Thursday, April 23, 2009

Adapted Learning Print Editor to Go Live Soon

Yesterday I had a very interesting web conference with Bob from Mayer-Johnson about some of the features they are planning for their new Print Editor (which remains in public beta if you want to try it out).

Print Editor is a feature of Adapted Learning that will allow you to open files stored your "my files" section of Adapted Learning and change them before directly printing them. No downloading, no need for you Boardmaker disc. This will eliminate the issues many of us have with not being allowed to download files or not having Boardmaker installed on the same computer as the internet.

Print Editor is a very rich application within an application. Although it shouldn't be expected to do everything Boardmaker does it actually comes very close. The key thing to remember is that it is an editor not a creator (although from what I saw in the web conference you can come very, very close to creating full materials with Print Editor, which is very cool for some of those crazy, last minute kind of days when everything is working against you. The only thing you really can't do is create symbolated text, but you can edit symbolated text). You can change buttons - everything from the symbols in them to the text, to the lines, to symbolation. You can create new buttons. You can clear one button or multiple buttons (allowing you to create a template from a board in one fell swoop).

My favorite thing is that Bob told me the developers are very close to fixing the bug that wouldn't allow you to print out multiple boards saved as one board. I use the multiple board feature frequently.

I have heard from some parents who are worried that teachers will use Print Editor to download boards without changing them and hand them out to kids with out putting any though into curriculum or methodology. I think Print Editor may actually cut down on that. If teachers can easily open boards and change them, without too many extra steps getting in the way, I think they are more likely to customize those boards. At least I hope so. Our time is always at a premium, so the more of it we spend on customizing and the less on saving to flash drives, carrying to another computer, opening in Boardmaker, editting and then printing the better.

Of course the question people ask when something comes out of beta is, "how much?" Print Editor will be a subscription service. It will cost about $80 a year, less if you sign up for multiple years. At first it will be credit cards only, no purchase orders (some kinks to work out of the system before they can offer P.O.s). You will have to have a licensed copy of Boardmaker to subscribe to Print Editor and your subscription will be tied to your Adapted Learning log on (and if you share your log on only one person can use Print Editor at a time - which I think is very generous, they could have made it so only one person can log on at a time).

I know for a fact that Mayer-Johnson reads the comments here, so comment away, you will be heard.

P.S. Bonus nerd factoid - Adapted Learning can track things about the boards we post, i.e. if most of us put a symbolated title on most board then they start thinking, hmmm... how can we make that easier for people. They can tell how many boards are interactive vs. print only, how many use advanced features, how many are for what age groups, what topics and subjects we frequently make boards for then they can use that info to make Boardmaker better for all of us. I am thinking Boardmaker 7 will be, as the kids say, "da bomb!"

(And Bob told me that Mayer-Johnson heard their customers loud and clear about Boardmaker Player on a flashdrive - he couldn't say more and who knows if "heard" means they are doing anything (they would be dumb not to) but I am thinking we should get excited!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Proloquo2Go in the iTunes Ap Store!

Proloquo2Go, Assistiveware's and Sennott Consulting AAC software that runs on an iPod Touch or iPhone is now officially available to the public at the iTunes ap store online or via your iPod Touch or iPhone. Envision balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling!

I was privileged enough to be the coordinator for a young woman who beta tested the software and let me tell you it is some amazing stuff. Amazing!

The software is sleek, intuitive and well designed. The teacher of the young lady beta testing said to me last week, "Can I just tell you, this thing is the best thing since mayonnaise!" This teacher, AAC user and speech therapy assistant had never really used anything higher tech than a Go Talk 4+. Yet the software is so well designed that the student and paraprofessionals had it figured out immediately. Those of us who have had extensive literacy, language and cognitive development training will take one look at Proloquo2Go and see the lastest research jump out at us. There are no features thrown in because they are the next hot thing (visual scene displays) inspite of very little supportive literature across broad bases of AAC users, there are just many, many features that are supported by well studied aspects of special education, speech and language development, lingiuistics and other fields.

This reasearch has lead to the software has many higher level features that our beta testing student doesn't need, like automatic verb tensing and grammatical features, which will greatly benefit many users. Additionally it is configured to us Goosen color coding out of the box to add phrase and sentence composing users.

