Monday, June 30, 2008

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Edition #4 is Up

The June Edition of the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival is Ready for you to read at:
Edition #4 has some great posts on a "Grab Bag" theme, which means that it was anyone's guess what folks might submit. Some submitted their top post for the month, but all shared some wonderful reviews of new software and tools, a new UDL wiki, uses for the SMART board, commentary on the Kindle reader and AT equipment costs, and a great 100+ resources, sites and links for special education.

Please support the efforts of these writers such as Dr. Brian Friedlander, Wheelie Catholic, Anne Marie 80, ATMac, Paul Hamilton and Teaching writer and more.

I hope you enjoy these submissions!

All the best to you!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Use the MS Word to DAISY Add-in: More information and Answers from DAISY

I posted this past week on my latest discoveries and thoughts on the MS Word add-in, converting Word files to digital talking book files and using them with free and pay players. I had this wonderful response as a comment from Romain Deltour from the DAISY Consortium and wanted to make this a post because I believe it summarizes much of what I have been trying to discover and makes things a little easier for those of us that are trying to sort all of this out. I promise, that when this is all said and done, I will make a tutorial available and share it with everyone.
I hope Romain's comment below helps you out as much as it helped me...
Thanks again Romain!

"Let me clarify a few points regarding DAISY standards, the Pipeline and MS Add-in:

1. DAISY Standards
There are two main versions of the DAISY standard: the DAISY 2.02, and DAISY 3 (officially ANSI/NISO Z39.86). Each of these specifications specify what is a Digital Talking Book (DTB), which is in both case composed by a set of different files.

To make it simple, a DAISY 2.02 full-audio, full-text book is composed of:
- the navigation control center document (ncc.html)
- the text content document (.html)
- a set of audio files (wav, mp3)
- a set of SMIL files (to synchronize the different media, text and audio)

A DAISY 3 full-audio, full-text book is composed of:
- a DTB package file (.opf), which contains metadata and the list of the other files
- a navigation control file (.ncx), basically the table of content
- a DTBook file (.xml) which contains the textual content
- a set of audio files (wav, mp3)
- a set of SMIL files (to synchronize the different media, text and audio)

As you've seen, some players accept a mere DTBook xml file: they use advanced conversion technique and speech synthesis to make a full DTB out of this xml textual content. Others require a fully built DTB though.
DAISY 2.02 players usually expect the ncc.html, while DAISY 3 players will usually expect the .opf file.

2. MS Add-In
The MS DAISY Translator, aka MS "Save as DAISY XML" converts a Word document in a DTBook file. It doesn't produce a full Digital Talking Book yet. That's why this output is only readable in some of the players out there.(the bold emphasis added by Lon)
The solution, as you found out, is either to use a player that will play a DTBook XML directly using speech synthesis, or to use a conversion tool to make a full DTB out of the DTBook XML file. For your information, the ability to create a full DTB is planned for a next version of the Word Add-In.

3. Pipeline
To create a DTB from Word with the Pipeline, you have two options:
- Use the built in Word 2003 XML to DTBook converter to produce the DTBook, then use Pipeline Narrator to produce DTBs from the DTBook.
- Use the MS "Save as DAISY XML" Add-In to produce the DTBook xml, then use the Pipeline Narrator to produce DTBs from the DTBook.
Note that the Narrator will create 3 books: a DAISY 2.02 book, a DAISY 3 book with wav-encoded audio, and a DAISY 3 book with mp3-encoded audio. You should be able to read at least one of these DTB in any DAISY player you have, and as far as I know AMIS 3 (currently in beta version) supports both DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 full-text full-audio books.
Wow. That was a longer comment that I initially thought. I'll cross-post to the DAISY forums to keep track of it! (by the way, I invite you to post questions / request for help in these forums)"

I don't know about you, but I am flat-out impressed that Romain took the time to share here. I am going to print this out and keep it as a reference. I am excited that the next MS add-in is intended to support a ful DTB format. Check out the forum he linked, and stay connected because we are working on a Blog Talk Radio segment to discuss the tools being created and future of DAISY formats. This is still to be announced as we get the dates and schedules together.

All the best to you!


Friday, June 27, 2008

Education Tech Points is a Great Resource for Stronger AT Services

Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed are two of the greatest resources a person can have to tap into for assistive technology and its' implementation in education. They are AT pioneers and the writers of the Education Tech Points Manual, a long-referred to "bible" of resources for educational assistive technology. I have a copy of this 450 page binder on my shelf and have referred to it many times.
Many of us in AT are seeing these days that the trends with No Child Left Behind bring opportunities to look at how assistive technology can support remediation and accessibility for all kids. Penny and Gayl have been working on a presentation in a workshop format that deals with Response to Intervention (RTI), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and Differentiated Instruction. They are sharing on how AT and IT can be infused through these aspects into general education. They will be sharing about this new project on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio next week.
They have the site Education Tech Points which is a great resource you need to take a moment to check out. They are available for trainings and you can find out more on their site. They have put together a great workbook for parents that helps them to know what to expect from a team, a school, questions to ask and what to do to move the process forward in advocating for AT services.
I have been posting and sharing this spring about tools for access that support UDL and how we are organizing how to have these tools be on all computers in our districts next year. The conversations and experimentations with the new MS Word add-in and the DAISY format have been good for me to be more familiar with the advantages and limitations of these tools. Penny and Gayl have given me many pointers and thoughts to consider in moving into support for all students.
If you are unfamiliar with Gayl and Penny and what they have done, take the opportunity to get acquainted with them and what they provide. They have been an immense help to me and I know their publications will be for you too. They speak annually at Closing the Gap, ATIA, etc.
Gayl and Penny will be my guests next Thursday, July 3 on No Limits 2 Learning Live. I hope you give us a listen. I will have more details next week.
Have a great weekend.
All the best to you!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Testimonials Share Value in No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Radio and Blog

I am so excited to share with you feedback on the No Limits 2 Learning Live segments on Blog Talk Radio and this blog. My guest yesterday, Ellen Witham and myself, had emails from listeners who shared the value of her topic on AAC implementation from a parent's point of view.
One listener shared:
"Much of what you were talking about almost directly applies to a child in a Sunday school class I am teaching (2 year olds, in our third week). One child has a vocabulary of 4 words - mom is currently working with an SLP and as of yet there is no diagnosis. He obviously will benefit from a symbol communication system, and mom has been teaching him some sign language.We did a matching game with magnetic 'pictures' (I think they actually may have been PCS ala Boardmaker) symbols and a cookie sheet, and he was one of the brightest as far as comprehension went and was able to pick out matched pairs of specific symbols on demand. I will refer mom to your interview - I think you probably do not realize how much a few moments of your time will positively impact folks for years to come!"

