For those working in literacy and special needs, 'Clicker' software is a legend. John Galloway greets version 7

No one can accuse the good people of Crick Software of resting on their laurels. Clicker has been in our classrooms for nearly 30 years, largely because it is constantly reinvented. 

They don’t just tweak it and call it an upgrade, they listen to users, check technology developments and rebuild it - as now with Clicker 7

The current model of software has moved to one of apps, which is how we could look at this latest offering. It's a suite of applications that can operate separately, but can also come together depending on how you want to work. Those familiar with the various iPad titles Crick now provides will see them reflected here. 

That’s not to say Clicker 6 users won’t feel at home too. Everything it has done before is still there but is now easier to use, and with added functionality. 

Children's voices for speech options

There are simple changes such as the use of drag-and-drop in grids. Whereas you once had to click on something to cut and paste it, now you can also drag it, more like how a tablet interface works. Then there is the inclusion of children’s voices, one male, one female, in the speech options which should make it more appealing and engaging. No longer is it a grown-up voice reading aloud what has been written by children.

More fundamental changes include the introduction of Clicker Boards. This is a flexible working space where activities such as mind mapping, sorting and sequencing, or even creating a Venn diagram, can be carried out. Once completed, a click of a button turns the content into a set of writing grids offering support for learners to independently demonstrate what they have learnt. 

The inclusion of SuperKeys is welcome, too. This was originally developed for iPad users with poor fine motor control to increase the target area on the screen. Essentially the keyboard is divided into sections that are magnified when clicked to increase the target area, making letters easier to pick out. In Clicker 7 they will also provide welcome support for eyegaze users, which it is now configured for. 

Voice Notes allows casual verbal prompts and reminders

Alongside providing completely new elements there are also enhancements to the existing sections. Voice Notes can now be added to writing documents. As the name suggests these are short recordings created either by the writer or the teacher as prompts and reminders. Then there is the ‘Word Pool’ facility to teach the software tricky pronunciations, or to add specific words and meanings to the predictor and spellchecker. The predictor function itself has been improved with better ‘sound-alike’ prediction, so ‘vurshon’ will be seen as ‘version’ for instance. 

The online stock of ready-made materials at Learninggrids.com is being expanded too, although creating your own is also easier, particularly as the editing process is now less demanding. Book layouts have facilities to drag and move things around, or to re-size them, and the types of writing grids can all be remodeled rather than having to start again. So a straightforward grid of words in order can become a jumbled one with a model, either something visual on-screen, or an oral one with the sentence heard aloud.   

ClickerPaint is also integrated into the toolbar, now, so it is easier to use, more flexible, and always available. 

The increase in what’s on offer, and the improvements in how it all works are reflected in the price. A single user licence is £250, with discounts for existing Clicker 6 users. While this may seem a bit steep a welcome change is that staff and pupils are now covered by school site licences for home use, so the former can prepare work, and the latter complete it when away from the premises. 

Overall, this latest iteration of Clicker makes it even more inclusive than ever, spreading the range of possible users even further, from those who have no challenges to learning, to those with considerable and profound ones. The problem for schools  - a welcome one - may well be in getting the most from all that it offers.  

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5 (so many possibilities)
Ease of use           4 (improving all the time)
Features               4.5 (to leave room for future developments)
Quality                 5 (a lot of thought has gone into this)  
Value for money    4 (you get what you pay for - but it may challenge constrained budgets )  

Clicker 7
Literacy software for PC and Mac. Pricing starts at £250 and upgrades this year are at 40 per cent discount. A school site license is £2,200. Full details of prices on the website. With the site licence for Clicker 7, not only can teacher’s and TAs (teaching assistants) use the software on their home computers, but pupils can too. This home access for pupils is only available with the site licence option.
See here for the Clicker apps that are available for iPad
BETT Stand D240

John Galloway, co-author of Learning with Mobile and Handheld Technologies, is an adviser, writer and consultant who specialises in ICT for SEN and inclusion. He works with local authorities, a range of schools and provides training for educators at every level. At 2pm on Wednesday January 20, he will be talking about 'computing and assessment of SEN pupils' in the Learn Live SEN theatre, along with Catherine Elliott of Sheffield CLC.