The Spectronics Blog http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog Advancing Independent Achievement through Technology Wed, 15 Nov 2017 23:08:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.24 Review of Grammarly http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/review-of-grammarly/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/review-of-grammarly/#comments Fri, 23 Jun 2017 06:35:55 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13517 Introduction

Grammarly start screen

Grammarly helps students and writers expand their vocabulary and also assists in improving their writing. There are benefits for non-native English writers and ESL students (English as a Second Language) as well.

Tertiary students and professional writers use Grammarly to advantage as it assists in spelling and proper use of grammar in English text.

Grammarly’s products help people to communicate more effectively to ensure that their emails, messages, documents, and social media posts are clear, mistake-free and correct.

Products such as MS Word™ and other productivity tools have grammar checks built-in but Grammarly takes it a step further. It ensures that are grammatical errors are captured and highlighted so that users can edit with greater confidence.

What You Get

I downloaded the free version. Grammarly is an automated proofreader. It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage and suggests citations. Note: The Premium version offers other enhancements and features. The user creates an Account and logs on each time he or she wishes to use it.

Grammarly is an online grammar and spelling checker that improves communication by helping users find and correct writing mistakes. It is very easy to use and accommodates writers and students from Secondary/High School through to higher learning. It caters to people in the workplace especially professionals who write for a living (e.g. proofreaders, editors, writers and bloggers etc.)

To use Grammarly is a breeze. Users can opt to:

  • Copy and paste any English text into Grammarly’s online text editor, or install Grammarly’s free browser extension for the following browsers including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox
  • These browser extensions check for over 150 errors
  • Grammarly’s algorithms flag potential issues in the text and suggest context-specific corrections for grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. Grammarly explains the reasoning behind each correction so that the user can make an informed decision about whether, and how, to correct an issue.

Grammarly text and correction surgestion

Users learn more about sentence construction and proper use of grammar by using Grammarly to proofread their texts. Grammarly for Firefox brings Grammarly’s powerful algorithms straight to the user wherever he or she is writing online, including Facebook, Gmail, Messenger, Pinterest, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr. Users can correct mistakes in their text with just a single click.

It is an ideal tool for anyone who writes. Grammarly can also assist users who use voice dictation, including Dragon Naturally Speaking. Users sometimes use language verbally that is not grammatically correct. They might use colloquial, slang, local terms or phrases or take ‘short cuts’ in language. Grammarly will analyse their speech as text and correct any errors. Used side-by-side, writers can be more productive and create documents quickly knowing that their text will be error free.

How Do I Use It?

Paste text to be checked into Grammarly

Once downloaded and installed on my Mac, I placed a shortcut on the launch bar. It opened in a new resizable window. It had some sample text with which to explore.

When a user launches Grammarly, he or she is invited to type in name, email address and password. This gives the person an account with Grammarly. There is no cost.

Users can choose to

  • Start a new blank document

    • Either paste some existing text into their new document
    • Or type some text into their new document
  • Open an existing file
  • Import an existing file
  • Drag an MS Office or text file into the Grammarly window

If the user chooses to import a document, the original formatting is kept intact.

Errors are shown in red. Potential corrections are shown in green. It will also list multiple words if it does not recognise the word. If new, unknown or correctly spelt words (from a particular genre, a proper noun or a character’s or location’s name) then Grammarly gives the user an option to add it to the program’s dictionary.

 

Text with errors shown in red by Grammarly

 

My Grammarly

The first option from the left-hand side menu is My Grammarly (or Home). The user’s documents appear to the right of the display.
When a new or existing document is clicked (or selected), a new menu appears.

Down the left-hand side of the display are white icons on a black background. The Home icon takes the user to the documents page where all current documents are displayed graphically. The first is New where users can start a new document or import one. The icons of documents show the header of each document currently being edited. Beneath each document is three options:

  • The number of alerts (or potential errors)
  • The option to export the file (as a .txt file)
  • Or trash it.

Paste text to be checked into Grammarly

When the user clicks on New, the choices are New or Import. If the user begins a new document from scratch, he or she types a heading then begins typing the body text. Users can cut/copy and paste text into the window at any time as well. If Import is selected, then a navigation window appears where the user can locate documents (e.g. .txt or MS Office docs) from the desktop, documents or Dropbox folder(s). It will not open PDF files.

The user proceeds to type or add text, by conventional keyboard, onscreen virtual keyboard, using eye gaze technology or from a Bluetooth model keyboard. Alternately he or she might be speaking into a microphone, e.g. using Dragon Naturally Speaking software (a highly regarded voice recognition program).

The next icon is Export. The file can be exported as a partly or wholly finished product as a text file. Another option is to copy all or part of the text and paste back into an original document in MS Word or a new document in another productivity tool (e.g. a mind mapping program). It could also be pasted into a social website such as Google Docs, Facebook or Pinterest.

Profile

When the user clicks on the Home icon, he or she can then choose Profile (under My Grammarly). Under Profile, there are three options coloured in red.

Personal Dictionary

This is where users can personalise the built-in dictionary and add words peculiar to their study, research or workplace. The words will no longer be flagged as misspellings or errors. Every time the user logs on to Grammarly, these new words will be included in their personalised dictionary.

American/British

The user may elect to write in British English or American English. There are differences in these two forms of English in

  • Spelling
  • Grammar and
  • Punctuation

Spelling

There are hundreds of words that changed their spelling after they crossed the Atlantic Ocean. In some cases, American English simplified spellings by dropping extra vowels; in others, American English preserved older spellings of words that continued to evolve in Britain. In particular, these spelling differences concern vowels, double vowels, and suffixes such as -ize/-ise or -yze/-yse.

Grammar

There are a few subtle differences in grammar between American and British English. For example, in American English, collective nouns take only a singular verb, but in British English, they can take a singular or plural verb.

Punctuation

The few major differences between British and American punctuation involve quotation marks and abbreviated titles. The British do not write periods after titles, while Americans do. For quotations, Americans use double quotation marks and put commas and periods inside them, whereas British standards vary widely among different style guides and publications.”

[Source: https://app.grammarly.com/profile/language]

The last option under Profile is Account. The user’s name, email address and password (shown as a series of ‘…’) are displayed. Each can be edited and the account deleted if so desired.

The next option is Premium. This clearly outlines the benefits when purchasing the Premium version of Grammarly.

  • Instantly proofread users’ texts and corrects over 250 different types of errors
  • Improve word choice with context-optimized synonyms
  • Avoids plagiarism by checking for originality and generating citations
  • Integrates with Microsoft Office® -Grammarly works great inside Microsoft™ Word® and Outlook®.
  • No-hassle, money-back guarantee. If users are not fully satisfied with Grammarly within 7 days, they’ll refund 100% of the purchase price for first-time buyers only.

Log Out

The next option under Premium is Log Out. The user can elect to log out and finish the writing or editing session. Another sibling, schoolmate or colleague could then log in with his or her account details. It is an ideal tool for the business world, for professional writers and people whom frequently Blog or add social commentary to websites.

At the bottom of the screen is Support. This links to a very comprehensive web page that offers other numerous options that the user can explore.

 

Gtammarly support webpage

 

Potential Users

Grammarly corrects spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in English text. It helps writers use more direct and clear language. It improves a user’s grammar, as a good English language teacher would do. Students of all abilities can proof their own work before submitting for assessment and appraisal. It also caters to academics and students studying in tertiary settings or adults in training or in the workplace.

Potential users may include

  • Senior Secondary/High School students
  • Tertiary students at TAFE, University or other tertiary places of learning or training
  • Training academies and colleges
  • People who write blogs or social commentators
  • Journalists and professional writers
  • People who need to have their text proof read
  • Struggling writers who are learning English
  • ESL (English as a Second Language)
  • Anyone who wishes to improve his or her writing and use of grammar

Grammarly handbook webpage

Extra support is online with FAQ section and a Grammarly Answers page where users submit questions about sentence structure or use of words and other users respond. It is an interesting exercise to read the examples and the solutions.

Grammarly Blog

An excellent resource is the Grammarly Blog.

There are four sections; Writing, Grammar, Handbook and More. I found the Handbook to be especially useful as a teacher as it provides a wealth of information about the English language.
It covers areas of grammar, use of punctuation, the mechanics of writing and techniques and styles.

How Do I get It?

Simply link to https://www.grammarly.com/native/mac for the Mac version. Users can also download https://www.grammarly.com/office-addin/mac Grammarly for the web and Grammarly for MS Office™.

Colleges, universities, professional educational institutions, middle and high schools, and even businesses can purchase site licenses that include a one-year subscription.

Brief Summary

Grammarly will help teenagers to adults to type and communicate more effectively. As the user types, Grammarly flags mistakes and errors and helps users compose messages, documents, and social media posts clear, mistake-free, and impactful.

