It’s been a while since I have had a chance to send an update to you. So this one is filled with lots of info about new inclusive learning technologies – and ideas for ways of using them in the classroom, in the community and at home to advance independent achievement. Whatever form that achievement might take! Just click on the links that particularly interest you to learn more.
There is a lot to read so I’ll let you get started. And I’ll be back in two months time to share some more news.
Cheers for now
PS Our skilled team of presenters from teaching and therapy backgrounds will be visiting New Zealand’s North Island, Canberra, Wodonga, Gippsland, Rawson, Kalgoorlie, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in the busy few months ahead. Keep an eye on the Online Travel Diary to see when we are presenting in “a town near you”! Denise Hunter, Spectronics’ Events Coordinator is also happy to update you at any time on workshop plans. To contact Denise, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (07) 3808 6833 in Australia or +61 7 3808 6833 from NZ or overseas.
We receive so many questions every week about the popular Boardmaker program – so here are a few a bits and pieces that might interest you if you are a Boardmaker fan (as we all are at Spectronics)!
- Upgrades now simplified
If you are interested in upgrading older copies of Boardmaker to the new Boardmaker Plus! Version 6 – the upgrade options are now much simpler to understand and quite a bit cheaper too in many cases. Visit the Spectronics website at Boardmaker Upgrades for more details.
- Hands-on Boardmaker Workshop: All-you-need for Creating Excellent Early Childhood Resources!
Join the Spectronics team for an exciting, full day of learning about using Boardmaker in Early Childhood settings! We provide the teachers, we provide the expert ideas and we provide you with a laptop pre-loaded with Boardmaker and all the resources you need for the day. We will even give you a USB stick full of EXCELLENT Early Childhood resources to take away with you – ready to print and use the very next day! Only 30 places available!
When? Saturday 25th October – 9.00am to 4.00pm
Where? Eight Mile Plains, Brisbane
More details about the workshop can be downloaded from Spectronics_EC_Brisbane_Workshops_(October08).pdf
- Australian Voices for Boardmaker Plus!
“When will Australian voices be available for Boardmaker Plus! and Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro?” We have been asked that question so often! So we are very pleased to be able to announce that the “Karen” (female) voice and “Lee” (male) Australian voices are now available to purchase as optional add-ons for both programs. See RealSpeak Solo Australian English Voices for Boardmaker Family Software and DynaVox V Series Devices for more details.
- Boardmaker Plus Player coming soon
The new Boardmaker Plus Player allows students to use interactive, onscreen lessons and activities created by teachers, therapists or parents using Boardmaker Plus! Once the player is installed, students can use the Boardmaker Plus! onscreen lessons on school or home computers without needing access to the full version of Boardmaker Plus! Unfortunately, the Player is not free – but is still a lot less than the cost of a full version of Boardmaker Plus!
Boardmaker Plus Player
- Legal Usage of the Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)
We are often asked about the copyright restrictions which apply when using the appealing Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) supplied with the Boardmaker program. The latest version of the Copyright Guidelines from Mayer-Johnson, the company which publishes Boardmaker, is viewable online at www.mayer-johnson.com/Copyright.aspx
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Classmate Reader - New Portable Audio Book Reader with Text Highlighting
The ClassMate Reader from Humanware is a clever new addition to Spectronics’ range of technologies. This new digital audio book player reads aloud while simultaneously displaying and highlighting the text on its colour screen. It also offers students many other active study and reading tools – including a talking dictionary and the option to record voice notes within the text being read. The voice notes are easy to add and offer support for students wishing to comment on their understanding of sections of text to assist with later reviews.
While MP3 players are often used for playing back downloaded text or audio books, the ClassMate Reader’s features provide the additional supports specifically needed by students experiencing literacy or learning difficulties. It will read aloud e-text, NIMAS and DAISY files and other file formats including MP3 and WAV audio files. It is a great option for students wishing to access and comprehend text while on-the-go – without needing to be at a computer. A perfect tool for reading and revising while travelling to/from school too!
Two independent reviews of the ClassMate Reader in Australia have recently been conducted. For the review by the Centre for Learning Innovation (NSW Department of Education and Training) visit www.cli.nsw.edu.au/cli/e-learning/Adaptive_technologies/reviews_2008/classmate.shtm. And for the review incorporated in the latest version of Online (published by the Education Queensland’s Disability Services Support Unit), see www.learningplace.com.au/deliver/content.asp?pid=35125 and click on the Online June 2008 link.
