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Helping People with Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties to Access Books

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 29th July, 2014 at 3:11pm

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Following on from Stuart's blog on Changes to Copyright Law (10th July). we've had a series of emails seeking clarification of the practicalities of access to books for people with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. A lot of information about this is available on CALL's Books for All web site, but we thought it would be useful to summarise some of the existing information, and add some new material that is particularly relevant to adults who don't necessarily have access to the same resources that are available to schools.

How can a book be made more accessible?

Most people with dyslexia and other reading difficulties find it easier to read text if the space between lines and words can be increased and if the size of print can be increased (reducing the number of words in a line). Some fonts are easier to read than others and many people find it hard to read black text on a white background, preferring a coloured background. Different people have their own preferences so it is hard to produce one single type of paper books to meet everybody's needs - it is good to be able to personalise the book to meet your own needs, which can be done if you have an electronic copy. More information on this is available from the book, Accessible Text: Guidelines for Good Practice by Fran Ranaldi and Paul Nisbet, available free from the CALL web site.

Many people find it easier to follow a book if they can hear the text being read, particularly if the book is available in an electronic format which can be read using a high quality voice such as the Stuart and Heather computer voices available for use by people with disabilities in Scotland from the Scottish Voice web site.

There are definite advantages to being able to get a book in an electronic format!

e-Book Readers

Kindle e-book readerVarious portable e-Book readers have been developed in recent years, such as the various Kindle devices from Amazon, the Kobo (from WH Smith) and the Nook. These devices all have different facilities to support people with reading difficulties, e.g. ways to change font size, line spacing etc., and there is usually a (limited) choice of fonts, but the available options won't necessarily meet everybody's personal preferences. There's a good comparison of the various features within each device on Wikipedia.

Apps are available for reading e-Books on iPads and other tablets. These may provide additional facilities compared with the stand-alone e-Book readers. Note that you don't have to own an e-Reader to access e-Books for the device. For example, you can use the free Kindle app to read a Kindle book on an iPad, or you can download free Kindle software to read it on a PC or Mac computer. There is more information on e-Books on the Books for All web site.

Getting hold of an accessible copy of a book

As of June 1st 2014, UK Copyright Law Regulations allow the creation of an accessible copy of a book (and other copyright materials) for a person with dyslexia (or other disabilities that make it hard to read a standard book).

There are various stages you should go through to see if an accessible copy of a book is available, before you think about creating your own accessible version:

  1. Is a suitable accessible version commercially available? If the book is available in a format you need, e.g. for a Kindle you should buy this version, rather than a traditional paper copy. In addition to the various commercial sites, there are also various free sites, such as Project Gutenburg where electronic copies of out-of-copyright books can be found. More of these sites are listed on the Books for All web site. A good way to search for an e-Book is through Calibre, a very useful free program that can be used to search the main online e-Book sites for a particular title. (Calibre can also be used to translate between different e-Book formats - see the CALL Quick Guide, Using Calibre to Read eBooks and Convert EPUB files for the Kindle.).
  2. Can I get a copy of the book from a library? Many libraries now provide loan copies of e-Books that you can download and read via the OverDrive service. The OverDrive books are EPUB format which you can read on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, smart phones etc. On a computer you read the books with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), which also reads PDF versions. For iOS, Android and e-Book readers or smart phones, you read e-Books and listen to audiobooks using the OverDrive Media Console app. The Books for All web site has more information about borrowing e-Books and the services provided by libraries in Scotland.
  3. Has somebody else already made an accessible copy? Over the years various people have been making accessible copies of textbooks for use in schools, colleges and universities, and of a few novels for general enjoyment. These copies have been made available through various databases: Books for All Scotland, Load 2 Learn, The Seeing Ear and can be downloaded from these sites, though there are restrictions on who can access the material.
  4. Can I get an accessible copy from a publisher? The process of publishing a book can involve the production of an electronic PDF file, which can be read out loud by a computer or tablet with appropriate software. These files are not necessarily 'fully' accessible, as they were designed for a different purpose, but they are still useful. Details of contacts within academic publishers are available from the JISC TechDis Publisher Lookup site. Many of the publishers listed are the same ones used by schools. Note that there may be an administrative charge for this service and it may not be possible to get older titles due to changes in print technology, or files getting lost over time.
  5. Can I make my own accessible copy? As a last resort, it is possible to make your own accessible copy from a paper copy of a book by, for example, scanning into a PDF or Word file using a flat-bed scanner with appropriate Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. If you are scanning a book with a mixture of text and pictures and you want to retain this formatting, it is usually better to create a PDF, which generally retains the appearance of a document pretty well. Word is fine if your document is mainly made up of text. Scanning a book can be a long and laborious process. If you need to scan a few books, you can save a lot of time by using a commercial scanning company, such as DDSR, but note that they will remove the spine of the books in order to run them through a high-speed scanner. You can also make an accessible copy from an intermediate file (a file ready to be made into other accessible formats), but if you want to share this you need to be what is known as an 'authorised body'. More information about scanning books and making accessible copies is available on the Books for All web site.