I also received this comment:
"ALL of your interviews are useful and topical to broad groups of people. What a nice contribution for you to make to the world at large, to pull these things together and put them in one place so we can get to them and listen at our leisure."

I just wanted to share this with all of you. I know that sometimes we work on our projects fired only by our own passion. When we hear things like the above, it gives us a boost. I had a software/online tool representative contact me this past week and thank me for some positive and encouraging words given towards their project. It was shared that their team is small and they work very hard - to hear the feedback was a boost to them too!
My desire is to see that the resources appearing on this blog, the talk show and the AT Blog Carnival be positive, constructive and add to the assistive technology community in a larger way. When I hear that what I write is encouraging, or that the interviews we do are building into an archive that will "positively impact folks for years to come" I am humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude.
I must share that the number of readers returning to this blog continues to grow and the blog has now over 2000 reads a month. The combination of the numbers visiting and reading as well as the listeners on No limits 2 Learning Live encourage me. I am seeing upwards of 70 downloads of segments by listeners going to archives. I know that my efforts are doing some good and creating a foundation for greater resources down the road.
I have lined up some wonderful guests for July and August. I have been visiting with the DAISY Consortium to work on an interview for their folks to share on the future vision and services with the DAISY format - allow them to tell us what things they want to pass along, as well as allow you to call in and ask questions or make comments.
I have been visiting with with gh Accessibility to work on a time for their CEO to share his story of how the company got started - which has to do with supporting his wife with accessibility to alternative text while in college.
Next week, we have Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed, highly respected pioneers in AT implementation in education sharing on the team model. There are others as well that will be sharing over the summer.
I am so thankful for everyone's willingness to share. Knowing that these archives will become a valuable resource for folks down the road, means a lot. Thank you to all of you too as listeners and readers, commenters and emailers. This entire effort is FOR you and I am encouraged that things seem to be appreciated and are regularly read. I will continue to do my best to provide valuable resources, interviews and tips for AT users. I have a goal to get a bundle of activities, templates and tutorials as well as some other AT resources ready to make available online by the end of the summer. Some will be free and others for purchase at a nominal cost. Since I am on summer break for a month or so, my posts won't have quite the usual student stories and experiences until I get back to school in August. In the meantime, I am excited to focus on some video tutorials, share on some online tools and software to fill the gap.
I know many of you will be off on some summer adventures as well, so enjoy the time off. I will be taking my son camping a few days from the 4th of July (our U.S. Independence Day) on, and will try to set up some posts to be up on the days I am gone. If I miss a few and take some time off - forgive me and check back - I promise I won't miss very long, I would miss hearing from you and the folks I am working with to present new information for future projects.

All the best to you!

Remember! If you want to contribute to the AT Blog Carnival for June, I need you to email me your blog post submission by this Friday, June 27. The next edition will be up on Monday at:
Send your submissions to me at:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Update on Using MS Word add-in and DAISY Pipeline to Convert Files

I had posted last week about the adventures I was having in the process of trying to transfer a document using the new MS Word add-in that saves as a DAISY format. This new addition was developed in conjunction with the DAISY Consortium and we should be so thankful to have it available to us.
If you go to the Conversion Tools and Software Page there are some links to players and tools. I read this on the DAISY site under the MS Word ADD-in:

"Microsoft's Word Add-in translates Word documents into DAISY XML..
Further transformation from DAISY XML to a full DAISY file set will be possible using one of the conversion tools such as EasyConverter (Dolphin), eClipseWriter (IRTI), gh Player (gh LLC) and the DAISY Pipeline (DAISY Consortium).
"Save as DAISY XML - Microsoft" project area provides current information and related communications about the Microsoft Word add-in, as well as links for downloading the latest version."

I had followed their advice, and since DAISY Pipeline was free, I downloaded it. Make sure you have a current version of JRE (Java Runtime Environment) from Sun Software. You can download the JRE version 6 HERE. With JRE, the Pipeline works great and I got a DAISY formatted file from the Pipeline on my computer.
A problem I had with the conversion using Pipeline was having MS Office '07. To format the Word file, my choices within Pipeline were for starting with a Word '03 xml document. I just re-saved my Word document in the MS '03 xml format and then it could be used by the Pipeline to convert from the Word xml format to a their digital talking book format version.

Now the next challenge:
I tried to play the file in the AMIS reader that is free the AMIS Reader only opens a file with .ncc or .opf format. Mine wasn't that type and so the free reader wasn't working with my newly converted file. When I tried a free trial of the gh Player and it did play the file for me successfully. If you start with a Word '07 document and save it as a DAISY file, iot will open directly in the gh Player by opening a new book and asking it to show all dtbook file types. Your document should show up if you browse to it's location and open it in the player. This bypasses the need for the other file types and using Pipeline, but it means purchasing the player. You can download a free trial version of the gh player to use and test files if you are playing with these applications and see what you get. I am thinking that if I had the free Victor Reader that downloads with a Bookshare account it would work also. If anyone has it and wants to try, let us know.
I am going to keep working on getting a successful working copy from a Word document to a FREE reader using the MS Word add-in. The MS add-in is installed and working properly to convert to a XML file. The Pipeline is installed and working fine to convert the Word file to a Digital Talking Book file - but it doesn't have the file extensions of .ncc (computer numeric control file) or .opf ( an image file - Ebook file commonly a Flipbook file) after it which is needed at this time with AMIS. These formats are new to me and I am learning as I go. Somehow I am still missing a piece. I will continue to work on this and when I get a solution you will be the first to know. If anyone has ideas post them for us.
All the best to you!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ellen Witham on Lessons Learned as a Parent of an AAC User

Today on Blog Talk Radio, my guest will be Ellen Witham, a representative from the Dynavox Company, but also a mother of a soon-to-be-10 year-old that is a succesful augmentative communication user. I am finding more and more that there are parents who are now either in an assistive technology role as a profession or have become the CEO of some company they have founded because of the active role in advocacy and development to meet the needs of a spouse or child. These folks base their work on valuable past experience and can be a assett to us all if they are given a chance to let us hear their wisdom and lessons learned. That is my goal today with Ellen and I would encourage you to listen in on the interveiw. It should be very valuable and I will try to gear the questions towards the parents listening so that you can get some good tips and ideas.

(I am adding a note to this after the fact - We had some difficulty getting the call in from Ellen and so I spent a few minutes at the front introducing her and telling about future guests until she got through. The interview was GREAT - have to hang through a couple of minutes while I get her on - so don't give up! Put it on and let it run in the background while you do something else and she will be on within the first 5 minutes or so. Sorry for the inconvenience. Because of the dynamic nature of the live stream, I can't edit and clip out a section - but I guess that is what happens sometimes with live recording. The interview went for about 45 minutes or so after that. You will not be disappointed!)
Here is the link to the segment archive.

