Log in
  • Blogs
  • Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology's blogs

  • “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

    ― Dr. Seuss

    “The more that you read, the more things you will know.” This certainly appears to be true, as a meta-analysis by Mol & Bus (2011) indicates that “frequent readers are more successful students”. However, what about those students who struggle to access texts by themselves? How can technology be used to support these students?

    Ministry of Education’s Agreement with Microsoft

    The Ministry of Education has a number of agreements with software developers that allow state and state-integrated schools access to software at no cost (http://www.education.govt.nz/school/digital-technology/software/). Included in this agreement is Microsoft Office 365 which includes web and desktop versions of Word, OneNote, Outlook, etc. When a school activates their licence, staff and students at the school can access this software on both school and personal devices.  

    Microsoft Learning Tools

    Learning Tools are embedded in some of the Office products to support learners in several ways. Learning Tools are available in Word, Word Online, OneNote, OneNote Online, Outlook Online, and Microsoft Edge (web browser).

    Immersive Reader

    One of the Learning Tools is called Immersive Reader. This supports students’ reading by allowing them to easily set things like font size, line width, and page colour. 

    Screenshot of OneNote Immersive Reader text options

    There is also an option for students to use a picture dictionary to support comprehension:

    Screenshot of OneNote with Immersive Reader option showing picture dictionary

    One of the more interesting features is to have breaks shown between syllables in words. This means students are supported to see ‘chunks’ of words more easily and may improve word recognition for some students.

    Screenshot from OneNote of Immersive Reader showing syllables

    Read aloud not just for comprehension!

    Immersive Reader allows you to have the document read aloud to you, even when the text is in a photo or image (in OneNote). This removes the barrier of text decoding for many students, but even more than that it can be a powerful proof-reading tool as the computer will read exactly what you wrote rather than what you thought you wrote!

    Screenshot of OneNote showing text being read aloud

    An alternative pencil

    For those who struggle to get their thoughts and ideas onto paper, Dictate allows students to have their speech turned into text. This removes the barrier of trying to remember what letters make each sound, or how particular words are spelled. It often allows students to use their extensive oral vocabulary more effectively. Dictate is only available in some Microsoft apps. However, if your device has an inbuilt dictation option, this might also work. 

    Office365 Word showing dictation feature


    More information

    To learn more about using these tools, please visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-nz/education/products/learning-tools/


    If you have any other hints, tips or tricks for supporting students using digital technologies, please let me know! As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  • “Accessibility is not a feature, is a social trend.”

    ― Antonio Santos, influencer on Digital Transformation, Accessibility and Digital Inclusion

    In an interview in 2016, the head of Google’s accessibility program, Eve Andersson, told the reporter that inclusive design means more than just hacking an app or product so that people with disabilities can use it. It’s something that benefits literally everyone. Apple’s website states that “the true value of a device isn’t measured by how powerful it is, but by how much it empowers you.”

    What these companies and others are talking about is at the core of universal design. This is the idea that a product should be able to be used by anyone, not just those with a particular set of abilities. To help meet these objectives, and possibly to meet some of the legal requirements of companies in the USA, most technologies made these days includes options to allow you to personalise devices and software to meet your needs.

    Two of the most useful features to use in classrooms are text-to-speech – the ability to have your device read text aloud to you – and speech-to-text – talking into your device and having your words recorded as text.



    All devices I’ve checked so far have some capacity for this built into them. Most of them rely on an internet connection and the success of it can sometimes come down to how fast and reliable the connection is.

    Text to speech generally only works on text that is selectable (like on websites or in Word documents). Text that is hidden in images (like in a scanned PDF) is often a bit harder to read. There are some programmes that can do this though (Microsoft OneNote has a feature called Immersive Reader which analyses images for text and uses Optical Character Recognition to read it).

    The most common problems that arise with text-to-speech are mispronunciations (e.g. Māori words and some names are often mispronounced and words that have two pronunciations depending on meaning: wind the rope up/the wind is blowing strongly) and some students find the slightly robotic nature of the voices tiring to listen to, although technology is always improving there. This can sometimes be helped by changing the “voice” that the device uses. Some devices also have the ability for you to manually define how to pronounce words.

