Come to the first Communication Works event organised by CENMAC and Charlton School. This is a chance to meet lots of suppliers of technology that is dedicated to levelling the playing field for children with different ways of learning and communicating.
There is a rolling programme of seminars, many examples of best practice in and around London and advice and support. This show is aimed at teachers, SENCos, support assistants, parents, therapists, advisors and anyone who is interested in finding out more about what the right technology can achieve, and how to get it. This event is FREE – just come along! For details click here. For details of presentations, click here.”
I’ve been recommending Screen Tinter Lite to people for a couple of years now. The program provides a rapid and easy way to change the Windows colour scheme. It’s far easier than trying to get to grips with the Windows Control Panel.
Screen Tinter Lite quickly changes the colour scheme in most programs, including Microsoft Word. Some programs require tweaking before they’ll listen to Screen Tinter Lite and because of this I’ve created special colour tutorials for Internet Explorer 7, Adobe Reader and Firefox.
I often recommend Screen Tinter Lite to people with Scotopic Sensitivity and visual impairments but it’s a great tool for anyone who uses a computer as it can be used to reduce screen glare.
IBM have combined their experience of speech recognition with signing avatars created by the University of East Anglia to create SiSi, an on-screen speech-to-signing translator. The available avatars can sign in BSL or Sign Supported English. Currently the system is a prototype but IBM are considering plans to make it commercially available.
An example of the technology can be seen below. While I obviously always welcome new advancements in assistive technologies it is clear from the video that the software is by no means ready to act as a replacement for a human signing interpreter. The avatar started lagging quite far behind the speaker and lacked the facial experiences required to express accurate meanings. On the other hand this technology could have some great applications for communicating relatively simple messages across the Internet or during PowerPoint presentations.
There’s a bit of confusion as to what has happened to the speech recognition element of Microsoft Office 2007.
Speech recognition was first introduced by Microsoft as a feature of Office XP in 2001. An improved version was then included with Microsoft Office 2003. It has been removed from the latest release, Office 2007, and is now part of Windows Vista.
“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none.”
So the idea that a laptop for every child improves their education turned out not to be true. At least that’s what they’re finding in America, according to an article published in the New York Times today.
“Laptops had been abused by students, did not fit into lesson plans, and showed little, if any, measurable effect on grades and test scores.”
Babymouse is a freeware windows ‘lock-down’ program that reduces mouse functionality. It can disable all right-mouse clicks and restrict mouse use to an area of the screen. This makes it ideal for use in classrooms where pupils often get distracted by accidentally – and sometimes intentionally – clicking on icons, toolbars and the start menu.
I had high hopes for this software but is it any good? And is it really free?
The SEN Teacher website is a popular, easy-to-use resource of classroom materials relating to special educational needs. There are three main sections:
Printables contains 30 printable worksheet resources covering topics such as numeracy and handwriting.
Downloads consists of several Flash activities created by the site author, Simon Evans, and links to more similar activities and programs by other authors. All the software is free and ranges from basic hit-and-happen touchscreen animations to advanced switch access to Windows and painting programs.
Web links contains links to over 50 websites that should be in the ‘Favourites’ menu of any SEN teacher. It includes a comprehensive list of websites organised by disability, free resources and other supportive sites and portals.
The content and features of the website have increased significantly over recent months.
The newly developed Hawking Toolbar is a free, open source plugin for the Firefox web browser that makes possible single-switch access to the internet through an autoscan. It also provides group scanning, which makes the process much more efficient, and switch access to page scrolling and the most common browser features, making it useful for two-switch users as well.
Accessing the Internet using switches alone is possible but its ease and practicality depends on the web site you are attempting to access.
Two-switch users can jump in and use simple websites simply by setting their switch driver to use TAB and ENTER to allow them to scan and select links. For more complex pages specialist software such as The Grid may need to be employed.
Single-switch users will always need specialist software to allow them to automatically scan through links. HotSpots can provide a great solution for simple layouts.
I’m an occupational therapist based in London. I have been helping disabled children and adults benefit from technology for 14 years. I’m available to provide specialist assessments for individuals including setting goals and providing ongoing support where required. Get in touch to find out more! Charlie Danger. More