If you miss the show this morning it will be archived in the segment listing above to listen to anytime. Until I have a new show, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 3 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific with Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed, AT pioneers, you can listen to the interview with Ellen on my sidebar here on the blog as well. It gets updated each new show automatically, so today's segment will be there awhile.
Hope to hear from you or hope you listen to the archive.
Have a great day!
All the best to you!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bike First! Gives Bike Riding Lessons to Kids with Disabilities

Bike First is a program that helps children with disabilities learn to ride a bike. Whether a child fell and broke a limb and have fear to overcome or they have a physical or mental disability, Bike First! gives kids the opportunity to learn to ride. They have a one day quick start program that was this past Saturday. They had 53 children that were able to ride a bike successfully in the program that day.
Bike First also has 2, 5 day bike camps where the team works with children that have significant disabilities. This year's camps are full, but if you want to get on the early notification email list for the 2009 program, you can access that on their website. The life lessons these children gain and the confidence it instills by going through the program has been wonderful.

My guest tomorrow, Tuesday June 24th at 10:30 a.m. Pacific, Ellen Witham, is an active member of this group and will be sharing a little on the program as well as her experiences with AAC and developing communication with her son who is now almost 10 years old. You can hear Ellen's interview on Blog Talk Radio at the No Limits 2 Learning Live show or listen to the archive on the player on this blog's sidebar.

Also, the deadline to submit a post to our AT Blog Carnival is coming up this Friday. You can email your submission to:

All the best to you!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wildhorse Grant Received for Funding Low & Mid Tech AT

Thank you Wildhorse Foundation! Our OT/PT department and my A.T. department, received an $11,000 grant from the Wildhorse Casino's Foundation for funding mid-tech speech devices and assistive equipment for the Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education programs in our region. About 530 children will be expected to benefit from this donation and the training and equipment it provides.
We were able to purchase Boardmaker software for every classroom last year and I went around and held training sessions to use it. We were finding that our 2, 4 and 8 cell recordable talking devices, like the Super Talker, were being checked out for trials and then we were having a hard time getting them back because they were working so well to support students. We finally decided that it was time to find a way to purchase a speech device for each classroom and train the staff on implementation along with low tech projects for using the Boardmaker software.
We had a low-tech "Make one, Take one" workshop this spring where teachers came up to our offices and we had all the laminators, laptops and printers, velcro, felt pens, cardboard, foam, etc. ready. Teachers made 2 of each project so we had one for a checkout library and the teacher could take one with them. We are trying to build a low tech materials sample library so SLP's and Autism specialists have some samples to take out and show to teachers, assistants and have for examples in IEP meetings.
My recent conversation with Ellen Witham, who will be my guest next Tuesday, led us to discuss the important prerequisite steps in developing low-tech picture symbol recognition and tying it to cause and effect and language development. We discussed the development of that into the next step of using a Tech Talk type device, a Super Talker, Go Talk devices (try the Go Talk One as an inexpensive tool @ $12 each), etc. as a transfer into more advanced mid-tech speech output. Our conversation moved on to the high-tech devices such as a Dynavox V with a sequential series of levels that allows the device and the user to grow through 3 phases of language skills and communication through their InterACCT Language Framework .
I have loaded a 180 day demo copy of the Dynvox software on a laptop that can go out to schools and be used as a trial for a while. If it looks like something that could fit, we can have the Dynavox sales rep customize one and bring it out for up to a 2 week trial on the actual device.
I am excited to see the possibilities of working with the tools made available to us through the Wildhorse grant and the development of high-tech devices for younger learners.
We have students in middle school and high school that have not accessed a device for communication yet due to past practices that steered away from items because of high price tags. We are aware of many avenues of funding now that takes the burden of cost away from familiies and school districts. We can begin to relax and work on implementing a good supportive communication program that supports and trains our SLP's in AAC use and also gets students who are ready for it, a device as early as first grade to start supporting literacy and language development where they can grow and move along with their peers. Wouldn't that be great?
If you are interested in hearing our conversation along these lines, listen to the No Limits 2 Learning Live segment on Blog Talk Radio on Tuesday, June 24th at 10:30 am Pacific time.

All the best to you!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Developing AAC for Non-verbal Communicators

Going over emails a week and a half ago, I had one that really stood out from Ellen Witham, the new Oregon Dynavox sales representative: "I am going to be in your area over the next few days, have read your blog and would like to meet with you if at all possible." I happened to be free and emailed back and we set up an appointment.
Ellen, I found, has some interesting life experience that sets her apart from a lot of AAC and speech device sales folks. She has a non-verbal 10 year-old son that she walked through the entire communication readiness to speech device process with an SLP and the school disctrict, from when he was small. She knows advocacy, process, financial resources and how to look at the preparation for and implementation of a speech device from the ground up.
As we spent time that morning in my office, I heard a very qualified parent share how she became the Oregon representative for Dynavox. Because the position was open and she was referred by several SLP's, she applied - and got the job. We discussed various students in my region, their needs and her experiences. I was so impressed with her knowledge and experience as a parent, I asked her if she would share on the No Limits 2 Learning Live show on Blog Talk Radio.
I have set the show to be next Tuesday, June 24, at 10:30 am Pacific time. I will be setting up the segment and some more info over the weekend, but wanted to get the word out to you early. We agreed that although we will mention the Dynavox AAC system and plug the equipment, the REAL reason for the interview will be for her to share her story about her son, life-lessons and advocacy tips for parents. If you are or you know, a parent of a child that needs communication support, you will definitely want to tune in and check this interview out.
I will have more details on this interview on my Monday post.

Have a great weekend and all the best to you!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winner of the Blog Contest Drawing Announced!

I am excited to share with you our winning blog in our free software drawing!

AnneMarie80 by Anne Marie Corrieri.

Byron Wilkes of Learning Magic has graciously donated any title in their line of software for the winner. So, Anne Marie, you can pick out a title for your classroom. Congratulations!
Anne Marie has a blog where she showcases different web sites and activities with her SMART board in the special education classroom. Anne Marie has submitted one of her posts for our AT Blog Carnival Edition #4 coming out the end of the month. I have also put her link on my blog family list on the sidebar.
I plan to have various drawings in the future where maybe the task won't be so daunting as submitting your own blog. I promise to make it a little easier for folks to get in on the fun without too much effort!

ALSO: I have a new guest on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio, which I will announce by the end of the week so check in to find out the topic and the guest. It should be great!

All the best to you!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Assistivetech Social Network Site

Assistivetech, a social networking site that has over 400 members, is a perfect place to get your feet wet in the social networking web 2.0 world. There are many discussion threads, forums, opportunities to invite others and create a network of support and knowledge. Brian Wojcik has developed this very ambitious project that I stumbled upon last night while looking at some blog links on a side bar. Imagine how surprised I was when I saw Brian down in the corner as the developer of this network group!