    To use text-to-speech on some common devices visit:


    Dictation or Speech-to-Text

    Voice dictation can be a powerful tool to enable students to get a lot of information in writing quickly. It does require some practice though as it requires quite a bit of thinking to work well. I encourage teachers to explicitly teach strategies like:

    • Practice what you want to say first (particularly when first learning how to use dictation)
    • Speaking clearly and at a good pace (like a news-reader)
    • Speak in complete sentences – students can stop the device in between sentences if necessary
    • Learn commands for basic punctuation (like commas, full stops, etc.) as these need to be said if you want them included (of course you can edit the text later if necessary)
    • Use a microphone – either use a gaming-type headset (with a boom mic) or an inline-mic such as those found on the earbuds that come with mobile phones

    Dictation only works well for students who have reasonably consistent pronunciation of English sounds (there can be some problems if a student has a very strong accent for example), do not stammer or stutter, and who do not use a lot of interjections (like you know like when you like talk like this? Or ums, ers, etc.). The inbuilt dictation options in Google Docs (Voice Typing), Android and Apple products tend to work the best in my experience, but all are worth trying. If a student has an unusual, but consistent, way of pronouncing words, then software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking can be used as it allows you to ‘train’ the software to understand the user. This requires quite a lot of practice and patience to be successful.

    Adults often underestimate the cognitive load required to successfully dictate to a machine. If you’d like to see what it’s like, try dictating an email to a friend using the inbuilt options of your own devices:


    Getting support when you need it

    There are some IT support systems available to schools and educators which are funded through the Ministry. These include:


    If you have any other hints, tips or tricks for supporting students using digital technologies, please let me know! As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  • This month, I am taking a closer look at two apps that are commonly used to support literacy. Clicker Docs and iWordQ UK are word processing apps which provide additional help for those who find writing a challenge. These apps work best when the user is able to make reasonable guesses at the start of words (first 2-3 letters/sounds) and can recognise words either orally or by sight. The app guide compares the features between the two commonly used apps to help you make an informed choice about which would best suit your student’s identified learning needs. The features listed here apply to the iPad version of the apps only.


    Clicker Docs

    Clicker Docs app logo

    iWordQ UK

    iWordQ UK Logo




    Special Features

    A simple text editor is used for writing with the support of word prediction, spell-check and speech feedback features.

    Word Banks provide tabbed vocabulary support for any subject or topic area - just tap a word to add it to the document. Make your own Word Banks (entering one by one or from a list) or use the free, ready-made Word Banks on the LearningGrids site, accessible from within the app.

    Organise documents and word banks into folders.

    In app help guide.

    Has two modes:

    Writing mode uses word prediction, abbreviation-expansion and speech feedback features. Spell-check and dictionary access is included.

    Reading mode can be used for proofreading, reading to learn, reading aloud, and casual reading/listening.

    Use your own customized abbreviation-expansions, also known as text macros, to simplify your writing. Abbreviations are also shown in the prediction list. Expansions can include any character including punctuation and multiple paragraphs.

    Word Prediction

    The word predictor suggests words that fit the context of students’ writing. The predictor can be customised according to reading level and number of words. Learners can listen to words in both the predictor and the spell checker before using them by using the unique Sound Shift tool.

    Predicted words are displayed as you type. Tap a predicted word to select it. Examples of usage are provided to help distinguish close-sounding words (including homonyms). Even if you are creative in your spelling, iWordQ will still predict. As you move the text cursor, predictions are shown accurately.


    Incorrect words underlined in red. Listen for mistakes while sentences are spoken. Use Sound Shift tool to highlight any word and hear it spoken. Long tap to select all and hear page spoken.

    Incorrect words underlined in red. Listen for mistakes while sentences are spoken. Tap an individual word to highlight it and hear it spoken. Touch and swipe across more than one word to highlight a group of words that will be spoken out when you lift your finger.


    Able to choose to have each letter, word, and/or sentence read aloud as you type. Select from UK, US, or Australian voices. Children’s voices are either male or female for each accent.

     Able to choose to have each letter, word, and/or sentence read aloud as you type. Touch and hold a predicted word to hear it spoken. Double-tap a word to select a word; drag to extend selection, then select ‘Speak’ to hear the selection. Two options for voices: adult male or female (UK accent).