Users can compose text in their chosen application and then copy/paste into Grammarly. If it is a Microsoft Office document, they can drag it into the Grammarly window.

It not only alerts the user to grammatical errors but also explains why it could be in error. Potential mistakes are seen to the right of the text and are clearly designated and explained. The program is simple in design and execution but very powerful in what it provides. Users will, over time, improve their writing and learn more about the rules of English grammar. Users can find the perfect word every time with context-optimized synonym suggestions.

Editor’s Note: This product review of Grammarly V1.5.6 was written and composed in June 2017, using a Mac desktop running Mac OS 10 Sierra. It will work with MS Windows and Mac OS computers, notebooks, tablets and desktops and there is a separate version for the iPad. All updates, even in the free version, are free.

Note: All images in this review are copyright to the Grammarly.


What is Grammarly Premium?

For users who want to supercharge their writing performance and leave no errors unchecked, Grammarly Premium is a paid upgrade that checks for over 250 types of grammatical errors, provides vocabulary enhancement suggestions, detects plagiarism, and provides citation suggestions.

Grammarly Premium also includes Grammarly for Microsoft® Office, which allows users to employ this accurate grammar and spelling checker without leaving their Microsoft® Word™ document or Outlook® emails. Grammarly Premium is available through three different subscription plans: Monthly Quarterly or Annually subscriptions are available.

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Review of C-Pen Reader – Reading Support Device http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/new-technologies/review-of-c-pen-reader-reading-support-device/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/new-technologies/review-of-c-pen-reader-reading-support-device/#comments Mon, 19 Jun 2017 02:27:53 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13499 Introduction

The C-Pen Reader Pen is a portable handheld assistive technology that helps users with dyslexia or other literacy difficulties, essentially when reading printed text. The C-Pen is for users with dyslexia or for people who struggle with certain genres of text or who are just poor readers, learning to read, people with ESL needs, LOTE users who speak and want to learn Spanish or for educators and parents assisting students who can’t read. Text can be read aloud from novels, books, magazines, brochures, handouts, labels and other hard copy media and documents.

People deal with text every day, whether it is at school, in work training, in the workplace or even when shopping or going to a restaurant. The portable and lightweight C-Pen Reader Pen overcomes the barrier of not being able to read. It empowers non-readers, struggling readers or people who have English (or Spanish) as their second language in order to access text for a whole variety of purposes.

Imagine the independence of being able to read instructions, the newspaper or the ingredients for a cake from a recipe book without having to ask another person (wife, husband, partner, teacher, school support person, trainer) for assistance – for the first time! As an adult, it is embarrassing and frustrating not being able to read. It restricts a person in so many ways.

 

C-Pen Reader top view showing display panel and buttons

 

The C-Pen provides that level of independence. Users can access printed text at any time and in any lighting conditions. The C-Pen has an integrated Collins 10th Edition English Dictionary and 30th anniversary Oxford dictionary. [Note: There is a 4th Edition Spanish dictionary built in as well]. It displays text in three lines in bright blue text on a black background. You can adjust the brightness at any time to suit the user’s environment or visual needs.

How Does It Work

The C-Pen Reader Pen uses powerful optical character recognition OCR (i.e. Optical Character Recognition Technology) to process then read aloud, any printed text from point size 6.5 to 22 [Note: 72 points is one inch high]. As the C-Pen is moved either from left-to-right or from right-to-left, the technology ‘reads’ the ink on the printed media and converts it into editable text. Users can opt to have it read aloud immediately after it is scanned (or selected) or as a continual piece of writing (e.g. a paragraph page or chapter). Text can be erased or appended and stored in the C-Pen and read back at a later time or transferred to a computer for study, editing or data collection purposes.

The device can additionally be used as a “keyboard” when it is connected via the USB cable into a computer. As the user scans the text, it is typed (as if typed from the user’s keyboard). This can save huge amounts of time retyping text, especially for support personnel in schools. The student may have dysgraphia and may find copy typing difficult due to poor writing and/or typing skills.

Individual words can be defined from one of the Dictionaries (English ort Spanish text) and read aloud. With the integrated dictionaries, individual words can be highlighted one at a time, at the user’s own pace, and the definition read aloud. This is empowering for dyslexic children and adults who struggle understanding complex words but prefer to hear words read aloud to them. It also assists ESL (English as a Second Language) and for LOTE (Languages Other Than English) learning the Spanish language.

Packaged with The C-Pen Reader Pen are a headphone jack and an earpiece (using the standard earphone 3.5mm jack) so a user can use it more discretely if he or she is listening to text in public or in a noisy environment or space. Some users might wish to appear as if they are just listening to their phone or music tracks on an MP3 player. Privacy is an important issue in tertiary education or whilst working in a quite space such as a classroom where students are practicing private reading or in a library. In a work environment it can be used more without disturbing colleagues.

What You Get

C-Pen Reader product box

  • The C-Pen Reader Pen unit (white in colour)
  • An Earpiece
  • Sturdy and robust Black Carry Pouch
  • USB to USB cable (standard end and micro USB connection for the C-Pen)
  • 18-page instruction booklet

The unit weighs 50g and is 13.5 centimeters in length. It competes very favourably against competing models and brands, as it is half the size and weight of competitors’ offerings. It is comfortable in the user’s hand and accommodates young children (middle primary) through to teenagers and adults.

The user must be able to hold and move the pen, with control, across a surface (i.e. a printed page or brochure) in a straight line at about 70-90-degree angle. The C-Pen’s ergonomic design means that it’s very easy to hold and move along a page (or line) of text on a flat surface. The C-Pen can move at a fairly quick pace – or moved slowly at a user’s own pace. It is reputedly more accurate when scanning over a line of text than other competing pens. It comes packaged with a black pouch for storage and safety and an earpiece (as per a mobile phone). If lost, any off-the-shelf model at any price point, can easily replace the earpiece.

 

Student at desk listening to C-Pen Reader

 

To Use The C-Pen

Menu Options

When you turn on the C-Pen Reaper Pen, (hold and keep holding down on the Power Off/On – Back) button for about 3-4 seconds, and the unit will power up. The C-Pen logo appears. It then graphically displays the amount of charge left in the unit. The user is automatically in the Main Menu. It displays the date and the charge reading as small icons. Users can select a number of options including Text Reader; Dictionary; Scan to a File; Recorder and Settings by using the Up/ Down / Left and Right buttons on the scroll wheel. Central to these functions is the round OK button.

Settings

When I first experimented and trialed the pen, I chose to explore the Settings first to work out how to configure the device to suit my needs, as well as to determine the options for other users. To move about the menus; the person uses the Off/On Back button and the scroll wheel (with up, down, left and right buttons surrounding the OK button). I scrolled down to the Setting Options using the down button repeatedly (4 presses) and pressed the OK button when I had the Settings option displayed – (i.e. the middle of the scroll wheel has a small square icon on it).

In Settings, you can choose a voice in the TTS (Text-to-Speech) option. The user can elect to use a British English or American English voice. The C-Pen Reader male and female British or American English voices are clear and more natural text-to-speech voices than competing pens. This is critical. Each user should be able to clearly understand the words and hear the pronunciations correctly.

Simply scroll down to choose American English and press the OK button or press the up button and press OK for British English voice. It’s that simple. Selection of the remainder of the options will function and operate in a similar manner. If the user decides to opt out, he or she presses the Power Off/On Back button to go back up one or more levels to the starting Menu selections. To turn it off, once again hold down the On/Off Back button for about 3-5 seconds. Therefore it cannot be turned off by mistake or inadvertently.

Read Delay

The user can set a ‘read’ delay from ‘none’ to up to 3 seconds. This will accommodate someone who needs to scan some text and then wait until the text is read aloud. They might like to visually scan the text from the source material as the words or data (e.g. numbers) are being read aloud back to him or her. The user may have an auditory processing disorder, an acquired brain injury or it could be a young child who needs time to physically scan the text then have time to process the information using a 1-3 second delay. This is yet another important option to accommodate individual needs.

 

C-Pen Left/Right Handed setting

 

Left/Right Handed

In Settings, the device can be set to operate as either left or right-handed mode. The display simply “switches” to an upside down interface. The operating buttons are now to the right hand side of the user as is the scanning window. Resetting it, just hold the unit in the left hand, scroll to Right-handed and press OK. All the menu item options are that simple to operate and learn. This means a class set (of ten that are available as a separate product) or a single C-Pen can be shared amongst students or colleagues. No need for tech support! It might be siblings who are sharing it with mum or dad.

Brightness

The Brightness can be altered to accommodate the particular space or environment in which the user is working. This will also impact on battery life. Brightness ranges from 0-15 in 5 graduated steps. I opted for 9 (i.e. the third bar along the graphic). Students who may have a visual dysfunction or impairment (short or long term) may need it to be very bright or conversely less bright.