The voice is smooth and easy to understand. The symbols are SymbolStix from the News-2-You folks and seem to easily generalize to students who are used to Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols.

Our beta testing student uses an iMainGo case to amplify the voice and protect against bumps and bangs. I am sure there are other case options out there.

I honestly cannot recommend this software application enough. It isn't for everyone (i.e. not for users who need a keyguard, switch access, eye or head tracking, etc.), but any clinic or clinician should have it on hand to trial (especially at the trial price it is being offered at right now) to test with users who have decent vision and good fine motor skills.

Please remember that like all AAC it is important to properly evaluate the user for an appropriate device, with the right features. It is necessary to collect data on AAC usage, to use a TEAM approach with the SLP as the lead and the involvement of the user and the family during the programming and updating phase (which is much shorter on the Proloquo2Go because it is so well designed). We all get jazzed about cool new tools, but they become old, dusty tools if we get them for us and not the user!

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Kitchen Computers" in Our Classrooms

Most of us in the severe and profound branch of special education were/are bypassed by the netbook phenomenon. (I certainly tried with an Asus eee.) Netbooks just don't met the needs of our students. No CD/DVD drive means no way to easily install specialized software like Boardmaker, Classroom Suite or Clicker5, besides the limited memory means it couldn't handle the software anyways. The tiny screen don't work well for low vision students and after you attach your switches and interfaces all of the extra stuff takes up more space than the actual netbook. Also you needed some serious soldering skills to attach a touch screen.

The next hot new thing in computing looks to be "kitchen computers". These are all-in-one computers that are essentially just large touchscreen monitors with everything inside, often times including wifi, CD/DVD, integrated webcam, microphone and speakers and about 2G of RAM and 160 G or so of hard drive. (Those specs are for the MSI wind.)

The MSI wind shown here can be pre-ordered for $530
. The Asus Eee Top costs $600, while Dell's all-in-one machine, (not in the US yet) has been priced at $800 for a touchscreen model.

At those prices, with just the right amount of power and no need for an external touch screen I can see these turning up in many severe special needs classrooms. The nice thing will be when they are broken it won't cost and arm and a leg to replace it.

Another thing to watch might be the new Crunch Pads.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Resources for this Week's News-2-You: City Bikes

City Bikes

General Resources
Life Skills/Social Studies
Arts and Crafts
  • make street signs (then use in adapted P.E. see below)
Adapted P.E.
  • make an obstacle course where students follow street signs they have made (can be on bikes if you have any riders
  • pedal palooza - have students pedal either using hand pedalers, stationary bikes, adapted bikes or regular bikes - earn points for minutes pedaled and give prizes
  • set up several fans with switches and attach crepe paper and foil streamers (connection - clean air)
  • get some remote control toy bike (toy motorcycles are fine) and adapt for switches or run via IR on AAC devices hold races or derbies

Avoidance, Anemia and Our Kids

This is one of those rare personal posts, skip it if you are looking for all sped info (although there is some towards the end.)

Some of you have noticed and e-mailed me about my lack of posts lately. I have noticed my lack of posts as well. I have just been so tired. I get home from work and fall asleep. I try not to, I try to force myself to do all the things I normally do, but to no avail. I had my yearly physical about six weeks ago and all the results were as they always are: my diabetes is in perfect control (thanks miracle pump!), my blood pressure was good, etc, etc. I had low iron, but I always have low iron and was told to eat more leafy greens and red meat, except I don't really eat red meat in order to keep my cholesterol down.

I thought maybe my fatigue was starting on my allergy medication since it was spring, or maybe it was just the time of the year, but finally I gave in and went to the doctor again on Friday afternoon. This time my low iron had depleted even more and was officially anemic. I was prescribed iron and B-12 and sent on my way.

Since getting home from the appointment 48 hours I have logged 36 hours of sleep. No, I am not kidding. That is how completely exhausted was. Now that I am up and have done a couple of errands I am ready for bed again. I am thinking about my students, about all of our special needs students with communication difficulties.

