25 November 2011

Hi ...

Welcome to your last update from Spectronics for this year. Lots of news to share as usual. Lots held over til our next newsletter too as we had too much to fit in one newsletter. As usual!

We are excited about the collaborative classroom activities made possible by the cool new EDUSS Multi-touch Interactive LCD Touchscreens. Will they make interactive whiteboards (IWBs) redundant in classrooms? Read more about this great new technology and how to use it with your favourite software and even wirelessly with the iPad 2 in your special ed or early childhood classroom.

Other cool tools include fabulous new sensory room technologies like the Magic Carpet and eye-controlled activities from Sensory Guru in the UK. These are now available in Australia and New Zealand from Link-AT in Adelaide. They will also be on display at the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference in May next year. They open up so many more ways for active participation in sensory room activities - and for collaborative play with able-bodied peers. Will they make “passive” sensory room experiences redundant?

Speaking of the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference ... we have been amazed at how quickly registrations are coming in. We have four times the number of registrations compared with the Novembers before our 2008 and 2010 Conferences. So we are REALLY glad that we have moved to a MUCH bigger venue at Jupiters Convention Centre on Queensland’s Gold Coast!

Why register for the conference now when you still have six months to go?

First up, we have 200 iPads available for loan free-of-charge for the duration of the conference for delegates who register for the “I Want Everything” four-day conference package. At the time of writing only 76 iPads remain for loan. So there will be none left for registrations closer to the time of the conference.

Another compelling reason to register early is that session selections open in early January 2012. But if you have already registered before that time, you will be given priority on selecting your preferred sessions and will be allowed to go in and select sessions for a week before it is opened up for all. So, registering early is one way of definitely ensuring that you will have a place in the most popular conference sessions and pre-conference workshops.

In this newsletter we also share the sad news that Jane Farrall, our multi-talented speech pathologist and AAC Support Services Manager, will be leaving Spectronics in January next year - after seven years as part of the Spectronics team. We will miss her but look forward to working with her in new and exciting ways.

Best wishes for the busy last few weeks of your year! And if I don’t catch you before, we wish you a fabulous Christmas/New Year break from all of us here @Spectronics.


Barbara's Signature

Barbara Landsberg
Sales and Marketing Director

PS Are you attending the Disability Studies: Every Body In Conference in Dunedin next week or the Accessing the Future Conference in the Hunter Valley the week after? We’ll be there too! So please sit in on our presentations or come up have a chat with us in the exhibition area.


LCD Touchscreens: Beginning of the end for Interactive Whiteboards?

All-you-need Interactive Touchscreen Classroom and software Bundle

Just add a laptop or an iPad 2! No data projector needed. No shadows. Fully height-adjustable. Even project wirelessly from your iPad 2 (using an Apple TV unit and a WiFi connection)!

We have been looking for an attractive alternative to interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in the classroom for many years. We think we have found it now! The 65" and 55" EDUSS Multi-touch Interactive LCD screens can be operated via direct finger touch - no need for a special pen or stylus. No need for a data projector which casts shadows on the screen as students approach and shines its light into the eyes of anyone at the front of the classroom. On top of these benefits, when mounted on the custom-built LCD Touchscreen Mobile Trolley it is fully height-adjustable, making it accessible for students of all heights and abilities. Including those in wheelchairs.

Best of all, the LCD Touchscreen and trolley combined are cheaper than many interactive whiteboard options. AND do not have the ongoing costs and inconvenience of data projector bulb replacement. The five year warranty also helps for peace of mind that this new technology is classroom-tough.

How does it work? Just plug in your Mac or Windows laptop and run any of your favourite touchscreen or interactive whiteboard software programs. Titles like Clicker 5, SwitchIt! Maker 2, ChooseIt! Maker 2 and Boardmaker Plus or Studio are excellent applications to combine with your Interactive LCD screen. So we have bundled these (and many more) together as the "All-you-need Interactive Touchscreen Classroom Bundle ". This comprehensive special school classroom bundle offers 100 titles designed to support students requiring cause-and-effect and early choice-making activities, all the way through to those requiring upper primary level literacy resources. Save over $500 by buying the bundle.