Once you have an electronic copy you can use appropriate software to read the book out loud. Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader both have built-in software for reading text, but there are better options. We generally recommend WordTalk for use with Word and Ivona MiniReader or NaturalReader with Adobe Reader for reading text from a PDF document.

If you have an e-Book, e.g. for a Kindle or an EPUB file for another e-Book Reader, but want to read it on a computer, then Balabolka is a great free program that you can use. This will be the subject of my next blog.

 

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Changes to Copyright Law from 1 June 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Thursday 10th July, 2014 at 10:49am

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A welcome change to the law on copyright came into force on 1 June 2014. The new Regulations affect disabled people's access not only to print materials such as books, but also music and other media including video.

Now a person is considered as disabled if the disability prevents the person from enjoying the work to the same degree as a person who does not have that disability. This is a substantial shift from the criterion that was in effect prior to 1 June 2014. Until that date copyright exemption for print materials could only be made for visually impaired people (technically, the definition was broader than visual impairment to include physical disability). For them, accessible copies could be made - large print, Braille or audio for example - without breaking the law. Prior to 1 June, it was possible to extend copyright exemption for others such as pupils with dyslexia. In order to provide this exemption, however, special licences had to be set up, or individual agreements made with publishers. The presumption now set in law is that so long as the exemption criteria are met, an accessible copy can be made.

The relaxation of copyright exemption applies not just to print but also to other kinds of work such as music, film, video. Now a disabled person, whose disability prevents him or her from enjoying the work to the same degree as someone who isn't disabled, can have an accessible copy made.

A further change in the law is also helpful. Now, if a licence term imposed by a publisher for a disabled person is more restrictive than what the law permits , then that licence term is unenforceable.

Full details of the changes to the law are set out in The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014 

A detailed FAQ has been provided by JISC Legal team and many of the questions and answers are applicable beyond Further and Higher Education.

Footnote

The full definition of a "disabled person" is now

- a person who has a physical or mental impairment which prevents the person from enjoying a copyright work to the same degree as a person who does not have that impairment, and “disability” is to be construed accordingly. (The only exception from this exemption is if your vision can be corrected with glasses or contacts which does seem very reasonable.)

 

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Sharing Learning Resources in Word between Windows and iPad

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 at 11:36am

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Last week at the CALL Scotland RTC launch I presented a workshop on iPads and Dyslexia, and one of the topics we considered was sharing of learning resources between Windows and iPad. Many teachers use Microsoft Word to create curriculum resources, and so a fundamental question is “how can learners access my DOCX files”? (One might ask whether one should be taking advantage of more creative and exciting multimedia tools and formats available on the iPad to engage your learners, but for this blog let’s assume we are in a learning environment where files created in Word are the norm.)  

DOC & DOCX format

One approach is to save your Word file in a cloud storage such as DropBox, Glow, OneDrive or Edmodo, or email it to the student, who can then open it using an app that can read and edit Word files such as Pages, Word for iPad. Other apps are Doc2, or CloudOn.

Pages is now supplied free with iPads and for older iPads costs £6.99. Pages is a great app and can import Word files, but the layout of files with elements such as floating text boxes and images may be altered when you open them in the Pages app. This may be an issue if you want to send files back and forwards between the iPad and a PC.  

