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Voice Dream Reader app for iPad Half-Price till 7th September 2014

By Stuart Aitken on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 4:55pm

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To mark start-of-term (USA style!), the Voice Dream Reader app is available half price until 7th September 2014. 

Voice Dream Reader is one of our favourite text-to-speech apps. Although originally designed with blind and visually impaired people in mind it was quickly taken up by many people struggling with literacy because of dyslexia, Indeed, Winston Chen the developer, mentions the story of the mother of a 10-year old boy with dyslexia using the app. It's an interesting account because it draws attention to a few of the specific features of the app that enhance the experience of literacy. 

Incidentally, we've been in touch with the developer a couple of times to make a plea to include the Scottish Voices as options for user. No luck so far but we'll keep trying!

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Bargain alert! New symbol apps, introductory offer.

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st September, 2014 at 10:18am

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Widgit Vocab

Widgit has just launched a new series of iPad apps called 'Widgit Vocab'. These apps introduce and develop basic vocabulary around a range of different themes, and are specifically designed ​to help extend a user's vocabulary range with listening, speaking and reading activities, supported by Widgit symbols. They could be useful for a range of listening, comprehension and other types of language development work for learners at a pre / emergent literacy stage​, ​who need picture support (including those who might happen to use other symbol systems for their AAC) .

There are currently eight apps in the series, covering a range of themes:  

ourselves; around the home; supermarket; town; countryside; seaside; animals; time.

More information about these apps can be found on the Widgit website 

You can download these apps now from the App store while they are at an introductory price of £1.99 each - probably only for a limited time - they will be £2.99 each after that it seems (so not a HUGE saving, but still worth going for..).

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CALL Scotland's new AAC Apps Wheel

By Sally Millar on Friday 23rd May, 2014 at 12:07pm

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The new CALL Scotland AAC Apps Wheel is now officially 'launched' and available for free download and sharing. Enjoy, and pass it on! 

The AAC Apps wheel is in .PDF format and was designed for display in A3 poster size but it works equally well (only smaller!) as an A4 leaflet. The App names on the electronic version are 'clickable' links, taking you directly to more information about the individual App on the UK iTunes site.

This new 'Wheel' authored by Sally Millar and Gillian McNeill of CALL Scotland, provides a categorised guide to iPad Apps for people with complex communication support needs, who may need to use some form(s) of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

There are many hundreds of communication apps, and deciding how to categorise them – never mind identifying the best fit to meet the needs of an individual user – is a bit complicated. We define some Apps (from 12 o’clock round to 6) as potential full ‘expressive’ communication systems. Whether text and/or symbol based, these tend to be highly featured, and include text to speech, a built-in symbol library, at least one or two sample pre-stored user vocabulary sets, and an onscreen message bar to allow for sentence/message building.

Other Apps (from 6 o’clock round to 9) are identified as more ‘simple’ forms of communication. These may provide basic, functional ways of expressing needs and making choices, or for recording news or stories. They contain limited, if any, starter content and will be customised for the user from ‘bottom-up’ using familiar photos and pictures, and recorded messages. Others may use the iPad to mirror and add speech output to particular low tech communication approaches such as PECS.  Finally, many are useful for building basic vocabulary and sentence construction skills, receptively as much as expressively.

The CALL Scotland AAC Apps wheel does not include every App available in each category. It shows Apps that CALL finds useful: i.e. reliable, relatively straightforward to use; reasonable/good value for money; and / or that stand out in their category for some reason.

Users may use a ‘set’ of various Apps from different categories at different times – there is no single ‘best’ App for communication. It can be a mistake to jump directly to the most complex and powerful full communication system App, without trialling simpler App(s) first to evaluate ability levels and communication needs, and to build basic skills.

All the Apps are controlled by direct touch, and many (but not all), will also run under switch control within iOS 7 Accessibility settings. A few were specifically designed for switch access, which tends to offer better switch access features, and these are marked in this wheel with small red ‘s’ (beside App icon).

 

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SPEAK all! app for PECS users

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 19th March, 2014 at 5:10pm

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I've become interested in a communication app called SPEAK all! designed by researchers at Purdue University specifically for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder who use PECS.   SPEAK all! is still somewhat in development, so I don't want to mislead by over-lauding its praises at this stage, for there are still a few steps needed to make it really usable / useful. Meanwhile, you can get a free version, to have a look at it (can ugrade via in-app purchase to a version that supports more users/ activities) and the developers provide support and welcome feedback and suggestions from users. Hopefully, it will soon be improved, providing an app that fits neatly into a very significant niche slot that has been waiting for it for some time - a simple speaking PECS book.