At first glance, I was a bit overwhelmed. I thought, "I have hit a gold vein of AT information and resources that is like a dessert that is too sweet to eat unless it is in small bites." But when I set up my profile and filled out a comment to Brian (he has the AT Cubed Blog on my side bar), and added my "About me" post to the welcome discussion thread, I felt I had worked in a very user friendly environment. There was a good sense of community there. I would highly encourage you to add it to your networking resources. There is the opportunity to start your own group on a topic or start a discussion to find an answer to a question or problem you are having.

My efforts with my blog, the talk radio show and the AT Blog Carnival have been to connect with others in the AT field and learn from them, share what I know and challenge myself to do and be more in a professional way and in my ability to provide the best service possible to students. The Assistivetech social network will really help you move in that direction.

My hat goes off to Brian for his huge effort in getting this going. By the comments I read, Brian is held in high regard and has had a big influence on networking folks with AT experience. His efforts need to be acknowledged. I am going to see if I can coax him to share the project with us and what is going on there on No Limits 2 Learning Live - then we can hear his perspective on the benefits of web 2.0 for AT and instruction,

Thanks Brian!

All the best to you!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Magic Pen: "Crayon Physics" Teaches Interactive Physics and Problem Solving

Try Magic Pen for Interactive Problem Solving
I love puzzles and I love to draw. Combine the two with a challenging game where you have to draw shapes, add levers and ramps to move a ball to a pin/flag and you have The Magic Pen.
Our Instructional Resource team showed it to me this past week and I have found it very challenging. With a touch screen, the SMART or Promethean Board, you can actually draw with your finger and the crayon draws the shapes. You can draw teeter totters, ramps, squares with levers on hinges to swing and hit the ball to make it roll, etc. The game uses real-time physics movement so you really have to use your problem solving skills to get the ball to roll where you want it to go. The fewer shapes you use to accomplish the task, the higher your score.
This will get you hooked and you will want to keep solving all the levels. I realize this game isn't too friendly for orthopedic or visual impairments, but I know there will be those of you that get a real kick out of finding a way to make math come alive to students using this. Share some tips with me as you solve these - I can get stuck pretty easy!
All the best to you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Last Call for Free Software Drawing & New Projects in the Works

The Deadline to submit your blog for the free software drawing is extended until Wednesday, June 18th. I will announce the winner on Thursday, June 19th.
Today was supposed to be the day to announce the winner in our free software drawing from Learning Magic. I had some huge-sized attached files sent to me on email the end of last week that filled up my set file space on my email/web server so I couldn't send or receive any emails. I have cleaned things up and set my space quota higher so that shouldn't happen again...
Anyway... I know I missed some emails - so, if you had tried to submit your blog for the drawing and couldn't get it to me, try again. I will leave this for 2 more days - to allow folks time to get them in. If you were contacting me for any other reasons, like an AT Blog Carnival submission or correspondence about an interview on blog talk radio or a review, please re-send your email to me again at: It should work fine now - sorry for the inconvenience. I apologize.

New Projects: I am on summer break now, so I will actually have time to catch up on some leads from folks on new interviews, new software and web tool reviews, etc. I am so grateful to all of you that send me tips on things to look at, emails from companies that want to share resources for review, etc. All these things just allow for a more thorough look at what is happening around the world in AT.

I am looking forward to some major strides in what I am able to provide to readers in the future as I have some time to work this summer. Stay in touch and check-in even if you are on summer break too - there will be lots of good things coming...
I have an interview coming (date to be announced) with the founder of the gh Player, a player for DAISY files. He has an interesting story of how he developed the company and that should be fascinating.
I am working on an interview with Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed for July. Gayl and Penny are two incredible pioneers of the implementation area for AT, observation, evaluation and team building. They are sought after speakers nationally and happen to be Oregon-based so I have been able to spend time learning and gaining their wisdom. I am excited for that interview.
There are several more that I need to wait to tell you about until I firm them up better, but they should also prove to be very informative and challenging.

The June Edition of AT Blog Carnival submssion deadline is Friday June 27, so be thinking about what you would like to submit and share. The topic is wide open for you to share whatever you would like.
I am working on using the DAISY Pipeline tool for transferring DAISY XML files converted with the new MS Word add-in. As soon as I get that running smoothly, I will be sharing a tutorial on it. That is one of my goals this week. I'll try to get to it in between some yard work and enjoying the summmer weather.

Have a great week - All the best to you!


EEG Frequencies Have a Use in Assistive Technology

I have been following developments in EEG frequencies and the use and application of them for AT for quite some time. I have my own project in development that utilizes dry sensors to trigger an on/off switch to control auto scanning through a switch interface. I know that we are just scraping the surface of what incredible things could be done with our brian waves.
BBC has an article, "Thinking Up Beautiful Music," that is on developing a way for disabled composers to write music merely by thinking the notes. The scientist in the story is working to develop the software to get the computer to recognize and second-guess the note that the user is thinking of in a creation.

It is fascinating stuff and there is a video on the link as well to watch. Frequencies are vibration and vibration and frequency is pitch, whether we can hear it or not. I believe our thoughts are literally music already. I am excited that someone is exploring the arts and thought-creativity. This is just another development that makes our future so exciting!

All the best to You!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Timely and Positive Response from DAISY Consortium

I had a wonderful experience with the DAISY Pipeline Development Team yesterday. If you read my post on my adventures using the new MS Word add-in tool and converting DAISY XML files to full DAISY files, you will know that there were some glitches in getting all the pieces downloaded and working. I was happily surprised to see a pleasant comment on my post yesterday from Romain Deltour, a member of the DAISY Pipeline Development Team. He shared that they will work on making it easier (more user friendly) and gave some ideas on how to work around the issues I had. Thank you Romain!
I am aware that companies and software groups are picking up on my tags and titles and that they are reading my blog posts. They share emails and comments with me concerning reviews on their products, so I try to be positive. I figure if something isn't working right for me, I don't need to ram it in the ground, so I try to be constructive and give folks an idea of what struggles I have or what I like to help in making decisions about what tools to use and how to make the best of them.
I am impressed with any company that seeks bloggers out after a post to share or give feedback. I think that is good marketing and smart policy. The folks out there doing that are to be commended. I wonder sometimes about those I never hear from after I share about their tools - maybe they haven't picked up on the trend to network and jump in to the blog and social bookmarking thing yet. I heard a new country star on TV from Nashville yesterday morning sharing her blog and My Space links on the air for fans to contact her - yep, she's part of the trend and it probably is working for her.
So, DAISY, I commend you for your great response time and want everyone to know about it. With that kind of response, I feel we are in good hands as you continue to develop these great print disability tools.