Word for iPad is a new app from Microsoft, and is probably the best app for maintaining the layout and properties of the original file. To edit a Word file with Word for iPad you need a subscription to Office 365 either as a home user or through your school, college, university of business. Learners in Scotland now have Office 365 subscriptions through Glow and so Word for iPad should be a good option (provided your Glow account gives you access).

Sticking with DOC or DOCX is a good option for resources where learners will be editing or re-formatting the text, and for extended writing. However, for worksheets, assignments and assessments, PDF has some advantages.

PDF

PDF is a good format for booklets, assignments and assessments because the visual layout of your resource is maintained, and because learners can use apps like ClaroPDF or PDF Expert to add highlights, comments and drawing, type answers and insert photos and audio notes. Also, the latest Adobe Reader XI provides commenting tools that can be used on any PDF which means pupils can annotate, type in answers and record audio on a Windows computer as well. The use of audio notes is particularly helpful for learners with literacy difficulties because the teacher can record instructions or comments into the PDF, and likewise the learner can respond by recording their own audio notes. (Pages does not have a facility to record audio notes.)  

PDF is also cross-platform in that files can be opened on almost any device and operating system (Windows, MacOS, iPad, Android etc) and so if you are working in a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ environment, PDF will give some consistency. Lastly, teachers can save PDF files directly from Microsoft Word 2010 and 2013 (File > Save As and choose PDF from Save as type). 

So, a workflow for digital resources in PDF therefore looks like this:

  1. The teacher creates the resource using Microsoft Word, saves it as a PDF and emails it or makes it available to the class via online storage.
  2. Pupils then access the resource on Windows, iPad, Android etc and use commenting tools to insert answers or otherwise respond. The pupil emails or saves the file.
  3. The teacher opens the students’ files using Adobe Reader XI on their computer (or uses ClaroPDF / PDF Expert / iAnnotate on an iPad), reviews the responses, and uses the commenting tools to mark the submission and provide feedback. The teacher’s comments can be typed, drawn or recorded as audio. The marked work is then given back to the pupil who can open it and read or listen to the feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The participants at the workshop on Friday thought that the PDF option was the better option for learning resources where some sort of response is expected from the learner, because: the visual appearance is maintained; the student writes 'on top' of the PDF (there is no chance of accidentally or deliberately altering the assignment); it's possible to record audio into the PDF easily; and PDF can be read and annotated with almost any device.

There are many apps that learners can use to open, read and type or draw on PDFs, but I favour:

ClaroPDF (69p) because it has good, simple text-to-speech (e.g.. tap on text and it speaks); there is a Scottish voice (Fiona, costs £1.49 extra); you can tap and type anywhere; it has good drawing and annotation tools; it can be used to type into answer boxes on SQA Digital Question papers.

PDF Expert (£6.99) because is also has good text-to-speech, albeit slightly more complicated than ClaroPDF (and no Scottish voice); great annotation tools; and it can also access Digital Question Papers. PDF Expert can open and save files from a wider range of cloud services than Claro, and has better file management.

 

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Text to Speech and Reading Books with Mavericks

By Allan Wilson on Monday 21st April, 2014 at 2:23pm

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We had a couple of enquiries last week about different aspects of 'text to speech' on an Apple Macintosh computer so it is probably a good time to put together some updated information, particularly relating to the Mavericks (10.9) Operating System. The first related to general text to speech facilities for a pupil with dyslexia, particularly interested in reading past exam papers. The second was more specific to using the computer to read books, particularly Kindle books.

Recent Mac operating systems have included a reasonable text to speech facility, but we have generally recommended the free version of NaturalReader, particularly for somebody with a reading difficulty who might want to click on a mouse button to speak text, rather than remember a keyboard command. Unfortunately, the free version doesn't currently work with the latest Mavericks operating system so the best 'free' alternative is to use the built-in facility.

Accessing Text to Speech with Mavericks

Text to Speech on a Mac running Mavericks is accessed through the Dictation and Speech System Preferences. (Click on the Apple icon in the Menu bar [top, left of the screen], then System Preferences, then Dictation and Speech [You may have to click on Show All in order to see this.). Now select the voice you want to use. The Mac defaults to using one of six American voices (see below, left), but you can access many more by clicking on Customize (below, right). Simply tick the voices you want to have available and 'untick' the ones you don't want. The additional voices include a good quality Scottish voice, Fiona, which you can use free. Note that there are also Mac versions of the Scottish computer voices, Heather and Stuart. The Scottish voices are generally free for use by people with disabilities in Scotland through the Scottish Voice web site, or can be purchased through Cereproc.

