Saturday, 31 January 2009

31. Laptops - tumbling costs

There is a breaking story that in India in a few days they will have on display a prototype of a €10 laptop. And yes, that really does say ten euros. That is one to watch!

Ultra cheap laptops

Friday, 30 January 2009

30. Visual Mind 11 Beta

It seems that a new version of Visual Mind is coming soon, with the Beta version having just been launched. One small feature I did note was (according to their website) "Send as image - Want a quick way to reach an audience that does not have Visual Mind? Now, the Send function of Visual Mind allows you to send a map as an image. Only a few mouse clicks, and Visual Mind has fully prepared the e-mail for you."

Visual Mind 11 Beta

Thursday, 29 January 2009

29. Presentations as they should be - Prezi

It seems that after months of beta testing Prezi is now available for the general public. Imagine a powerpoint presentation that instead of being a sequence of slides is more like a large sheet and you zoom in (and rotate) on various parts as you wish, with no loss of picture quality. That is Prezi. Great for those who do not want to follow the standard linear mode of presentation. However, I suggest you look at the examples on the bottom of the home page rather than "Try the editor yourself". The examples are far more informative.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

28. A nice translator - Nicetranslator

This is a very simple translator that operates in about 34 languages. Just type, and the text appears. Good for homework???

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

27. Content management as it should be - Zimplit

Here is what the hype says about this - "It’s simpler than any content management system you’ve seen before; No admin area - you just log in and edit on-site" I did not believe it, until I tried it. And it is true. If you are looking to make a simple little site, such as part of a self-esteem building exercise with somebody you are tutoring, or for your own benefit, this is certainly worth a try. You do however need to know how to upload it to a server. But once you are started, this has to be the future of content managment.


Monday, 26 January 2009

26. Burning the call - Callburner

This is another online phonecall recorder, working free between registered users. It role is to record Skype phone calls for free. It can also record conference calls, and calls to non-registered users for a small fee. This one appears to have no time limits. So it would be great for recording, for example, long online tutorials.


Sunday, 25 January 2009

25. Bringing it all together - Embed

Last week saw the first meeting of a new and exciting collaboration that will bring together much of the previous work in the field of dyslexia, and in particular that relating to projects funded by the EU. EMBED (Short for "Embedding Dyslexia-Responsive Practices in Lifelong Learning") is an EU funded project that looks to combine the experience, products and findings of a series of projects that have had a greater or lesser impact upon the dyslexic individual, and ensure that these good practices are embedded into all aspects relating to the dyslexic individual, from government policy, to school practice.

The projects of particular interest are "Adystrain" (supporting employers and lecturers), "Calldysc" (mobile language learning), "Dystrain" (e-learning course for teachers), "Dyspatec" (parental support), "Edysgate" (cognitive games for young adults), "Forward" (teaching adults), "Include" (adult self-support), "iSHeds" (higher eduction support in the Balkans), "Success" (school-based support) and "Provision and Use of ICT by Dyslexia Students at University in Europe" (survey of ICT use).

Details of all the above project will be available through the project website.

The work within these projects will be the prime concern of the project. However, there will also be interest in the wider activities and project that have been carried out in each country.

The key areas of interest are:
  • Provision and support for dyslexic child
  • Provision and support for dyslexic adults
  • Information and communcation technology
  • Dyslexia related policies

The Embed project work in these areas will lead reports and wider access to resources developed during the previous projects.

The partnership included the following:
Leader - Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Bulgaria - Centre for Inclusive Education
Italy - Pixel
Poland - Centrum KsztaƂcenia Ustawicznego
Spain - CREA
UK - Ibis Creative Consultants Ltd

The website for the project will be launched by the end of February. Details will be made available on this blog entry. For further details, please contact Ian Smythe -

Saturday, 24 January 2009

24. Recording on the move - Audioblogs

This is a great online (commercial) site that allows you to create audio and video on the move. In other words, you do not have to have all the software on your own computer. So you can create these files any time, any place, and on any computer.


Friday, 23 January 2009

23. Conversions - in Zamzar

The concept is simple - you convert a file from one format to another. Zamzar allows you to convert document, image, music and video formats. There is little more that one can say about it, except that there is a huge range of possible formats.


Thursday, 22 January 2009

22. Visual links - Homepage Startup

This is a website where you can simply set a series of links, but instead of having a list of words, you click on a picture that is a jpg of the site. It is great, though surprisingly it appears to use a library of past pictures, rather than live pictures. So some of my links have no picture to display as they have not yet been captured by their system. But still worth a look.

