Saturday, November 20, 2010

App Corner: iMobile Writing Platform, SAT Prep Writing & Speller

App has been used as a shorthand term for “applications” and has recently become popular to indicate specifically a mobile application. App as a term grew even more in popularity with the opening of Apples App Store which can be accessed through iTunes. In our new “App Corner” in Tech Notes we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet an educational need.

iMobile Writing Platform - www.essaywritingwizard.com

iMobile Writing Platform is an app designed to help develop, organize, and write essays and papers directly from your iPod Touch/Phone. This app contains writing instructional content as well as the functions needed to put together your paper. The web site contains a nice collection of app reviews by educators. iMoble Writing Platform $4.99
SAT Prep Writing - watermelonexpress.com

SAT Prep Writing is an application brought to you by Watermelon Express. It is a tool that you can use to prepare for the written portion of the SAT exam. Features of this app include: 10 essay examples, test taking tips and tricks, and over 100 pages of material. This and a variety of other test taking applications (GRE, GMAT, etc.) are also available from Watermelon Express. SAT Prep Writing $2.99
Speller - Free Spell Checker - www.trancreative.com/iPhone/Speller

Speller is the perfect tool to help find the correct spelling of words. It operates as a stand-alone program. Type in the word you would like to check and receive confirmation of your spelling or word choices. Still not sure if it is the correct word? Connect to the web and see definitions for the word. This is a free app from TranCreative Software. Speller Free

Web Spotlight: Edistorm

Edistorm is a virtual online environment where an individual or a group of people can brainstorm and organize their ideas. Ideas are generated using virtual sticky notes. Sticky notes can be color coded, edited and moved around. Each new brainstorming session is called a “storm”. The free version allows unlimited public storms. To gather a group of people to a brain storming session or to check out a storm you have created you can either send them an email invitation or send the the web link. Paid accounts allows for unlimited private storms and range in price from $5 to $30. The Simon Technology Center is using a storm to gather TechNotes feature ideas. Check out our storm STC TechNotes Feature Ideas

Early Childhood Corner: Tots-n-Tech June 2010 Newsletter

The Tots 'n Tech Research Institute (TnT) is an inter-university collaboration between Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), Philadelphia, and Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe. TnT's mission is to provide up-to-date information and resources about adaptations, including assistive technology, to use with infants and toddlers for state education agencies, Early Intervention providers of all disciplines, and families. TnT produces a newsletter with information and resources regarding the use of assistive technology with infants and toddlers. The June 2010 issue focuses on using assistive technology to support socialization. Read about how to write a social story or how to use a cue card to ease transitions. To subscribe to this newsletter,

follow this link http://tnt.asu.edu/home/news or visit the Tots n Tech home page http://tnt/asu/edu

Staff Pick: Pulse Smartpen

Educational Uses for the Pulse Smartpen by Livescribe

The Pul
se Smartpen by Livescribe is a pen with a built-in microphone that has the ability to record audio while you are writing. What separates the Smartpen from a standard digital recorder is that it syncs the recording with the written notes. The pen's built in camera records what you are writing while at the same time the digital recorder is capturing the audio. The user can easily locate and playback a desired part of the recording by tapping on the corresponding section of the notes with the pen.

The Pulse Smartpen requires the use of special paper. The paper can be purchased as spiral bound notebooks or printed off using a template from the Livescribe website. Directions for printing for both Mac and PC
can be found at Livescribe.com

The newest version of the pen, called the Echo, comes in a 4G and 8G version, ranging in price from $169-200. The original version of the pen, the Pulse Smartpen, is available (while supplies last) for about $129. Also new to Livescribe is a Smartpen app store where free and for fee apps are available. Current apps include a Spanish language dictionary, card games, paper piano, and a spelling app. You can find more inform
ation on apps at Livescribe.com.

Here is a short list of ways both teachers and students can use the pen to enhance learning.

The pen can be used by students with dysgraphia, auditory processing, and memory or attention deficits when taking notes in class. The recording can capture information the student is unable to write down while taking notes. The student can review the recording later and add the missing information to his or her notes.Teachers can pre-record text to be read for assignments and tests. The students can playback the recording as many times as needed.


Teachers or students can record to-do lists, due dates, and instructions for assignments.
Teachers can make flashcards and label objects for students to learn new vocabulary. This can be especially helpful for teaching foreign languages or for speech and language practice.


Teachers can make “pencasts” with instructions for an assignment or problem, such as step-by-step instructions for solving a math problem, and post it online for students to access from home. The audio recording will play in-sync with the written steps of the problem.