Date and Time

The first thing I did when I received the C-Pen was to set the time and date. This is so important as all of the scans and text capturing, is controlled by the internal clock. If it were not correct, I would not know accurately when I captured a particular text. First the user sets the Day, Month and Year and then the time (24 hour clock). An automatic shutdown can be set ranging from 5 to 10, to 30 minutes, to an hour or 2 hours. This will help preserve battery life. I set mine to 10 minutes.

In System Information, the State of Charge can be located (shown as a percentage) and Storage Space (it has a total of 4Gb and mine had 1.03Gb free). The Version Information can be viewed and the dictionaries installed and being used. There is also a System Upgrade (that I did not touch!) and a Default Settings where the C-Pen can be put back into a factory setting mode. The Version Information will come in handy if any technical issues arise and the user needs to contact the company or distributor for Tech Support. The system upgrade can be performed at no cost to the user, so that in its life it doesn’t become obsolete.

Text Reader

Scanning text from a book page with C-Pen Reader

This is the first option in the menu at power on, and the one most likely to be used most of the time, according to the user’s needs. Once the user presses the OK button, a blank screen appears with a flashing cursor. Now the user scans some printed text from left to right or from right to left – using his or her left or right hand (all set up previously and customised in the Settings Menu as well as the delay, brightness and voice). Once positioned just before the text and gently but firmly pressed down on a flat surface, a light appears in the scanning window. The user is now ready to move the pen across the required text. I found that I could move it quite quickly and it operated seamlessly.

The text that was scanned appears in up to three lines of bright blue text on a black background in the C-Pen’s window. After any delay, the words or data (e.g. numbers) are read aloud in the English or American Voice (or Spanish if that is the current language being used). Each word is highlighted as it is spoken back. The text can be repeated as a whole or as individual words by using the up /down/left/right arrows and OK button. The text can be read back repeatedly at will.

It’s that easy. To continue, the user selects the next line of text and repeats the process. The new text will replace the old in the window and will be read aloud. The user continues as she or he desires. All text captured remains in the C-Pen until it is erased (purposefully). The users can append files and continue on from a previous class, lesson, session or study/reading session.

There is an Adding mode if you switch the unit off and turn it back on again. The unit is ready to scan once more as it turns on in the same state as when it was turned off. From Listen Settings option, the user can elect to append text or replace it. Scan languages can be changed from this menu as well. In Scan Languages, the user can select from English or Spanish.

In Reading Settings, the Speed can be altered (i.e. the rate of speech) from three settings from slow to fast (I chose the middle speed). The Volume can be set from one to five bars. The loudest voice setting playback is quite loud and would suffice even in a busy environment such as a classroom or work area. In the workplace or in a supermarket where a person wants to be discrete, it might be turned down to the first setting (or the earpiece used). It is so portable, it is an ideal tool for people to use in the community when they are shopping and checking labels on boxes or cartons for ingredients or potential dangers as presence of nuts (for people or children with allergic reactions).

Individual words can be selected and scanned as well. This will prove useful to identify words, read difficult words from a passage of text, and learn a new word from a book or handout or to check words for how they are pronounced. I chose the British English option for my voice as I consider the pronunciation more useful to me as an Australian as the American English voice. The modeling of the pronunciation is another side benefit for some users, especially with difficult, long and unusual words.

Pre-requisite skills may include:

  • Being able to independently hold the pen (in the left or right hand)
  • A steady hand to control the movement of the scanning window of the pen across the required text [Note: I used a ruler as my guide – pretending to have poor motor control in my right hand. It worked really effectively. I had the position the ruler a few millimeters below the required line of text. ]
  • Being able to hold the C-Pen at a constant 70-90 angle
  • Being able to initially and accurately target the first space before the intended or required text
  • Being able to hear the text from the inbuilt speaker or through the earpiece [Note: it may not suit some students who have a hearing impairment or who wear hearing aids.]
  • Sufficient sight to be able to see and target the text to be scanned (some vision impaired users may find reading the device difficult as the text is quite small in the C-Pen’s window. They can certainly listen to the text though if a support person, parent, helper or another student is using the device with them or on their behalf)

 

C-Pen Reader dictionary setting

 

Dictionary

In Dictionary, the user can use the arrows to set the dictionary to

  • English to English
  • English to Spanish
  • Spanish to English

I chose the English to English and the Oxford dictionary. The user scans a word and it is read aloud. If the OK button is pressed, a full definition is read aloud. It is very comprehensive! The playback of the definition can be stopped or cancelled by pressing the Back button.

In Dictionary Settings (by pressing the Menu button) the History can be displayed. By scrolling down with the left button, all of the previous words that have been selected for definition are displayed one at a time. This rich history would be ideal in a classroom where the support person can discuss with the teacher/trainer/tutor the words that the client or student had difficulty identifying. Each word can be selected and definitions read aloud again as a refresher and/or for assessment at the end of a class or session. They may be made into a practical spelling quiz or for further analysis and practice.

In Reading Settings, the Read OK can be turned off or on as can Read Scan and Read Definition. Some users might not require or need the definition read back (especially for younger children or those with special needs) as it may not be relevant or too advanced. [Note: Read definition is only available in the English to English setting].

Scan to File

Scanning text from a book page with C-Pen Reader

When the user selects Scan to File, he or she may start a New File, open an existing file (i.e. Open File) Delete File or choose Scan Settings. In Scan Settings, Scan Languages and Reading Settings are once again available for altering or changing.

This seemingly double up of menu options is made available as the user may be dynamically scanning for one purpose (i.e. scanning to read some text or read a label or text from a map) whereas when the user is scanning to a file, the person may wish to change some of his or her settings.

Scan to file allows the user to scan entire paragraphs or pages of a book, novel, newspaper or journal article (be aware of copyright restrictions). These files can be voiced aloud at any time with or without the text in front of the user (e.g. for practising reading or rehearsing the lines of a play or script). They can also be transferred to a computer (MS Windows, Mac OS or Linux) using the packaged USB cable.

As an exercise, I went to s Spanish website. I then copied some Spanish text, pasted it into a MS Word document and then printed it in 13-point size font. I then used the C-Pen to scan the text one line at a time, at a fairly fast rate from my printout. It read aloud the Spanish words to me one by one at the speech rate that I had set, in Spanish, with all words highlighted. My next option was to listen to the finished file (i.e. all text captured) or parts of it. I later transferred the file to my computer. For anyone learning to speak and write Spanish, this is another great bonus! Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world – Chinese first with English at third.

Voice Memo

A very useful feature is the Voice Memo tool. The reading pen has a Dictaphone built in. It allows users to record audio and voice memos – or even music or sound effects made by the user. These files are saved to the device and can be listened to or uploaded to a user’s computer at any time. A support person might use it to give instructions to the user for a reading or study session. Or they could provide memos or feedback regarding text selection, content or attributes. Users can add voice annotations to sections of a book that they are studying or responding to for class work. The Dictaphone can also be used to save ‘to-do’ messages that may be forgotten if not written down (especially if the user struggles with spelling and writing and has organisational issues).

From the Recorder Menu, the user can choose from Record, Play Recording, Erase Recording, Play Music, and File Format. Music or Dictaphone recordings can be saved as MP3 or the larger WAV file formats). The Sound Quality can be set to High (more memory used) or Middle or Low (i.e. less memory used but not replayed at a high quality of sound recording/playback).

Once the user sets the parameters, and the user selects Record, the interface displays the file format (in my instance MP3) the quality of sound recording (in my instance low) and indicates Press OK to Record. The user presses Record and it starts recording. In the C-Pen’s window are REC(OK to Pause) and the number of seconds being recorded in the time 00:44 format. When the user presses OK it pauses, when the user presses OK it continues recording (in the same file). To stop recording, the user presses the Back button. A file number is displayed as the recorded piece of work, or study, or commentary, advice, directions, instructions, narration or music. This is a very useful, practical and handy feature as it compliments the reading and research properties of the C-Pen technology when employed as a reader and recorder of information, data, numbers or language.

In Play Recording, each file is displayed (e.g. 170529) and the length in minutes and seconds. Notice that 170529 was the 29th May 2017. The next file was appended with a ‘_1’ (i.e. 170529_1). The user can keep track of files saved by the date and number of recordings on that day. There is no need to enter or remember file names. In Erase Recording, the user moves the arrows to the intended file(s) and erases them. A warning of “Are you sure to delete it?” appears before the user press Yes to confirm or No to change his or her mind.

Compatibility

The C-Pen Reader is Mac OS, MS Windows and Linux compatible. There is no software required when used as a keyboard or for transferring files to and from the C-Pen. All the functionality and features are built-in. Another bonus is that there are no further consumable costs as the battery is charged via a USB cable. No messy battery swaps or losing them – just when work has to be completed.

