Before I start with interesting software I saw at BETT there is one development I didn’t mention in the hardware post:
Livescribe Smartpens are a great note taking tool; recording audio and linking it to your written notes. There are some strange and confusing add-ons for the pen (see the Geometric Ruler App instructions for instance) so I was a little skeptical when I saw the Livescribe Sound Stickers. These sticky dots are recognised by the Livescribe pen in the same way as the paper in the Livescribe notebooks. You tap a sound sticker with the pen and then record a message. The next time you tap that dot, the message is played back.
My skepticism vanished as I had a great idea: I recommend the Livescribe pen for individuals who struggle with writing and reading large amounts of text. These are generally the same group of learners who are encouraged to mindmap. Why not use the Sound Stickers to create an “Audio Mindmap”? It can be hard to get large amounts of information into a mindmap so put a Sound Sticker next to each key section and record lengthier information to the Livescribe pen, tapping that dot will then replay the key information. Great for revision or reviewing notes. I promise to create and video an example of this, once I get my hands on a pack of Sound Stickers.
Onto some software:
Sonocent were announcing the release of Audio Notetaker for Mac. Audio Notetaker is an invaluable tool for anyone who uses an audio recorder to take notes. It gives you a visual representation of your recording which you can annotate, organise and link to Powerpoint presentations. It is great to have this tool available for Mac as well as PC.
Audio Notetaker is also designed to be used for live recordings. This offers the advantage of being able to link the audio and any notes you type to the Powerpoint presentation during the teaching session (providing you have been given the presentation in advance). I’m hoping that Sonocent will turn Audio Notetaker into an app as this live feature would work extremely well on a tablet.
I also queried the Sonocent staff about whether they would recommend any USB mic for recording direct to a laptop. They said they ahd great results with the Samson Go Mic.
The new version of the writing and reading tool ClaroRead contains a fair number of new features. One of the things I like about ClaroRead is the simplicity of its interface. I am pleased to see this hasn’t changed and that the floating toolbar is identical to v5.
The update includes compatibilty with a wider range of programs – including Pages on the Mac version, new Vocaliser voices, scan from screen (for images with text content), multi language support and enhanced word prediction.
Full details of the features can be seen on the Claro news page, but it is the last one I am most interested in. To put it bluntly, the word prediction on ClaroRead has never been as good as other programs so I was keen to see how well the update performed. Predictions are now related to the context of the sentence and you have four options as to the “Prediction Style”: Completion, Phonetic, First and Contains or Contains Anywhere. You still have a choice of 2000 or 5000 word dictionary, but also a range of subject specific dictionaries e.g. Archeology, Biology, Mathematics. On first impressions the prediction seems loads better (I’m using it as I type this), but it will require longer use to really judge. I’m grateful to Claro for letting me have a beta copy of v6 to trial.
Clicker has always been a great tool for learners with emergent literacy. It is especially good for creating materials relevant and motivating to specific groups or individuals. The disadvantage of this of course is that you have to spend time constructing the materials. Clicker 6 goes a long way to making this an easier task. For instance creating a sentence building grid used to involve creating a grid and manually populating each cell with a word. Now you can just type the sentences you want into a wizard and the grid (complete with links) will be created for you. Another good example is the new Click and Edit books which enable learners to very easily create on-screen talking books.
Clicker 6 (as with previous versions) is switch accessible and now has built-in mouse dwell click for headmouse or joystick users.
Staff working in FE are often put off Clicker probably due to the young-looking interface and references to “children” and “school” in the literature. However activities can be tailored so they look more suitable for older learners and Widgit symbols can be used instead of the in-built Clicker pictures. In the past I have used Clicker 5 very successfully with groups of older learners with Profound and Complex Needs for planning, communication and recording.
Assistive Technologist, BRITE