For visually impaired students, teachers can record questions for a test or assignment and then apply tactile bumps for the student to locate and activate the audio. The teacher can also record audio description of graphs and pictures that the student is unable to see.


Paper communication boards can be made by printing communication boards on the special paper and adding a voice recording to each symbol or text word with the Smartpen.
 

There are endless possibilities for the Smartpen. To learn more about how the Smartpen can benefit students, visit the K-12 Education and Pencasts sections of the Livescribe website: livescribe.com.

The Pulse Smartpen is now available for demonstration at the S
imon Technology Center Library. Please stop in during STC Library hours: Tuesdays noon to 6 p.m. or Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

App Corner: Awesome Note (+Todo), iHomework, MyHomework, & SchoolBook

App has been used as a shorthand term for “applications” and has recently become popular to indicate specifically a mobile application. App as a term grew even more in popularity with the opening of Apples App Store which can be accessed through iTunes. In our new “App Corner” in Tech Notes we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet an educational need. This month we highlight homework planner type apps.

Awesome Note (+Todo) - bridworks.com/anote/en/main/index.php
Awesome Note is a study aid/homework tool as well as a tool to help you stay organized. Seven deafult folders are available and include such categories as Study, Shopping, and Work. Calendar and notes view is available from within each folder. Additional features include backing up your files to the computer, transfering notes via bluetooth and syncing with either Google Docs or Evernote. Awesome Note $3.99/Free Lite Version (3.5 out of 5 stars from 178 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 7/29/10)
iHomework - ihomework.pilone.org

iHomework is a homework app with built in todo list functionality. Add homework, reminders, courses, teachers and more. This app also has a free Mac desktop version that syncs with information on your iPod. One valuable feature is repeating assignments. iHomework $1.99 (3.5 out of 5 stars from 3,227 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 7/29/10)
myHomework - rigoneri.appspot.com/apps/myhomework

myHomework is a simple free app that resembles the paper planner students often use in middle and high school. Three color coded tabs let you add classes, homework and change the settings. After your classes and homework is entered, myHomework will notify you of late and upcoming assignments. Assignments are also color coded red, green and blue to help a user prioritize assignments. myHomework also has a free Mac desktop version for Mac OS 10.5 and higher. myHomework FREE (3 out of 5 stars from 40,647 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 7/29/10)
SchoolBook - geo.rgio.us/schoolbook.php

SchoolBook is a free app that reminds you of your class schedule. It helps you remember who your teacher is and where your class is located. It is similar to a paper schedule a student receives at the beginning of a sememster or quarter. This app was developed by a 15 year old electronics enthusiast, software developer and student. SchoolBook FREE (2.5 out of 5 stars from 85 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 7/29/10)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Did You Know: Math Snacks

Did you know that a free feature of the iPod Touch/Phone and iPad is the ability to play movies and videos. This feature is great for video modeling, making social stories, remembering information, and more. You can also download educational content through YouTube and from within iTunes. One such series we would like to mention is Math Snacks, a video podcast series of fun math videos produced by New Mexico State University. View episodes such as Atlantean Dodgeball, Scale Ella and Bad Date. 

More information about Math Snacks can be found at mathsnacks.com. You can view on the internet or download to your iPod. The site also includes helpful information such as learner's and teacher's guides.

Portable Word Processing Helps Students with Writing, Reading Impairments

By Tara Bakken  

For students who have difficulty with the physical or sensory aspects of handwriting or who have reading impairments, using a word prcessing application or program can be a big help.  It can give students more independence, confidence, and the ability to efficiently complete written work.  Portable notetakers and netbooks - available for a fraction of the cost of computers or laptops - are two options to investigate.

Notetakers

Notetakers are electronic word processors with full-size keyboards.  Smaller than laptops and larger than netbooks, they typically are more durable and less expensive than either. A variety of notetakers are available.  


Renaissance Learning (renlearn.com)  sells four models: NEO, NEO2, DANA and DANA Wireless. 

Writer Learning Systems (writerlearning.com)  sells two models with various preloaded features: Fusion and The Writer. 

The StudentMate by One2OneMate (one2onemate.com)  is one of the more robust notetakers on the market, with many additional features and applications. 

CalcuScribe by CalcuScribe (calcuscribe.com) comes with an interactive calculator for assistance with arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry.

Some notetakers also have additional features that provide extra accessibility.  They may, for example, have:
 

  • A word prediction feature that can help reduce keystrokes and provide spelling and grammar support.  Word prediction suggests a list of likely words after the user types only a few characters.
  • A text-to-speech feature that provides auditory feedback and support for text that is typed or appears in the word prediction application.
  • Organization applications such as calendars, to-do lists, alarms, and the like.  These applications provide an electronic method for schedule and task organization.

