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tha e air beagan Gàidhlig?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 25th February, 2015 at 3:00pm

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We are pleased to report that we have received funding to work with CereProc to develop and license a Scottish Gaelic computer voice for the Scottish public sector. CereProc are a world-class text-to-speech company based in Edinburgh and the Gaelic voice development is funded by The Scottish Government Gaelic and Scots UnitScottish Funding CouncilScottish Qualifications Authority and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The new Gaelic voice will be available to schools from The Scottish Voice website for the start of the 2015-16 academic session, alongside  Heather and Stuart, which are high quality computer English voices with a Scottish accent. We first licensed Heather from CereProc in 2008 and she was followed by Stuart, in 2011, and they are now used in computers in schools all across Scotland in a variety of ways by learners with additional support needs. For example:

  • students with reading difficulties use the voices to read digital textbooks, assessments or digital exam papers;
  • learners with visual impairment use the voices to read and access the computer screen;
  • pupils who have difficulties with communication use the voices in their electronic voice output aids for personal communication.

By licensing Heather and Stuart nationally, schools and other public agencies are saved the cost of buying the voices or buying computer reader software with high quality voices. We estimate that we have saved Scottish education at least £2 million compared with the cost of schools or local authorities buying the voices commercially. 

However, there is no Scottish Gaelic computer voice available and so Gaelic learners and speakers do not have the same opportunities as Scottish English speakers. The new Gaelic voice will we hope address this.

The Gaelic computer voice will not just benefit learners with disabilities and additional support needs:  anyone who reads Gaelic could find it helpful to read web sites, documents, or to check and proof-read their own letters or emails. The voice will be licensed for use by Scottish schools, colleges, universities, local and national government agencies, NHS units and for use at home by pupils and staff.

    

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How accessible are your school computers? Are we meeting legal obligations?

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 4th February, 2015 at 6:01pm

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On 31 October the Scottish Government published Guidance on “Planning improvements for disabled pupils’ access to education” which "describes the requirements the Act places on education authorities and schools to work to improve the education of disabled learners and to help ensure that they are properly included in, and able to benefit fully from, their school education."

The Guidance contains two appendices that refer specifically to measures that local authorities should take to improve the accessibility of school ICT and computers. It covers things like installing the Scottish computer voices; having text-to-speech software available; providing access to control panels so that students with disabilities can make adjustments to enable access; etc. The document is available here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/10/8011.

Now that the guidance is published, it would be helpful to get a snapshot of how accessible school computers are across the country, and what might need to be done to improve the accessibility of ICT used in schools.

To accomplish this, please help us by completing a survey that you can find here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/accessICT.

We know that in some parts of the country, learners have the benefit of readily-available accessibility software and adjustments, but in other schools the provision is not so good. By completing the survey you will help identify areas where improvements might be made. Please also pass the link on to your colleagues.

Many thanks,

Paul

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TeeJay books are available on the Books for All Database again

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 13th January, 2015 at 10:59am

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Following the incident where a TeeJay book was found available on the internet (see the 7 January blog post), we have modified the wording of the Books for All Database records and we hope that it is clearer and encourages staff to read and understand the terms and conditions.

Tom Strang at TeeJay is happy with the wording and so we have made the TeeJay books available once again. We are very grateful to Tom for his understanding and for allowing us to share his publications, free of charge, so that learners with print disabilities can access them.

You can see all the TeeJay books by clicking here

This is the arrangement:


These accessible copies are made available under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency Print Disability Licence to be used only by a learner who is visually impaired or otherwise disabled and by reason of such visual impairment or disability is unable to read or access the original printed book.

Under the terms of the licence you must download or obtain an accessible copy for each learner who needs one. All learners must have a print disability.

By downloading this book I confirm that:

  • I am downloading this book for a learner with a print disability.  I will not supply the book to learners who do not have a print disability.  I will not upload the book to the internet for public access.  
  • I understand that I am legally responsible for the file and for its usage.  
  • I agree to the Books for All Database Terms and Conditions.