    Customisable options

    Document: font type (including Sassoon), font size, background colour, text colour

    Speech: voice, speed, highlight colour

    Spell Check & Prediction: on or off, number of words predicted (3-8), size of predicted words, sounds like prediction level, prediction database size (set small for early readers/writers)


    Writing Mode Settings:

    Prediction: on/off, examples on/off, creative spelling on/off, number of words predicted (3-10), position of predicted words, font size

    Vocabulary: my words (custom words), examples dictionary can be customised

    Abbreviations: set up abbreviations of commonly used phrases (e.g. in the weekend could be shortened to itw)

    Appearance: colour scheme (black/white/paper), font type, line spacing

    Speech: voice, pronunciation exceptions (customise pronunciations - e.g. Māori)

    iPad Features: iOS prediction on/off, iOS spelling suggestions on/off, iOS definitions on/off

    Reading Mode Settings:

    Text Chunking: on/off, pause time

    Reading speed: very slow to very fast

    Line spacing: 1.2, 1.5 or 2

    Letter spacing: 0, 1 or 2


    Print your work to any Airprint-compatible printer, or share it via email, AirDrop, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or WebDAV.

    Print your work to any Airprint-compatible printer, or share it through Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. There are also options to send to message, email, PDF, Cloud Drive, and other apps. My experiences with this were a bit hit and miss though (e.g. although it said it sent to Book Creator, nothing appeared in that app).

    Txt file documents can also be downloaded from iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive.


    Keyboard options to navigate by letter or word using arrow keys. SuperKeys option to group letter keys into clusters, creating six large areas to target. Tap the cluster containing the letter you want, and then tap the letter in the enlarged cluster. The predictor/ spellchecker has four size options too, to make words easy to select.

    None specific to this app.


    Limitations and other options

    As mentioned in the introduction, use of these types of apps is limited by the user’s prior knowledge of language (although the word banks in Clicker Docs can support vocabulary). The spoken features and word prediction only work within the app (i.e. while you’re using Clicker Docs or iWordQ UK). If you want to use the writing in another app (e.g. Book Creator, Google Docs) you’d need to copy and paste the text from one app to the other.

    There are alternative applications, however the ones tested most recently had less accuracy with word prediction and required more keystrokes. Another alternative could be a word prediction keyboard like Keedogo Plus. This app works as a third-party keyboard and is able to be accessed while in other apps (e.g. Pages, Word, Google Docs). It doesn’t have any spoken features, however the iPad Accessibility options for speech may work instead.

  • The iPad has accessibility tools and options to assist students who are Deaf or Hard of hearing.

    These can be accessed via ‘General Settings’ > ‘Accessibility’, scroll down to ‘Hearing’,

     Some of the features the student could use are:

    • bluetooth to connect hearing aids or microphones

    • mono audio (with left and right volume balance)

    • a speech to text function

    Scroll further down under ‘Media’, - Subtitles, captioning and audio descriptions are also available.

    Students with hearing loss may use a number of assistive devices to access the school curriculum. Use of any technology will vary depending on individual need.

    Some may use technology items all the time in class, others may find continual use unsuitable and may choose to use alternatives in combination with New Zealand Sign language.

    Information on technology for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can be found via this link:  http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/digital-technology/

    Every situation and every student is different. Supporting their learning needs will be different in each case.

    Ministry of Education Assistive Technology fund Remote Microphone (RM) hearing systems for students with a diagnosed hearing impairment see: http://www.education.govt.nz/school/student-support/special-education/assistive-technology/make-an-assessment-and-apply-for-assistive-technology/

    Many apps are available to support captioning, these can be variations of ‘speech recognition’ technology.

     Speech recognition (SR) technology has a wide range of applications in education, from captioning video, voice controlled computer operation, and dictation.

    Speech recognition tools such as Dragon Naturally Speaking; Recogniser HD; Voice Dictation  are reported by various online reviewers as having up to 98% accuracy, however the accuracy of spontaneous speech for real time captioning can produce different results.

    CAT has been investigating captioning, speech recognition apps and the default capability on iPad Air. The inquiry explored the accuracy of text (correct words, wrong words and missing words) and suitability of the technology to be used in captioning by students who are Deaf or Hard of hearing.

    The following apps were tested in July 2016, using a set script of 140 words (including some Māori words). None of the apps recognised Māori words correctly. The word Māori appeared as ‘mouldy’ or ‘murray’. All apps responded to punctuation cues such as “full stop”, “new paragraph”.

    All apps required Wifi to operate.

    The tests were carried out in a quiet room using my voice (English /Australian).  In most tests English / British or English /Australian was used.

    The iPad was held approximately 3 to 5 centimetres away from the face whilst talking in a normal tone and speed.


    iCantHear    Free  


    This speech to text app is powered by Nuance (the makers of Dragon and Speech Recogniser).

    Internet connection is required or the app won’t work. The app needs to be open on another browser, and on another device, to get started. The URL present on the other device will display the same text message so the student can read the text and respond. Streaming text is not instant (5 seconds delay). Text automatically clears after a short pause in speech. Colour or size of font cannot be adjusted.