Netbooks

Netbooks are very similar to laptops in appearance and operation, but they are smaller, lighter, and less powerful.  Although intended to be used for basic functions such as email and Internet browsing, these devices also work well as word processors.

Most netbooks run one of the following operating systems:  Windows XP, Windows 7 starter, or Linux Ubuntu.  Those with a Windows operating system allow the user to install additional assistive technology programs. However, check to be sure the program's system requirements are compatible with the netbook's small memory and processing capacity.  Additional programs may also be installed on devices using Linux, but fewer assistive technology programs are compatible with this operating system.

Most netbooks do not have CD/DVD drives, but they typically have USB ports for data transfer and a place to connect an external CD/DVD drive. Netbooks can be obtained easily online or from stores such as Best Buy, Office Max, Radio Shack, Target, and WalMart.

Notetaker Netbook
$149 - $430 $200 - $600
Screen size can range from 5.75" to 9" (measured diagonally). Screens on many of the notetakers are much longer than they are tall and display only a few lines of text at a time. Screen size ranges from 8.9" to 12.1" (measured diagonally).
Grayscale screen (most devices, but not all) Full-color screen
Durable if jostled or dropped Hardware may become damaged if jostled or dropped
Has limited availability of additional applications or features PC operating system allows for as many programs as there is memory to install.  RAM can range from 1GB to 2GB.  Hard drive memory can range from 160GB to 250 GB. 


Average battery life: 8 to 700 hours, depending on the additional built-in features Average battery life: 1.5 to 8 hours
 

Turns on instantly Boot-up time ranges from 30 to 90 seconds
 
Choosing a Device

Which device might be best for your student? The key factors to consider are durability, screen size, and availability of additional applications or programs, such as word prediction, text-to-speech, or applications for organization

With so many choices, you may want to try out some devices before you buy one. Assistive technnology lending libraries, such as the one at PACER's Simon Technology Center, and some vendors might allow you to borrow a device for a trial period to determine how useful it would be for the individual.

For students with handwriting difficulties or reading impairments, notetakers and netbooks can be a boon. At a fraction of the cost of computers or laptops, these devices help users gain independence, confidence, and the ability to efficiently complete written work.

Staff Pick: The Fusion

The Fusion by Writer Learning is a portable note-taker with a full standard size keyboard and a screen size measuring 2 3/8" tall by 6 1/8" wide. New features on the latest Fusion model include Math 101, USB ports for easy file transfer and a new calendar feature. Standard features include a built-in thesaurus, dictionary and spell check.  Students are not only able to use this tool as a portable word processor but they can also take advantage of the built-in keyboarding practice. Optional features available for an additional cost include text to speech, a built-in speaker for auditory feedback, and a word prediction feature called Word Storm. To learn more about these and other features of The Fusion, contact the Simon Technology Center or visit Writer Learning's Web site at: www.WriterLearning.com 

Web Spotlight: Misunderstood Minds

Misunderstood Minds is a companion web site to the PBS special Misunderstood Minds. This PBS special shared the lives and struggles of five individuals with learning difficulties. It was designed to help others understand the learning process, give insights into learning disabilities and share strategies for responding to learning disabilities. The web site gives viewers the opportunity to experience a learning difficulty firsthand. For example, in the attention category a viewer is able to simulate reading a passage with distractions or attempt to follow directions with auditory distractions. Content on the site includes an introduction to the basics, an overview of the difficulties a learner might experience, and how a parent or educator might respond. The activities are not only great for individual learning but is also a resource for providing disability awareness. Another resource to check out is the Developing Minds Multimedia Library which contains a collection of videos that explore learning differences.

Tech Tip: Web Etiquette and Safety

Increasingly websites offer interactive content like comments and message boards. The same rules used in email should be applied to these as well and are doubly important for social networking sites such as Facebook, where more and more people might view what you write. Consider that many current or potential employers may check social networking sites to get a clearer idea of who you are. The last thing you want them to see is some rude comment you made. Also remember that even though the event you attended recently was great, some pictures should not be loaded online. Your digital reputation can be as important as your “real world” reputation, so the same etiquette rules apply to JOHNLOL12351 online as they do to real world John Smith. Web Safety Using the Web and searching with Google can allow you to find almost any information in the world.

However, like the real world, there are some dangerous neighborhoods that you should avoid. File-sharing sites that host software, music and movies for people to illegally download are a hotbed of viruses and phishing scams. Make sure you are running an updated virus protection program. It is like insurance for your computer: You may not need it all the time, but when you do, you'll be glad you have it.