Charging

C-Pen Reader with USB cable connected

Simply connect the micro USB connection into the C-Pen at its base and the other standard USB connector into one of the user’s computer USB slots. It instantly starts charging with a blue animated icon moving from left to right showing it is on charge. It graphically shows the state of charge. [Note: It’s important not to overcharge the unit.]

When users connect the pen to their computer via the USB cable it appears as an external hard drive (i.e. similar to a thumb or USB drive). Users can scan pieces of text, store their files in the pen’s memory and transfer them later to their computer(s) or submit their research and data to a trainer or teacher. This is an extremely useful feature if users are in secondary/ high school or are studying as a university student or researcher. No software is required and it can be performed on anyone’s computer.

The C-Pen Reader also doubles up as a USB drive with 1GB of data space available. The software’s intelligence, voices and dictionaries take up 3GBs. The remaining 1GB can be used over and over again by recording text or audio and then transferring it to a computer or erasing it. That’s well over 1 million characters of text. Or music files can be stored and played back as a leisure or study option (e.g. an actor reading part of a play or passages of verse than needs to be practised).

C-Pen Left/Right Handed setting

Using the C-Pen reader, users can have text read back to them immediately or store it for further study. Or they can use it as a keyboard and scan the text straight into a software program. Genres or types of text that can be selected may include:

  • Books, novels, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies
  • Atlases, encyclopedias, reference books, user manuals
  • Handouts, worksheets
  • Newspapers, magazines, journals
  • Brochures, Advertising material, Promotional material in stores
  • Community and other newsletters (including school newsletters for a dad who can’t read)
  • To-do lists, message lists, shopping items
  • Instructions and directions (e.g. assembling an item or fixture)
  • Quotes, invoices, cheques, bills, and other personal documents
  • Contracts or legal documents
  • Labels on cartons and boxes in supermarkets or hardware stores
  • Lyrics of songs on CD covers (or even vinyl record cover sleeves?)
  • Menu items at a restaurant or café
  • From information from maps, charts and schematics
  • From mind maps and webs
  • From tables and printed spreadsheet data
  • Scan labels on garments (when shopping) and washing/ care directions
  • Exam questions – no need for a support person to help a student read an exam paper
  • To help reluctant readers to start enjoying success with reading
  • For young students to challenge themselves by reading books above their reading level
  • For access to printed text up to 21 points at any time, anywhere for any purpose

C-Pen Reader scanning text from a book

 

Keyboard Mode

After connecting the C-Pen to a computer, it prompts the user to select Keyboard, U-Disk or Charging.

In Keyboard Mode, once the text is scanned it is sent directly into ANY text-based application as if the user was typing it. No special software or drivers are required – it works straight out of the box. Whilst the text is being transferred from the document, page, book, journal, handout (or a text or book that may not be available for loan from a library), the unit is also charging. Make sure that the computer keyboard setting on the computer is set to English, Australian or American English. If Spanish text is being scanned, then set the computer keyboard must be set to Spanish.

This mode is exceptionally useful for students who can’t read. The support person at school, or siblings or parents can scan chapters of a novel that the student needs to study. The text is ‘typed’ by scanning one line at a time and “flooded” into a program such as Microsoft Word or Pages etc. Any errors or omissions can be edited and the file saved. They then can have it read aloud again!

The student may elect to have the ‘book’ transferred to a more amenable mode for study using TTS (text-to-speech) on their computer. Free programs such as Balabolka or DSpeech can be used for this purpose as they have speech feedback and voices built in (and they are free to download for MS Windows computers and Notebooks.). On the Mac, simply use the embedded TTS speech option (Apple Menu/ System Preferences / Diction and Speech/ Text to Speech). The user can elect to choose a voice and decide the two keys to press to have any selected text spoken aloud.

Note: Other free human quality Mac voices can be downloaded and installed on a Mac computer at any time – at no cost. If you are a Mac user and rely on good quality speech feedback, click on the link provided (i.e. voices) and explore the many different voices on offer – including languages other than English for users’ own personal use. The English based voices (e.g. American, UK English etc) may be fun to explore. The Spanish voice may be important and handy, too.

In U-disk Mode, the C-Pen connects as a USB disk. The user can upload or download and manage their files and thus control storage of the pen.

When charging, the C-Pen is just doing that function. No data is being sent or managed. As there are no batteries, this is a cost neutral option for users.

Brief Summary

The C-Pen Reader represents a very natural and easy to use, convenient text scanning and TTS tool to capture printed information (text, numbers, codes, etc.), decode it instantly (using OCR) and speak it aloud. Then if required, transferred to computers for further study, research or practice.

With C-Pen, as opposed to flat bed document scanners, it is portable and hand held. Fundamentally, it is a pen – with a scanner using accurate OCR technology built in. The text or numbers of interest are selected and easily extracted and captured for short or long-term use. The option for further processing (i.e. text-to-speech, translation using other software, for study and research or for general data entry, etc.) can be achieved instantly and without any further manual interaction.

The user just needs to capture the text by physically moving the pen across printed text that is on a level surface. Users can opt to have it read back to them immediately (i.e. the norm) or stored and transferred via a USB cable (provided) to their MS Windows, MAC OS or Linux computer. Text can be used in MS Word, Pages, spreadsheets, and book creation programs, PowerPoint, OneNote or straight to blogs, wikis, Google Docs and to other web pages. If the client has Read & Write Gold, Ghotit-Real Reader and Writer, ClaroRead or other literacy support tools, they can append the text, answer questions that were scanned or correct any errors whilst scanning (e.g. missing a word at the end of a line).

It can also be used as a dictionary. Users can isolate and choose uncommon words, words that are new to them or difficult words that they don’t identify (due to poor spelling and reading skills). The word that has been scanned by the pen is read aloud as is the definition.

C-Pen is empowering as it provides a tool for total independence. As long as a user can physically hold the pen and move it across a surface (e.g. a novel) at a 70-90 degree angle, with a steady hand, they can read. Anything. The only real disadvantage for younger children is that it only accommodates text that is 22 points high (i.e. about .75 centimeter). Many children’s books use large fonts so it would not be useful with Big Books or literature that has fonts larger than 22 points. Users who are partly deaf or who have difficulty using the earpiece may not find the pen useful – but it might be worth trying.

Author: I’d love to see future C-Pen Readers with Bluetooth capability where the text can be sent to Bluetooth enabled devices (such as the newer hearing aids on the market for deaf students) or to Bluetooth enabled speakers or devices (e.g. mobile phones). I’d also like a small handle on the pen or the black carry pouch for a lanyard to be connected for safe movement between classes or to remind the student to use it! Carrying it around the user’s neck might be safer than in a pocket, pencil case, purse or rattling about in a school bag.

In the past, the first generations of pens (as there are competing models and brands on the market) have been large, heavy or clumsy. The C-Pen fits very comfortably in the user’s hand – just like a normal pen. And for students who don’t like technology, it isn’t geeky as it looks just like a pen!

If a person can’t read, the C-Pen is extremely liberating as they can independently function with printed text wherever and whenever they require it with this portable, discreet tool.

Editor’s Note: This product review of for the C-Pen Reader was written and composed in May 2017, using a Mac desktop running Mac OS 10.12.5 Sierra. The C-Pen is a standalone device; Dictaphone as well as a keyboard scanner and USB drive. It will work with MS Windows, Mac OS and Linux computers, notebooks, tablets and desktops. A user manual is provided but a handy online document may prove to be very useful – User Manual. It has a twelve-month user warranty against any defects (not user damage or abuse).
Note: All images in this review are copyright to the Reader Pen Company.

Other Reading Pen Products

There is another product, the C-Pen Reader Class Pack (10 pens). This product comprises of 10 C-Pens Readers, 10 headsets and 10 USB cables all packaged in a smart attaché case. This brief case is designed for easy storage and safety when transporting around the classroom/ school/ TAFE/ University/ workplace/ Training Institute/ library or other premises.

C-Pen Reader Class Pack in case

 

Further Note: The Reader Pen Company generously provided a C-Pen on loan to the author for appraisal. For further information, refer to Spectronic’s or to the Reader Pen website in the UK. [Note: The C-Pen does not connect to an iPad.]

C-Pen Exam Reader

Another product (not reviewed) is the C-Pen Exam Reader pen scanner. It is major technological breakthrough for anyone wanting to read English exam questions. The C-Pen Exam Reader is a totally portable, pocket-sized device that reads text out aloud with an English human-like digital voice.

The Exam Reader has been approved by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) for use in exams in the UK (the pen having no dictionary or thesaurus, nor on-board data storage facility). This means students who have reading difficulties such as dyslexia can independently take exams knowing that they can read and understand the questions. No special access arrangements are required. This is sold as a separate product. I wish that were the case here in some states of Australia!

 

C-Pen Exam Reader being used in an exam setting.