Books for All Database Licence Conditions for TeeJay Books

  • The user of this Accessible Digital Copy must have legal access to a print copy of the book, bought either for personal use or as part of a class set.
  • The Accessible Digital Copy should be deleted once the pupil has completed the course for which it was supplied.

 

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Wot? No TeeJay Books?

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 9th January, 2015 at 3:17pm

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You may have found that the TeeJay maths PDFs are not on the Books for All database any more. We have temporarily removed them because just before Christmas one of the files appeared on Wikispaces, freely downloadable, and this is not permitted under the agreement we have with TeeJay.

We are discussing how we can prevent this from happening with TeeJay and once we have a solution we hope to have them available again soon.

This emphasises how important it is to abide by the Books for All terms and conditions and to ensure that the files are only provided for learners with print disabilities. If we collectively don't protect the publishers' rights and property, they won't let us share their files. 

Watch this space - we'll let you know when they are available again.

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New resource - Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults

By Stuart Aitken on Friday 9th January, 2015 at 1:13pm

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A new free resource book on dyslexia is available. Although written mainly for adults who have dyslexia it may be of interest to a more general audience that includes parents of children with dyslexia.

Written anonymously by an adult who has dyslexia it takes a holistic approach to reading. It describes skills, alternative formats (large print sources, audio source, audiobook sources etc.) and dyslexia friendly options,  Also, it considers why an adult might want to engage with books (benefits, strategies), the position regarding copyright and more.

The resource uses a font that is readable with good size and line spacing and sections that are  split into manageable chunks. A 3-page synopsis is included as an Appendix. For those who prefer a more visual approach a spider diagram is also provided to  guide people to the relevant section of interest.  

Additional information provided to us by the author -

‘Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’ is a free resource which:

  • explores various options that dyslexics can use to succeed with books;
  • provides tips, ideas and information; and
  •  is written by a dyslexic adult

Downloading the guide

The guide is available to download in PDF from one of these three options:   

  1. http://bit.ly/13wIPvO
  2. Download from Google Drive
  3. WordPress blogpost​ - then click on the text at end of post ‘Accessing Books – A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’ 

As some may find an online or digital copy difficult to use you are free to print the downloaded guide or any part of it.

Members of Dyslexia Scotland can borrow a paper copy (including a CD). 

Non-members can consult it at the Dyslexia Scotland Resource Centre.

Dyslexia Scotland Resource Centre
Dyslexia Scotland
2nd floor - East Suite
Wallace House
17 - 21 Maxwell Place
Stirling FK8 1JU
Tel. 01786 44 66 50

 

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Digital Exams in New Zealand

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 6th January, 2015 at 9:48am

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Back in 2006 Naomi and Ross Forrester from Speaking Solutions in New Zealand visited us to find out about digital exams. Naomi and Ross are experts in speech recognition and digital tools to support learners with disabilities and difficulties. Since then they have been working with Louise Oliphant at Auckland's Sacred Heart College to introduce digital assessments and examinations and Naomi sent me a copy of an article published in the New Zealand Interface magazine, which makes interesting reading.

The school are now using digital exams and assessments for students who would normally require a reader and/or writer and have found that the students achieve similar grades to their mainstream counterparts. They are at the point where they can hold multilevel assessments for more than 30 students in one room with 2 invigilators and this gives an 80% saving to the school in terms of wages, room costs and administration. The article notes that "the results from digital examinations have been astounding" and digital exams are regarded as a "fair and equal way of testing their abilities". The article gives an example of using digital maths papers, where students use text-to-speech to read the questions and handwrite their answers, and points out that this tests "knowledge of mathematics rather than whether a candidate could read the questions."

The article concludes that "Overwhelmingly, the research and experience at Sacred Heart College demonstrates that all students – not just those who have special learning needs – should be extended the opportunity to choose a digital format as an option to complete examinations, thus expressing true subject competency, rather than their ability to read and write.​"

Great to hear about digital assessments and exams having a positive impact on the other side of the world.

 

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Create your PDF prelims, assessments, worksheets and activities on your iPad!