All the best to you!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Including Students in AAC Decisions

I stood outside the middle school principal's office and waited my turn with 2 sped specialists and an SLP. It was the last teacher day of school and folks were turning in keys and signing exit papers to have a couple of months of a lazier schedule. We were waiting to visit about a soon-to-be 7th grader who has yet to have a successful communication system.
The meeting was concerning a trial run with an AAC device this past month. We wanted to make sure we went over the data collected as a team and knew what our next step was going to be. The SLP had sent us all a survey to fill out and then she collected the information and compiled a summary of all the comments. It had been very informative and we had pretty well come to a concensus that we needed another trial with another device in the fall, but wanted to make sure we were moving together on this. We had thought that if the trial had been successful and we knew it was a good fit, we would have some summer fundraisers in the community and rally to buy the device.
As we sat in the office, the SLP pulled out another paper. "This was the response of the student to questions," She said. I was happily surprised that she had thought to give him his own custom survey. He said that he would take care of the device, he wished it would have been faster, he would use it to talk, etc. What I really liked was the last question: "If you could have this device or try another one, which would you rather have?" His answer? "Try another." Here was a student that was genuinely wanting to compare devices and see what fit him best. I was impressed.
I got to thinking about my AAC trial evaluations. Most of the students aren't able to convey choices and decisions of that magnitude because of cognitive issues - or - can they? I do a lot of my observations watching students use devices and see how appropriate they are for their needs. It is a challenge to match a device to a level, but I need to allow for data collection that is beyond the clicker counters and tick marks for appropriate responses and initiating communication. When possible, I need to allow the student to have choice and response time to tell me what they think, what they want and have some say in final decisions. I am a bit ashamed to say I have often worked with teams to make decisions and we have really looked at what was best for a student and the family and the tasks on an IEP without trying to get real assessment and involvelment from the student. I have several students coming up in August/September who have the ability to make well thought-out choices about what they like and dislike in a device. I think the survey will be a great way to get them involved too.
I met with an AAC sales rep this week and showed her the survey results. She was impressed. She shared: "It not only gives you an idea on the effectiveness of the device, but it also lets you know where you need to beef up training for assistants and folks that aren't quite assessing the use of the device properly." I would encourage you to add the survey tool to your data collection for AT. If you use it properly, the data can clue you in on all kinds of valuable information. And while you are at it, get that all-important student involved too with their own custom survey as well.
So here's to more success and the process of learning everyday!
All the best to you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Adventures in Using Free Tools to Convert DAISY Files from MS Word

One goal this morning was to present you with a free DAISY player I found called AMIS that will allow you to open DAISY books. The player has a newer Beta test that is not available yet, so I downloaded the older stable player. It works fine and I would suggest it as a free reader tool. My second goal was to show you how to use the new MS Word add-in to convert text from Word into a DAISY file and play on this free reader. What looked to be an easy voyage into modern technological advancement, turned into a maze of frustration and a dead end (kind of), but I am not giving up. You might enjoy reading my little story and it could save you some of my grief...and add humor to your day!

I spent 2 and a half hours this morning fiddling with software to use the new tools to convert Word documents to DAISY format. I had a little glitch getting the Save as DAISY to show up in my Word 07 program, but when I went to options/add-ins and selected the DAISY add-in then it was on my File menu. It converted the Word document into an XML format, which is basically a document that opens in a web browser. From there, I can use a Natural Reader or Click Speak to read it, but I could have done that without transferring to a DAISY XML format. The AMIS reader couldn't find or open the DAISY XML file, so I realized I would have to convert the file further to get the player to recognize my converted Word document.
I went on the DAISY Consortium website and found under the MS Word Add-in link, that DAISY Consortium has "DAISY Pipeline" which further converts DAISY XML to a full DAISY dtb (digital talking book) file and/or a full DAISY formatted file. Here is what they say on their Daisy Pipeline main page:
"A new release of the DAISY Pipeline is available as of May 7, 2007. This new release features support for the Microsoft "Save As DAISY XML" transformer, several usability improvements including a new Windows installer, partial Hindi localization, as well as performance enhancements and the inclusion of a validator for OPS/EPUB files, the file format based on the open standard developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). This release of the Pipeline also includes beta versions of several new, pivotal transformers which support the migration of content from one DAISY Standard to another."

So I downloaded the Daisy Pipeline as a run/install. When it went to open it said it needed Java Runtime Environment (jre) or a Java Development Kit (jdk) to run. I went to Sun Systems and found that the Java apps couldn't download without the Sun System Dowload manager. So before I could download a Java tool to run the DAISY Pipeline so I can explore converting the DAISY XML that I converted with the download of the MS Word add-in I downloaded at 7 a.m. (It was now 8:30 a.m.) I have to download the Sun Systems Download Manger. Are you getting the picture?
I downloaded the download manager, then went to the Java application I could use, and they said that it is experiencing the end of life (eol) support at Sun Systems. There is a new Java 6 that can be downloaded (but it looked like you had to buy it.) With some more hunting, I did find the JRE to download. Success!
Okay, now BACK to trying to open DAISY Pipeline. I opened Pipeline and got a configuration error - it tried to open but couldn't quite get there. There was a update bugs and fixes on the DAISY Consortium for the Pipeline, but when it downloaded, it was in a zip file with TONS of read me files, Web docs and extensions, etc. I went BACK to DAISY and read the accompanying installer instructions and found that you need to have the Pipeline application OPEN, search for the updates from inside and the program actually installs them for you. That didn't help me because I couldn't open it in the first place.
I went to send a note to the consortium asking their help. That is where I was when I decided I had better put this off for another day and write up something different for you. Then I thought, why not share? If you are a techno-geek you might find some humor here. You also might have an idea how to get around my mistakes. So...there you go.
My summary of the experience? We are getting there - but it is NOT a simple task to just get all these tools to work together. I am confident We will have this figured out and in an easy to follow tutorial soon. Until then, if you have any pieces to the puzzle that are FREE...let us know.
There are some great tools that are for purchase that would save this grief, but it is always a fun challenge trying to make the free stuff work together.
All the best to you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Wiki on UDL for All is a Valuable Resource

Paul Hamilton has a great blog called Free Resources From the Net. I have been going there for quite some time and enjoy his resources. He shared with me that he has a new wiki on universal access called "udl4all." I have been working very hard this spring on developing a training model for teachers that will help them explore these tools and put them to use in the classroom. As I shared yesterday, I have been working with our instructional resources team to develop an image for all our computers that will utilize these tools.
Paul has been busy (I can appreciate all the work he has done setting up the UDL Resource wiki) so that we can share more resources, add to the collective knowledge and experience we have and build stronger access services in our individual areas of impact.
Paul's blog post on the new wiki is on his blog.
This is the link to the actual wiki: udl4all

I am putting it on my important links I support list on the sidebar as well. Thanks Paul for your work on this!