 

Specifications of the C-Pen Reader:

  • Screen OLED 256*64 CPU 600MHz Memory – 4GB (OS 3G, User 1G)
  • Earphone 3.5mm connection – earplug style
  • Battery 1,200mAh Scan
  • Font Size Range 6.5 – 22 pt
  • Electronic Dictionaries – Collin English 30th Anniversary Dictionary; 10th Edition (156,120 words) & Oxford Spanish>English>Spanish Dictionary
  • Certifications CE RoHS FCC
  • Size and Dimensions: 135*33*19mm
  • Weight: 50g
  • USB – USB 2.0 High speed / Micro USB
  • Extracted Content – Extracted text saved as a .txt file
  • File System – FAT\FAT32\NTFS
  • Menu Languages – English
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Ghotit “Real Writer and Reader” V5 Review http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/ghotit-real-writer-and-reader-v5/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/ghotit-real-writer-and-reader-v5/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 06:57:38 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13473 Introduction

Ghotit "Real Writer and Reader" V5 is the latest version of this simple to use and master, yet very powerful literacy support tool. Separate versions for MS Windows and Apple Mac are available.

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader, now at Version 5, is a very comprehensive reading and writing assistance solution for users with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia, for those struggling with creating or reading text or for students with English as a second language (ESL). It caters to a diverse range of users from middle primary students through to teenagers and adults, as it is so easy to use.

This latest version does not require active connection to the Internet. Once installed and configured (which does require Internet access as a one-off event) it is a standalone program that can be run in a resizable or full window. Once configured to meet a user’s specific reading and writing needs, there are only four major onscreen "buttons" from which to choose. The clean, uncluttered interface will appeal to users who become confused and frustrated with messy or ‘busy’ toolbars.

It includes features such as:

  • No internet connection is required to run the program once it is installed

  • Context-sensitive and phonetic spell checker to correct words such as ‘notest’ to ‘noticed’

  • Quick-Spell Word-Prediction with instant correction for creative/phonetic writers

  • Speak as you type (instant speech feedback with human quality voices – if installed)

  • Screenshot Reader to read aloud any text on the screen (i.e. from photos, graphics, games etc)

  • Reading assistance with dual colour highlighting (both word and/or phrase colours)

  • Effective proofreader (text to speech that reads aloud any document with dual colour highlighting)

  • Advanced grammar and punctuation correction facilities

  • Integrated dictionary

  • Topics (Word-Banks) for Word-Prediction – (words can be added at any time)

  • Integration with all text editing applications

  • Standalone Dyslexia Text Editor

  • Open and import text and HTML files

  • Save as text or HTML or cut/copy and paste text into other applications or web pages

  • Export to file types including text, HTML, Doc, DocX, ODT, RTF (Rich Text Format) and PDF (Acrobat)

  • Cut and paste text from any other program or web site on the user’s computer or Notebook

  • Coloured background, font and highlight colour choices (ideal for users with Meares Irlen Syndrome)

  • Australian, New Zealand, US, UK, Canadian and South African dictionaries

  • Karen and Lee Australian voices can be used if installed (see further for free download for Mac)

Ghotit-5 is a powerful English spelling and grammar checker for users with dyslexia, dysgraphia and assists students and adults with other reading and writing difficulties. By using the software, it has been have proven to dramatically improve users’ writing and reading capabilities.

Text creation can prove difficult for many people, in education, in training and in the workplace. Even writing emails or posting up comments to social media sites can be embarrassing and off-putting.

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader assists struggling readers and writers so that they may improve their reading and writing skills. It will alleviate the tension and worry that may cause them to avoid or fail whilst handling text. Ghotit promotes confidence and caters to both students and adults alike. They are more likely to cope and thrive with their reading and writing work assignments at home, at school in training and in the work place. Reading and writing can be enjoyable instead of a challenge!

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader software provides good value for families as it caters to a wide audience, starting from students in primary school, in secondary or high school, and into higher education as well as for mum and dad to meet work and social needs. Employees who need to read and write as part of their work responsibilities can dramatically improve their working efficiencies. As it will operate with any other program or web browser, it will enhance skills in dealing with their own personal writing as well as dealing with third party text (i.e. from other sources such as online books, articles, Word files, PDFs, emails and social media and other writing and literacy programs).

It is a powerful tool for users with dyslexia or for struggling writers as it tackles many of the common problems that users encounter whilst writing. This includes difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, proofing and accessing documents and text in different formats. The interface strips out annoying or distracting photos, drawings, maps, and other graphics that may distract or confuse the writer.

 

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader 5

 

It includes patented technology that provides the most appropriate corrections for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes by looking at the intended meaning of the piece of text. The software has matured since earlier versions, whereby it relied on the Internet to provide this outcome and intelligence. This latest version 5 is standalone and does not require access to the Internet. Everything is built-in and ready to go after the initial installation and configuration. In Preferences, users, educators, parents and tutors can adjust and change every aspect of the software so as to cater to individual needs. It has so many empowering benefits and options.

Universal Design for Learning principles are adhered to and therefore it accommodates practically everyone. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework designed to give all students equal access to learning. It underlies the Multiple Means of Representation, by providing ideas and strategies to use when delivering content to a variety of learners.

There are three overall principles associated with Universal Design for Learning:

  • Multiple Means of Representation

  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression

  • Multiple Means of Engagement

No Internet Access is Required

Benefits may include:

  • No need for access to the Internet in any classroom, space or setting
  • No reliance on Internet access, speed, functionality or delivery
  • Ideal for remote users where Internet access is not available (or where services are limited)
  • Ideal for users working away from wireless access locations
  • Less cost
  • Minimal lag time and waiting for processing

Of course, users can operate Ghotit with any web browser of their choosing and cut and paste text from a web source and paste it into Ghotit’s window. They can then listen to text being spoken aloud in a voice of their choosing, and at a set rate (or pace).

Severe Spelling Error Correction

‘In the world of spell checking, the degree of how badly a word is misspelled is measured by the editing distance of the misspelled word, to the intended word. The trade-off is as follows: the longer the editing distance, the longer the list of candidate words that will be offered. Since ordinary spell checkers cannot properly grade the long list of alternatives, this long list is seen as adding "noise" to the spell-checking algorithm. Ordinary spell checkers are tuned for people with mild spelling and typing mistakes and therefore prefer to offer a relatively short editing distance, in order to minimise the list of candidate words.

Here context spell checking algorithms come to play. Once an effective context spell checking is introduced, a larger editing distance can be introduced, since the spell checker can leverage the context of the sentence to optimise the suggested word list and remove the unwanted, out-of-context words.

Ghotit has developed an innovative context spell-checker that is optimised for people with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other learning disabilities. Ghotit can leverage its context spelling engine to produce an internal long list of candidate words by defining a long editing distance, but then reduce this list and present to the user only the words that make sense in the context of the specific written sentence. High performance techniques were introduced in order to ensure that Ghotit’s context sensitive analysis does not affect user experience and does not introduce spell checking result delays.’

[Source: http://www.spectronics.com.au/product/ghotit-real-writer-reader-for-mac]

Preferences

In Preferences, users can determine the functions and features that they require or need in order to handle text. Preferences include Speech, English, Prediction, Learning, Topics and Advanced.

 

Ghotit Real Writer and Reader Speech Settings

 

In Speech, a system wide voice can be selected from a variety of Mac based or other commercial voices installed on the host’s computer. Note: Other free human quality Mac voices can be downloaded and installed on a Mac computer at any time – at no cost. If you are a Mac user and rely on good quality speech feedback, click on the link provided (i.e. voices) and explore the many different voices on offer – including languages other than English for users’ own personal use. The English based voices (e.g. American, UK English etc) may be fun to explore.

Web link:

www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/how-to-install-and-use-high-quality-system-voices-in-os-x.

The speaking rate will accommodate the user’s ability to listen to text being read aloud (as he or she types – i.e. speech feedback) or in reading text from within the Ghotit software window. Some users prefer a slower rate with other users working at a very fast rate. Everyone’s different! Dual highlight colours can be selected to assist in quickly and easily identifying new or unique words with both word and phrase highlighting colours. This is so important for people with Meares Irlen Syndrome.

English

In English, users can select from Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, South African, UK or US English.

The descriptions window can be displayed as a stand-alone window and can be muted if so desired (i.e. speech turned off).

In the Personal Dictionary, individual words can be added (errors or words that have been added by mistake by the user can be deleted). Words that are difficult to read or identify, are new or foreign to the user can be spoken aloud. This is very important as users may wish to add unique words relevant or pertinent to their area of study, training or workplace. They might also include difficult words or friend’s names or favourite locations such as cities, countries or street names.

They can be added or deleted at any time by a support staff member (for students with special learning needs) or by the users themselves. This is a very necessary and vital option as it provides for full customization of the software.