Can you use it with an iPad? Yes! In fact, when the LCD Touchscreens were in action at a recent conference, visitors were referring them as "giant iPads on speed". Just plug your iPad 2 in using an HDMI cable and all apps installed on the iPad will be available on the big touchscreen allowing collaborative group activities not possible on the smaller iPad screen. Even better, you can project wirelessly to the LCD touchscreen allowing freedom of movement around the classroom for both the teacher and the iPad being projected. All you need to make this happen is to purchase an Apple TV unit, an HDMI cable and have access to a WiFi connection. Magic ... well almost!

ILT2012 Conference Update: All Key AAC Technologies and App Developers will be onsite

AAC Apps on iPads and a DynaVox Maestro communication device

If you are interested in the very newest trends in technologies supporting Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), we will be offering an Australasian first! All seven of the key international developers of AAC apps for iPads, and a comprehensive group of developers of dedicated speech generating devices both within Australia and internationally will be exhibiting and/or presenting at the conference!

Not only will this offer you a one-stop-shop option to check out all of the new developments under the one roof, it will allow you to evaluate and compare options. When is an iPad app best? When would a speech generating device be more appropriate? In what situations are both appropriate and complementary to support communication by your students and older AAC users? Save yourself hours of research by having the chance to speak directly with the technology developers and see the tools first-hand!

So, who will be there?

AssistiveWare (Netherlands)
Developers of the ground breaking AAC app Proloquo2Go - the first full-featured AAC app for the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. It continues to be a ground breaker through its frequent updates and Proloquo2Go 2, with its many new features, will be available for you to check out first-hand.

Therapy Box (UK)
Developers of the TBox apps range, Therapy Box offers two great switch accessible AAC applications for the iPad - Predictable and Scene&Heard. More recently they have begun to diversify and have started to produce some speech and language therapy apps as well.

AbleNet (USA)
Developer of a wider range of assistive technologies - of which their excellent SoundingBoard AAC app is one. SoundingBoard is now a Universal App, is switch accessible and has a range of professional-created boards available for in-app purchase.

TapSpeak (USA)
Developers of a range of AAC apps. Beginning with TapSpeak Button, a single message communication app and moving through to TapSpeak Sequence and TapSpeak Choice, they offer a range of switch accessible apps for a range of AAC users.

Alexicom Tech (USA)
Developers of the world’s first Internet-based (but not Internet-dependent) AAC System. It works anytime, anywhere on iPad, Android, PC and Mac. AlexicomAAC is a full featured AAC app which is also switch accessible and has a range of other exciting features.

Tobii ATI (Sweden)
Tobii ATI develop a wide range of AAC technologies including their new AAC app Sono Flex. Offering a continuation with the page sets available for Tobii Communicator, Sono Flex offers a combination of core vocabulary and situation specific page sets to meet the needs of a wide range of learners. They will be represented at the conference by Link-AT in Australia.

Attainment Company (USA)
Attainment have also recently released an AAC App. To complement their existing range of speech generating devices, the well-known GoTalk range, the GoTalk Now app offers great templates for making a range of communication displays for different users with options such as text-to-speech, digitised speech and a range of image imports available as you design each page.  The Attainment Switch app also provides the option of turning your iPad or iPhone into a switch - and can be used to control a computer or another iPad running GoTalk Now.

In addition to all listed above, suppliers and/or developers of dedicated speech generating devices from DynaVox, Tobii ATI, Liberator (PRC), Toby Churchill, Attainment, Saltillo and AMDi will also be available to answer your many questions in this rapidly evolving sphere of technologies. We are really very excited to have ALL on board for you!!

Win a trip to the USA for just sharing your AbleNet technologies story at ILT2012. No catches!

A sample of the Closing Session Prize Pool showing various resources, switches, communication devices and tools.

Do you use any of the above pictured “easy-tech” tools from AbleNet in your classroom or disability support organisation? Do you use any at home? Tools like the PowerLink 4 Control Unit, BIGMack, Step-by-Step Communicators, All-Turn-It Spinner, the MEville to WEville Early Literacy and Communication Skills Curriculum Collection, Jelly Bean or Jelly Beamer switches, or the popular SuperTalker Progressive Communicator? Any other AbleNet technologies?