AT Blog Carnival Submissions are accepted for Edition #4 through June 27th
Share a post with our AT community and let us hear from you.
Submit your own blog on AT and disability for the drawing for a free software title from Learning Magic by June 15
We haven't had a lot of entries so the odds are very high in your favor on winning!
Submissions for both the AT Blog Carnival and the Blog drawing can be submitted to:

All the best to you!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A List of Top Accessibility Tech Tools for Learning

I met with our IT managers yesterday for a discussion on implementing accessibility tools on all computers in all 12 districts within our 7 county region. I have to say right at the beginning that I am so fortunate to work with some terrific open-minded folks that want to do what is best for students. This group is incredibly positive and ready to help. I don't know if you have to fight politics, IT departments that dictate what is available to teachers and students, general power issues, etc. If you do, I am sorry, but I don't have to deal with any of that. I was able to share and demo my list of tools on the data projector off my own laptop and we were able to discuss the benefits and challenges of developing a computer image with these programs ready to go in the fall. We are talking imaging at least 50,000 computers.
At one point, I was asked by the team if these programs needed to be on all the computers. The thought was that maybe there might be a few computers in the building that need the tools on them for certain students, but not on all. Here was my answer...

I shared with them that it would be a forward-thinking move to be able to say that we have done our best to provide all teachers and students with the tools for accessibility, and that they are on every computer, for any individual, anytime. The UDL Editions by CAST, Google and Texthelp, gives a great example of a goal to strive for in tools that individuals can have at their fingertips to learn. For our version of this, it includes the Click-n-Type keyboard and the word prediction tool that goes with it, the Natural Reader tool for text to speech, PowerTalk to use text to speech within PowerPoint presentations, Merriam-Webster Dictionary tools on the Internet Explorer toolbar for definitions, Spanish translation and thesaurus. For the Firefox browser, we have the gTranslate, and Click Speak plug-ins as well. They are easy to get if you search for them with the Firefox browser. They can just be added quickly.
Everyone seemed very open to having these included and liked the idea that we could be complying with UDL standards in a more aggressive way. I was so proud of the way the team took to the challenge and began to discuss the training that needs to go into getting teachers aware of these tools and see the analysis begin on how many buildings actually use Firefox versus Internet Explorer.
We also had a great list of what our instructional resource/technology trainers feel are necessary to integrate tech and multi-media in the classroom.

Here is our list of Suggestions. Maybe you can get some ideas from it:
(I have linked the AT and UDL tools.)

All of these programs should be run once to accept licenses:
Audacity: also install lame_enc.dll. (Test by exporting as MP3)
Photo Story
Tux Paint-install stamp set
Media Converter SA Edition
Google Earth
Google Sketch-Up
Promethean Viewer
Microsoft Learning Essentials
Flash video player
Adobe reader – accept license
Microsoft Producer
Movie Maker
Firefox - very important because Drupal works better with Firefox
Cute PDF printer
Microsoft Learning Essentials for Educators -

Movie Maker - latest version
Media Player - latest version
Google Toolbar for both IE and Firefox
PicLens for IE and Firefox
Google Notebook Browser Extension for Firefox and IE

Accessibility Tools:
Click n Type On-screen keyboard
Click n Type word prediction add-on (separate download on page with keyboard)
Virtual Magnifying Glass
Natural Reader
Click Speak (Browser test to speech in Firefox only)
Merriam Webster Dictionary Toolbar (IE) (Firefox )
Powertalk for MS Powerpoint
gTranslate - for firefox (translates text in 25 languages)

Preferred Settings :
for Office 2003 or earlier
Turn off the drawing canvas
Turn on the drawing toolbar in Word
Turn on the outline toolbar in PowerPoint
Set default clip art to be “tight”
Run clip art organizer
Accept “cookie” to be able to download clip art and templates from office online Office 2007
Install Getting Started Tab with the interactive
Install PDF plugin
Display settings higher than 800x600
And a new one: The Save As: DAISY format add-on.

This gives you an idea of what we are working with as our main initiative for a standard set of applications for next school year. Thanks to some great networking and efforts on our IT part, I feel very confident, come September, we will see some great continuity in what is offered.
It will be nice to know that we can walk into any school with confidence, knowing that the accessibility tools needed are there to use with students from the on-set. I have wasted much time in the past, getting downloads to the right person who had the security clearance to load something for a student that needed it because it was on the IEP or because it was something we wanted in conjunction with a trial. Looking back on it now, it seems very primitive and in-congruent with our goals in AT and our service model to have done it that way. I am excited for where we are heading!

I would encourage you to look at these applications and see how they might support you at home, at school or at work. There are some powerful programs in this list and we are working diligently to get them out there for students to learn to use and build the ability in them to take initiative in accommodating their own learning - I call this "student-driven accommodation." Whatever you call it, it's academic freedom and independence.

All the best to you!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Edition 4: Calling for Submissions

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival #4, Issue: "Grab Bag"
Deadline: June 27 for submissions; Will be up June 30.

The next edition of the AT Blog Carnival, our 4th, will be out on June 30. We are calling for submissions by June 27 from those of you who have blogs and would like to submit a post on AT. This issue is a "grab bag" because we want to open this wide for folks to share whatever they have in their post archive or something new they would like to share on assistive technology. As submissions come in, I will group them as well as I can into categories. So, we want to hear what you have to say. What have you been learning about AT lately? What new gadget has you intrigued? What new area do you think is a frontier in research and development for servicing disability? I am excited to see new technology that is linking us together in greater ways everyday. I see huge potential to interface people with disabilities via Internet into work where the mind is the thing, not the body - the playing field is so much more level.
We are a little at a disadvantage because the Blog Carnival Service networks folks and provides a submission engine to blog carnivals and has a way to get the word out through their service base about what blogs are posting when and the topics, etc. We were getting quite a few submissions through that, but because they won't change their Captcha to something that assists disabled bloggers to submit, we are moving away from using them. This means more than ever, we need you to pass the word, submit posts and help us collect submissions from blog authors. Our purpose in this is to see more sharing of ideas and information and networking. I have felt that the editions so far have had great posts, information and have given us another link as a community. So, get your creative juices flowing and send in a post and pass the word on to others. It is a great way to get new visitors to your blog and create a larger audience.

The blog carnival home blog site with Editions 1, 2 and 3 as well as info on hosting it on your blog in the future and submission info is:

Email posts to: Remember the deadline - June 27

Also: Blog Contest Deadline, June 15th! The Drawing is still open for you to share your blog to have a chance to win. Just email me your blog address and your name and you will be put in our drawing for a free title of your choice from Learning Magic. Email your entry to the email address above.

Your email will never be sold, given out or added to someone's spam list - your privacy will always be respected.