How would they communicate to us that they are this exhausted? How would they let us know that they aren't just tired, that they aren't just fatigued, that they are exhausted beyond comprehension? It was hard enough to play detective on myself and I live in this body, how do we do it for our students or for our children? I was scolding myself, saying, "Kate, for crying out loud, you just went to the doctor, there is nothing wrong with you, suck it up and get busy!" I was wondering if I was engaging in avoidance behavior and if so what exactly was I avoiding? Now I have a lab slip that says that it wasn't avoidance, it was anemia. Now I can cut myself some slack, take the iron and the B-12, eat a steak and a bowl of spinach, and take a long nap twice a day until I feel like myself again.

I know to rule out the medical first with my students. I teach positive behavior support classes to teachers and paraprofessionals several times a year and I drill into their heads to rule out the medical first, but are we doing a good enough job with that? Are we looking at all the signs in front of us? Are we ruling out the right things? Are we being proactive and teaching our students how to communicate how they are feeling physically and emotionally and what they need?

Are we really looking at what they are showing us with their behavior and demeanor and not jumping to conclusions? Are we thinking outside the box and using our empathy to figure out what is going on? If one of our students were this exhausted would we have figured it out?

What do you think?

Lincoln Logs at Annie's Resource Attic

Annie's Resource Attic has just posted a great new activity around Lincoln Logs and log cabins. She explains it far better than I ever could so head over and check it out!

P.S. As always she has Clicker5, Classroom Suite, Dynavox and PowerPoint versions of various options.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Switch Mixer Lite

Barrie over at One Switch has posted a great new activity called Switch Mixer Lite that plays wav sound effects randomly in a preset order or play the same sound repeatedly by pressing a switch (set your interface to "1").

This could be used as a cause and effect or in any or the following ways:
  • convert songs to wavs (use or similar site) and use as a music player
  • do the same with clips of audio books
  • record a spelling list, math quiz or similar with each question as a single wav file and have the switch user administer the test to peers
  • record commands for a game like red light/green light
  • play sound effects for a haunted house or similar event
  • play wavs of jokes
  • record the numbers one through six or the colors, set to random and use as an audio dice or spinner
  • record favorite quotes from a movie or book and play name the character
  • record the opening line or two from songs and play name that tune
Here are places you can get wav files

Thursday, April 9, 2009

300,000 Visits!
Seriously, I started this little blog as a way to kill time while I mended from ankle surgery three and a half years ago. I never dreamed I would one day have over 700 posts and 300,000 visits to the site! (And if I had known this site would not have such a long address, that is for sure!) Those numbers are just mind boggling.

The benefits of writing a blog as a special educator have been many. I have finally found a way to be a know-it-all and be appreciated instead of annoying. I have met, online and in person, many people, including parents, therapists, people in the curriculum, AT and AAC fields and people with disabilities that I have come to value in my life. I have gained professional knowledge through the research I have done to write posts and respond to questions. I have had opportunities to write articles, give presentations and workshops and participate in beta trials of software and devices I would have never had if I didn't write this blog. (By the way if you need an article, speaker or presenter, drop me an e-mail! I love writing, speaking and presenting!) Most of all I have grown as a teacher. I try new things and reflect more on what I do and how I do it. That is more important than anything else.

Thank you all for visiting and keep coming back!

April 10, 2009 More Reflection on Blogging
Thank you all for your kind comments and e-mails on my 300,000th visit! Keep 'em coming, I need to be able to think about them on those days when I can't think of anything to blog about, don't feel like combing the web or my RSS reader for material and just don't have it in me to do one more thing. Those of you who commented on being budding bloggers, having just established your own blogs - welcome to the party! -Kate

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dr. Seuss's AACs

(A Poem about Augmentative & Alternative Communication)
re-printed with permission from I am Micro-Managing
(Another of my favorite parents of special kids blogs)

Did you know there are some
for whom speaking is tough?
Who use signing, and pictures,
and pointing, and stuff?

But those methods can lack;
They can frustrate all!
(And leave us each feeling
quite helpless and small.)

But there are cool new ways
for a voice to be heard,
and to be understood,
without saying a word!

These high-tech-y tools
are expensive and rare...
but each time I check,
a brand new one is there!

