Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top Ten STC Staff Picks from ATIA Chicago

1. Project MY VOICE is three-year project between Northern Illinois University and Indian Prairie School District 204. The purpose of the project is to help students with cognitive disabilities learn how to advocate for themselves during the IEP transition process. Using technology such as video cameras and power point, project participants build a presentation using a template with built-in supports such as teach prompts and leading questions. Contact project coordinators for information on these templates.

2. Living the Smart Life is a 15 minute DVD that highlights using technology to make a difference in independence for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. This 15 minute story will delight and inspire. The DVD is available for check out in the Simon Technology Center Lending Library. Some of the tools highlighted in the video, including the Pocket Endeavor (software) and the Pharos Traveler GPS 535x (Pocket PC) will also be available for demonstration.

3. DSpeech is a free open source program that combines Text To Speech TTS with Automatic Speech Recognition. It reads aloud the written word and chooses sentences based on the vocal answers of the user. There are several steps so be sure to read through all of the directions for downloading and using.

4. Dr. Linda Mechling presented information on the use of video modeling in a session titled “Use of Video Prompting, Via a Portable DVD Player, Laptop Computer, or PDA as Self-Prompting Devices for Persons with Moderate Intellectual Disabilities.” She presented great examples and referenced several research studies on the use of video modeling.

5. Click and Go Wayfinding Maps produces maps for persons who are blind or deaf/blind. Modeled after the directions feature in Google Maps, Click and Go provides users with customized mobility friendly walking directions.

6. Mega Bee is an electronic eye gaze board that gives voice to previously low tech eye gaze systems with no voice out put. Called a simple-to-use assisted writing tablet, users indicate choices with eye gaze and eye blinks that are added to a message window by a facilitator. When the message is complete, the facilitator activates the message.

7. Information was presented on creating DAISY files using Microsoft Word/Open Office (Creating DAISY Text in Word/Open Office). The Word to DAISY translator or plug in allows users on Word (XP, 2007 and 2003), who are working with Open XML, to easily convert Word documents to DAISY - also called the talking book format. For more information check out this Microsoft article.

8. Literactive - is a free Web based tool for literacy. The site contains free handouts, tips for guided reading, and over one hundred reading activities. Materials and access to the site is free but registration is required. Literactive was developed by educators and technical professionals.

9. Balabolka is a free Text-To-Speech (TTS) program that works with Windows operating system (2000/XP/2003/Vista/7). It does not come with its own voices, but rather uses voices on your computer. You need at least one voice to operate the program. Balabolka is a Russian word that can be translated “ chatterer”. For more detailed information on this program, visit

10. VizZle is a Web-based subscription software that allows users to create individualized interactive teaching materials. Anywhere there is access to the internet, a user can create, share and use. Materials can be printed for table top activities. VizZle also works well with interactive tools such as touch screens and white boards. For more detailed information and to try a free demo, go to

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