After you have chosen the voices you want to have available, click on System Voice again and choose the voice you want to use. Speaking Rate can also be adjusted at this point to suit the user. People with an auditory processing difficulty may benefit from a slower speed, while people with a visual impairment might prefer a faster speed, particularly if they are used to Text to Speech. Finally, choose a key or key combination to 'Speak Selected Text'. Choose something that you will remember, and which is not already used by something else.

Once Text to Speech has been set up, select text in any application with your mouse and press the key you have chosen to Speak Selected Text to hear the text read back to you. Note that words are not highlighted in any way as they are read. If this is important, you would need to use a specialist Text to Speech program, such as GhostReader or Read and Write Gold.

What about Reading an Electronic Book?

iBooks

Most Mac users would think of iBooks as their first option for reading electronic books. There are over 2 million books available and a basic Text to Speech facility is built into the program. Select the text you want read, then click on Edit, Speech and Start Speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the book is available as a PDF, then the text to speech options in Adobe Reader can be used. See the CALL Quick Guides to Using Books on the Books for All web site.

Kindle

What can you do if the book you want is only available for the Amazon Kindle, or if you have a Kindle account and prefer to use that, rather than set up an iBooks account? There is a free Kindle app, available through the Apple App Store, which can be used to read Kindle books that have been purchased, or downloaded from the Amazon Kindle Store. Unfortunately, the Kindle App for the Mac is quite limited for people with reading difficulties - there is only one, unfriendly, font available, though text size and spacing can be varied, and there is no built-in Text to Speech facility. The Speak Selected Text method used to work (see video), but it no longer works in Mavericks. The best way we have found for adding Text to Speech to the Kindle app on an Apple with Mavericks is to use the Screenshot Reader in Read and Write 5 Gold (circled in red below). This allows you to select any block of text from the screen, including from the Kindle app, copies the text into a new frame and then reads the text back, highlighting each word as it is read. You have to read each page individually, which is a hassle, but at least it is possible to read the text out loud using this method.

 

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New John Muir Graphic Novel available in accessible digital format

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 16th April, 2014 at 4:58pm

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A new graphic novel based on the life of John Muir, the Scottish pioneering conservationist was launched by the Scottish Book Trust earlier this month. The novel is written by award-winning author Julia Bertagna and illustrated by Glasgow-based artist William Goldsmith, and free copies are being sent to every secondary school in Scotland for use by pupils in S1, S2 and S3.

So what about young people who can't read or access the free copies, I hear you ask? Well, the good news is that we have been working hard with the authors, the Book Trust, and the designers at Metaphrog to create an accessible digital version of the novel. 

This turned out to be quite tricky. Most graphic novels are PDF image files, and while you can zoom in and magnify the text, and turn pages and navigate on a computer or device, you can't  have the text read out by the computer. However, we wanted to have the option of text-to-speech because it can really help readers with dyslexia, visual impairment, hearing impairment or non-native English speakers. This meant that the novel had to have proper, selectable text, and so John and Sandra at Metaphrog created a special font to mimic William Goldsmith's handwriting, and then used this font to create a special accessible version of the novel. We also spent many hours working out the best way to get the text read out in the correct order by the free text reader in Adobe Reader, and John and Sandra went through every page checking and adjusting it. Lastly, they added bookmarks so that readers can see the table of contents and click to go to a particular section.

I'm pretty chuffed with the way it has turned out and grateful for the opportunity to work with the artists and authors and I think it is a good model for graphic novels in general. 

Apart from giving readers with print disabilities access to the book, it also fits with the general theme of conservation and sustainability, since no trees were harmed in the production of the digital copy.

You can download the novel from the Scottish Book Trust web site. (Make sure you get the accessible version and not the standard PDF which doesn't have readable text.) There are also teaching notes for use in different subjects across the curriculum.

You can read the novel on a computer or on an iPad or Android tablet, and I've written some quick guides: one for Windows, and another for iPad. To read it on a Windows or Mac, you just need the free Adobe Reader software which will probably be on your computer already. You can read the novel with the free Scottish voices.

