ASK – Alexa Skills Kit

So much to learn. ASK has just made a change that might make skill creation a little easier. There are webinairs and skill building days jn the state and international cities like Berlin. But you can make the most of access to their videos start with this webinair:-

Alexa Developer Webinair

Combining and Integrating Technologies


“All I want to do is search the internet and watch my films”

AbilityNet Client

Sounds straightforward? But in practise when you are:-

  • totally blind
  • no hand/finger function

It is incredibly difficult to do!

I have been working with this client for over 18 months now. We have looked at a variety of solutions. Echo Dot has been successful in giving the client a leisure activity playing music and accessing books and games using her voice to control . The Amazon Fire Stick is the next project to integrate with the Echo Dot to extend the range of programs with audio description available. It does have a menu that is spoken but requires the remote to scan the menu- not possible with no hand/finger function.

So it was a joy when using Dragon Dictate 13 and Sero ( and found that simple commands such as “SEARCH” “PRESS ENTER” and “TAB” could navigate and select items on Sero that the client used to be able to do.

I now have the task of trying to get the laptop to start up and switch down. Once the on button is pressed the client can control all the computer’s functions at startup. One solution is to never the shut the laptop down. Have it go into hibernation and then wake it up with a command. This is my next goal along with making the Amazon Fire stick do more than “stop” and “play” a channel using the Echo Dot as input.

Simple questions like the one this post started with often have quite complex answers which frustrates the client/user. In an ideal world we would just love the tech to just work and integrate seemlessly with each other. Ah well…. role on Artifical Intelligence which does offer that possibility!

This guy deserves a quote!

This came through my LinkedIn and thought the website and the article really makes a lot of sense. So  Dave Mac this is your call out! I love this article presentations tips that are BS.

I think teachers / administrators and just about anyone who puts someone through a boring powerpoint presentation. When it’s the speaker and what they have to say that counts. Personally speaking its your personality that counts – and of course your hard won wisdom. Put them together and no matter what you put on the screen your audience will be engaged.  Of course, it’s important to be designed competently but that it’s really it. You either have it or you don’t have it!

So thank you Dave Mac for pointing this out to us! I salute you!

Find my iPhone


I had occasion to use this feature that is on all iOS mobile devices. I walked to a client’s house with my backpack with (I thought) my iPad in the backpack. I then had to travel on bus to a nearby town to see my daughter.

It was while I was there that I found there was no iPad in my backpack! I retraced in my mind where this could be . At the client’s house? On the bus?  It was then I realised this feature “Find my iPhone” and to give peace of mind I checked the map to see that the iPad had never left my home!

There are other apps that do a similar thing such as “Find my family” which helps to track your children’s whereabouts via their iOS device. This is good for knowing when your partner, child, etc are  about to arrive home as an alert occurs when they drive up the home’s road!

There is an Android equivalent ” Find my Phone” so this means that the commonly produced smartphones have this feature.

App Mapping Database

Wouldn’t be good if you knew what an app can do before you buy it? Well I have for a number of years been collecting, classifying and evaluating a number of apps which you can see on this website under “Apps”  and then “Online App Database”

You can also add your own apps and classify them according to pre-set values. To do this follow the link here or on “Apps”:-

Enter your app here

It’s completely free and open 24hrs a day without the need for passwords or usernames! Enjoy!

Find My Flow

Find my flow is from Launchpad and is designed to be used as a supportive tool for students who have received DSA funding for assistive technology and for students who  prefer to learn when they want to without the need for face to face training.

First impressions – impressive and clearly and helpfully laid out. If I struggled with reading text the icons guide me and the layout encourages me to work in a linear fashion. Then there are the helpful videos ! They are graphically interesting and very easy to follow, not too long and above not patronizing!

find my flow

I think the use goes beyond DSA. It could be used by any secondary pupil who wants to find out more about specific software packages. Getting the message across about study skills is the need!! Teaching students how to learn is often neglected due to time pressures sand AT is so detailed Find My Flow  is  perfect for that.

There is a helpful note aid memoire at the bottom where notes can be made. I made one as a lecturer to make sure I put my presentation up on the online portal well ahead of time.

At the end of any section there is a task to do which backs up the learning just done.

Well done Launchpad! Good job! Finally, let me quote what they say about this product:-

“FindMyFlow is an online study resource that uniquely combines Study Skills with Assistive Technology. Like to see FindMyFlow in action? Drop us an email today to book a demonstration. We also provide free complimentary licences to Assessors.”