If you do, and if you share your story about how you use these technologies, AND you are attending the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference in May 2012, you will be in the running to win a fabulous prize of a fully-funded return trip from Australia or New Zealand to the USA in January 2013 to attend the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference in Orlando, Florida. A prize worth over $5000 ... and just a 10 minute drive to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Centre” (in case you are so inclined)!

We sincerely thank AbleNet, as a conference Gold Sponsor, for making this opportunity available as the ATIA conference offers many opportunities to hear presentations by prominent assistive technology practitioners from across the globe. It also includes an extensive trade exhibit hall, again featuring all key assistive technology suppliers from many different countries. A great chance to update your knowledge and form lasting valuable contacts.

What do you have to do to enter the competition?

It’s simple! Just register to attend the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2012 and show us how you are using AbleNet technologies in the classroom, within your school, organisation or at home. Submit a presentation (in any format) to tell your story and to share with other Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference delegates over the days of our event. The only proviso is that all entries must be submitted online by Friday 4th May 2012. An online entry form will be coming soon, but if you have any questions at all, just contact Eliza Bale, Conference Convenor on conference@spectronicsinoz.com.

Maybe spend some time thinking about how you might like to be in the running to win over your Christmas/New Year break? Especially as we have no entries to date. Could you be the lucky winner?

Jane Farrall leaving Spectronics in early 2012

Jane Farrall presenting a workshop

Jane Farrall, Spectronics' hard-working, talented and uber-dedicated Senior Speech Pathologist and AAC Support Services Manager will be leaving Spectronics on January 20th next year. After nearly seven years as part of the Spectronics Professional Services Team, she has decided to venture out on her own as an independent consultant.

While we are sad to be losing such a fabulous member of the Spectronics family, we are excited for the opportunities ahead for Jane too. We will continue to work collaboratively with Jane for some professional development activities - as we do with other independent assistive technology consultants across Australia and New Zealand. Jane is also presenting workshops and is one of the Keynote Presenters at the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference in May next year.

Looking back, what was the world of our technologies like seven years ago when Jane joined us? Spectronics had just opened its first office in New Zealand and Boardmaker Plus had just been released. Jane spent her first month with us thoroughly exploring a pre-release beta version of
Clicker 5, then trained up all at Spectronics. Remember the huge learning curve for Clicker 4 users on release of that new version? Australian voices appeared for the first time in a text-to-speech program - Texthelp Read&Write GOLD - and DynaVox users were still on Series 4 devices. Remember the MiniMo and MightyMo? And of course, the iPad, which now takes up so much of Jane's time and energy, was but a mere glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye!

We will miss you Jane! But look forward to working with you in new ways in future.

TarHeel Reader Books: A great resource for iBooks on your iPad

As the Spectronics consultancy team travel around Australia and New Zealand, they are often asked about how to create customised books and bookshelves on the iPad. Books which students can read in self-selected reading time or just for their own enjoyment.

Jane Farrall, Spectronics' Senior Speech Pathologist, recently wrote a helpful guide which steps you through the process of creating books for the iPad, iPod touch or iPhone starting with books on the TarHeel Reader website. The resource-rich TarHeel Reader site offers over 20,000 ready-made ebooks which can be transferred to your iPad by following Jane’s helpful directions in her Spectronics blog post titled “TarHeel Reader Books - a great resource for iBooks on your iPad”.

Boardmaker Studio: Multi-site licensing and no more CD in the drive!

Boardmaker Studio product box

Boardmaker Studio, the first update to Boardmaker for a number of years, was released late last year. It is becoming very popular now, so it might be timely to take another look at why you might consider upgrading your current copies of Boardmaker or Boardmaker Plus! to Boardmaker Studio.

What are the advantages of Boardmaker Studio?

  • No CD in the drive is required to run the program! This has been an issue for many Boardmaker users in the past, and is eliminated as a problem with Studio.
  • Multi-site licensing for organisations is possible with licences able to be remotely rolled out via an innovative online District Management Centre (DMC) making management of the licences purchased very streamlined as shown in this explanatory video. This great system for managing software across multiple geographic sites is now available in Australia and New Zealand for purchases of just 10 or more licences.
  • Seamless integration with 1000’s of free activities on the BoardmakerShare Activity Exchange site is built into the program.
  • Hundreds of “Studio Starter Templates and Gadgets” are provided to help speed up creation of onscreen activities.