For the iPad, we suggest reading the novel with ClaroPDF because it has good text-to-speech tools (including Fiona, a Scottish voice) and at 69p it's a steal. (Fiona costs £1.49 extra.)

If you have an Android tablet, try ezPDF Reader (£2.49) with the CereProc Scottish voices (£1.19 each).

Enjoy! 

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Dragon NaturallySpeaking on inexpensive laptops

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 2nd April, 2014 at 12:13pm

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Recently there has been renewed interest in the potential of speech recognition for learners with writing and literacy difficulties (partly as a result of the restriction on use of a scribe for assessing writing at National 3/4 Literacy). Dragon NaturallySpeaking is we think the best speech recognition software for Windows PC, and I was interested whether it would run on the relatively low powered Acer TravelNote laptop that is available from XMA through the Scottish Tablet and Notebook Procurement Scheme. (There are of course scores of lightweight laptops around but it's often easier and cheaper for schools and local authorities to buy machines through this national procurement scheme.)

So we did an experiment - I installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 12 on the Acer and on my own Dell laptop, dictated into both at the same time, and tried to see if there was any time lag or lack of response between the two machines. The Acer has a Celeron 1.5Gz processor with 2 GB of RAM, while the Dell has an i5 2.5 GHz processor and 4 GB RAM, so the Dell should be noticeably faster. Both machines were running Windows 7. I didn't bother to train Dragon to my voice, and the accuracy was pretty good 'out of the box'.  I looked like an even bigger prat than usual by wearing two identical headsets (Andrea NC181VM USB)... 

In fact, for basic dictation, we couldn't see much difference between the two. The Acer seemed slightly slower to load programs and Dragon said that the natural language processing facility wouldn't work because of the lack of RAM and processor speed, but apart from that it was fine. (The natural language commands let you give commands to Word in simpler English (e.g.. 'Turn on bold') but not having them is not a huge disadvantage because you can still usually use the more formal commands (e.g.. 'Set Font Bold')  for most tasks.)

The Acer costs £216; Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium Education is £99; so for £315 schools can get a lightweight laptop running a good speech recognition system. (You would probably need MS Office which your local authority would install, and we strongly recommend a USB headset like the Andrea at around £30 but the total cost still seems pretty good value.)

Alternatively, for about the same price you can get an iPad Air and try the free built-in Siri speech recognition - you do need an internet connection but we think it's just as good as Dragon and it seems more forgiving of strong accents and also very simple to use.

 

 

  

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Further clarification that MiniReader CAN be installed on school computers

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 7th February, 2014 at 5:34pm

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Text-to-speech is one of the most useful accessibility tools for learners with and also without literacy or access difficulties. Pupils with dyslexia or reading difficulties can use text-to-speech to access digital text; pupils with English as a second language, or with language or learning difficulties can use text-to-speech to aid their understanding; learners with visual impairment who have difficulty seeing the text can use it to read faster and with greater comfort; and ALL learners, with or without additional support needs, can benefit from using text-to-speech to proof read and improve their work.

In our view, text-to-speech is an accessibility essential and all school computers should have a text-to-speech reader available, along with the free Scottish computer voices.

There are a many text-to-speech programs available, but if you need a free, simple program for windows, take a look at Ivona MiniReader. I introduced MiniReader in a previous blog and on our MiniReader web page:and the purpose of this blog is to reassure local authority and school staff that it is legal to install MiniReader on school computers.

On 12 November 2012, I asked Ivona whether MiniReader could be installed on all the computers in a school and was told that:

"Of course you can use MiniReader at schools. I hope that it will be good promotion for our other products like IVONA Voices and IVONA Reader."

On 16 September 2013, following some questions from local authority technical staff, I emailed Ivona to ask:

"Can you confirm again that it is acceptable for your free MiniReader software to be installed on school computers in Scotland?"

to which Ivona responded:

"Minireader is free so it can be installed on school PC's."

And on 7th January 2014, a colleague in a local authority asked Ivona to clarify whether they could use the MiniReader with the school's own computer voices. Ivona said:

"Our Minireader is for free. You can download this product by clicking "Free download" on http://www.ivona.com/en/mini-reader/"

I hope that this provides clarification and reassurance! Let's get on with reading.....