    This app performed poorly. The speaker needs to speak slowly and clearly one sentence at a time.

    Test results: 82/140 correct words. 8 wrong words. 50 missed words.


    LiveCaption $5.99


    LiveCaption requires Wifi to operate. LiveCaption works in its own environment with its own keyboard.

    Tap the microphone icon to commence. Text size can be altered and the text and background can be changed from black to white.

    Captioning may not be as accurate with strong accents or children’s voices. LiveCaption will work with most bluetooth voice input devices e.g. headsets and in-ear microphones. LiveCaption can be easily edited and does not record or store voice or text after use. This app performed reasonably well with continued and fluent recording.

    Test results: 117/140 correct words. 3 wrong words. 20 missing words

    iPad dictation 

    iPad Air  Dictation        Free


    iPad’s Dictation is rather good at translating voice into speech. Tap the microphone button on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. A wavy line appears at the bottom of the screen. Start talking.

    While testing - at around 65 words, it stopped.

    The microphone icon on the keyboard had to be pressed again to continue. Dictation is not available on older iPads (iOS6 below) The default  speech recognition is reasonably good if this is the only Speech recognition tool you have.

    Test results:  128/140 correct words. 10 wrong words. 2 missing words

    Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 2.34.01 PM.png 

    Speech Recogniser HD $6.99


    Speech Recogniser is another product developed by Nuance and far superior to the iCantHear app. This app will translate your speech into more than 40 languages. You can copy your text to other apps and hear translations being read aloud. This APP has a problem of stopping after each paragraph, so you have to tap the recording button again. There is a speech end detection switch in Settings as well as tools to change font and turn on/off sound effects.

    Test results: 132/140 words. 6 wrong words. 1missing word. 1 spelling mistake.


    Dragon. Free


     Dragon is available in both iOS and Android platforms. This app requires no voice training /profiling. Dragon has no note storage, so you need to screen shot your text if you are wanting to save it and store on the iPad. There is no button to delete all the dictated text so you have to delete using the keyboard. Text stopped after 103 words. The microphone button had to be tapped to continue.

    This app performed as the most accurate out of all tested.

    Test Result:  136/140 correct words.  4 wrong words (Maori). 0 missing words

    Additional information:

    NZSL dictionary 

    New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary. Free


    The New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary contains diagrams and video for over 4,000 words and phrases. All the diagrams are built in to the application so they can be viewed offline. Internet or Wifi are required to view videos.

    For more information on Assistive Technology please contact www.cat.help@education.govt.nz

    If you have additional information on technology to assist Deaf or Hard of Hearing students, I welcome your contributions.

    Many Thanks








  • New technologies we can provide students with flexible and personalised literacy supports that remove barriers to learning. These are especially critical as students move up the school levels where the impact of a reading or writing difficulty can limit access to content and the ability of a student to show what they know.


    By providing a range of options for every student to use when they want to, individuals are not singled out for special treatment. Instead, students can learn and show what they know rather than being continually defined by their current literacy skills.


    As each student has a personal log on for Google the apps, extensions and add-ons will be linked to their profile and be available whenever they log on and are online. This allows the student to personalise the way that they use Google to suit their own needs and preferences.


    The following are a selection of my favourite Apps, Extensions, Add Ons and tools that provide literacy support in the Google Chrome and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) environment. All are free except where specified. If you are not familiar with these types of tools see:


    ReadWrite for Google ReadWrite icon Google Chrome  extension

    ReadWrite toolbar Google Chrome  extension

    This toolbar is designed to support struggling readers and writers and provides a number of literacy support features when you are online. Although the premium version is an expensive option the free version (which remains after the 30 day trial) includes text-to-speech and translation.

    The text to speech tool reads text aloud in Google Docs and on web pages. This is an excellent support for any student who want to access text above their current reading age. It can also support comprehension, editing and multitasking (you can listen as you write, take notes, cook or walk).

    Once installed it is easy to use and works well. Installation note: On some devices you cannot access the “accept” box for permissions (it gets hidden under your taskbar). If this happens use your tab button to scroll through clickable points and when it reaches the blue accept button press enter.

    Voice typing in Google Doc’s (tools menu) Voice typing GDoc tool

    Voice typing allows you to type in Google Doc’s by speaking. It is excellent support for those who find writing with a pen or keyboard difficult and for those who have difficulty with spelling. The accuracy of this tool is impressive compared with other options and it offers a NZ accent option.