More information about the ClassMate Reader is available on the Spectronics website at here and a free two-week trial is available from Spectronics if you wished to evaluate the device hands-on to determine if it is suitable for your needs. An Equipment Trial form for the ClassMate Reader can be downloaded from Spectronics Equipment Trial Scheme.
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New Spectronics NZ Office Opened in Auckland in July!
We opened a new Spectronics office in Auckland on 1st July 2008. Our web address at www.spectronics.co.nz and email address of email@example.com remain unchanged – but our new street/postal addresses and phone/fax numbers are as follows:
PO BOX 20 1186
MANUKAU CITY 2150
Phone: (09) 275 5744
Fax: (09) 275 5743
Unit 31, Kudos Business Apartments
203 Kirkbride Road
MANUKAU CITY 2022
Will the office in Hamilton continue to operate?
No. Trev Willson, who has managed the Spectronics office in Hamilton for the past three years, will not be moving to Auckland to run the new office. He is planning to start his own business called STAR Educational – working with early childhood resources and supporting some of the Spectronics software and hardware range. We are very grateful to Trev for his commitment to Spectronics New Zealand over the past three years and sincerely wish him well in his new venture.
Who will be running the office in Auckland?
Amanda Gerin (pictured above) is managing the Auckland office. Amanda has a great “can-do” attitude and is very enthusiastic about her new role! She is already proving to be a valuable part of the Spectronics New Zealand team. If you wish to contact Amanda, her direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming FREE workshops in Auckland too!
The three teachers from Spectronics’ Training Team will be visiting Auckland on Monday 22nd September and Tuesday 23rd September to present free workshops. They will be covering popular technologies such as Clicker 5, Boardmaker, textHELP Read&Write GOLD and more for supporting students with special education needs and students in mainstream schools who are struggling because of specific learning disabilities. For more details about the content of these exciting workshops – visit Spectronics_Auckland_Workshops_(September-22&23-08).pdf
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Communication Software Comparison Chart
Choosing the “right” piece of communication software for a client has become increasingly difficult as the features of these programs become more similar with each new release. Many of the packages have the ability to control a computer through mouse and keyboard strokes or the ability to send text messages and emails without ever leaving the communication software. Most of them provide the option for communication via text or symbols and all offer some form of word prediction.
But which features are most important? It depends!
For many people it is the smaller details which influence their preferred software option. For example, it may be critical for a user to have context-based word prediction as well as frequency prediction. Or the option of a talking Web browser within the communication software may be the deciding factor. Alternatively, none of these factors may be important and the user may pick their software based on their team’s previous experience with a piece of software.
Jane Farrall, Spectronics’ AAC Support Services Manager, has recently spent many hours reviewing the latest versions of four popular AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) software options:
We hope you find the comprehensive comparison chart compiled by Jane (summarising her reviews) to be a valuable resource to assist you when faced with this complex decision-making process. The chart is downloadable from AAC_Software_Comparisons.pdf
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Ideas ++ for Using "Easy Tech" Communication Devices
Many therapists and special education teachers have been using “easy tech” communication devices like the BIGmacks
and Step-by-Step Communicators
for years. For many, these simple single message or sequential message communication devices are invaluable parts of the daily toolkit and are used to foster communication and interaction throughout the whole day.
Earlier this year, Anthony Goss, one of the presenters at our Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2008, amazed participants in his sessions with his innovative and varied uses for these simple pieces of technology! This prompted the Spectronics team to have a good hard look at these devices once more – and we thought you might be interested in doing the same.
To view “101 Ways to Use a Sequential Message AAC Device to Access the Curriculum” compiled by Toni Waylor-Bowen and Jessie Moreau in the USA, visit http://teachinglearnerswithmultipleneeds.blogspot.com/2008/03/101-ways-to-use-sequential-message-aac.html or download the PDF version from 101-ways-to-use-sequential-message-aac.pdf
Another popular file on the Spectronics website is our listing of “101+ Ideas for Using the BIGmack or Other Single Message Communication Devices” viewable at here or downloadable in PDF format from 101+ Ideas-for-Using-Communication-Devices.pdf
Oh, by the way – have you noticed that all of the AbleNet communicators are now “enhanced”. They now ship with a range of interchangeable switch tops in red, yellow, green and blue – and feature more recording time and much improved sound quality when playing back recorded messages! Just search on the word “enhanced” on the Spectronics Website’s home page to see them all listed.
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Assistive Technology Wikis
Wikis are a great Web 2.0 tool for facilitating collaborative discussion and two-way sharing of ideas. Greg O’Connor, Spectronics’ newest Educational Technology Consultant, maintains two wikis to support research and effective practice in the use of assistive technology. Worth a visit if this is an area of interest for you!