All the best to you!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Leaving the Ninety-Nine for the One

"You didn't drop the ball," I was told today by a speech pathologist, when talking about a little autistic girl up in the mountains about 2 hours from me. "For some reason, the AT piece was just cut off before it could get anywhere. I tried to get you in our meetings but I was told that we could handle it ourselves with low tech and without bringing someone in to get involved."

I hate hearing these types of stories. It isn't because I think I am some guru that can come in and save the day and make everything suddenly better. It isn't because I think low tech isn't the answer. It isn't because I believe that the decisions and efforts of those in this instance weren't valuable and full of the best intentions for the student.

The reason I hate these type of stories is because a student didn't get EVERY service they were entitled to. My services are paid for this student through regional program dollars, so the service wouldn't cost the school a dime. My services could be a support to the team and to help them get another view of the situation.

When I am in a situation where I have a student that I am scratching my head over, I put out a call for opinions and ideas - I don't say that I can handle it with my own limited experiences and ideas. When we do that, there are usually two reasons why it happens. One is pride and the other is the pocket book. And who gets short-changed? The staff? the school? The student.

What a waste.

There is the parable in the New Testament that Christ told about the Good Shepherd. He left the ninety and nine to go after the one. The one was as precious to him as any other. I guess most of us in education are there because we have compassion and care about kids. We are "Good Shepherds." We want to save everyone. Sometimes I see "The one" and wonder if I could have done something more, to reach and...

School is out for the other ninety nine this week and I have some wonderful memories of smiles from high school kids that came and put their arm around me to say "hi" because I helped them use some communication tools they hadn't used before. I have memories of a terminally ill boy playing his own voice in rap music for me he recorded while he is in the process of losing his voice. There is the girl that I made a wood floor easle for in my shop so she could type with her toes. I have a boy who took a Tango home on loan over Memorial Day week-end and took it to a family reunion. He was able to come back and tell me, with the device, that he went fishing, went on a long walk and that his family was happy to see him using the device. His family labored to help him program in the messages - talk about family buy in! It was the most he had ever been able to tell me in one visit.

I could go on and on...I have a heart bursting with joy and thankfulness for the blessings that have occurred over the past 9 months, but I guess I still think of that one little girl up in the mountains that I got a service request for and then when I tried to set up an appointment, no one followed through. I felt I had dropped the ball until someone came in to tell me today that I hadn't.
I still want to think there could have been something more I could have done. Whether there really was or not, I guess I'll never know. The word is that this little girl will be moving away from our area this summer . I hope she is somewhere with a new support team that advocates for every service possible. Then there are those still here that I will continue on the road to help next fall. I can see their faces now. I can't wait - but I have a summer to get through first...I will enjoy it and take some time to write and work on some online projects while I have the time. I will continue to share what I am learning, thinking and doing with you. Thanks for reading.

All the best to you!


Friday, June 6, 2008

Bookshare Downloadable formats and Portable Players

If you are new to the world of downloadable formats of text for print disability, there might seem to be a lot of things to learn. is a great place to start for access to books, but you need to qualify with them as having a bonafide print disability. Your membership costs $25 up front one time to sign up, and a $50 a year subscription fee. You can participate for free if you apply through a school for educational purposes. This includes k-12, post-secondary and adult education. Go to Bookshare to read more on Memberships.
When you get your membership or qualify under a educational account, you will have access to books in various file formats that will download within the folder of the book title. Some books might have more format types than others, depending on the book. For example, if the book is a public domain book, it will be in an HTML or Internet document format that reads in a browser window.
Here are the 4 formats that books download in with Bookshare:
1. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) which is the digital talking book standard. There is a DAISY/NISO standard which is more specific, but all you really need to know is the term DAISY for this format. Bookshare provides a free downloadable reader, the Victor Reader Soft DAISY player so that you can hear all the DAISY file books played on this player with synthesized speech. This player comes in formats for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

2. BRF is the digital braille format. It can be used with braille reading devices and braille printers. If you are sending the file directly to a braille printer/embosser, remember that there might be errors in words and text that show up because it has not been edited by a person. It is a computer-converted format.

3. HTML is the hyper text mark-up language, or the language that is used to present text on the Internet on a web page. As mentioned above, the public domain books will download in this format. You can use Natural Reader's floating toolbar and highlight the text to hear it read, or use clickspeak (Firefox only) on the browser toolbar to hear HTML files read when opened in your Firefox or Internet explorer browser window.

4. Txt (ASCII) is the unformatted file type that opens in Notepad on a Windows computer. There is no font, style, etc. it is just "plain -Jane" text. You can select all the text and paste it into a Word document or blank HTML page and do anything you like with it to dress it up from there. You are still looking to have the text read, and with the Natural Reader you can do that directly form the Txt. file format.
You can read more on these file formats at Bookshare, About Formats.

Portability Options:
As far as players, if you want to make your bookshare files portable, you can use the ClassMate Reader by Humanware and Don Johnston which reads DAISY/NISO; Mp3; NIMAS; Txt; HTML and XML.
The Victor Vibe is a portable reader that plays DAISY, Mp3 and audio CD's.
Another option would be to convert Txt files or HTML files into Mp3 files using the upgrade in Natural Reader that converts to MP3. The basic tool is free and the upgrade is about $45 or so. If you convert the books to Mp3, then you can put them on an ipod, Zune, or any Mp3 player of choice. You can even burn the Mp3 files on a CD and play them on any CD player which plays the Mp3 format.
If you have a print disability and utilize the formats within Bookshare, you will have many texts (even daily news) available to you and you can convert them into about any format to suit your purposes. Technology keeps advancing and our options expand all the time. We are getting to the point where accessibility is becoming more user friendly than it used to be. Microsoft just announced it has added the DAISY format as a file type to save as within the Office Suite of applications. This again, is opening up new options to create text and format it ourselves for greater accessibility.

All the best to you!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Steps to Building Capacity for ALL Students

How do you build capacity for accommodating the access needed for ALL students? Last night I was reading a post on adding access options for students and designing a plan to make it happen on the SpeEdChange Blog by Ira Socol. I have been challenged this year by his writing to work towards more accessibility for ALL students in our region of the state - not just for students on IEP's. I have nods of agreement every time I say, "I have teachers that tell me they have students in their classes that are NOT on IEP's that are struggling far worse and have more issues than some of their students that are on IEP's."

I believe that all students need to be given the tools they need to succeed, and have them available to use anytime. They need to be informed and educated on what is available to them, what short-comings they might have that can be supported to level the playing field for them by using those tools, and the freedom to choose them in front of everyone else without feeling singled-out. If the culture of the classroom is to grab what best suits each person to do the work, whether they are a top honors student or a student that has to work harder than everyone else to get a C, then students will make choices to use support tools.