    Although it is only available in Google Doc’s there are plans to add this feature to other apps including Google Slides. I love the way Google has made this option one of it’s everyday tools.


    Research Toolbar (tools menu) Research toolbar Gdoc and Gslides

    The research toolbar offers many of Google’s great search tools directly in Google Doc’s and Slides. It allows you to locate content and pictures and drag them onto your writing page. Even more impressive, it automatically links and references sources. For more information see Research Tools (Youtube).

    The research toolbar makes it much easier to insert images into documents. The dictionary option offers word definitions and synonyms that can be used to develop vocabulary.



    SAS Writing Reviser - doc’s grammar add on  SAS Writing Reviser Gdoc add on

    This comprehensive Add On opens a sidebar in Google Docs and can be used to review writing. Many of the tools would be appropriate for quite sophisticated users but it also includes simple tools like identifying repeated words or verbs.


    It identifies items by highlighting them on your page or listing them in the sidebar. The tool includes:

    • sentence economy - wordiness, prepositional phrases, passive voice, relative clauses, repeated words

    • sentence variety - simple sentences, fragments, run-on, subject-verb openings, prep phrase openings, subordinate clause openings, transitions

    • sentence power - all verbs, weak & hidden verbs, verb tenses

    • sentence clarity - cliches and jargon, vague words, pronoun case, pronouns/antecedents, dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, parallelism.


    Texthelp study skills doc’s highlight and group add on

    Texthelp Study Skills GDoc add on

    This tool allows you to select text on the page (by highlighting it with a variety of colours) and then create a completely new document with the highlighted text. In the new document, the highlighted text can be created in the original order or grouped by colour. This tool is also one of the premium options on the ReadWrite for Google toolbar (see above).


    Open dyslexic font extension Open Dyslexic Google Chrome font extension

    The Open Dyslexia font extension works on web pages and Google Drive. Unfortunately it does not give you an option to type in doc’s using the font.







    Word Cloud wordlists extension Word Cloud GAFE Extension

    The lovely little extension makes word clouds from web pages. This is an excellent and efficient way to create word lists. Word lists can support vocabulary development and spelling.





    Announcify - extension to declutter and read web pages

    Announcify GAFE extension

    Announcify simplifies web pages and reads the text aloud. While reading it masks (blurs) the paragraphs before and after so students can track the current text.


    Visor screen masking extension

    Visor Google Chrome extension

    This extension masks some of the screen, supporting those who find it difficult to track down the page. The colour of the masking can be changed to red, green or blue and the contrast is adjustable. Unfortunately the contrast always leaves the visible text quite shaded (it does not go completely clear).


    Fokus screen masking extension Focus Google Chrome  extension

    Focus allows you to focus on one part of the page by masking everything but the window you selected. It also can highlight the text within the window as you read it.




    BeeLine Reader sentence colour extension

    Beeline Reader GAFE extension

    Beeline is an unusual extension that colours the words within eachsentence to give students clues about the start and end of each sentence.



    WordQ for Chrome ($18.99) - word prediction app WordQ Extension

    This app supports writing by offering word prediction, text to speech and topic lists (including the ability to add and use Māori topic dictionaries). It operates as a separate window (not a toolbar or add-on) and has a very simple clean format. Usage examples of predicted words are available and everything can be read aloud with a choice of high quality voices.


    Documents made in the app automatically save in google doc format into google drive. It works online and offline. The word prediction is comparable to the other versions of WordQ.

    Lastly a few notes

    • when you have many extensions you may need an easy way to turn them on and off. I use this SimpleExtManager to quickly enable and disable my extensions
    • please be aware that the apps, extension and add ons change all the time - some that were in the store yesterday may not be there tomorrow.

    This is a small selection of the vast number of options available - I would love to hear about your favourites so please add your favourites below :)


    Lynne Silcock

  • By Coll O'Connor and Lynne Silcock


    Word prediction can help reduce the number of keystrokes necessary for typing words and provides extra support for spelling, reading and editing.


    Word prediction software predicts a required word as a student writes, producing a list of words beginning with the letter sequence typed. This supports spelling and reduces the number of keystrokes required to type each word. Some apps “predict ahead” so the first letter does not need to be typed.


    The following are the results of our July 2015* review of word prediction on five apps and the default prediction on the iPad. A standard sentence** was written in each app and the number of correctly predicted words and keystrokes were recorded (high words predicted and low keystrokes show better results).