There are student videos showing Phase 1 - Phase 5  training, using the app within the highly structured PECS training format. 

The app's user interface is nicely uncluttered, basically showing a 'bank' of picture options, and a sentence strip. 

Unlike some other apps that claim to be ideal for PECS users, SPEAK all! mirrors really closely the exact PECS Stage 2 process of discriminating and selecting a picture with intention, and transferring it to a sentence strip (settings to let user select either by touching each picture or by drag and drop). To speak it out, the user can either touch each picture in turn (preferable, in my view), or hit a 'Speak All'  button. Once spoken, the user hits 'Revert to Original' (this button needs an icon on it, methinks) and the sentence strip empties again and returns the pictures to the 'bank', waiting for construction of the next message. The picture banks (termed 'activities') are fully customisable.

The row of 'activity folders' at the top is equivalent to topic or context-linked pages in a PECS book, and can be hidden by a semi transparent cover that leaves them accessible but minimally distracting. Beginner users will be fine with the vocabulary set within a single context-linked activity. More advanced users can explore the different activity folders freely to find the picture they want.

The 'Done' button at the top (that takes you out of the communication screen) can be hidden by a 'Lock Screen' setting (beware - this is a bit TOO efficient for now - you can get locked out of your iPad completely!) or by - safer for now - using Guided Access (download CALL's fact sheet on how to do this)

Watch this blog for news of future developments of SPEAK all!. It is just about  'workable' now with recorded speech only, but I think that to be a really serious contender in the crowded AAC app market-place it may need:

  • Access to a built-in symbol bank - as it is too time consuming for school staff to source every picture individually
  • Better synthetic voice options 
  • A 'screen lock' function that is not quite so fiercely effective! (coming soon, I'm told)
  • Back up and Sharing options

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AAC Apps - Proloquo2Go is not the only app!

By Sally Millar on Friday 28th February, 2014 at 2:43pm

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Had a great day yesterday on the CALL course 'iPads and Communication - fully featured AAC apps from symbols to text' . It can be hard work ploughing through a range of complex apps that all look somewhat similar but actually have a wide variety of different features, strengths and weaknesses. Luckily we had a strong group of participants and we all survived smiling!

Interestingly, most participants had all heard of/tried the widely advertised and powerful Proloquo2Go, and many were suffering pressure from parents determined that this was what their child needed. They had signed up for this course at least partly because they did not find Proloquo2Go to be suitable for 'their' clients, and wanted to explore alternative AAC apps. Happily, participants discovered a few that they were keen to try further with their clients. Amongst the favourites that emerged (both of the following offer free 'cut-down' versions, for trial), were GoTalk Now

 

 

and Widgit Go 

P.S Widgit Go (free Lite and £54.99 full versions) is also available for Android. Turns out that - unlike on the iPad which does not provide access to the Scottish voices -  it will run with the Scottish voices Heather or Stuart, that can be bought separately for Android for only £1.19 each.

 

And of course, the completely free Sounding Board

 

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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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You CAN run your favourite websites on iPad

By Sally Millar on Thursday 12th December, 2013 at 9:54am

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Have you tried running your favourite websites on your iPad and then been devastated to find that they won't work?

I did - HelpKidzLearn  is a vital day by day necessity, as is Doorway Online.

They don't run on iPad, seemingly because these are Flash based websites, and iPads don't talk to Flash.

However, it seems 'zere are ways of making zem talk'.....

Well, maybe you guys all know this already, but I didn't, until my colleague Sandra told me! 

Go to the App store and get Rover - the Browser for Education (apparently free).

Then when it opens, go to the supermarket trolley at the top right of the screen and buy the £2.99 Upgrade.

(Without this paid upgrade, you will just get a message to say 'Website is blocked' when you try to open your site.)

Now type in the URL of the site you want to access in the browser window, Go / Search - and there you are!

Happy Bunny! 

P.S. it only works when you have a good WiFi connection, of course.

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iPad Apps for Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 6th November, 2013 at 3:42pm

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Wheel of iPad Apps for Learners with DyslexiaWe have produced a 'Wheel' of iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties as a visual aid and reminder for some of the many apps that are available to support learners with dyslexia. It is designed to be used as an A3 poster, but the electronic PDF version is also useful as it links directly to the various apps that we have included.

It is impossible to include every app that can be useful for learners with dyslexia so we have only included a small representative group for each category. We are happy to take suggestions for other apps that could be included in later versions of the Wheel and will give them our consideration. Many apps can be useful in more than one category, but we have chosen to use just one particularly representative category for these apps, in order to make space available to include other apps.