Homepage Startup

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

21. Screencapture - Screentoaster

There are an increasing number of good screen capture devices out there. Here is another which some are suggesting is even better than Jing. These devices can be very useful to remember sequences and instructions.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

20. Templates for mapping ideas - Exploratree

There are many ways to develop ideas and project, including concept maps. Here is an alternative which uses templates, refered to as "thinking guides".


Monday, 19 January 2009

19. Write place - Livescribe

Sometimes a piece of technology comes along that words cannot describe. You need to see it in action. This "pen" is one such item. Basically (and here I may be underselling it!) it is a pen that you can use to write on "special" paper and the notes will then appear on your computer. It uses an infrared camera and microphone, plus build in computing to record everything. When the pen returns to the page, the sound recording will jump to the same place. I only tested it in "lab" conditions, but it certainly seemed worthy of further investigation. The version I saw also used character recognition, but that is not build-in.

Livescribe OCR

Sunday, 18 January 2009

18. New technology

I spent three days this past week at BETT in London, billed as "the world’s largest educational technology event." However, I am not sure I shall return next year. Ten years ago you could visit BETT and there would be some wonderful new technology. But I came away feeling that I had learned nothing. What was there to report?

The £99 computer, great for kids. That about it.

But everything else was similar to last year. Maybe smaller, faster, cheaper. But what difference does it really make? There were the computers that popped up from the desks, the interactive white boards, and these devices that allow you to press the button instead of raising your hand in class. But I cannot recall seeing anything that said "Many dyslexia individuals will benefit greatly from this." Yes, many items on this blog are about facilitating rather than teaching content. But that is its role. My point is that BETT had so little that said "Now teaching will improve. " There was no "How much does all this extra spending on technology add to the learning?" And there was no research that said "Here is the evidence to suggest life for dyslexics will improve with all this technology."

Saturday, 17 January 2009

17. Story construction - Pic-Lits

This site helps go from a picture to one thousand words. Well, actually it provides images and you find the words to describe it from the list provides. A good way for the dyslexic to practice some key skills.


Friday, 16 January 2009

16. Words in pictures - TagCrowd

This is just a little piece of fun, putting words into a picture. The more frequent the words the bigger the word appears.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

15. A new way to write with Luminotes

Although the website says Luminotes is a "personal wiki notebook for organizing your notes and ideas. It's designed for note taking and note keeping ..... " But it is also a good way to start to structure and write stories and essays.


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

14. Screensharing for Macs - Skype

There are now quite a few screensharing tools which allow the individual to have be supported remotely. Increasing these are free. Now it seems that Skype has a Mac version. No news of when the PC version will be available.

Skype for Mac

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

13. For the quiet times - VLoud

This little program does just one thing - it makes the audio file louder. This could be a very useful tool if you need to increase the volume but do not have access to specialist software, or the software you use also increases background noise. However, be warned that the greater difference there is between the background and sound you want, the better will be the result.


Monday, 12 January 2009

12. Plagiarism 3 - Raptor

This is the third time that plagiarism software has been reviewed here, so rather than comment on the uses and abuses, this entry simply mentions that for this one you can create a folder on your computer with all the work you want to be checked, zip them, upload them, and results are sent back.

For previous discussions on plagiarism, see the entries on this blog of 24 October 2008 and 10 September 2008.


Sunday, 11 January 2009

11. Concept mapping made simple - on the iPhone

Although I do not have an iPhone, I did find this interesting, and apparently simple to use. It is an easy to use concept mapping tool that operates on an iPhone (for about $10). Have a look at their short video to see how it works. And yes you can email it to yourself or a friend.


Saturday, 10 January 2009

10. How do you pronounce it? - Forvo

This is a simple concept, which is to have a website which pronounces words in many different languages. The claim appears to be 176,980 words, 87,791 pronunciations, 204 languages and over 2 million subscribers. However, until I added it, the word "dyslexia" was not there. Of course this does also tell you that you can add words, so it take up the form of a "people's pronunciation guide". Unfortunately the one other word I tried ("princess") was not a pronunciation that I could recommend to anybody. However, it could be a lot of fun, and a first stop for the odd word.


Friday, 9 January 2009

9. Keeping track - Using TrackClass

There are an increasing number of online assignment/project tracking tools which send out email and sms reminders. This one includes mobile and iPhone versions. Which one you choose will come down to personal preference (and recommendations) but the key is to keeping it updated through regular routines.