    All the apps reviewed include text-to-speech and read the predicted words aloud. Some apps also offered topic dictionaries, keyword lists and extra spelling support. None of the apps allow you to insert pictures or audio recordings directly onto the page. Abilipad grids can be set up with images.

    iPad dictation 2.jpg iPad keyboard (default prediction)

    Results: 60/70 words      212/274 keystrokes

    The iPad keyboard only predicts three words, while the other apps had 5 to 20 words. Having a larger selection of words to choose from makes a difference to the writer and also increases the prediction accuracy results.

    The default system offers some support for writing but for students who have greater literacy support needs we recommend one of the dedicated literacy support products listed below.


     imageReadWrite for iPad $24.99 replaces imageiReadWrite $36.99

    Update - please see post below

    imageiReadWrite $36.99

    Results: 69/70 words        220/274 keystrokes (tapping) 150/274 keystrokes (swiping)

    iReadWrite word prediction was the best overall performer of the trial when used in swipe mode. In tap mode the number of keystrokes is higher due to selecting the predicted word twice. You tap once to hear it and then again to select it to appear in the text.

    The select and speak option is very easy to use and works directly from the toolbar. Misspelled words turn red and wrongly used homonyms turn blue. iReadWrite gives the most number of predictions (13+). It has text to speech with colour highlighting.

    Export options: Quick export to email, copy, print, plus options to open in other apps already on iPad.

      image   iWordQ UK. $30.99

    Results:  67/70 words      160/274   keystrokes

    iWordQ’s word prediction was also a very good performer of the trial. It predicted two words less than iReadWrite and had a low number of keystrokes.

    It gives examples of word in a sentence are provided to help distinguish close sounding words (including homonyms - e.g. which witch).

    Even if you are creative with your spelling, iWordQ will still predict and continues to try and predict no matter how bad your spelling is.

    Export options: Quick export to email, copy, print, plus options to open in other apps already on iPad.

    imageCoWriter BE $24.99

    Results:  56/70 words         193/274 keystrokes

    CoWriter performed the most poorly out all apps tested. The prediction accuracy and number of keystrokes for CoWriter has not improved enormously from the last time we tested it.

    This app still tends to give you the prediction randomly or after you have spelled the word completely and correctly.

    CoWriter can access over 4 million topic-specific dictionaries and you can create your own topic dictionary or use the main dictionary which has four different levels.


    This app has a very simple set up with only one voice option (female). It highlights words read aloud and predicts multiple words. Co Writer continues to predict even when spelling is very bad. It underlines the misspelled words in red.

    Export options: Quick export to email, copy, print, plus options to open in other apps already on iPad Twitter, Google Drive and DropBox.

    imageClicker Docs $39.99

    Results: 62/70 words      179/274 keystrokes

    Prediction results for Clicker Docs was reasonably poor.  

    You can either type directly into the page or use a preloaded grid or customised word bank. You can create your own grids based on the needs of your learner.

    There is a range of pre made keyboards available (e.g. Alphabetical left to right, Alphabetical Clusters, lowercase). The Super keys option can divide your keyboard into sections that for those who have difficulty tapping small targets.

    Export options - does not have direct copy, email or print options. Export via settings and then sharing menu to DropBox, Google Drive, Onedrive, WebDAV.

    image Abilipad  $24.99

    Results :  64/70 Words        183/274 keystrokes

    Abilipad performed poorly in our test. Although, like the others it could predict the next word, it stopped predicting after the third letter of a word was wrong.

    You can either type directly into the page or use a preloaded grid or customised word bank. You can create your own grids based on the needs of your learner. You can include images on a pre made grid.

    Abilipad has a large range keyboard configurations (e.g. abc, blank, AZERTY, QWERTY, Spanish). Choose the English speaking voice option in order for text to appear in English. For spell checking and dictionary tools you have to use the iPad default.

    Export options - email or print option or export via DropBox, Abilipad Library, or Google Drive.

    Spellbetter full version is now $64.99. The free version is locked to one document with no export options. Lite Version results: 53/70 words  205/274 keystrokes.

    In previous tests we have also looked at: Brevity, PT Typer, Write Online (refer Clicker Docs), and Typ-o

    For more information please contact me via cat.help@education.govt.nz  

    *Apps can change regularly so caution should be taken when reading these findings as updates may have occurred.

    **Test: In room six we made resbery and lime jaly. Today we lird about tuning solid into likwd and back into solid. Kerry and I got to stur with the fork. It was fun. This is how to make jaly. You put hot water in the bole and then put the resbery or lime solid litle curkls in the bole too. The partikls was moving slowly. The jelly cristis are solid
  • Keyboard and mouseMost people don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to using all the features their computer offers. Did you know you can slow down the mouse, turn on Māori macrons or use an onscreen keyboard?