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 12th December, 2014 at 5:36pm

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Previously if you wanted to create an interactive digital prelim, assessment or other resource with answer boxes on screen, you had to use Adobe Acrobat Pro, which costs around about £60 per license under a special licensing arrangement from Education Scotland. Even though this is a very good deal (the full commercial rate for Acrobat Pro is £440), some staff have commented that it is a significant outlay for each department in a school to buy a copy. 

However, there are now some alternatives to Acrobat Pro that are worth considering. I'll outline the Windows software options in a blog next week, and today I want to introduce PDF Office, which is a brand new app that lets you create digital question papers and prelims on your iPad!

DF Office lets you open a PDF, do small edits to the text and add drawings and other annotations, and most importantly, you can insert form fields for answer boxes. There is a form field detection feature that adds fields automatically for you. In testing on my standard prelim paper, I found that it works very well: it even detected the difference between a field where I wanted a tick box, and other fields where I wanted text boxes. (This is better than Acrobat, which puts text boxes into tick box fields that you then have to delete.)

You can change the properties of the fields to make them look like the SQA Digital Question papers, i.e. red borders, multi-line where necessary. I couldn't find a way to select all the fields in the whole paper to make these changes once, but it was easy to select all the fields on one page and set the properties for that page.

You can draw in fields for text, tick boxes, numbers, date, radio buttons, action buttons (e.g. send by email), drop-down lists, and image fields for users to insert photos from the camera. You can tap on a field and duplicate it, which gives a faster way of inserting fields.  

You would want to use a stylus rather than your finger, to get accurate positioning (although it 'snaps' to other fields that keeps things nicely aligned), and I actually found it slightly easier and quicker than using a mouse on a computer.

The completed PDFs can be accessed and completed by students on iPad using apps like Adobe Reader, ClaroPDF and PDF Expert, or on a computer with Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader.

Cost? The app is free, but to use it you need a subscription which is quoted at $4.99/month or $39.99/year. However, when I installed it, it gave me a free year's subscription for nothing because I already had PDF Expert, one of Readdle's other apps, on my iPad. PDF Expert costs £6.99, so for just £6.99 you can get both PDF Expert, which is an excellent tool for reading and managing PDFs, and a year's worth of making digital prelims and resources on your iPad!

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iVona MiniReader and MS Word - keyboard shortcuts

By Stuart Aitken on Wednesday 10th December, 2014 at 4:48pm

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Many pupils are now using iVona MiniReader as their main text-to-speech tool in Scottish schools. One question has come up a couple of times and it came up again in today's SQA ICT & Literacy Seminar (URL).

iVona MiniReader with Play button

Today's question was how to use iVona to read out a National Literacy 3 or 4 exemplar paper using only the keyboard. The N3 and N4 papers are available in MS Word. So we are considering iVona working with MS Word keyboard shortcuts. (PDF has different keyboard shortcuts not covered in this blog.)

Pressing Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar isn't a problem for pupils who can find the word, phrase, sentence to speak! 

But what if the pupil has dyspraxia, or a physical disability or, say, a visual impairment  that makes it difficult to i) locate the chunk of text to be spoken, and ii) to then navigate to that Play button in order to press it? 

Become a Power user!

Often referred to as Power users, keyboard users also have a trick available. It uses Extend mode, F8 (Function key 8).​

 

We'll cover three scenarios.

  1. Pupils who can independently find the first word to be spoken.
  2.     Pupils who need to use the keyboard to find the first word or phrase to be spoken.
  3.     Pupils who can only press one key at a time.

1. Pupils who can independently find the first word to be spoken

  1. Open the Word document, launch iVona MiniReader.
  2. Position cursor (blinking) somewhere in the first word to be spoken.
  3. Press F8 once to turn it on. Press again to select the whole word.
  4. (Optional) To select the whole sentence to be read, press F8 a second time.
  5. (Optional) To select the whole paragraph to be read, press F8 a third time.
  6. Press Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar to speak the word, sentence or paragraph.
  7. To deselect the word, sentence or paragraph, press Esc, followed by an arrow key.