If you would like to see Boardmaker Studio in action, you are welcome to view the pre-recorded one hour webinar by Charlene Cullen or click here to sign up to join Katie Lyon’s live webinar being run next week on Wednesday 30th November. Charlene and Katie are both Speech Pathologists at Spectronics and have many years of practical use of Boardmaker behind them. We are also building more recorded sessions for you and will let you know about these via our Blog and in our next emailed newsletter to you.

Pricing for upgrading single user copies of any prior version of Boardmaker to Boardmaker Studio are available on the Spectronics website. If you would like a quote for the cost of upgrading multiple copies of Boardmaker to Boardmaker Studio, please contact Spectronics on mail@spectronics.com.au in Australia or mail@spectronics.co.nz in New Zealand and we will be happy to assist.

Amazing Sensory Guru technologies now here in ANZ

Multi-sensory Room technologies have not changed dramatically for many years, but Sensory Guru in the UK is now ramping it up in amazing ways! They are turning around largely passive environments, offering options for active participation and for a progression of skills development within a multi-sensory environment.

The Magic Carpet interactive projection system is just one of their new technologies. The system projects interactive games and images onto the floor so that users can play with and control the images simply by moving on or over the projected image - even with the slightest of movements. Its multi-user interaction supports group activities allowing for collaborative play with able-bodied peers. Add in the
Tobii PCEye, (a clip-on eye control device for a computer) and Sensory Eye FX software, and students with even the most significant physical disabilities can actively participate in games with their peers. They can join in by controlling the fun Magic Carpet activities by eye control alone. A great way to build competence in eye control before moving on to more demanding applications too.

Mmm ... it’s hard to convey how cool these tools are with words alone. Click here to watch a short video to help to bring it all to life for you!

To see some of the other truly innovative multi-sensory environment installations being created by the Sensory Guru team in the UK, visit their website or join their active Facebook Group. Their inspirational catalogue of options and ideas is also wonderful to flick through.

The great news just in this week is that these technologies are now available across Australia and New Zealand from Bas Tijdhof at Link-AT Assistive Technology in Adelaide. Bas will also be displaying the Magic Carpet and EyeFX at the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2012. It will be a popular (and fun) exhibit for sure!

Sensory Eye Control system
Magic Carpet Interactive Projection System showing an overlay of a soccer field
Magic Carpet Interactive Projection System

iAdapter for iPad no longer available from Spectronics

iAdapter for iPad

The iPad is attracting a lot of attention in the special ed/learning support arena at present. Some considered. Some media hype. But it definitely does have a place in the special ed technology toolkit.

One of the areas in which it falls down is its volume in social settings for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users. It needs additional amplification to make it more successful as an AAC option when there is other ambient noise. The iAdapter from AMDi is a rugged protective case with in built speakers which allow for much higher volume output from the iPad.

Spectronics did sell the iAdapter for the original iPad and the iAdapter 2 for the iPad 2 for a short time, but we are no longer supplying it. It is still available however from Adam Lynn at Communicate AT in Australia and from Desktop Technology Services (DTSL) in New Zealand. Hope this helps you to track one down!

More resources from the Spectronics team including PowerPoint presentations

Scoop.it screenshot

We are constantly finding new ways of sharing great articles, links and resources with you, with the Spectronics Blog being the central place for display of all of our resources. We are also adding posts by new Guest Bloggers - including Gerry Kennedy from Australia and Ian Bean from the UK. Did you know you can now sign up to be notified by email every time a new Blog post is uploaded? Some people tell us that they find this easier than trying to keep track of RSS feeds.


Our latest find is Scoop.it - a really cool and visually-rich “magazine style” presentation of information. The Spectronics team is now collating content for six different topic areas on Scoop.it. Why not check them out and follow the topics of interest to you if you find this a cool way to receive your news.


We are SO often asked for copies of the PowerPoint presentations used by the Spectronics team for workshop and conference session presentations, that we have started putting them up online at Slideshare for you to view and share with others. Visit the Spectronics Slideshare page and join the 7,000 other visitors we have had since the page went live a few months ago! We will soon be incorporating these into the Spectronics Blog pages too. Another good reason to subscribe to the Blog.