Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shape Writing Pad Sparks Ideas for New Virtual Keyboard Access

"What are some other assistive technology access methods for keyboarding other than the virtual keyboard/scanning or a Big Keys Keyboard?" I was asked yesterday. The occupational therapist asking me is a tech wiz and we have had fun collaborating on several adaptations.

"Let me show you what I mean," he said as he pulled out his iPhone. He showed me a mobile application he downloaded for his phone which is "ShapeWriter" a unique virtual touch keyboard. It utilizes the touch screen on the iPhone to type in entries. Instead of tapping with an up and down movement, you drag your finger starting at the first letter and then on over to the second and then so on. As you do this, you get a blue line that connects the keys in a sort of web you are spinning. As you drag, the letters begin to spell your words up above in the document.

The OT began to explain, "Something like this on a computer would be great for a student I am thinking of who can't do the fine motor of typing with the vertical up and down key action or tapping, but she can drag a finger around in lateral movements. I started to research and see if it was available in another format other than mobile phone, but haven't had time."

Well, thanks to that prompting, I was intrigued. Here is what I found: There is a WritePad article that tells about the ShapeWriter. It is a free download apps for mobile phones and come in several versions for different phones - yes, there is a Windows mobile version, but remember, it can only be used on the new touch screen style mobile phones made popular with the iPhone. You can see a demo of how it works here.
There was not a PC or Mac application available that I could see. I would think that this new keyboard would be a hit on tablet PC's. If we had this on a tablet with a large monitor surface area, imagine how a person might be able to write by a drag of a finger and no tapping.
If you have a student that has a touch phone and could use this form of support, check into downloading it and giving it a try. Let us all know what you think.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I will be taking the day off, but I will have an exciting piece of BIG and exciting news on a special guest coming up next week on No Limits 2 Learning Live - Can't WAIT!! Check back if you have a spare moment in the next few days and I will be sharing a special Thanksgiving post and announcing my special guest who I AM truly thankful for having the opportunity to interview.

Until then, Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving for all our U.S. readers.

All the best to you!


1 comment:

narrator said...

I'm still waiting for a predictive spelling system for computers as easy and effective as the ones phones use (iTap, etc). Now here's another similar situation. I guess I should pull out my iPaq and see if I can run this - it is, of course, Windows Mobile.

Or maybe we're just seeing why mobile learning is such a vital concept. The phone is the platform for the next decade.

Happy Thanksgiving Lon!

-Ira Socol