    This post looks at some of the free options for customising your keyboard or mouse that are available through your operating system.

    Laptop keyboard and mouse options

    Finding your keyboard & mouse options

    Windows 7 & Windows 8: Control Panel→ ease of access OR mouse

    Mac: System Preferences→ keyboard OR mouse OR accessibility

    Chromebook: Settings→ show advanced settings→ accessibility OR device for mouse OR keyboard

    Laptop keyboard and mouse options

    Finding your keyboard & mouse options

    Windows 7 & Windows 8: Control Panel→ ease of access OR mouse

    Mac: System Preferences→ keyboard OR mouse OR accessibility

    Chromebook: Settings→ show advanced settings→ accessibility OR device for mouse

    Keyboard options

    • Sticky Keys - press one key at a time rather than holding down multiple keys simultaneously (e.g. shift-control-alt pressing one key at a time)

    • Filterkeys/Slow keys - ignore brief keystrokes, or repeated and slow keystrokes (Win & Mac only)

    • Onscreen keyboard - can operate the keyboard with a mouse click or touchpad. The Windows version is also switch accessible.

    • Toggle Keys - makes a sound when you press the Caps Lock key (Win only)

    • Māori Macrons - add a line above a vowel to indicate that it should be spoken as a long vowel e.g. Māori. To enable macrons set up a Maori keyboard:

    Mouse options

    • Cursor - make your cursor bigger or easier to see

    • Mouse speed - speed up or slow down the mouse movement

    • Scrolling – make the scroll wheel move more or less lines per rotation

    • Clicklock (Win, Mac only) - allows the user to click and drag without holding down the mouse

    • Double click speed (Win, Mac only) - can be slowed for people who cannot complete this action quickly.

    • Chromebook offers dwell click -  automatically click when the cursor stops (click without using your mouse)

    iPad keyboard options

    • Split Keyboard: Use thumb and index finger to split the keyboard (quick firm action) OR press and hold keyboard icon (bottom right key)

    • Macrons: Press and hold key to see macron and then slide finger and release to select

    • Numbers: Press and hold number key and slide to number and keyboard returns to alpha keyboard

    • Full stop: double tap the spacebar

    • Move your keyboard: press and hold the bottom right keyboard icon to undock and then move around by dragging the icon.

    • Turn on or off other keyboard options (Settings→ General→ Keyboard) including:
      • auto capitalisation

      • auto correction

      • check spelling

      • word prediction

      • enable dictation (speech recognition)

    Ipad split keyboard

    For more on alternate iPad keyboards see our earlier blog: iPad Keyboards – Sype, Keedogo and Fleksy

    Android keyboard options

    Unfortunately I don’t have an Android tablet to play with but try the Android4SpecialNeeds youtube channel for a series of videos about accessibility features on your Android that might be useful.

  • Some students have difficulty using a standard mouse but still want to access a computer that is designed for mouse rather than touch use.

    Using the rule of thumb that we try to give students access to devices that is as ‘ordinary’ as possible (rather than highly specialised) this post outlines some key options for alternative mice.

    Before launching into alternative mouse options don’t forget that Windows, Mac and Chromebook computers have inbuilt options for mouse control. These are available in the control panel or settings and typically allow you to slow down mouse movement, choose from a range of pointers and change way that laptop touch-pads work.

    Mouse alternatives are often used with onscreen keyboards where a mouse click is used to for typing. Onscreen keyboards are also available through the operating system.

    Ergonomic mice

    Mice now come in a range of styles and sizes. Some are designed specifically to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and others are for specific hand shapes. They tend to be relatively inexpensive and are closest to the ordinary mouse.

    An internet image search is probably the best way to have a look at this range.



    Roller and trackballs

    The rollerball or track ball mice have a rotating ball that moves the mouse. Movement is usually with your thumb, fingers or the palm of your hand. Separate buttons are used for the mouse click. Some rollers (and joysticks) also come with quick speed controls.



    Joysticks come with a number of grip options to move the mouse.



    Most laptops already have a touchpad but larger touch-pads can also be added.


    Smart phone apps

    Smartphones can now be used to control mouse movement via bluetooth. With the right app a smartphone screen can turn into a mini wireless trackpad. These are very good if the student has limited hand movement or reach.

    Examples include:


    I have seen a few reviews for pens and gloves that control mouse actions. If anyone has actually tried these I would love to hear from you.