Thursday, 8 January 2009

8. Looking for an image - Cooliris

Cooliris is a little download that allows you to search for images through a visual display. This can be useful when you want to use a picture instead of 1000 words to make a point in a Powerpoint slide or in a concept map.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

7. Improved scans from your phone - Snapter

If you have experimented with scanning using photos taken with mobiles, you will know how temperamental the results can be. That is because the camera electronics will always assume the image, no matter what it is, is an average grey. So white paper becomes grey, and a dark shirt becomes light. And this is not overcome by using flash. Also, they cannot compensate for the colours of electric light. And that is not to mention the distortion.

However, Snapter helps to overcome these problems. It is a desktop application that automatically transforms the poor quality image into something that could be used in OCR (optical character recognition.


Tuesday, 6 January 2009

6. The local book store - in Google

Busy parents and teachers often do not have time to browse around the local library or book store to find something that is just right. However, Google is attempting to put huge numbers of books online. They are also working with publishers, putting part of the books online to encourage reader to buy the paper version. (Be warned - the first ten pages may seem fine, but at some point the book suddenly stops!) Unfortunately the online books are currently not accessible to text-to-speech, nor can you change the background or copy and paste it into another document. However, there are ways to use this resource to end up with dyslexia-friendly books.

Firstly, click on (for example) the link below to go to the Google Short Stories Collection. Choose a book, such as the Just So Stories. (These are well out of copyright, so will cause no problems for you.)

Then type the first ten or so words of the story into Google and search for results. You will find that some people have typed the entire short story into their web pages, and you can then copy and paste those words into your own document such as word. Once in Word, you can adjust colours, font size etc. You can also adjust the text to make the difficult words easier.

This technique can be used in many cases. However, for a good list of "Your Reader", you could try Classic Reader

Note that

Google Short Stories Collection

How the Whale Got it Throat, by Rudyard Kipling (from the Just So Stories)

Clsssic Reader

Monday, 5 January 2009

5. Making your own jigsaws - Jigzone

At first sight, the idea of making jigsaws did not seem to be a particularly dyslexia-related activity. Obviously there is visual representation and filling in gaps, not to mention attention and concentration. But then I realised that this could be a very good basis for early literacy learning activities because you have the chance to upload your own pictures. That is, you can log in, and then upload images from your own computer to this website. You can then choose the level of difficulty, from easy to very hard. I created the above example in PowerPoint (I took a frame grab using Print Screen, Pasted it into Paint and then saved it. It is a lot quicker than it sound, especially if you are doing several!) I then uploaded it and it was ready to go. (The website resized the image to 400 x 300 pixels.) It could not have been easier.


Sunday, 4 January 2009

4. Moving around files to a nearby friend

I often want to move around files or a piece of text, from one computer to another that is nearby. It may be because I use two computers or I want to transfer to a friend sitting next to me. Traditionally I would have sent an email and waited patiently for it to arrive. Alternatively I can use the USB memory stick, plug it in, transfer, unplug, re-plug, open and transfer. But there are several alternatives.

One way that saves waiting for email is to use Skype. As long as there are two accounts to transfer between (i.e. if you are sending it to yourself, you need to have two Skype accounts) then it is easy. Just drag and drop the file, wait for the recipient to "accept" it, and the job is don. A useful alternative for plain text I have been using recently is EtherPad. I simply copy the text into my EtherPad account page and it instantly (serious, no delays) appears in the browser on the other computer. It could not be simpler!


Saturday, 3 January 2009

3. A taste of things to come – with extra Zhiing

How do you decide what to highlight on the first entry of the year after the reviews? It is difficult, but I have chosen Zhiing, because I think it is a wonderful idea, and would be a great help to many, many dyslexic individuals. And even though it is currently available only in USA and Canada, and does not hit Europe until late 2009, here it is:

Imagine you are meeting friends in a coffee shop and you are not sure where it is. They use the Zhiing “browser” to send the location of the meeting place to your smart phone, and it arrives with a map of how to get there and a set of instruction. That is, the software detects where you (the recipient) are (using GPS) and make the map accordingly. It really is that simple.

Another example on their site is that you are in a big city and lost. You want a cab but do not know where you are. So you send them a message via Zhiing, and they receive a map that directs them to you. (It could equally well be a friend direct to come to find you.)

This could remove many of those concerns about being lost or taking the wrong route. If it lives up to the words on the website, it will be wonderful.