2. Pupils who need to use the keyboard to find the first word or phrase to be spoken

  1. Open your Word document and launch iVona MiniReader
  2. Press Ctrl+F to find the first word or phrase to be spoken - this opens the Find pane. Type in the word or phrase to be found.
  3. Press Enter.
  4. Use the arrow key to highlight the box containing the word or phrase.
  5. (Optional) To select the whole sentence to be read, press F8 a second time - may need three presses.
  6. (Optional) To select the whole paragraph to be read, press F8 a third time - may need four presses.
  7. Press Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar to speak the word or phrase found (iVona actually speaks it from the Word document itself rather than from the pane - clever!).
  8. To deselect the word, sentence or paragraph, press Esc, followed by an arrow key.

To close the Find pane - some pupils may find it distracting or it may take up too much space on the screen

  1. With the cursor (blinking) in the Find pane somewhere.

  2. Press Ctrl+Spacebar then W.

3. ​For pupils who can only press one key at a time

Use Sticky Keys

  1. To activate Sticky Keys press Windows key +U > Make the keyboard easier to use > Turn on Sticky keys.
  2. It is now possible to press keyboard combinations by pressing one key, then the next etc. Each key will 'stick' e.g. Ctrl then Shift then Spacebar has the same effect as pressing Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar together.

The document Extend Selection Shortcuts Word is a slightly edited version of those listed under Microsoft Word 2010 Help - which of course can be accessed by pressing the F1 key. 

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SQA Past Papers for 2014 are now available

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 3rd December, 2014 at 5:42pm

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You can now download the 2014 past papers from the SQA Digital Question Papers pages. Since prelim season is almost upon us, these can be useful for class teaching as well as revision, and of course for students to practice using the papers on a computer, iPad or other device.

You can also download Specimen papers for National 5 and Higher exams from th same page.

'Question and answer' papers have answer boxes on the digital paper so that candidates can type their answers on-screen, but 'question only' papers do not have the answer boxes. So in these exams, a candidate can use a Digital Answer Booklet to type up their answers. DABs are available in Microsoft Word and PDF format from the SQA Digital Answer Booklet page. 

     

Paper with answer boxes     History paper without               National 5 History Digital Answer Booklet 

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TeeJay CfE Books 1a and 1b now available with answer boxes

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 10th October, 2014 at 1:14pm

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Tom Strang at TeeJay Publishers has kindly provided digital versions of the new Curriculum for Excellence books for the Books for All Database, so that learners with print disabilities can read and access them. 

Sarah and Rebecca here in CALL have been working hard to insert answer boxes and adapt the books so that learners can tackle the exercises on screen, and we've just uploaded new versions of Books 1a and 1b to the Books for All Database.

The books are 'PDF Portfolios' so when you open a book with Adobe Reader on your computer you will see thumbnails of each chapter: double-click on a chapter to view the preview and then double click again to open it.

(You'll need Adobe Flash installed to view the Portfolio properly, and from our trials it seems that most school computers do have this.)

 

 

Or, you can extract the chapter as a separate file and save it on your computer. We recommend extracting the chapters and accessing them separately because the PDF Portfolio can take a while to open and the extracted individual files seem to open much faster. 

 

Most of the pages have answer boxes inserted so that you can type your answers on-screen.

To jump to the next answer box press the Tab key on the keyboard: to go back to the previous box, press Shift-Tab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the pages did not have enough room to insert the answers boxes, and so Sarah and Rebecca added extra pages to give more space to lay out the answer boxes. You'll find that many of the exercises with arithmetic working take this form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercises that involve drawing can be done on the computer using the Adobe Reader Drawing Markups. (Click Comment at the right hand side of the toolbar to see the Annotations and Drawing Markup tools).

This tiling exercise has been done using the Polygon tool. I set the colours of the polygon by right-clicking on the Polygon tool in the Drawing Markups and setting the Tool Default Properties. In this exercise, I drew the tiles in different orientations then used CTRL-C and CTRL-V to copy and paste multiple tiles. 