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New Maths in Action Large Print Books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 3rd February, 2014 at 11:10am

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Thanks to Marie Lawson from the Vision Service in Shetland for contributing a new 18 point Large Print copy of New Maths in Action S22. It's available as two parts and you can find them on the Database by clicking the links below: 

Marie previously contributed Large print copies of New Maths in Action S1-1 and S1-2Click here to see all the New Maths in Action books on the database.

Remember also that you can get some Nelson Thornes Maths in Action books as PDF files from the Load2Learn database. Load2Learn currently has PDFs of New Maths in Action S2/2S3/2 and S3/3 and also PDFs of the new Curriculum for Excellence titles - Maths in Action: National 4 and Maths in Action National 5Load2Learn is like a 'sister' database of Books for All and is run by RNIB and Dyslexia Action. 

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National 5 Specimen papers with answer boxes are now available

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 6th January, 2014 at 4:03pm

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The SQA Question Paper team have added 'answer boxes' to the National 5 specimen papers and these can be downloaded from the SQA Digital Question Paper pages. Feedback from students is that it is much easier to type in answers directly on the paper, than to use a separate digital answer booklet. Papers in question-and-answer format that have answer boxes include for example Biology Section 2, Computing Science, Drama, French Reading, Gaelic Reading, Music, Physics and Philosophy.

Papers that are not in question-and-answer format (such as English and History) do not have answer boxes, and learners either hand-write their answers into a paper answer booklet, or use use digital versions of answer booklets which can be downloaded in PDF and also Word format.

The papers and answer booklets can be freely downloaded by teachers, parents and learners for revision and practice. 

To find out more about how to use Digital Question Papers visit the CALL Digital Assessment web site and refer to SQA's Digital Question papers Guidance pages.

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Reading PDFs and Digital Question Papers with Texthelp Read and Write Gold

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 19th December, 2013 at 4:33pm

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Yesterday a teacher called to ask for advice about using Texthelp's Read and Write Gold with the SQA Digital Question Papers. She had two problems and the suggestions I made may be of interest to others who use Read and Write Gold:

  1. The first problem was that the PDF Aloud text-to-speech tool reads out the entire answer typed into a PDF Digital Answer Booklet, which is not good when you usually just want a sentence or paragraph of your text read out.

Unfortunately, this is the way it is with PDF Aloud, and there is no way around it that I know of. However, I suggested two alternatives:

  • Using a Digital Answer Booklet in Microsoft Word format, with the Read and Write Gold Play tool, rather than the PDF Aloud reader. I think the Word DABs are a better option anyway – text flows across from page to page, unlike the PDFs; you can format the text; the word spellchecker is better; R&W Gold works well in Word.)
  • Use the PDF Digital Answer Booklet, but use the Read and Write Gold Play tool instead of PDFaloud. The learner can then select the text and click to have it read out.

Teaching learners to use the Read and Write Play tool may be a better approach anyway, because then they get used to using the same speech tool to read everything – Word files, the internet, emails, and PDFs. I’ve heard some staff say that this is how they use R&W Gold and that they don’t bother with PDFaloud.

You can find out how to use the Play tool on our  Digital Assessment web site and from this downloadable Quick Guide.

The second problem she had was that Read and Write Gold seemed to work on the school's Windows XP computers, but not on the Windows 7 machines. I contacted Texthelp for clarification on what works with what, and they have helpfully provided the table below. 

 

 

Read and Write Gold 8.1

Play

Read and Write Gold 8.1

PDFaloud

Read and Write Gold 9

Play

Read and Write Gold 9 

PDFaloud

Read and Write Gold 10 

Play

Read and Write Gold 10 

PDFaloud

Read and Write Gold 11 

Play

Read and Write Gold 11 

PDFaloud

Windows 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adobe Reader 9

No

RW8.1 is no longer supported

No

Yes / No

(Yes, after serial number 245769, from 22/10/09 onwards)

Yes

(to make it work with the Scottish Voices download this update)

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Adobe Reader X

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Adobe Reader XI

No

No

No

No

Yes

(you need the up to date version, 10.0.6)

Yes

(you need the up to date version, 10.0.6)

Yes

Yes

Windows XP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adobe Reader 9

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Adobe Reader X

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Adobe Reader XI

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

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Using Word Grids in the Clicker Books App

By Allan Wilson on Friday 13th December, 2013 at 9:15am

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My colleague, Craig, quite likes the Clicker Books app, particularly the word grid/bank support, but it took a while to work out how to create word grids/banks – unfortunately it isn’t very intuitive and not immediately obvious. Craig has now created a very, very quick guide.