 

Personal Dictionary

 

Learning

In Learning, there is an option for a list of words to be imported from a text file (e.g. words required in rehearsing a script or play or selected text being studied, words from particular study areas, Proper nouns or names of places, people/characters, or locations). Users or support staff can assign these words to a topic and also create their own topic dictionaries. The words on each topic are displayed in a window and each one can be read aloud. Words can also be learnt from a Ghotit document.

This function saves a great deal of time in classrooms where multiple students require the same list of new or unique words that aren’t already included in the software. Topic dictionaries cater to all students, workplaces and professions and cater to individual as well as group needs.

 

Ghotit-5 Learning settings

 

The user or teacher, school support personnel, tutor, trainer can add topics at any time. Users can add and load new topics when and if required as well as unload them. The topics-in-use is displayed in the Topics dialogue box. This is where users create and manipulate topics. Users can have multiple topics active so that Ghotit accommodates their current study or writing/reading requirements. It is especially useful in high school or tertiary education at TAFE or University or in a workplace with very specific or unique word usage. It also caters to programmers – who are often dyslexic!

Prediction

 

Ghotit-5 Prediction settings

 

Prediction, or word prediction, can be run in a standalone window or next to the text being entered. Words can be spoken aloud before or after being entered into the document (or muted). Users can elect to have one to up to eight words displayed. Users can elect to have phonetic or creative spelling turned on or off. A space can be entered automatically after a word is selected by use of Function keys (F1 to F8) or by left clicking on it.

Predict Ahead is for more advanced users (usually) as it will promote words to the user in context with their writing. It can confuse younger users and students as it can often distract them. For others, it’s a blessing! It attempts to predict the next meaningful word (as per current mobile phones).

Ghotit 5 Word prediction pop  up window showing list of words

Word prediction is a complete rework from previous versions.

It is using Quick Spell algorithms, so as to ensure all predictions, particularly for users who attempt to write with the first misspelled letter(s), essentially based on phonetic reconstruction and context. Many struggling writers suffer from this inadequacy. If a user writes "Help me to andesa" with 3 errors (first 'a' for 'u', a missed 'r", with an extra 'a') – he/she is provided with the correct word option "understand" as the most likely outcome and therefore the correct option.

Ghotit’s very intuitive and clever technology allows for writers using word-prediction to misspell some letters – then continue to try and add more letters and in most cases the correct or most relevant suggestion will be offered in the prediction dialogue box. This is powerful technology. Prediction technology is not new but having this quality of support is not the norm or standard in some other competing literacy support software. The developers have incorporated this intelligence after years of research and data gathering. Users will benefit greatly from this innovation.

Advanced

Ghotit-5 advanced settings

The Advanced dialogue box provides a number of additional custom tools.

Users can set a default font and style (e.g. Arial Narrow 24) so that every time the software is launched, the necessary or required font is ready.

This caters to younger users as well as to users who are vision impaired. The text background colour as well as spelling colours can be selected. Users can reset the program to a default layout if they prefer (particularly if a computer is being shared at school or in the home with other users).

An encrypted connection can be turned on or off.

On screen are two "buttons" – one for correction the other for having text spoken aloud. These can be assigned to one of the function keys (especially if the function keys conflict with other programs being used). Some users (particularly students who rely on the keyboard due to visual or physical needs) prefer to use keyboard short cuts rather than rely on mouse clicks. For users using eye gaze, they would prefer to access the onscreen buttons.

This is the beauty of adhering to best practice and incorporating Universal Design for Learning as the software caters to a diverse and wide range of users’ needs and requirements.

Access to the program can be via a conventional USB keyboard, Bluetooth models, mini keyboards, enlarged keyboards or programmable models (e.g. IntelliKeys was once very popular), onscreen virtual keyboards, mouse, trackball, joysticks and/or eye gaze technologies.

Ease of Use

 

Ghotit-5 main checking window

 

As an AT consultant and as a teacher, I enjoy using this software and recommend it highly as it is so user friendly. The interface (i.e. look and feel) is uncluttered.

The four major tools or "buttons" onscreen are available for quick reference, access and use.

Located top left of the program’s window is the Read Aloud option. It will voice or speak every sentence or phrase (with a different colour background if required) so that users can ‘track’ the text being spoken back to them, at a rate (i.e. speed) that they can predetermine and set or change at any time. Different voices can be selected for different genres or types of text. Some users prefer the more robotic synthetic voices whilst others prefer Karen or Lee (Australian voices) or other human quality voices that are more natural and have inflection and nuance.

Word Prediction can be turned on (enabled) or turned off with the button below the Read Aloud button. Both word and its meaning can be spoken aloud for poor readers or users unfamiliar with the English language. It can also help to build vocabulary strength and improve performance.

The Correct Text button is located top right hand corner. It is denoted with a Tick and ABC icon. When clicked or selected (by Function key, mouse click or eye gaze) it will analyse the text and edit it. Any word(s) that do not seem to be correct are underlined with a red colour. Grammar errors are underlined in blue. Users can then proceed to edit each word at their own pace and comfort. Once a word is clicked upon or selected, a dialogue box appears.

A list of the most likely words will appear each with a definition. Words can be selected according to need/preference/suitability or ignored. New words can be added to the dictionary as well. Words that are correctly spelled but incorrectly used (e.g. done for did) are underlined in blue. The grammar check and spell-check are generated and work together. Both functions are performed at the same time and do not require access to the Internet (as per previous versions of this software).

Approve and Apply Corrections button appears below the Correct Text button. It finalises the writing or text entry process and learns from the user’s style and use of spelling and grammar. There is also support for Split and merged words: Ghotit makes sure that users do not mistakenly split or merge words incorrectly.

The Toolbar

 

Ghotit-5 toolbar

 

From left to right, the onscreen toolbar includes New File, Open File (text or HTML), Save (text or HTML), Export File (to Doc, DocX, ODT, PDF or RTF), Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Descriptions. Most of these functions are standard in most text editing or word processing programs.

Descriptions is a powerful option. The user selects or mouse clicks on a word. A floating dialogue box appears with the selected word and a description in the chosen version of English (I chose Australian English for this software review). If a word is not properly selected a spoken dialogue box appears instructing the user as to how to perform this function.

In the second row in the Toolbar are functions normally used in text editing programs. They include standard text as well as bulleted text (3 options of graphic), Ordered List (Decimal, Alpha lower and upper case or Roman lower or upper case characters). All system fonts are available in the next drop down dialogue box, followed by size options ranging from 9 point to 288 in size (Note: 72 points equals one inch in height). This is followed by the font Colour, then Boldface and Italics. Text can be left aligned, centred, right aligned or full justification (i.e. text is distributed evenly from left to right).

Ghotit 5 providing word meaning

When parts of text (or the whole document is selected), the next function (an icon of books lying horizontally) will add launch the Learning dialogue box. Users can elect to add new words to relevant Topics. The next icon (of books standing up vertically) will launch the Topics dialogue box where a topic can be added or removed.

Select Area for Reading Aloud is wonderful. It will read any text from anywhere on the screen in any program or window and voice it. The text will be highlighted in a user selectable colour as well as added to the current Ghotit document. Screen-Shot Reader is mainly due for high-res screens like Retina on the more recent newer Macs or on high-resolution screens of modern Windows laptops and hybrids such as Surface Pro 4. On low-resolution screens, users need to increase the font size (i.e. for double type Ctrl-+ in browsers, so as to provide more pixels for the OCR to work. It provides an option to read text aloud from the screen and is very useful for reading text in images, or locked PDFs and other inaccessible documents. Some users enjoy action and adventure games but cannot read the instructions – as they are graphics’ based. Here is a great solution for increased independence.

Licences

Multiple options are available for either the Windows or Mac versions of Ghotit "Real Writer and Reader" V5. Single licences are available as well as single and site licences (up to 100 users) as well as site only licences (up to 100 users). Multi Site District licences cater to larger schools or institutes of further learning that have multiple campuses.


Editor’s Note: This software review of Ghotit "Real Writer and Reader" for Mac V5.0.1.7 was written and composed in May 2017, using a Mac desktop running Mac OS 10.8.5. It will operate on Mac OS 7 and up to the latest Mac OS V10 operating systems on Mac based desktop and portable computer solutions and models.

A separate version will operate on MS Windows based technologies including Notebooks, tablets, laptops and hybrids.

Further Note: The Ghotit Company generously provided a copy of Ghotit-5 software to the author for appraisal. For further information, refer to Spectronic’s or to the Ghotit’s website: http://www.ghotit.com. For iPad and iPhone users, there is the Ghotit Dyslexia Keyboard. It is available from the App store. There is also a solution for Android phone users.

 

Ghotit V5 main window

 

Brief Summary

Ghotit V5 – or ‘I got it right’, has certainly got it completely right in this latest version. It has all of the functionality of a simple text editor, but with a twist (or many). It provides full support for users who normally struggle (and often despise) text creation or reading. Now they can communicate!

