Unusually, Apple products took a back seat as the show seemed to be overrun with Windows 8 tablets, laptops and laptops which turn into tablets (or is that tablets which turn into laptops?). I spent about a day and a half at BETT and I’ve picked out my highlights below.
Audio Notetaker v3
Audio Notetaker is a great piece of software and with version 3 Sonocent have made some useful changes and additions. The interface is less cluttered as less-used features are hidden, but can be displayed when required. Colour coding your audio now only requires pressing the relevant number key, in previous versions you needed Ctrl + 1, Ctrl +2 etc. Another tweak which makes the software easier to use is that you no longer need to select the text pane to add your notes, just typing and the cursor will move there.
A really useful new feature is “Output Recording”. Many tutors will direct students to view online videos as part of their course. This feature records the audio from the online video and imports it into Audio Notetaker as if it were a live lecture. The user can also take screen grabs from the video which will be imported next to their notes.
For current Audio Notetaker users, version 3 is a free upgrade. www.sonocent.com
Despite my constant attempts to persuade people to structure their documents using headings, it seems that very few people do. This can be a real barrier for visually impaired students or others who may wish to have texts read out to them using text-to-speech software. Without this structure visually impaired readers are unable to skim through the document as a visual reader would. Instead their only option is to listen to it from start to finish.
Navitext software attempts to structure an unstructured document and provide paragraph summaries thereby enabling skim reading to take place. The project is a start-up funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the software is not totally finished. They have trialed it with some students and had great reviews from one blind law student. Navitext have just released a demo version of the software available from navitext.org.uk
Like many things, it would be better if everyone had accessibility in mind when creating documents. Until that day comes (and I’m not holding my breath!) Navitext looks like a very useful tool for students and support staff.
Dolphin Say So
A new tool from Dolphin which they are titling “The Reading and Writing Toolbar for Dyslexia”. As with other tools like ClaroRead and Read&Write Gold, Say So sits at the top of your screen and provides the typical features you would expect: Text to speech, spelling and homophone checking, document scanning and mp3 conversion. The interface is attractive and simply laid out but the true value of software like this is how well it performs. I’ve recently expressed my dissatisfaction with spell checking tools and I’ve yet to see whether Say So does any better.
30 day trial is available from www.yourdolphin.com
With many institutions tying to find ways of enabling students to perform their own scanning of documents and texts the Hovercam Mini 5 (pictured) may come into its own. When folded up it is 18.5x3x2cm and the camera is protected within the stand. The USB plug is integrated into the stand, though I suspect most users will want to use an extension cable to position the camera to their liking.
Full details here: www.thehovercam.com/products/mini-5
Livescribe Recording Pens
I’m a big fan of the Livescribe recording pens, they are great for people who struggle to take extensive notes, but want their recording to be linked to what they have written down.
Livescribe have recently released the Sky pen which syncs your notes and recordings over wi-fi. I quizzed them about whether the pens would work in an education setting where wi-fi generally has one of those (annoying) log-in pages every time you connect. Livescribe assured me that though the pen didn’t currently work with these systems they were developing a solution for this.
The other piece of news was that LiveScribe will be withdrawing the 4GB and 8GB models of the Echo Pen. I have to admit when they explained the reasons for this I glazed over as it contained lots of words like “price-point” and “rationalization” but I assume it is to drive people towards the Sky pen and simplify the range.
My advice for now is to stick with the Echo until they sort out Sky’s teething issues and if you want more than a 2GB pen buy it from a supplier soon.
Azzapt is another project which was funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This one was developed by iansyst and was originally called MyDocStore. Azzapt is a cloud based conversion service which will store your documents and convert them to your preferred format and with your preferred settings (font, size, colour etc.). the document will then be available on your computer, tablet or smartphone. The available formats are PDF, MS Word, Audio or ePub.
You can currently try Azzapt for free, but it will eventually become a subscription service. No details on pricing yet, but there will be institution wide as well as individual licences.
EyeFX software from Sensory Guru. Great for people who may be eye gaze users but are at a pre-intentional stage.
Le Novo ThinkPad Tablet 2. Windows 8 Pro, 10″ Screen, 650g, claimed 10 hours battery life.
Acer Tablet with docking keyboard. Windows 8 (not RT), 10″ Screen, docking keyboard with touchpad, claimed 9 hours battery life (18 with keyboard attached)
Assistive Technologist, BRITE