 

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The Scottish Voice: latest version available

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 10th December, 2013 at 10:58am

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The latest version (3.1) of the Scottish Voice is now available to download. It is available for both Windows and Mac (Intel). They will also work on the latest version of OS X (Maverick 10.9).

Once installed on your computer, you can use Heather or Stuart with most 'text-to-speech' programs to read:

It's recommended that you uninstall any previous version of the voice first. This can be done via:

  • Windows: 'Add/Remove Programs' on Control Panel;
  • Mac:or delete them from the Applications folder.

The voices are licensed for: State-run schools, pupils at home, Scottish Colleges, Scottish Universities, Scottish Open University students, Scottish charities dealing with pupils and NHS patients, Scottish Local Authorities, NHS Scotland, Scottish government agencies and the public sector in general.

The voices are not licensed for: Independent schools, private companies, Scottish students studying abroad and individuals not covered by the above. If you wish, you can purchase a copy from the CALL Scotland shop.

 

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Word prediction is confirmed as a reasonable adjustment for assessing writing in National Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 9th December, 2013 at 7:00pm

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SQA have confirmed that word prediction software is a reasonable adjustment for learners with disabilities for the writing assessment of Literacy at National 3 or 4. 

Word predictors analyse text as it is typed on the computer, and try to ‘predict’ the words that the learner is most likely to want, from a dictionary or lexicon of words. The writer types or selects a letter and the program offers a list of the most common words beginning with that letter. If the required word is on the list, the writer selects it with mouse, keyboard or other access tool. If the word is not on the list, the learner types the next letter and a different choice of words is offered.

There are many word prediction programs available, such as Co:Writer, ClaroRead, LetMeType, Penfriend, Read and Write Gold and Write:Online. Some Scottish local authorities have authority-wide licences for some of these programs.

Word prediction can reduce the number of keystrokes needed to type by up to 50% and so learners with physical disabilities use them to reduce effort and to increase endurance and therefore the amount that can be written in one session.

Word prediction can also help learners with even quite severe spelling difficulties because the writer only needs to type the first few letters of the word and then select it from the list of words offered. Most of the predictors can cope with letter reversals (e.g. b/d) or phonetic spelling errors and still offer a valid list of words. Learners with reading difficulties can usually point or click on the words in the prediction lists and have them read out by the computer, to make sure the correct word is selected.  

Some literacy skills are necessary to be successful with word prediction. The writer must be able to decide what they want to say, type a reasonable approximation to the first few letters of the word and then recognise and select the word in the list. Some writers cannot get the first letters right at all; others may miss the word when it is offered in the list or choose a different one by mistake. Some pupils also find that shifting attention between the text, the keyboard and the predicted list interrupts their flow of thought and slows them down. (If this is this case, it can be helpful to use an on-screen keyboard so that the writer maintains focus on the screen.)

Research and experience shows that word prediction can be very effective method of support, particularly for learners with more significant literacy difficulties for whom spellcheckers are not sufficient. 

Word prediction in assessment of literacyat National 3 and 4

SQA regard word prediction as a reasonable adjustment, but staff should ensure that the software is not providing inappropriate levels of support. For example, the predictor should:

  • only offer single words or paired words in the context of the writing topic (e.g. ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’;
  • not offer whole phrases or sentences;
  • not be programmed such that the learner can simply hit one key to regurgitate an entire text.

For the avoidance of doubt, SQA have confirmed that the following facilities can be used where available:

  • phonetic prediction (e.g. Co:writer’s FlexSpell);
  • ‘next word prediction’, where the software offers a list of words immediately after the last one typed;
  • topic dictionaries matched to the writing task.

This information is provided for guidance: it is the responsibility of the teacher to assess whether a learner has achieved the standard for writing in literacy, and so staff should use their professional skills and judgement to ensure that the support provided is appropriate.

Find out more about how ICT can be used in assessment of writing on our web page.