It is simple and elegant – yet it is fully compliant with all of the necessary tools to both spell and grammar check text as it is being typed or cut/copied from another document, web site or program. The latest additions and functionality have only improved an already excellent product. And now it doesn’t need to have access to the Internet to operate. I recommend it to users who struggle with text – it will change the way users work and consider reading, writing and proof reading – with increased confidence and enjoying success rather than experiencing failure.

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20% discount on all AbleNet “easy-tech” technologies from Spectronics – only until June 30th 2015! http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/20-discount-on-all-ablenet-easy-tech-technologies-from-spectronics-only-until-june-30th-2015/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/20-discount-on-all-ablenet-easy-tech-technologies-from-spectronics-only-until-june-30th-2015/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 23:04:47 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13148 Banner showing AbleNet Easy-tech technologies announcing 20% discount until June 30th


So many special ed classrooms rely on their collection of easy-tech technologies from AbleNet to actively engage their students in learning. Take advantage of this 20% discounted pricing offer to update your collection of AbleNet technologies before 30th June 2015.

Here are a couple of the most popular new AbleNet technologies that you may like to check out …

Blue2 Bluetooth Switch (New Version)

Lets students with physical disabilities use this wireless Bluetooth switch to access their favourite apps. Provides single or dual switch access to iDevices running iOS 8 and 7, Apple computers running OS X Mavericks, and all switch accessible apps or software on iOS, OS X, Windows, and Android.

Mini Beamer Wireless Switch

A new member in the AbleNet Beamer wireless switch family, the Mini Beamer Wireless Switch combines rechargeable battery, small form factor and proximity sensor activation surface to give you a compact, easy to use, no-wire switching solution.

Relax Accessible IR Learning Remote

The NEW Relax is an accessible infrared (IR) learning remote that comes with an updated modern design and provides simplified control of almost any IR device. With a light touch or with the use of a switch, an individual can control up to eight functions on their favourite IR device. TV's, music centres, air-conditioning, fans, heaters and more. If it has a remote control, the new Relax will be able to control it.

Connect Case for iPad

The new Connect Case for iPad unlocks the power of the iPad for users with significant physical disabilities. Connect provides switch accessibility, brilliant sound, and exceptional design to create a one of a kind solution for the iPad. Its sleek outer casing protects against impact making it a valuable addition in all primary school classrooms using iPads with their students!

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Boardmaker Online: Upgrade now to lose that Boardmaker CD for good! http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/boardmaker-online-upgrade-now-to-lose-that-boardmaker-cd-for-good/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/boardmaker-online-upgrade-now-to-lose-that-boardmaker-cd-for-good/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 06:22:24 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13139 Students  accessing activities on their iPad in class with the teacher presenting the same activity on an IWB.


So MUCH more than just an online version of the much-loved Boardmaker software. Top reasons to upgrade …

  1. You can ditch the CD! No more CD-wars. No more looking for lost CDs! No mare having to wait for the replacement for your damaged CD to arrive!
  2. Includes all 25,000 PCS symbols – including the high-contrast symbols and sexuality symbols (which can be turned on or off as required). No need to buy additional Addendum Collections. And guess what else? When new symbols are created they will just appear in your Boardmaker Online account with new symbols being created every month now!
  3. Bringing in other images and photos is so easy. All part of the same search. Search for a symbol, images on your computer or dive out to the web all from the one search dashboard.
  4. All of your existing Boardmaker activities can be uploaded and used. No need to re-create them in Boardmaker Online. Whew right? Like seriously … Whew!!
  5. And YES! The PODD communication books on CD can be opened in Boardmaker Online. So if you own PODD and have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can upload the PODD pages to your account and edit and print.
  6. And NEW! You can now send your Boardmaker activities to an iPad!! A great way to share activities with students, parents and other colleagues.
  7. You don’t have to be online to use the activities created. If you want to use them offline, download them onto your computer hard drive for offline viewing.
  8. Track data about how the student is progressing. Viewable by all on your team with a school or organisational subscription.
  9. Still print whenever you want. Just as you could with the CD-based version. With the added bonus of being able to print from any computer, anywhere, directly from your web browser.
  10. With Organisation-wide subscriptions, instructors can assign activities to multiple students. Students can also be assigned activities from multiple instructors.

Can you still buy CD-based versions of Boardmaker? Sure. But with all of the additional benefits above, why not ask Spectronics for a quote for your school or organisation?  Boardmaker Online subscriptions ensure that you and your team are fully up-to-date with the latest features and can access all 25,000+ symbols and ready-made activities as soon as they are released!

Check out what Amanda Hartmann, Speech Pathologist and self-confessed "Boardmaker addict" has to say about this new online version of the program in her recent blog post titled, "Boardmaker Online – Jump on board!"

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No more Inclusive Learning Technologies (ILT) Conferences hosted by Spectronics http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/events/no-more-inclusive-learning-technologies-ilt-conferences-hosted-by-spectronics/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/events/no-more-inclusive-learning-technologies-ilt-conferences-hosted-by-spectronics/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 22:36:38 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13123 Spectronics’ mission is to seek, share and support technologies to advance independent achievement. As such, one of our major objectives is to increase community awareness of the benefits of assistive technologies. Toward this aim we ran the biennial Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference that became known as the ILT Conference on the fabulous Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The first two were held in 2004 and 2006 at the Crowne Plaza. In 2008 and 2010 the ILT Conference was held at the Marriott Hotel in Surfers Paradise. In 2012 and 2014 the venue was Jupiter’s Convention Centre at Broadbeach.

Spectronics staff worked tirelessly to offer what has been regarded at the best Assistive Technology Conference anywhere in the world. The ILT Conferences were a celebration of all participants’ achievements, an opportunity to share successes (and failures) as well as new ideas. The conferences were heavily subsidised by Spectronics. No expense was spared. I regard them all personally as my gift to the Assistive Technology industry in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, and the people in our region who benefit from the industry’s products.

Sadly with the decline in the Assistive Technology industry, which continues to struggle with mobile technologies, cloud based software and limited budgets, Spectronics can no longer afford the high risk investment in future ILT Conferences.

Which leaves me to thank all who have supported the past Inclusive Learning Technologies Conferences and to apologise for any disappointment that ILT 2016 is not to be.

Michael's signature

Michael O’Leary
Managing Director | Occupational Therapist

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Boardmaker Online – Training videos http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/new-technologies/boardmaker-online-training-videos/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/new-technologies/boardmaker-online-training-videos/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 11:06:52 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13095 Here at Spectronics, we are super excited to bring you Boardmaker Online (you can read just how excited we are HERE!)

logo_boardmaker250

We all know that to use our technology efficiently we need to upskill ourselves…. So this blog post is designed, as your go to place, to access all the links and training videos, so you can learn everything you need to know about Boardmake Online.

First things first…

The Help & Training Centre in Boardmaker Online might be your first port of call. You can access videos and tutorials directly from this centre. And in fact, this is best and fastest place to go to ask a question about Boardmaker Online as well.

So bookmark this link:

http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/

Also, we are putting together some quick training videos here at Spectronics too; so be sure to check out Spectronics Online to find the latest videos about Boardmaker Online.

 

In the meantime here are some essential links, that will help you get started and/or understand the nitty gritty of the Boardmaker Online.

You might like to watch the quick “Teaser” video I put together, to give you an overview.

Boardmaker Online – Teaser

___________________________________________________________________________

You can access some Recorded Trainings via this link:
Probably the best recorded training there, is this video. It gives a good overview of all of Boardmaker Online and might be a good starting point.

___________________________________________________________________________

Follow this link:

http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1632276-frequently-asked-questions

for Frequently-Asked Questions. If you are asking the question, chances are, someone else has too!

___________________________________________________________________________

If you like written articles and tutorials (rather than watching videos), then these are the best links for you:

http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/topics/654252-tutorials/articles

http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/topics/656787-getting-started/articles

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Here are some links to some useful videos from the Help & Training Centre on Boardmaker Online.

The full collection of videos can be found here: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/topics/654253-how-to-videos/articles, but I have also included some links to a few key videos.

 

Videos about using the ONLINE EDITOR:

  1. Accessing the Online Editor: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1745431-accessing-the-online-editor
  2. Creating an Activity from Scratch: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1745438-creating-an-activity-from-scratch
  3. Working with Buttons in the Online Editor: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1745439-working-with-buttons-in-the-online-editor
  4. Adding a second symbol to a button: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1713136-adding-a-second-symbol-to-a-button
  5. Importing an image onto a button: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1713135-importing-an-image-into-a-button
  6. Understanding the Properties Panel: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1722160-understanding-the-properties-panel
  7. Creating a popup: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1942594-creating-a-popup

Videos about BOARDMAKER ONLINE interface:

  1. Playing activities: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1621575-playing-activities
  2. Uploading an Activity (upload activities you created in Boardmaker Studio, or Boardmaker Version 6, to use within Boardmaker Online): http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1643809-uploading-an-activity
  3. Using a playlist: http://helpandtraining.boardmakeronline.com/customer/portal/articles/1643811-using-a-playlist

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Here are the links to the Spectronics Training Videos:

Overview of the main menus:

 

Finding and editing activities in the Boardmaker Community:

 

Groups:

 

Creating interactive activities in the Online Editor, using templates:

 

Keep your activities organised in Boardmaker Online, by using FOLDERS.