This ‘wheel of apps’ for dyslexia is inspired by previous visual representations of apps:

These can all be found on the Apps4Stages web site.

iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning

iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties leads in to a new book that CALL will be publishing early in the New Year. iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning will provide detailed descriptions of apps that can be useful for learners with dyslexia, along with hints, tips and suggested strategies for using them.

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Setting Up Switch Access to an iPad

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 17th October, 2013 at 8:30am

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Setting up Switch Access to an iPadWe had a very interesting time at CALL yesterday afternoon, setting up switch access to an iPad for Mark. He has very limited movement in both hands and has previously borrowed equipment from CALL to try to improve access to his Mac computer. We discussed access to an iPad at the time, but this was just before the release of iOS 7, which provides a range of options for switch access, so we decided to wait for the new iOS.

Prior to the visit, I watched the Ablenet video, iOS 7 Switch Control - Dual Switch Step Scanning Setup and Use, on YouTube and spent some time familiarising myself with switch access to the iPad. I would thoroughly recommend the video which takes you through the process of setting up a user for scanning and selecting with two switches - it is clear, informative and very helpful.

Pretorian Applicator

Mark came into CALL with his iPad and two switches, which we connected to a Pretorian Applicator interface. The Applicator can take up to four 'wired' switches, allowing Mark to use his own switches. Pairing the Applicator to Mark's iPad was straightforward (Settings - Bluetooth - On). It took a few seconds for the iPad to find the interface, but there was no problem in connecting.

We then went into the Accessibility options on the Pad (Settings - General - Accessibility). Before going further, we set up an Accessibility Shortcut for Switch Control (Settings - General - Accessibility - Accessibility Shortcut), so that the iPad can always be taken in and out of switch access by tapping the Home button three times. Next, we set up options for each of Mark's two switches (Settings - General - Accessibility - Switch Control - Switches). Following advice on the Ablenet video, we set up one switch to 'Select Item' and the other to 'Move to Next Item'. We set up a Large Cursor and chose Yellow for Cursor Colour (Settings - General - Accessibility - Switch Control - Switches) to make the scanning highlight more visible.

Mark had previously experimented with using head movements to act as switches, but we had to turn this off as it was interfering with the use of switches. This proved to be a little tricky as the Edit button required for this was partially hidden by an error message at the top of the screen.

Mark very quickly adjusted to use of the switches, scanning through icons with one switch and selecting the app with the second switch, and navigating within apps. It proved to be a little more tricky to get back out of an app, requiring a 'click and hold' with the 'Select' switch to bring up the switch access controls, which includes a 'Home' button.

As the afternoon progressed Mark learned how to use the built-in Siri speech recognition in conjunction with his switches and managed to open Kindle books that he had on his iPad. Turning pages proved to be a little more complicated, but Mark is well on his way to mastering this.

Mark has now borrowed the Pretorian Applicator for evaluation for a few weeks. We're looking forward to hearing how he gets on.

Overall, we were hugely impressed with how well the iPad now works for switch access for a cognitively able adult, who knows exactly what using switches is all about. Definitely a game changer! We'll have to wait a little longer to see how well it works for school children with complex additional support needs.

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iSlope - good posture and working position for iPad use

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 9th October, 2013 at 9:39am

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Here's a useful product for pupils starting to use iPad in the classroom. With or without a protective case like the Big Grips frame (as pictured), or Gumdrop, Otterbox etc., many users will require an additional stand to raise and tilt the device and hold it steady in position. Rather than pupils hunched, heads down, over flat iPads, we want to encourage good posture, easy access, and a good line of vision to both technology and classroom / teacher/ board etc., 

There are already many forms of writing slope and laptop stand/riser etc.available, at varying prices. This one is a handy compact and lightweight slope that exactly fits the iPad.

 

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Nice new video of P2Go users

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 18th September, 2013 at 10:12am

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Excellent new video released recently by Assistiveware, the Proloquo2Go suppliers.

It features an introduction by the wondeful Jane Farrall (AAC specialist) from Australia, and some nice examples of conversational P2Go use by three highly engaged and communicative iPad-using school pupils. 

 

 

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Setting up the iPad for a user of Proloquo2Go

By Sally Millar on Saturday 14th September, 2013 at 4:43pm

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Proloquo2Go is a very popular App for communication, on the iPad.