Apple offers security updates through their software update program and Microsoft offers their own security suite called Security Essentials.

Early Childhood Corner: Tots-N Tech August 2010 Newsletter

The Tots 'n Tech Research Institute (TnT) is an inter-university collaboration between Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), Philadelphia, and Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe. TnT's mission is to provide up-to-date information and resources about adaptations, including assistive technology, to use with infants and toddlers for state education agencies, Early Intervention providers of all disciplines, and families. TnT produces a newsletter with information and resources regarding the use of assistive technology with infants and toddlers. The August 2010 issue contains information on making low-tech assistive technology and adaptations. 

To subscribe to this newsletter, follow this link http://tnt.asu.edu/home/news or visit the Tots n Tech home page http://tnt.asu.edu and select Newsletters.

Web Spotlight: National Geographic Young Explorer

National Geographic Young Explorer is a web-based companion to the popular kids magazine of the same name. The electronic copy of the magazine is user friendly and easy to navigate. Each magazine features vivid photographs and interesting content. An additional support of text to speech is offered on each page. Designed with younger readers in mind, this format is also great for older struggling readers who need interesting content with simple text. 
 National Geographic Explorer is designed for upper elementary and is filled with science and social studies activities.

App Corner: IEP Checklist, Percentally, Conover Company Samplers

App has been used as a shorthand term for “applications” and has recently become popular to indicate specifically a mobile application.  App as a term grew even more in popularity with the opening of Apples App Store which can be accessed through iTunes.  In our new “App Corner” in Tech Notes we will highlight mobile applications that are universally designed or meet an educational need. This App Corner features apps for special education.
 

IEP Checklist - IEP Checklist IEP Checklist is a free app developed by the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) in Virginia. The IEP Checklist App helps parents  of students with special needs become better-informed advocates by making IEP  information easier to access. Version 2 has active links to the relevant  language in the federal regulations; allows users to record the IEP meeting or  record notes; and has the capacity to print out notes and click on a checklist  as requested items are discussed. IEP Checklist Free (2.5 out of 5 stars from 185 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 9/10/10)
 

 
 Percentally - percentally.com Percentally is a data collection app created by speech therapist Eric Sailers  that converts tallies to percentages. Use Percentally to track progess in  education, physical education and more. Percentally $2.99 (5 out of 5 stars from  25 reviews. Information from the Apple iTunes Store viewed on 9/10/10)
  



Conover Company Sampler - conovercompany.com Conover Company has created 40 new iPod apps with 4 free sampler apps. These app convey life skills information in picture and video format. Think of it as a video dictionary.  Titles include: Survival Skills, Information, Social Skills and more.   Sampler of apps available for FREE; other apps $.99

Tech Tip: Online File Hosting

September marks back to school time.   Busy students prepare for reports and essays on flash drives or using email to send a file to home.  This tech tip is about using services that allow you to upload files to retrieve anywhere you have access to a computer and the internet. 

Online file hosting is popular because as long as you have a computer or mobile device and an internet connection you can access, edit and create new folders and documents. This is great to have if your forget to bring the files with you or email them to yourself. Many sites that have free file hosting.

One file sharing service is called Dropbox  and it allows you to hold 2 GB of whatever you need for free. It works on Windows, Mac and some mobile devices such as iPod and Android.  You can load files to use privately or load files to share with others.  Free registration is required and a companion program is loaded on your PC, Mac or mobile device.  The site offers detailed instructions and a variety of supports to get you started.

Another file sharing service is called MediaFire.  MediaFire will hold an unlimited number of files as long as the files are under 200MB each. It is available for PC and Mac and offers a wide variety of sharing possibilities.

If you or your student needs a place to store and share work, online file sharing is a very easy and effective way to meet this need.

Mediafire.com
Dropbox.com
PACER Center's Simon Technology Center participated in this AT vendor fair with ISES. Below is video interviews done by CTV North Suburbs.


ISES Assistive Technology Fair from CTV North Suburbs on Vimeo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simply Said: Understanding Assistive Technology

Created with funds from the MN STAR Program, Simply Said: Understanding Assistive Technology, helps introduce the concept of a category of specialized technology called assistive technology, that whether created, purchased, modified or other, can help someone do something that they couldn't do without it. Check out this short informational video.

Simply Said: Understanding Assistive Technology Loan Libraries

Created with funds from the MN STAR Program, Simply Said: Understanding Assistive Technology Loan Libraries helps others understand how and why you might want to use and assistive technology lending library. Check out this short informational video.