Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Computers are increasingly present in early childhood classrooms, and they can be a fun way for young children to learn and interact with their peers. For young children with disabilities, however, access to computers can be a challenge. Fortunately, many options are available to help children use the computer so they can develop important early learning skills. Here are several popular options.
Touch Screen: Placed on or built into a computer monitor, a touch screen allows the user to activate the computer or select a program by touching the screen instead of using a mouse. The ability to make a direct selection is helpful for children who may have difficulty understanding the relationship between the mouse and the cursor on the monitor.
Switch: When a child is unable to use a standard keyboard or mouse, a switch offers a helpful alternative. Connected to the computer through a device called an interface, a switch is usually a large, one-button device that is activated when the child presses it. Scanning software moves across the choices on the screen, and the child presses the switch when the preferred option is highlighted. Software programs designed for children with disabilities often have scanning available in their options menus. If not, users must purchase scanning software separately.
Alternative Mouse: For young children who understand how to use a mouse but find the size daunting, several alternatives are available. A tiny mouse that’s easier for little hands to maneuver is one popular option. Another choice is a one-button mouse that eliminates the right-click function found on a standard mouse. Other alternatives include a trackball or joystick. With a trackball, the user moves a small ball on a stationary base to control the cursor. A joystick is another option to control the cursor and may be especially well-suited for a young child who already uses such a device to control his or her wheelchair.
Alternative Keyboard: With variations in size, shape, layout, or function, alternative keyboards give users the functions that meet their needs. Young beginners, for example, may find that keyboards with large keys and bright colors help them find letters more quickly. Some children may prefer a keyboard where letters are in alphabetical order instead of the standard QWERTY layout. Children who need visual clarity and would benefit from having tactile information on the keys may like keyboards with alternative labels. Those with fine-motor challenges may find that keyguards—hard plastic covers with holes for each key—help them avoid striking unwanted keys. For those who need to protect their keyboards from spills or saliva, thin plastic sheets called moisture guards are an option.
For more information about these and other assistive technology options, please contact the Simon Technology Center at 952-838-9000 or PACER.org/stc. Members of the Simon Technology Center Library may borrow these and other items.
Content is driven by the people who use the site. Anyone can browse and read the ever growing collection. Books can be read aloud, downloaded, and used as a template to create your own version of a book. If you are interested in creating books, contact the Simon Technology Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or the site manager at Tar Heel Reader at email@example.com for the invitation code. It's not a secret, they just don't want the spammers to get a hold of it. Visit Tar Heel Reader at http://www.tarheelreader.org.
Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver
Reading with Franz - a You Tube Video created by aacstuff about using a switch in various positions to access books on Tar Heel Reader.
Monday, August 3, 2009
More than just a toy, Wordle is a literacy tool to create word clouds and get learners interacting with text in a new and different way. Pictured are 100 words from
Do you use Wordle in an interesting and creative way for education? Please feel free to share by leaving a comment. We would love to hear from you.
The Pulse Smartpen automatically captures everything as you write and draw. Transfer your notes to your computer, organize them, and even search for words within your notes. Find what you want in seconds. The microphone combined with on-board noise-canceling software enables the Smartpen to record crisp, clear sound. A built-in speaker plays back your recorded audio and provides audio feedback for Smartpen applications. Tap on the volume buttons on your dot paper to control speaker volume.
A USB connector recharges Pulse and transfers notes and audio to your PC. The Pulse magnetically docks into the USB Mobile Charging Cradle. This also allows Smartpen users to install new applications from Livescribe.com.
A high-speed infrared camera with Dot Positioning System (DPS) tracks everything you write, tap, or draw on Livescribe Dot Paper. The DPS not only enables printed controls for recording and playback on each page, but also interactive paper-based applications such as a calculator or a note playing piano.
The Pulse Smartpen is now available for demonstration at the