Currently it is available on iPhones and Blackberry, but the Nokia version is due out in January 2009.


Keywords: zhiing, GPS, locator

Friday, 2 January 2009

2. December Review

Having just completed the annual review, it seems a little odd to look for the highlights of the past month. But there were plenty of very good entries.

Probably the highlight of the month for me was Dimdim (19) an excellent sharing environment that brings together all the best in shared learning environments, video conference and support.

There was a reference to my Preference Research (31), which should provide some fun for all.

To assist writing this month, there were three create entries: Combining text versions (4), Cartoons for all the family – Bitstrips (30), Concept mapping with speech-to-text – MindManager (12)

There were three entries for reference materials - Wikipedia on the move (26), Pronounce it – Howjsay (20) and Looking up words in Acrobat (15)

In the area of “text-to-speech” we had Listen to books (5), Aesop's Fables - Listen and learn through AnswerTips (29) and Spoken text (in Spanish and French) – Spokentext (8)

There were two entries for Search Engines - Advanced search from Google (3) and Search engine meets concept maps (23)

Memory and management had the largest number of entries, covering reminders and deadlines (Deadline (11) and Freminder (25)), tasks (Google Tasks (10) and Stickies (13 and 14), as well as mnemonics (18) and back-ups (16). Time management was also covered (Time (mis) management - AppActivity 2.0 (6))

Reflections were about online desktops (28), The future of computing (21) and Listening and note taking (7)

There were a number of other items that do not fit into any one category - Online password management – Clipperz (27), Screen and video capture made easy – Jing (24), Notes online – Evernote (17), File splitting – Gsplit (9), Scanning for free – TopOCR (2), Online video chat – Oovoo (22)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

1. Annual Review - The Best of 2008

The TechnoDys Awards 2008 - or Ten things I most want to tell my dyslexic friends about (actually its 22!)

It is difficult to choose what items to include in a review of the year, and harder to find a title. Do I go for “Best” – but what does that mean? What about “Things I find most useful” – but are they useful for others? And how do I choose the categories?

But My Top Three for 2008 are:
SearchMe (6 October) A visual web browser
2. DimDim (19 December 2008) Full sharing of the electronic space.
3. Soshiku (20 October) Reminders

I have tried to keep the rest of this entry short. However, full descriptions of each entry can be found by scrolling to each, or clicking on the entry.

Writing - Bitstrips (30 December 2008) Creative cartoon.

Sharing - DimDim (19 December 2008) Full sharing of the electronic space.

Concept Maps
1. (With speech-to-text) Voxenable for MindManager 8 (12 December) Brings speech to text to concept mapping.
2. (Mobile) Mindmaker (13 November)Concept mapping on an iPhone.
3. (Online) Mindmeister (15 October) Online collaborative concept mapping

1. (Online) iSpeech (29 November) Upload files to download audio files.
2. (Mobile) Nokia (21 November) Reads out files on the mobile.
3. (For Blogs) Blogbard (11 October) For listening to blogs.
4. (Embedded) Adobe Acrobat Read Out Loud (22 September) Text-to-speech build into the document.

Speech-to-text Search the web by voice on your iPhone (19 November)

1. (Visual Browser) SearchMe (6 October) A visual web browser
2. (Options) Reading Survey (31 December) Allows you to discover your preferences
3. (Design) Create with Content Report (18 November) A very dyslexia-friendly layout.

1. (Reminders) Soshiku (20 October) Organiser and sends email and SMS (USA only) reminders
2. (Visual Reminders) Stickies / Post Its / Desktop notes (12 September)
3. (Back-up) Dropbox (15 September) Store, Sync and Share files online.
4. (Passwords) KeePass (28 August) A single store to hold everything (which can also be stored on a USB memory stick).

Foreign Languages
1. (Translation and speaking) IM Translator (16 October) - Translation and text to speech in many languages, with talking avatars.
2. (The future) Emimie (3 August) The "No Pain" way to speak a foreign language, an amazing idea if it lives up to the claim!

Miscellaneous Life Savers
1. (Collections) Portable Assistive Technology Suite (PATS) (26 October) Take your software anywhere on a USB memory stick.
2. (Plagiarism) Plagiarism 2 (24 October) Several entries which can be a real life saver to check everything is your own work.
3. (Recovery) Undelete Plus (4 September) For recovery of deleted files.
4. (Synopsis) Sinope (27 August) For cutting down reading by making synopses.

Now let's see what 2009 will bring!