You can download a quick guide on using the various Adobe Reader XI drawing and commenting tools

 

On an iPad, tap to download the book and then Open it in the free Adobe Reader app

 

 

 

 

You'll then see each chapter listed: tap to open the chapter in Adobe Reader.

 

 

 

 

However, you can't type in answers and so we recommend tapping again and opening the chapter in an app that allows you to type in answers to form fields such as PDF Expert.

 

 

 

 

PDF Expert lets you type in answers, draw shapes and annotate the text, and it also has text to speech so you can read the questions.

(We used to suggest ClaroPDF for accessing PDFs with answer boxes/form fields but at time of writing it has a bug which means that when you type an answer into a box, your answer often gets copied to other answer boxes on the same page! Claro are working on a fix for this, but it's not there yet.)

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Getting into the Books for All Database from Glow

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 7th October, 2014 at 4:51pm

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Some people have been having a problem with logging into the Books for All Scotland Database from the Books for All web site since the launch of the new version of Glow. They are getting an error message, "The username or password you entered was incorrect." Please check and try again. The solution, for the moment, is to log in to Glow BEFORE you go to the Books for All web site. You can do this by going to portal.glowscotland.org.uk and logging on with your Glow username and password, or just Google "Glow login"

If you do log in through Glow, you'll find that there is a 'Tile' for the Books for All site in the bottom right hand corner of the Shared Launch Pad, which makes it much easier to find the Books for All database.

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Something about sums

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 1st October, 2014 at 5:51pm

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One common challenge facing many learners with additional support needs is that of writing down mathematical and arithmetic working. This can be a real difficulty for learners with handwriting problems, dyspraxia, low muscle tone, dyslexia and dyspraxia, and learners on the autistic spectrum. So the question is - how can a learner use a computer, iPad or other device to easily and quickly type out arithmetic?

We've experimented with different techniques and one that seems to work well is to set up tables in Microsoft Word. 

These are pretty simple to use: type each digit into a separate table cell and hit the arrow keys on the keyboard to move from cell to cell, or click with the mouse on the cell.

The carry or borrow rows are set to be a smaller font and shown in red so that they stand out.

To strike out a number when subtracting, select the digit and then click the ‘strikethrough’ button on the Home ribbon. 

I've created a set of 14 different Word templates for addition, subtraction and multiplication, for starters. You can download a zip file with the templates, plus a 'How to Use' guide, from the Books for All web site. If you unzip the files to a folder on your computer and then open the How to Use guide you will see thumbnails of what each template looks like, plus a link to open the template directly.

I'd welcome any feedback, comments or suggestions for improvements on these files. I've also created some PDF versions that aren't quite finished, and I'll make some OneNote templates in a similar format.

Here's how a few of them look:

Maths Grid 2

 

Multiplication TU

 

Division 1 digit 

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New TeeJay Maths books in action!

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 24th September, 2014 at 12:40pm

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I was in a school yesterday assessing a pupil. He is working on book 1A from the TeeJay Maths scheme. His hand writing is poor and liable to get worse with time and as the amount of writing he has to tackle increases throughout Secondary.

I showed his teacher the Books For All database and she logged in with her Glow Username and password (impressively, she knew this off the top of her head!)

We searched for TeeJay book 1A and it appeared, ready for download, along with several more of the TeeJay titles.

Within minutes, he was typing his answers into the text boxes independently and with ease and said to me at the end of the session 'I like it.' He went off to his next class happy and confident.

By the end of the day, there were several requests by other teachers for digital TeeJay titles to use with their print disabled pupils.

A great example of Books for All at its best and of real life 'Active Maths!'

A good day.

 

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SoundingBoard webinar

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 18th September, 2014 at 5:13pm

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If you'd like to know more about the great FREE communication app SoundingBoard and how it can be used with pupils who have communication support needs, why not have a look at our recent webinar?

It covers simple editing, using digital images on buttons, sharing resources and switch access for those with physical difficulties.

Also make sure you download this FREE app onto your iPad so that you can use our app board symbolised resources which accompany the Scottish Children's Book Awards Bookbug category of shortlisted books!

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