They're newer than new,
and they sparkle and shine,
with computering parts
that are finer than fine!

Oh, the wonderful things these devices can do!
They can scroll straight to "cow"! They can help you say "Moo!"
They can show you a "bowl" or a "sister" or "bus;"
they can help you say "Help!" with such minimal fuss!

Take oodles of photos!
Build word lists galore!
Use the voice of your choice,
speak in school -- or the store!

Give your puppy a name!
Select lunch on your own;
ask for milk, juice, or pop!
Even talk on the phone!

Give your teachers a way
to test how much you know!
Tell your dad that
your shoe is too tight on your toe!

Request movies by name!
Then, just for a lark,
tell your mom that you want
to eat cheese in the park!

Yes, the world is your oyster,
and you are it's pearl;
Communication's the KEY
for each boy and each girl!

It's exciting and fresh --
talking fun that is fun!
But there IS a small catch:
You can only have ONE!

The selection is vast;
the technology new.
Take a carefullish look;
Find the one right for YOU!

Do you need overlays?
Would a camera be nice?
Do you like Unity?
Or would Minspeak suffice?

Are we shooting towards goals
of literacy?
Is it helpful to have
just a small qwerty key?

And how many screens --
sixty-four or just three?

What? What's that? What's that that you say?
You say 64 is the magical way?
Sixty-four will display all the things you might say?

(Are you sure that's not
far too much stuff in the way??)

Or maybe it is?
You really don't know?

How do we decide
which direction to go?

There are all shapes and sizes,
and colors galore!
But we can't try them all,
and they keep making more!

Should one organize words
by theme or by list?
Have a visual base,
or conceptual twist?

And how does it feel?
Does it fit in your hand?
Do you have to sit down?
Will it work when you stand?

Can you use it in rain?
See the screen in the sun?
Can you lock the controls?
Charge it up on the run?

Is it easy to clean?
Will it fit in your bag?
Is there user support
without having to nag?

Is it heavy to hold?
Are there cords in the way?
Can it actually say
all you hope, dream, and pray?

Does it need USBs?
Or expansioning packs?
Is it easy to learn,
yet has challenging tracks?

Is the camera built-in?
Are there symbols or pix?
Can it play any games?
Does it do any tricks?

Will it speak Japanese?
Can it surf on the web?
If I buy the upgrade,
will it dootle or fleb?

Can it dance the fandango
or do the Watusi?
Does it have shoulder straps,
or clip to one's caboose-y?

Is it bluetooth compat?
Does it lay golden eggs?
Can it walk by itself
on its wee robot legs?

Is it unbreakable?
Does it use rocket fuel?
Can it fly on its own
to and from my son's school?

Does it come with its very own echo-locator?
(And if lost, will it come right back --
sooner than later?)
All this pick-y and choose-y
and question-y stuff
makes my head feel all woozy!

So which choice is best?
Which one passes each test?
Which rises above all the lowlier rest?
From near and from far,
North, South, East, or West,
which one is the

How I dread, dread, dread, DREAD
sorting through in my head...
Can't anyone out there

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Video of the Day

My class has been struggling with our music video of the day ventures. More and more video sites on the internet are blocked everyday and we have essentially given up on music videos.

An option that was shared on the Free Technology for Teachers website that will fill 13 mornings of "VotD" (Video of the Day) is CBBC's One Minute Wonders.

Each video also has a corresponding quiz.

Power Point Collections

Most of us (I think) have been using Pete's Power Point Station and Jefferson County's Power Points to find Power Points to use in our classrooms. Here are some other Power Point collections to add to our tool boxes:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Icon Talk Fold Up

This Positive Behavior Support came up on the QIAT Listserv the other day. It is from the Icon Talk website. Called a "Fold Up" it has visual cues, first/next, tokens, and more all in one support. Check it out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Free Picture Symbols

Alexia Symbols are a collection of symbols from France (Translated via Google Translate). They are free for non-commercial use. You can import the symbols into Boardmaker or PhotoSYMS if needed. In addition you can sign up for e-mails of any new symbols.

Thanks to Teaching Students with Learning Difficulties for the tip.

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