 

Use your fabulous Boardmaker Online activities on your iPAD:

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Please contact us if you have any questions or specific training video requests.

Amanda

 

 

 

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Introducing Teach for Google http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/introducing-teach-for-google/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/introducing-teach-for-google/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 06:30:58 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13083 Reposted with permission from blog.texthelp.com

Over the last year I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking into what type of training is available to help educators get the most out of Google Apps for Education. On one end of the spectrum, I found plenty of “how-to” videos and articles that explain how to share a file, create a form, etc… but these didn’t really help with implementing Google Apps in an instructionally relevant way.

Then on the other hand, I found things likes lesson plans that show how to integrate Google Apps into a specific lesson. While helpful, these were only useful one or two days out of the year, and were specific to one grade level and content area. Finding enough resources to last an entire year would be an exercise in futility for most.

What was missing were resources showing educators how to integrate effective teaching strategies (the kind that actually lead to an increase in student achievement) into almost any grade level or content area using Google Apps. What was missing was Teach for Google.

 

 

Teach for Google is a professional development solution that helps Educators increase student achievement using proven tools and strategies within the Google Apps for Education environment.

Created from research by top US education experts, Teach for Google offers a fast-growing library of short, easy-to-implement courses with “How-To” videos, strategy overviews, templates, checklists and more that provide all the tools necessary to successfully implement effective strategies in the classroom.

Teach for Google’s flexible nature allows for use when and where it’s needed most. Educators can complete an entire course and earn a certificate to prove it, or drop in and grab only the resources needed for a specific lesson. Badges that can be saved and shared socially are also available.

Two complete courses and a related videos section come free with Teach for Google. An additional 23 courses are currently available for only $20/user per year ($15 if an entire district/domain purchases). Because Teach for Google is a subscription courses will always remain up to date and additional courses added throughout the year.

Give Teach for Google a try today and complete your first two courses and receive your first badge absolutely free at www.teachforgoogle.com.

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A Look at Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Ed http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/a-look-at-accessible-instructional-materials-in-higher-ed/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/tools-and-resources/a-look-at-accessible-instructional-materials-in-higher-ed/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 06:48:53 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13074 Reposted with permission from blog.texthelp.com

This week’s post comes from Marvin Williams, Assistive Technology Coordinator in the Services for Students with Disabilities department at California State University, Fresno. Marvin, myself, and Fresno State’s Alternative Media Coordinator Rima Maldonado will be presenting later this week at the 30th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, CA. I’ve asked Marvin if he could provide some insight on Accessible Instructional Materials here prior to our session. You can read more about this below. We will follow up with access to some of the conference materials after the session. Thanks Marvin!

Educational materials are important. It’s the stuff we use to teach, and we use a lot of them. As we move through school, we continue to use them, but the types may change. Educational materials can be textbooks, workbooks, websites, audio clips, video clips, movies, and most anything that you would use in teaching material to students. For now, we’ll look at text-based materials.

College Students in Library


In her article, “The Average College Time Put Into Homework vs. High School,” Courtney O’Banion Smith had this to say about the differences between the reading a student does in high school and in college:

“You will read a lot more per class in college than you did in high school. Also, the content of the text will be more complicated and difficult to understand. As a result, reading will take you longer. If you skim, you won’t understand or remember important information that will be on the test or discussed in class, and your grade will reflect your lack of effort. Remember that just because assigned reading is never discussed in class or mentioned in lecture doesn’t mean it won’t be on the test.”

College is a very different experience from high school. The sheer volume of work can be very intimidating. So imagine having all of that reading and having a learning disability. The amount of energy that it typically takes to read and understand some difficult material can be quite considerable. Now imagine having to also “decipher” the material to read and understand it. The cognitive load of the student with a learning disability would most likely significantly increase to an exhausting level.

Assistive technology can definitely help with that. Assistive technology tools, like text-to-speech, allow students with learning disabilities to access the curriculum like their peers. Typically, we think about this for students only in P-12 education. However, many students with learning disabilities going on to higher education. While access to the assistive technology usually isn’t the big issue, access to the educational materials is.

Higher education still deals with the difficulties of trying to get usable digital materials. From unusable, “picture PDF” materials posted to learning management systems to websites with locked content, students in higher education who need help accessing the curriculum often face seemingly insurmountable barriers. As more students use various computing devices to access their course materials, the need for good, usable, accessible educational materials grows. And while universities typically do have programs to help students get their materials in a useful format, the process is quite different from how it happens in P-12 education.

Please join me, Fresno State’s Alternative Media Coordinator Rima Maldonado, and TextHelp’s Jason Carroll for our presentation titled Taking AIM at Higher Ed: Looking At Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Ed on Wed, March 3 at CSUN 2015 in beautiful San Diego, CA. During the presentation, we will take a look at accessible educational materials in higher education, how we deal with the issue at Fresno State, and how TextHelp has been able to help students gain access with some of their products. If you can’t make it to the conference, check back for the video!

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3 Ways to Increase Collaboration in Google Docs, Sheets and Drive http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/techniques-and-tips/3-ways-to-increase-collaboration-in-google-docs-sheets-and-drive/ http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/techniques-and-tips/3-ways-to-increase-collaboration-in-google-docs-sheets-and-drive/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 05:56:48 +0000 http://www.spectronics.com.au/blog/?p=13063 Reposted with permission from blog.texthelp.com

If you are an educator (or student), chances are that you have to collaborate on tons of projects. Everything from serving on committees to working with co-teachers to modify assignments requires collaboration. While meeting in person is great, time rarely allows for this. And using desktop-based office suites to collaborate usually looks something like this:

  • Start work on document
  • Email document to colleagues
  • Receive updated doc from colleagues titled “version 2”
  • Repeat until a final document or presentation is agreed upon

Diverse Hands Holding the Word Collaborate


Luckily Google makes it super easy to collaborate by offering on documents, spreadsheets and more in Google Drive. These tools save you from extra work, resources, and valuable time, by facilitating easier, faster, real-time collaboration.

Features such as Revision History, Comments, and View/Suggest Edits, are three of the many ways you can use Google docs for more effective collaboration:

1) Revision History

Creating a document and sharing it with your colleagues means several people may be making changes. The problem with traditional desktop software is that if 4 people make edits to the document you send, you will receive 4 different copies of the document back. Combining all of the changes back into one document is time consuming at best.

While most word processing software allows you to track changes, Google Docs will allow to share the same document with multiple people and review all changes that have been made. Each user will be assigned a different color so that you can see who made what change, and revert back to the original content if needed.

Revision History in Google Docs


To view the revision history in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides, simply open the file and click File – See Revision History. A column will appear on the right hand side of the file allowing you to review the revision history.

2) Comments

Comments provide an easy way to ask questions, provide feedback, link to information, and more in a Google Document. To use, highlight a word or section of text you want to comment on. Then simply click the comment icon on the toolbar. A comment box will appear on the right side of the file.

Two things I really like about using comments in Google Docs and other applications is that the comment box becomes a threaded discussion as more people comment on the same section of text selected. I also like the ability to tag people within a comment to alert them that you need their input. Do this by simply typing a plus sign followed by their Google ID (see image below).

Comment Box in Google Docs


3) View/Edit/Suggest Edits

One of the most powerful tools for collaboration in Google is the ability to set a file as viewable, comment only, or editable.

Let’s say you’ve created a draft of a new policy and want to share with others for feedback. You may not want to give edit privileges to everyone, so instead you could share with “comment only” permissions. This means that people can comment, but not change the original doc. Similarly you can share the final version as “view only” so no changes or comments can be made.

Switch from Edit to Suggesting Mode in Google Doc

You can also switch to “Suggesting” mode at any time when collaborating on a document. For example, if a colleague shares a blog post with me and asks for feedback I can switch from “Editing” mode to “Suggesting” mode by clicking the drop down menu on the right side of the toolbar and choosing “Suggesting” (see image).

This allows me to make edits where I feel appropriate and my colleague can approve or deny as needed. I find this much easier than combing through a revision history trying to see what changes are made and if I want to keep them.

So those are my 3 tips for better collaboration in Google Docs (or Sheets, or Slides). Have you used these tips to increase collaboration at your school? Or do you have additional tips that you recommend? Please share them in the discussion below!

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