At the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2008 a special interest group met to discuss issues relating to research. As a result the Australia and New Zealand Assistive Technology Research wikispace was established to support the networking of people interested in assistive technology and education research. Content includes AT research information and web links, using Web 2.0 tools for research, and resources for action research in the classroom. Visitors to the wiki are invited to post details of their own research projects, add content, provide discussion and feedback, or join the Australia and New Zealand Assistive Technology Research and Good Practice listserv.
This wiki aims to promote sharing and collaboration in relation to assistive technology. Information can be found about assistive technology research, making informed decisions about assistive technology, professional development, action research and action learning, and using visual supports. Add your own resources, web links, and comments.
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Spectronics 'Satchels On-the-Road' Competition!
Win a FREE registration to attend the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2010!
We have heard from several delegates who attended the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2008 earlier this year, that they are finding their sturdy conference satchels really handy for all sorts of things! That’s great to hear! So we thought it might be fun to run a competition to see how far and wide the satchels actually do travel!
Jane Farrall, Spectronics’ AAC Support Services Manager, kicked it off by holidaying in Far North Queensland after the conference, taking her satchel everywhere she went (pictured above on the beach at Cape Tribulation).
Chris Bryg, from the Independent Living Centre in Tasmania, has taken it to all new heights with his fabulous “Chris Spectronics-Bag” Facebook profile at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=18912&l=483c1&id=1407881308 which documents his satchel’s travels around Tassie and beyond. Go Chris!
Please email all photo entries to Barbara Landsberg, Marketing Manager at Spectronics on email@example.com. We will be posting the photos up onto the Spectronics website as they come in. The final winners will be decided at the end of June 2009 – giving you lots of time to send them in (and to plan exciting outings for your satchels too)! All entries will be considered – despite Chris’ early lead!
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Online and Onsite Trainings/Workshops by Spectronics Coming up
Online Training Sessions
For information on the regular FREE Online Training (and software demonstration sessions) run by the Spectronics team – visit our Online Training page at /onlinetraining
Regular sessions are scheduled for the following programs and more are being added soon!
- Boardmaker and Boardmaker Plus!
- Clicker 5
- textHELP Read&Write GOLD
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking
- Communicate: SymWriter
- VS (Viking) Communicator
- Co:Writer SOLO
We are also able to deliver training sessions at other times of your choice if you are able to assemble a group to join in the session. The group can be situated on one site or, the beauty of online training, is that you can build a group by involving multiple participants from many different sites too!
Where will Spectronics’ trainers be presenting/visiting in coming months?
For more details about any of these events, please contact Denise Hunter, Events Coordinator at Spectronics on firstname.lastname@example.org. She has a hectic couple of months ahead organising all the comings and goings for the busy presentation team – but is more than happy to help out with any questions you may have!
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Other Useful Stuff to Know About
- More new faces at Spectronics!
The Spectronics Training and Support team keeps expanding – in response to the growing number of requests from across Australia and New Zealand to learn more about our inclusive learning technologies! Last newsletter, we introduced you to Kerry Hanson, our newest teacher. Since then we are excited to announce that Greg O’Connor and Charlene Cullen have also joined the team.
Greg is a teacher who has been actively involved in the field of special education for 27 years. During this time he has worked in a wide variety of positions within the New South Wales Department of Education and Training. He has a strong interest in the use of assistive and instructional technologies to support the learning of all students.
Charlene is a Speech Pathologist with a background in various roles within the Disability Services Commission in Western Australia. Her passion is to see all people with complex communication needs being able to participate in everyday community activities.
Keep an eye out for Kerry, Greg or Charlene in workshops on-the-road or in online presentations over coming months!
- EyeMax Eye Gaze for DynaVox coming soon!
The latest eye gaze technology to hit the market is the EyeMax system from DynaVox – designed for use as an accessory to the DynaVox Vmax speech generating device. Initial information is available on the Spectronics website at /product.asp?product=27940 and we will provide a comprehensive comparison with the MyTobii P10 eye gaze system in our next update to be emailed to you. Two different systems – each with their own strengths!
- New book by Karen Erickson
“Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four-Blocks Way” – the most recent publication by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver – is now available from Spectronics. It supports the efforts of general education teachers and the children with disabilities whom they teach in their inclusive classrooms. It has been very popular since the Literacy Intensive week conducted by Karen and David in Australia earlier this year. More information is available at here
- Just for fun – Bubble wrap online!
As a reward for reading right to the end of this newsletter – have fun playing with this onscreen frustration-release tool! Great with a mouse or a touchscreen!
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