Saturday, August 2, 2008

Giving PowerPoint a "Facelift" for Interactive Activities: Part Two

PowerPoint Face Lifts Part Two:
Creating Communication Boards and Switch Access Pros and Cons.

I made a video tutorial last spring that is on using PowerPoint to create a communication board. I enjoyed making it and I liked the fact that if you can't afford the $765 for a Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically Pro program, you can get started with a PowerPoint on topics. A main drawback is that since PowerPoint can't do step scanning - (where each choice on a page is highlighted one at a time and the user can select the choice they want when framed in the sequence) you are limited to a mouse or trackpad to navigate through the choices. It is possible to use a head or eye tracker device to select a choice, but if you can afford that, you probably will be using a custom software or an AAC device instead! Since lots of schools have MS Office already, a PowerPoint can be used to experiment and get something started. I have the video below so you can see a little of what I am talking about. I was experimenting with a free screen capture video program and the sound is a little odd, but it will carry you through the steps if you want to know how to do it. I used Audacity as the sound program to create my sound clips to embed in the graphics. It is a free open source software.

Since we are already addressing switches, let's talk about switch access a minute - and how it can work with a PowerPoint activity (or can't work). With a switch interface that you USB in the back of the computer, you can use any kind of switch to act as a mouse click and move to the next page, trigger a sound, animation or video - anything that can be started on a slide by clicking the mouse. What a switch interface and a switch can't do is navigate a page or slide to make a choice. Switch access is good for certain activities like a "talking book" activity where the user can use the switch to "turn the page "and trigger a narration. If a video or sound is set to open on a mouse click, then a switch would work there as well.
I make activities where a student has to choose a letter from a choice of three - for example, based on a picture and sound. The student has to be able to navigate to choose one answer. You can't use a switch and interface to do that. If you are building an activity with PowerPoint, make sure you know who your audience is going to be so you don't design something they can't access. This is where the custom softwares like SoftTouch Test Me Score Me, Clicker 5 and Classroom Suite come in because of the capability to scan. They give you the versatility to work with orthopedically impaired so they can access through the scanning feature. You also have the Intellikeys board as an input device but you still have to be able to have enough fine motor to target and hit an area on the board.
I had an email on my Part One post yesterday, sharing that they used to use topics and video and make an overlay for the Intellikeys so that they could turn pages, watch videos, play recordings, etc. by selecting the specific choice on the board. I love hearing your ideas on activities. If you have one you would like to share please comment or email me.

I am going to save the branching activities and graphics, color, background, etc. until next time so that I don't try to include too much in one post - I guess there will need to be a part three.

All the best to you!


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