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Using networked computers in examinations

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 2nd December, 2013 at 12:31pm

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Staff often ask whether to use standalone or networked computers in exams, and so we have written a quick guide (below) and also available for download.

Exam Profiles for Digital Question Papers

In an exam you can either use standalone computers, or you can use machines attached to your school network. The best way to run digital exams is to use networked computers and for your technicians to set up ‘exam profiles' on the machines.

The Exam Profiles should:

  • prevent access to internet, USB memory sticks, Bluetooth and any folders or files on the school network or computer – to prevent cheating;
  • have the software required for the exam (usually Adobe Reader and Microsoft Word, plus text-to-speech software);
  • give access to an ‘exam folder’ on the network.

Each Exam Profile – Exam1, Exam2 etc. – has a network folder with the same name, with read and write access for the pupils.

Prior to the exam, staff should create a planning table which matches the pupils against the computers and the Exam Profiles - e.g. Joe Brown will be on computer 1 with Exam Profile 1; Jane Smith on computer 2 with Exam Profile 2; and so on.

On the day of the exam, the SfL teacher or technician, in the presence of the invigilator, puts the CD into their own networked computer and copies the papers from the CD to the network folders for each pupil.

Spellcheck on/off

SQA provide two versions of the Digital Question Paper on the CD: one with the spellchecker enabled (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckon’), and the other with spellchecker turned off (e.g. ‘Int_2_Geography_Spellchcheckoff’). Make sure you copy the correct papers to the correct network folders for each pupil – for example, you might designate Computers 1 to 3 for candidates who are not using the spellchecker, and Computers 4 and 5 for learners who do have permission to use the spellchecker.

Digital Answer Booklets

If Digital Answer Booklets are required for the exam, they should be downloaded in advance from the SQA web site at http://www.sqa.org.uk/digitalquestionpapers and then copied to the Exam Profile network folders.

Data Booklets

If required, PDF versions of Data Booklets for sciences and Technological Studies should also be downloaded from the same SQA site and copied to the network folders.

Paper copies

SQA provide paper copies of the examination for all the candidates that are using Digital Papers:  learners can use both at any time during the examination.

On the day

Pupils sit down at the computers and are told the computer and the Exam Profile they are to use. They log on to Exam1, or Exam2 etc and they can see the correct paper sitting for them in the network folder. They open it, work on it, and save it frequently as they go through it. (Staff should also ensure that the Adobe Reader ‘auto-save’ is turned on.)

At the end of the exam candidates print their paper and/or answer booklets out on a networked printer (preferably in the room next door to give easy access and to avoid disturbing candidates in the exam room). The candidate should have an opportunity to check over the paper (within the overall time allowed) and if necessary amend and re-print answers before the paper is given to the invigilator.

 

Using networked computers with profiles and folders in this way gives security and is MUCH easier and faster for staff than using standalone computers. If you use standalone machines you will run round sticking the CD into each computer in turn, and then at the end of the exam, run round copying the completed papers off to a USB stick to get them printed. This takes a lot more time and is generally less reliable and more prone to error and high blood pressure than using networked computers with Exam Profiles.

 

Further guidance is available from SQA (http://www.sqa.org.uk/digitalquestionpapers) and CALL Scotland (http://www.adapteddigitalexams.org.uk/). 

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Use of ICT in Assessment of Writing for National 3/4 Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 2nd December, 2013 at 10:33am

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We have added some notes on using ICT to support learners with additional support needs in National 3 and 4 assessment of writing. As you probably know, human scribes are not regarded as a reasonable adjustment when assessing writing for National 3 and 4 Literacy qualifications, but learners can use ICT. 

The writing assessment at National 3 involves writing at least 80 words on a topic that is being covered in class; National 4 requires 300 words. The assessment is not 'an exam' - it is carried out in class as part of teaching and learning. It is not time-limited and learners can use dictionaries, word banks, mind-maps and other tools to support their writing.

All learners can use (and are encouraged to use) ICT for writing and this includes spellcheckers and autocorrect tools that are bult in to the word processor or device. Pupils with additional needs can also use more specialist access devices and software.

You can read the guidance here and also download the booklet as a PDF.

The booklet on assessing writing complements the notes on using ICT in the assessment of reading already available.

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