BETT Show Report – Day 2

For the second day I programmed myself to go to the seminars and to contact hardware and software suppliers in the show. Having been disappointed at the lack of SEN input yesterday I was determined to make the most of it today. So I started with :-
Accessible Ai – talk BETT arena – Friday 26th January 2018
A very exciting and interesting seminar which said :
  • AI Predicted to increase over the next decade
  • China racing the US in impacting this market
AI offers Deep learning- voice and image recognition which is already here
Seeing Ai available – a product that has been created by Microsoft I believe that makes sense of the world through the mobile device camera. You can download it on the all store and will be enourmously helpful to the blind community. It is freely available now.
In terms of what skills we shall need to make the most of this explosion of AI in the future we shall need:-
  • Investment in maths for young people, programmers,engineers
  • AI will Invade all our lives in the future


There is a schools’s project which has just been run that gives 6 Stand alone sessions using video imaging and amazon servers.
And now for the exhibition stands
 At stand 440 robitixs usa – this uses programmable tiles to create learning events.
Suitable for even pre-school. A hand held device using NFC tag technology or similar has created learning events that speak.
 Padcaster is an expensive but useful tool which if I had the money (around £1000) i would buy where all the tools for producing professional video from video , sound capture, lighting and teleprompt are built in
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Texthelp with Google Education explaining the free benefits that are available to help dyslexic users via Google Chrome

Back to the talks… for a sitdown!
Stephen Heppell – Workload and Wellbeing
 Stephen Heppell on co2 in the classroom- note the quote on adhd 
Stephen inspires and shows insight into present education system by focusing on health and wellbeing not only in the uk but worldwide
Look at the Christmas tree trail! Great idea for mapping and treasure trail. Get your pupils to draw over a screenshot of an area and draw on it. Then go outside and do the walk or cycle ride till you complete the shale using GPS.
How we make gains in the sports world is by marginal gains if only we apply this to education!
Where can we move one step forward in making maginal changes and improvements.
Lack of finance doesn’t stop innovation
Ideas for creating innovative learning spaces.
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Learning situations that work.Act of asking works – despite budget cuts
Where do we get esteem? Tell people. How good to thank people and encourage each others success.
Engage with adventurous learning – world champions breaking records from the guiness book of records. Shout it out!
What’s next?
  • Quantum computing and AI
  • Qubits – you can do anything you like. What can you do with your learning.
  • Blockchain – completely opposite of multi-academy
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Be on the right not on the left!! It’s both/and but we need to consider how important to our well-being the right hand side is when currently our IT education is more on the right side with computing and programming. 
Interesting talk by a parent – Emilie-Kate Kidd
Individualised assessments company
Charity funding assessments
And now from the head teacher of the school her son attended.
Joey Burgess , Blosson House School
She emphasised that the system was letting sen children down as result of underfunded and over- stretched educational system. She offered some tips to help teachers in supporting special needs pupils such as smile and encourage. Don’t use the negative use the positive “after we do this you will be able to do what you wanted to do.”
Back to the exhibition……
TTS stand also has some interesting products for SEN . Easi-speak microphone has gone Bluetooth with better buttons and the facility to send to a Bluetooth speaker for the class to hear!
There is a wrist band device which can be programmed with a short  message. Useful for cerebral palsy children but not yet perfect as it requires accuracy for the child to activate the device. I think if they make it the whole area switchable then it would be great for that need.
Octagon studios have produced an augmented reality set of cards that you can download an app to activate. Dinosaur 4D+ and Humanoid 4D+ are the packs I bought at a bargain show price of 2 for £10 i think the normal price is £15 per pack. Which in the dinosaur case gives you 14 dinosaurs to play with . I particularly like the t-rex as i can make him walk around the room and over people using a joystick control. Not all the dinosaurs do that!!
That is my visual tour of BETT 2018!
I also visited 2Simple software and had a chat with long-time colleague and friend Nigel Canvin who introduced me to his team and looked in depth at the tools and activities on Purple Mash  which is online teacher lesson resource and tools area to create activities. I will be using it on my pupil’s 1:1 where I have internet access.
Also did a short interview with Russell Prue on his BETT Radio station about current trends in SEN, apps and new technology and their assistive uses such as the Amazon Echo Dot – a cost effective device . A useful website for creative apps to use with the Echo Dot is . You can create useful workarounds as you can’t email directly from the echo dot but you can set up to 20 people to be emailed when you add an item to your shopping list!