    More specialised options – head, mouth, eye and voice

    Some highly specialised options are also available. People who need these options are likely to have support from specialists working in this field (such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists).

    To have a look at some of the options try the Inclusive Technology website.

    Note: this blog replaces an earlier version that was deleted due to my change in profile/workplace

  • The black box technique, (also known as the tools in the SETT framework) is very simple. It allows you to make a recommendation for appropriate technology for a student even if you have never heard of that technology before.

    SETT is an acronym for:

    • Student – know your student’s learning needs and abilities

    • Environment – understand the demands of the learning environment

    • Tasks – set learning goals and know the tasks the student is expected to do to achieve those goals

    • Tools – identify the right technology to support the student (black box)

    This blog on the AutisMate website gives a good explanation

    Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 12.54.19 pm.png

    Image from http://autismate.blogspot.co.nz

    Black box techniqueimage

    Simply imagine that you are giving your student a black box. List the features that the black box would need to have to support that student’s learning. Once you have developed the list, use it to select technology options with the specific features you are looking for.


    Here is an example of a feature list for a student whose learning goals are to improve their independence in tasks involving reading and writing. They also aim to improve the legibility and quality of their writing and increase their output:

    • keyboard access – for increased speed and improved legibility because the student struggles to write with a pen

    • provides spelling support – because their difficulty with spelling tends to stop the flow of writing and this, in turn, means the student often gives up

    • text-to-speech – so they can have their work, and other text, read aloud to them as their reading level is below their comprehension level

    • save and review work – so they can edit and easily change work

    • portable - from class to class and from school home

    • dedicated - able to be used all day and in all classroom situations

    • long life battery – able to be used all day

    • quick and easy to use e.g. open and load/ able to get started with work

    The black box technique is great because it takes the focus off the technology and back onto the students learning needs.

    If you come up with a list and have no idea what technology would be a good match you can then get help from a technology expert. The district technology coordinator at your local Ministry of education office may be able to provide some ideas – or post here and we may be able to help.

    Note: this blog replaces an earlier version that was deleted due to my change in profile/workplace

  • By Coll O'Connor

    A few of new keyboards have hit the app store recently and we have had a play with them.

    To load a new keyboard download the app and then go to settings, keyboard, keyboards, add a new keyboard, third party keyboard.

    Tap on the name – most will ask for full access. If you don’t allow full access you will only be able to use the selected keyboard and you won’t be able to switch between keyboards.

    To change between loaded keyboards tap the keyboard icon (e.g. globe for iPad default)

    Swype Version 1.1 ($1.29)

    imageThis keyboard allows you to enter a word by sliding between letters instead of tapping on each key. You only lift your finger or stylus between words. A coloured line highlights the path of your finger or stylus.

    The swipe action is quite intuitive and does not require a high degree of accuracy to type the right word. Apple's default word prediction works with this keyboard but you cannot access the default speech recognition directly from the Swype keyboard.

    You cannot access speech recognition from the Swype keyboard.


    Keedogo for beginners ($2.59)


    http://www.assistiveware.com/sites/default/files/styles/thumbnail/public/products/keedogo_1024.png?itok=35-SsxFJKeedogo is a colourful keyboard for children and young students who have just started to read, write and type. It has easy letter recognition because it has a handwriting type font on the keyboard.

    The keys are larger than a default iPad onscreen keyboard and there are alphabetical and QWERTY options. Vowels can be highlighted in a different colour but vowel colouring can also be turned off.

    Keedogo Plus ($3.79)

    The plus version offers all the options above plus word prediction and an optional grey keyboard that is more suitable for older users.



    Like the default iPad keyboard this option offers you prediction wherever you are typing BUT it offers more than the default keyboard because the prediction learns new words and can be configured:

    • Number of words predicted 1-8

    • Large or smaller display of predicted words

    • word-completion, next-word prediction or multi-word prediction

    • alphabetical or most likely

    Unfortunately the prediction does not recognize flexible spelling so as soon as you type any unusual letter combination it stops predicting. In our CAT text it only predicted 10/30 words correctly.

    Fleksy  version 4+

    imageIn our tests the Fleksy keyboard performed poorly. The advertising says the app is “officially the fastest keyboard in the world” and the speed is based on its prediction and swipe gestures.  


    We found the prediction slow (arriving after we had finished typing the word) and found it difficult to remember and use all of the new gestures.


    Note: this blog replaces an earlier version that was deleted due to my change in profile/workplace.