The developers, Assistiveware, provide a number of excellent support materials  - videos, tutorial, fact sheets, FAQ, forum for discussion and so on, and you are advised to consult these when getting started. 

CALL is not intending to duplicate these, but has made a series of short videos with supplementary hints and tips on setting up the iPad for a P2Go user, especially one who is prone to 'go exploring' on the iPad...

Proloquo2Go: Sally introduces "Getting started "Hints and Tips"

Proloquo2Go 1: Moving and arranging app icons on the desktop

Proloquo2Go 2: Creating Folders and Updating P2Go

Proloquo2Go 3: Setting Restrictions and Guided Access

Proloquo2Go 4: Help and Support

Proloquo2Go 5: Choose a Vocabulary

 (If you can't access YouTube, contact CALL for an alternative link to the videos)

Thanks to Craig for filming and editing these. (The flicker's not his fault!)

 

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free App TELLAGAMI

By Sally Millar on Thursday 29th August, 2013 at 1:00pm

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I have just come across the free App Tellagami

It has lots of useful and fun uses for both AAC development and education. You can quickly and easily create an animated single page short picture story by choosing backgrounds (you can take or import your own photos) and customising your avatar/character. Stories can be recorded in or typed in and spoken via text to speech (30 seconds). Stories can then be saved and shared via email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS text.

Video tutorial here, showing it used to support reading fluency. Lots of good ideas here at the wonderful PrAACtical AAC site about how to use Tellagami with pupils and AAC users

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free AAC App

By Sally Millar on Friday 26th July, 2013 at 2:58pm

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Just to let folks know that there has been a major new update to the AbleNet AAC App Sounding Board. It is a free App anyway and the update is free via the App Store.

Sounding Board has always been an attractive option because (as well as being free) and offering all the 'standard' functions of communication and choices by touching pictures, imported photos, linked boards etc., and output through recorded speech, it is one of the few AAC Apps that also offer (1) audio prompts, and (2) switch and scan access. However it had limitations and a slightly 'dated' look to it, previously.

This latest version is much improved, for example:

  • New more modern looking and more intuitive interface
  • Now works in landscape mode as well as portrait
  • Boards can now contain up to 20 locations (used to be 9) - and you just add messages and leave it to save itself and configure the layout, instead of choosing a pre-determined layout before you start
  • Optimised for all versions of iPad , iPhone or iPad Touch
  • User data collection faciity (it tracks activations of each board and each individual symbol/picture)
  • Can export boards and share the file by email. BUT - note that this does NOT work with boards made in earlier versions of Sounding Board, but only with new boards created in Version 4. (However, don't panic - boards made in your earlier version will run fine after you've upgraded to V.4 - they just won't export.) 
  • Can import  boards from other users/devices and/or buy and import pre-made boards as in-app purchases ($0.69 each) So far the few boards on offer are single 9 location boards (not linked board systems); it is not clear what future plans might be for possibly increasing the range of boards available). 

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Using Proloquo2Go text for Story Writing

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 30th May, 2013 at 3:02pm

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I was asked recently by a teacher in a primary school about whether a child using an iPad with Proloqu2Go for communication could use the text she created within the app for story writing and recording her written work.

At the time, the only way to do this was by creating a page for 'stories' and saving spoken phrases from the 'Recents' view onto buttons to retell a story later on.

That has now changed with the release of Proloquo2Go version 3.0, which you can update to FREE if you have already bought the app. As well as some new Australian voices, expressive voice capabilities (words like wow, yummy, oh no! said with feeling by the synthetic voices) and scanning for switch users, the new version enables you to copy text from the message window into other apps.

This means you can use your spoken text output in a text message, email, on Facebook or Twitter or within a story writing app (any app that accepts text basically) e.g. Clicker apps, Book Creator, notebook etc

Let me show you how it works.

First the child types in what they want to say in their story using Proloquo2Go e.g. It is a sunny day

Then the child (if possible) or a helper selects the copy button:

They then open the app into which they want to copy the text e.g. My Story (lovely little story app 1.49)

and hold down their finger in the area where the text is to go and then press paste:

et Voila, the text appears!

The child can then either use the app's simple drawing tools to do a picture to go with their text or use photos from the camera roll or take a new photo straight onto the story page:

You can't record the voice output from Proloquo2Go into the app, so if you want the story page spoken out too, someone will need to record it.

However, this is great for AAC users who want to do some creative story writing and record their written work as the story will be saved within the MyStory app and can also be emailed to the teacher to read, save, print out and mark.

Also nice to take home to show parents or carers.

Happy story writing! 

 

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