I am in the process of presenting a list of free computer downloads that are part of the toolbar on the browser for Internet support or a floating toolbar for use with any open application so students get more dictionary support, a dyslexic spell checker, text to speech support for writing and reading, a virtual on-screen keyboard for orthopedic impairment access, and a magnifier that floats on the screen to see small type and details for the visually impaired. I even found the ZAC browser for delivering online content in an autistic -friendly and supportive environment. (See the June 4, 2008 post on it). There are so many incredible and free tools now. There is no excuse for not providing this support anymore.

These are some of the beginning steps I am taking (this is not a be-all, end-all list):

1. Get a uniform set of accessibility tools on ALL computers so everyone knows they are standard equipment to use anytime.

2. Show ALL students how they work, how they make life easier and how they make learning more rewarding. Don't make distinctions on who needs to use them and who doesn't. Demonstrate use for everyone so no one gets singled out and scared to self-accommodate because of what others might think.

3. Get instructor buy-in to implement these tools, and train them on how to use them. If the students never know about them or are provided the opportunity to use them, it will all be a "great idea" that stays an "idea."

4. As an administrator as well as a specialist I have a unique opportunity to use the "pinch method." That is, to work from the top down while I also work from the bottom up.

For example: Demonstrate and empower students to start using the tools whenever the chance arises. Get the instructors using them and get them seeing the power of having these tools available to students. Work on the district and regional level to motivate towards these options and give good documentation to show why it is in the best interests of everyone to design an implementation strategy. Share with students and show them how to choose tools for themselves and why they make sense. Talk to superintendents and principals, while you are training Title I specialists and writing instructors.

I have begun to incorporate the implementation of accessibility and the tools to accommodate learning into everything I do. I find their relevancy in every conversation, meeting and instructional setting. I don't think I have folks saying "Oh no, here he comes to rant and rave on his soapbox again." I honestly share these in a spirit of support and assistance - not threatening the principal with unlawful non-compliance. I believe I am being well-received because I am offering a missing link to what is needed to support higher achievement and academic success.

Isn't that what everyone from student to superintendent wants to see? NCLB continues to raise the bar and the stakes each year for what defines student success. In response, we all need to work together to create an environment for multiple learning strategies and the tools to go with them.

All the best to you!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Free ZAC Browser: A Safe Place for Autistic Children Online

I loaded up a desktop computer yesterday that had been in an elementary special education classroom for use with an autistic child this spring. We had been experimenting with Intellitools Classroom Suite and with a program the speech pathologist had put on.
As I entered the room and saw the student curled up on a bean bag asleep for nap time, I remembered seeing this girl a month and a half ago, watching her clicking anything on the screen and making poor choices on what to do with the computer. I modeled for the assistant how to work with her at the computer and showed some of the activities I had selected for use that would support learning goals. I found a new resource that I wish I would have had this spring that might support this girl and students or children you have that are autistic.

Kate Ahern of Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs Blog, had a post on the ZAC (Zone for Autistic Children) web browser. I was very excited to find it and after looking through the ZAC Browser website and watching the video I thought it would be a good tool to pass on. The browser filters out unsafe sites and content, has a unique icon set of buttons to open bookmarked content under videos, games, music and other activities and sites.

I would love to hear what you have to say about it if you download the free beta application and see how it works. I am going to refer this on to our autism department and spend some time with it. I will let you know more as we explore and use it.
Upcoming Events:
Byron Wilkes of Learning Magic will be my guest on No Limits to Learning Live this morning at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time. You can listen live and call in with comments or questions or listen to the archive on the player on my sidebar afterwards. Learning Magic is the sponsor of our blog contest/drawing.
Submit your blog for our random drawing - Deadline June 15th. Drawing is on the 16th.
If you would like a chance to win a free title of your choice from Learning Magic's catalog, then send me your blog link and your email information to be entered in the random drawing at Details are on the sidebar.
All the best to you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The True Story of Hoover the Disabled Dog will Warm Hearts

If you want a story that will get kid's to understand the will to overcome disability, try the free downloads of "Hoover's New Wheels", and "Hoover's Newest Wheelchair". These links can be found on the Learning Magic home page, under Intellitools-based Goodies.
Hoover was in a freak accident that paralyzed his back legs. The two-part download goes through the story of his adapting to a "wheelchair" for his back legs to ride in. Byron Wilkes, the Learning Magic CEO and a colleague, fitted the chairs and helped Hoover get back to squirrel chasing and be truly mobile again. These downloads play with the ITAN player which is free also. If you want to adapt the pages, use the template for student writing, etc. you need to be able to open it as an activity in Intellitools Classroom Suite. These two stories are a part of a series of activities in the CD "The Writing Bin II" that will be available July 2008, and can be used as writing prompt activities. The stories use still images and video. Just having the free version to play and discuss in class on a SMART board or from a data projector would be great. Having Intellitools Classroom Suite to play this and other free goodies from Learning Magic makes it even better.

Byron Wilkes has been designing educational software activities for a good number of years. After time with Intellitools, Byron left the company to start Learning Magic and collaborate with specialists and academic leaders in special education to develop titles that instruct, develop reading and writing skills, social skills, teach science and ecosystems and math skills. The Learning Magic titles play on software such as Intellitools Classroom Suite, Clicker 5, My Own Bookshelf and Test Me Score Me. Byron has successfully combined his personal passion for nature with his desire to develop a catalog of quality high-interest titles for lower cognitive and academic skill levels.

Byron will be my guest in a 30 minute interview on No Limits to Learning Live, Blog Talk Radio, Wednesday, June 4th at 10:30 Pacific time. Learning Magic is also the sponsor of the free software give-away for our start a blog contest.

Note on the contest - drawing:
I have had folks ask whether someone who just started a blog this year could join in the drawing
even if they didn't start it specifically for this contest and the answer is "YES!" Email me your link to your blog on disability, assistive technology, the classroom, etc and get your name on the list for our Learning Magic free software of choice. The deadline is June 16th.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Touch Web Pages to Search with RedZee and a SmartBoard or Tablet PC

Do you remember Tom Cruise working from a glass screen with fanned out images and how he touched, dragged and moved them around in the movie "Minority Report"?
Well, you can get a sense of that with a SMART Board , Promethean Board or Tablet PC and Tablet Mac and the Internet search engine Red Zee.
Red Zee pulls up search results as a series of full page images of the sites. They are fanned out like a deck of cards. By clicking and dragging the mouse, or your finger, you can scroll through the pages and then double-click on the one that you want and view it full-screen.
When I put in searches, the top ones were different than the ones I got on Google, but the results were interesting. A teacher on my blog list, Annemarie80's classroom blog does posts on how she uses the SMART Board in her classroom and RedZee is one of them.
All the best to you!