clips of teenage girls lip-synching into hair brushes and boys pulling faces – there is also a lot of material that is interesting and useful for people using technology to support people with disabilities.

AbilityNet, for example, have set up their own page on YouTube with a small collection of their own videos (mostly tutorial material for using the screenreader) and links to their ‘Favourites’. The favourites are particularly interesting with links to over 100 video clips of people using or talking about assistive technology. (Read more.)

Introduction to Clicker Phonics

Clicker Phonics is a new set of add-ons for Clicker 5 that provide a comprehensive set of resources for use with any phonics scheme (though it is based on the Jolly Learning scheme). A total of six CDs are available, under the headings Get Ready! & Get Set!

(Read more.)

Go to the Clicker website to read about Clicker Phonics.

Posted in CPD/Training/Events, Glow, ICT Support

Glow Mentor Meeting 24/5/07

Glow Mentors assembled for their second Strathpeffer get-together in the Spa Pavilion.

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After a welcome by Bob English, Andrew Sharkey from RM gave us a recap on the Phase 2 pilot and a look at what’s coming in the next phase that is due to begin next week. View his presentation here. Watch a video with an amusing take on education.- The 5 Minute University.

Joe Walsh respresenting Heriot Watt University drew parallels between Scholar and Glow. He informed us of the road travelled over the past 7 years in getting Scholar up-and-running. The experiences of the Scholar team has much to share with the roll out of Glow in terms of how much training teachers and pupils might need to develop skills in e-learning.

Jim Henderson on Blogging & Pathfinder.

Jim explained that there has been a high level of interest in blogging around Glow community. He went on to explain what a blog is and what it usually contains – tags, links, pictures, search engines………

Many local authorities have set up blogs in relation to Glow and Glow mentors Argyll & Bute, Shetland, East Lothian and Glasgow were mentioned. Jim showed his own blog. It’s likely that a blogging server will be set up in Highland by June this year. Jim suggested that this might be very useful for Glow mentors.

Jim pointed us to the search engine Technorati to keep up with the blogging world. He also mentioned Bloglines which is a more personal way of tracking blogs of interest and ENDO – another aggregator/syndication system.

Pathfinder – 3 year old project to bring broadband to the Highlands and Islands. Partners are Highland, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll & Bute, Moray, & Western Isles.

Pathfinder is a plan to connect Scottish schools – £70m project over 5 years with the priority being for schools and council buildings. Minimum specification to be 8mb for primary schools and 12mb for secondary. The service will be managed by THUS plc.

The challenge in Highland is to connect 219 schools, 43 libraries, & 14 inhabited islands. Connections start in May 2007 nd should be completed by 2009. The roll out plan is likely to be shared with Head Teachers as early as next week.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in discussion around 20 Questions aimed at helping mentors define their future role in relation to GLOW. Feedback from discussion groups was collated in a Softease database using wireless mice and keyboards and bluetooth wireless Airliner slates – just as a small example of interactive ICT in use!!!

Empty version of the Softease database uploaded to the Public folder on my iDisk for the two or three folks who asked for it…..!!!

Visit the LTS Glow website for updates from the centre.

Posted in Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events

Text-to-speech – Dyslexia & Reading – Primary Day

After yesterday’s major panic, when my computer crashed an hour before talking at this course, today’s preparations seemed very calm – I even managed to sit down for a bite of lunch with some of the primary class and support teachers attending Dr. Margaret Crombie’s course.The core elements from yesterday formed the basis of today’s offering but I included a few comments about Clicker 5 and the numerous, ready-made reading materials for work across the curriculum. I placed more emphasis on the use of Textease due to the fact that all primary schools have it at their immediate disposal.Wordtalk is likely to need to be downloaded and installed – and the new version that will produce MP3 files from text is not yet available in its final version.I also mentioned the text-to-speech and voice recording capability of Kidspiration and Inspiration software.I added a couple of websites that Margaret mentioned at the start of the afternoon to my del.icio.us bookmarking page. Del.icio.us is a really easy way of bookmarking webpages that you can call up on any computer where you can access the Internet. The bookmarks can be public and so can easily be shared with others. Sign up here for your own del.icio.us account.Free downloads mentioned during the afternoon are available on my public web folder.I would like to apologise publicly to Marion for calling her Ann!!!! I’ve known Ann – oops, Marion – for years. Old age has not come by itself as I realise that I can’t remember very much any more!!!!

Posted in Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events

Text-to-speech – Dyslexia & Reading Secondary Day

I had the pleasure today of talking to a group of secondary Support for Learning teachers who were attending a course on Dyslexia and Reading with Dr. Margaret Crombie.

I arrived late and in a panic as I’d suffered severe computer failure just an hour before heading over to the venue. Armed with a replacement computer and tightly crossed fingers I demonstrated some software and talked around a few of the issues and possibilities open to teachers. I was only scheduled to talk for 30-40 minutes but anyone who knows me………

Textease (part of the Softease Studio package in all our primaries) allows for text-to-speech output with just a single click. Ideal for pupils who are struggling with decoding but who are motivated enough to try to ‘get inside’ a piece of text. Read more here.

