Posted in ICT, Visual impairment

Lothian Visual Impairment I.T Group

A big thank you to all who attended the Lothian Visual Impairment Group on Wednesday. There is an amazing amount of work being done in Edinburgh and the Lothians and a wide variety of technology being used.

Delegates heard how Braillenote, iPads, laptops and dictaphones are being used to support visual learners. If you would like to learn more about the technologies please do get in touch via the website.

Posted in ICT, iPad, Literacy and English, Visual impairment

SMART kapp® board available to trial!

Hello everyone,

This morning I flexed my spacial awareness brain muscles as I figured out how to get a brand-spanking new SMART kapp® board into my Ford Fiesta.  Thankfully, I managed it without breaking it, so I’m now able to tell you all about it.

The SMART kapp board in action

The SMART kapp® board is an exciting new piece of kit that allows you to capture handwritten notes and send them to mobile devices, tablets, laptops or desktop computers in real-time.  Learners can then save these notes as PDFs or images for perusal later. Continue reading “SMART kapp® board available to trial!”

Posted in ICT, Visual impairment

A Touchable Universe

Ever heard of ‘haptic technology’?

No, I hadn’t either, until recently.

Anarkik-3DWhen I was invited along to Anarkik3D’s ‘A Touchable Universe’ Project : the potential of haptic technology to improve learning outcomes’ I really didn’t know what to expect.  I now know that this technology is really exciting and potentially has huge application for learners with additional support needs.

Basicaly, haptic technology allows you to interact with a computer using touch.  Using a special mouse, gloves or other piece of hardware, you can engage with virtual 3D objects.  For example, you could scuplt a figure out of “clay” on your computer and you would feel it, even though it’s not physically there.  Or, you could explore a virtual landscape, feeling the textures of buildings, trees, water… Can you imagine the learning and teaching applications here?  Add in a 3D printer and you have even more possibilities! I had a go of a haptic mouse when I tried the technology and I was giggling away – it has to be tried to be believed.  For more information, have a look at the Wikipedia article about haptic technology.

Now that I’ve explained a bit about what haptics can do, would you like more information/to get involved?  Fantastic!  Anarkik3D are holding an event on Thursday 2nd April, 16:30 to 18:30 at The Bunker at Gayfield Creative Spaces, 11 Gayfield Square, Edinburgh, EH1 3NT.  There will be the opportunity to try out the technology, see how it fits with other technology such as oculus rift and tablets, and the opportunity to participate in developing ideas further particularly towards your own ‘wish lists’.  Plus, there will be refreshments!!

If you are interested in this event, please RSVP to Ann Marie Shillito on a.m.shillito@anarkik3d.co.uk – hope to see you there!

Posted in Dyslexia, English as an Additional Language (EAL), ICT, iPad, Literacy and English, Visual impairment

iOS 8 and its new accessibility features

iOS 8 logoMany of you will know that Apple released an update to the operating system of its mobile and tablet devices last week: iOS 8.  For schools, this means that anything from iPad 2 and up can be updated to this new operating system.  Unlike the move to iOS 7 last year, this update doesn’t make your iPad look any different, but it does still introduce some powerful new features which can make it more accessible for learners who have additional support needs.  Below I have covered what I think are the most useful for you to know about.

Predictive text
Now, when you are using the apple keyboard, predictive text appears in a bar along the top.  Apple have branded this QuickType, and it makes current and next word suggestions based on what you’ve written previously and the context of the message.  You can hide QuickType by tapping and holding anywhere within the bar and pulling down.

Third-party keyboards
Up until now, you could only use the standard apple keyboard across all your apps, albeit in a range of different languages.  Now you can install any number of third-party keyboards, too.  From my early investigations, I like Keedogo ($1.49 or $1.99 currently as an introductory price, depending on the version you go for and Kiwi (free).  Keedogo (made by AssistiveWare, the people behind Proloquo2Go) features a high-contrast keyboard with vowels in red, and Kiwi allows you to choose the colour and font of your keys.  I’m sure there will be many many more of these coming out in the near future – do let me know if you find a good one.

Standard keyboard available in new input languages
Now you can input into your keyboard in Marathi, Bengali, Urdu and English (India) if you so desire.  Could be very useful for our bilingual learners.

Zoom
The zoom function has been revamped – you can now zoom to a part of the screen of your choosing, and you can keep the keyboard at its normal size so that you can keep typing normally and easily see what you’re writing!

Speak Screen
This feature allows all the text on a screen, not just what has been selected with “speak selection” to be read out with one easy gesture.  It should be noted that this does not include menus, folders etc – that would still be done via the VoiceOver function.  This is a very useful feature for those with a visual impairment or a literacy difficulty.

Grayscale
Turns your screen from colour to black and white.  It also works in conjunction with “invert colours”.  Could be useful for learners who have problems with a colour display due to colour blindness, a visual impairment or visual stress.

Guided Access
A feature well-loved by many, guided access has been updated to include a countdown timer and fingerprint recognition – unfortunately, it’s not working on my iPad currently (I am not alone in this) so I can’t give you more details – hopefully this is a bug Apple will iron out soon.

Apple have already released an update to iOS 8, iOS 8.0.2 – please make sure that you have this version installed for optimum performance.  Hope you found this round-up useful – do let me know about any other useful iOS 8 features you discover!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dyslexia, English as an Additional Language (EAL), ICT, iPad, Literacy and English, Visual impairment

IntoWords App Trial in the City of Edinburgh

IntoWordsI am delighted to tell you that the City of Edinburgh will be running a trial of the iOS app “IntoWords” from now until June 2015.

IntoWords is a text-to-speech app, with lots of supportive features such as:

  • It reads back at the letter/sound, word and sentence level
  • Predictive text
  • The ability to change the rate of the voice
  • Cut and paste into/from any other app

However, the real thing that sets the app apart is that you can take a photograph of any text and the app will read it to the child or young person.  This means that any worksheet, textbook or wall poster can be read out pretty much instantly.  I’m sure you can just imagine how much independence and confidence that would foster in our pupils who find reading a challenge!

Four primary and three secondary schools in the city will be involved in the trial, but a free 30-day trial is open to anyone, so please do consider downloading it from the app store and letting me know how you get on.  MV Nordic, the Scandinavian company that produce the app, are keen to receive lots of feedback so that they can continue to improve it.

Please visit the IntoWords website where you can find out more about the app and watch a video about it.