Wordtalk – a free-to-education add-in for Microsoft Word that facilitates text-to-speech as well as allowing for the saving of text as audio (wav & MP3) files. With text files stored as small MP3s it’s easy for these files to be shared by file exchange, email, or onto MP3 players such as iPods. Read more about Wordtalk and download it here.

Alphasmart word processors – these useful tools are often used by pupils for writing but are great for scribes too. If notes, etc. are generated in digital format they can be easily transferred into text-to-speech enabled applications or saved as MP3s. Banks of useful core notes might usefully be stored this way to ease future pressure on readers and scribes.

Some Text-to-speech options – click here for more information.

I also talked about generating MP3s by recording audio files through Audacity software that can then be exchanged, added to Textease pages, transferred to MP3 players/iPods. This is a very simple process that only requires the free software and a suitable microphone.

Our FirstClass email system (Client version only – not web version) actually allows for the sending of voice messages (actually in WAV format) which offers, potentially at least, some school to home transfer options. Recording can either be made directly into the FC voice recorder or by attaching an MP3 or WAV file. You can download a short video of how to do this from my public web space folder – click here.

While Read Out Loud for PDFs has been around for some time it’s now included in the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader 8. Users can listen to any PDF file with the Read Out Loud option enabled. Get it here.

Posted in Assistive Technology Software, CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support

Ross-shire Area Learning Support Team Days

May 9th and 10th were given over to the West and East Ross Area Learning Support Teams respectively for ICT updates. These two training days were held in the relatively new Fairburn Memorial Hall in Marybank. The light airy venue was much admired – we’re sure to use it again.

The agenda for the day was, as always, flexible to try to meet the needs of the group and individuals. As a starting point I talked to the teams about our attempts to drive forward the agenda of ‘The Digital Teacher‘ in mainstream classes.

The day focused on:

    utilising the multimedia capabilities of Softease Studio Plus
    creation of MP3 files for use within applications or on portable audio players with an eye to the future where we might generate Podcasts
    Jigworks software from Crick – the creators of Clicker
    Using Photostory to create multimedia presentations

Posted in CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support

Making more of Digital Cameras

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The ICT Training Support Unit ran three very successful days at The Storehouse of Foulis looking at ways to use the digital camera to support A Curriculum for Excellence. Liz Roberts explored the notion of New Literacies as expressed by David Warlick at SETT 2004 by connecting aspects of photojournalism and advertising as a basis for developing a variety of core skills through creativity. Participants were involved in analysis of multimedia advertising before considering the use of the digital cameras to create photographic presentations of their own.

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Many photographs were taken by the 30 staff who took part in and around the picturesque Storehouse of Fouliswhich proved to be a very successful venue for more than its scenic qualities – before editing (Using Irfanview) and construction of multimedia photostories took place (Photostory 3 for Windows).

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Some useful links for editing and presenting your digital photos:

http://snipshot.com/
http://www.phixr.com/
http://www.faststone.org/download.htm

Download key free software here http://idisk.mac.com/alantstewart-Public

In Pictures from the BBC archive.(Some harrowing images contained within parts of this site.)

Posted in CPD/Training/Events, ICT Support

Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis

The new Gaelic Primary School in Inverness

The new Gaelic Primary School in Inverness is due to open its doors to pupils in August this year under the leadership of Seònaid Nicleoid (Janet Macleod). Janet arranged for the staff of the new school to spend two days with the ATS Service/ICT Training Support Unit to look at ways of developing their ICT capacity to meet the demands of a 21st century school.

We were delighted to be asked to support the school at this exciting time and have tried to set the staff on the path to becoming ‘Digital Teachers’.

The teachers were all exposed to a range of interactive technologies that will, hopefully, help them to generate exciting multimedia teaching resources as well as creative learning experiences for their pupils. Software was chosen for its ability to accept the gaelic language both in terms of writing and its audio visual capabilities for delivery by staff and for creative use by pupils.

We look forward to continuing our association with Janet Macleod and the staff of  Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis.

Posted in CPD/Training/Events

ICT & Inclusion Roadshow in pictures

There was a real buzz around Victoria Park at the ICT & Inclusion Roadshow on Wednesday 28th March. Feedback was extremely positive with many participants commenting on the high quality of the ‘inspiring and practical’ seminars and how they would have been useful for teachers from a wide range of backgrounds.

Suppliers and delegates commented on the useful opportunities to discuss matters in-depth about the use of technology to support children with additional support needs.

The very helpful evaluations will help us to improve the event for the future.

Some points made:

    the need for the day to be extended – possibly into the evening – so that staff and parents could come after school
    more presentations by staff
    extend the day to take in more participants

Comments and suggestions welcome – as always.