Thursday, July 31, 2008

Living By Sullivan's Rules

Tom Sullivan is an amazing man. I had heard of him before, but last night I saw him interviewed on the Craig Ferguson Show. He came out with his guide dog and shared on his latest book, "Together: A Novel of Shared Vision"(Amazon's Look Inside). Craig asked him his thoughts on being blind and he replied, (this is of course my own paraphrase of the reply as well as I can remember it)
"I honestly feel that being blind has made me a better person. My sensory perception is more sensitive than a lot of people and I can hear, feel, taste and smell things through my day that most of the world misses, For example: I am a runner. I run with my dog here on the beach every morning. There are 5 different types of waves I hear on our beach, 11 different textures of sand I feel under my feet, over 15 different types a birds that fly over and at one point a beach cafe that makes bacon and eggs that I can smell as I run by drifting down the beach. I can smell the combination of orange blossom, sea air, lavender, jasmine as I run. All this blends together in a symphony of sensation. How could anyone be mad about being able to enjoy all that?"
Below is a video from Barnes and Noble Media of Tom sharing on this and his new book.

I went to Tom's website and read his profile page on Sullivan He was given a higher dose of oxygen in the incubator as a baby to remedy complications. The oxygen saved his life, but he lost is eye sight. As a boy, he wanted to play baseball and his dad helped him to develop "Sullivan's Rules" which the neighborhood played by and which allowed Tom to participate. The rules became the standard way everyone played.

One of the rules shared in Tom's profile was: "Any negative can be turned into a positive."
Tom has been an avid athlete - skiing, golfing, wrestling and even being awarded a place in the wrestling hall of fame. He has composed and produced music for records and film, played piano in Las Vegas and performed the Star Spangled Banner for the bicentennial Super Bowl opening in 1976.
His first book, "If You Could See What I Hear" became a movie with Marc Singer in 1982. He has followed that book with several children's books and a book of stories about parents that care for special needs children called "Special Parent, Special Child."(Amazon). He has a book, "Seeing Lessons: 14 Life Secrets I've Learned Along the Way" which is available at Barnes and Noble.
His latest book, "Together: A Novel of Shared Vision" with Betty White as contributor, is now out (Amazon).
Tom is a special correspondent on ABC's Good Morning America, which allows him to inspire by sharing "you can do it" style stories as he interviews people or does activities showing anyone can do anything if they are determined to overcome the negative in their life. Tom had realized early in life that in order to succeed by regular standards of the world that don't include lowering standards of excellence to accommodate disabilities, he would have to do it better than anyone else. Tom has proven that his philosophy of life has worked for him. (This was something that was shared also by my guest, Ofer Chermesh who has Dyslexia (interview link here) , who designed the spell checker, Ghotit, a while back.
Watching Tom last night was inspiring and I thought of all the students I work with that would gain a lot of encouragement and support by hearing his story. I am going to be working on an interactive book/comprehension quiz activity on Tom that my students can use on the computer to hear his biography and get some of the principles working in their own lives.
I believe that positive attitude and the ability to be grateful everyday can be a catalyst to change circumstances and turn a life around. Wouldn't it be great if we all could remember to live by Sullivan's Rules everyday?

All the best to you!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SpaceClass and Natural Reader for Science Accommodation

I spent some time this morning setting up an account and playing with "SpaceClass". SpaceClass is sponsored by NASA, Lockheed Martin, The Space Foundation, BioServe Space Technologies.

SpaceClass allows a teacher to set up a free account, then set up classes with descriptions and separate passwords. Students can go through the interactive lessons which give writing prompts, show videos with actors and has a narrator throughout the unit.
In their "About" section they say:

"The first space education program featuring virtual science experiments that simulate research actually being conducted in space, SpaceClass teaches students about science and technology for future missions. It makes learning fun! An interactive program using text, streaming video and animation, SpaceClass meets classroom learning standards. Young actors guide students through the entertaining lessons. Teachers can monitor each student’s progress and performance online."

The text above says that it "meets classroom learning standards" but I don't know what specific standards those are and for what grade level. It would be interesting to find out. The site says that the sponsors determine what topics and content will be part of SpaceClass, based on real work and research they are doing.

I viewed the Mission to Mars Unit after setting up an account and a mock class for training purposes. Mission to Mars has the following description:

"Students fly to Mars and use a membrane to separate gases in the Martian atmosphere in order to make methane fuel for the return trip to Earth. They learn about orbits, distances between planets, and how to calculate the amount of fuel needed. They experiment with electrolysis and learn how to use the natural resources of space to survive on Mars."

Accessibility in the Unit:
Mission to Mars had a nice intro and narrator with a voice easy to understand, some animation and then had a writing prompt on the Mars probes and landing on Mars. The student had to read the prompt text, so I opened my miniboard floating toolbar in the free program, Natural Reader. I was able to use the toolbar as my companion to read text to me as I went through the activity. I am glad to see that I can highlight text on the lessons and have the text read.

Above: A screen shot of SpaceClass and the writing prompt and my reading toolbar.

A variety of topics:
Other topics of units include Orion's Path; Journey to a Black Hole; Asteroid Challenge; Bones in Space. The grade level is probably middle to high school. Some upper elementary students who are advanced might find this a great alternative TAG activity.

I am interested in the aspect of using it with students who are cognitively fine, but need either some extra motivation in science and some reading support or have a visual disability and need to have some text support for help (this is where Natural Reader comes in). This site could be a great way to weave in some accessibility support as well as add some positive motivation factors if the units meet some key objectives in your science or reading and writing curriculum.

SpaceClass could be just the ticket for some of your students in a middle or high school class for remediation in reading and writing with students struggling with some of the more hidden learning disabilities. Often times these students need a more exciting medium to develop their skills. With Natural Reader for support, the combination package is a great alternative and the best is all free. You might want to check this one/two power punch out for some of your students this fall.

All the best to you!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Amazing Stories From Mexico and Mobilize Mankind

Jose, Roberto and Osmara are 3 very special examples of incredible human spirit. Saturday morning I spent 40 minutes visiting with Greg and Gayle Edwards and hearing them share stories of two very special disabled children and one young man for No Limits to Learning Live which is now on archive to listen to on this blog sidebar. Link to the episode here.

Jose is a super-intelligent boy locked in a disabled body. He has CP and is finally in a power chair donated to Mobilize Mankind, who transported it and other chairs in a U-Haul trailer to Baja, Mexico. Jose has the ability to be independent now and has a computer with Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically Pro. He is the first disabled student in the state of Baja to be allowed to go to regular school and not a special education self contained program when entering upper grades. He has been appointed a shadow teacher to help him. He has some AT and the state is watching him as a pilot project to see what happens.

Osmara is a little girl who was not able to do anything when the Edwards' first started working to provide volunteers to bring services to her. She could only react to a spring-loaded tape measure and push the button to watch it snap back in the case. She also only was laying down. Now, 10 years later, after a power chair and OT and PT , she is now zooming around school, communicating and in regular classes. She needs accessibility software like Kurzweill 3000 (both she and Jose do) and she is asking when she will get a laptop to help her with school. She has made huge strides.

Roberto is 28 years, and 9 years ago he was in a car accident. He was left a quad in bed for 7 years. He could manage to be out of bed for 3 hours a day and worked on painting. He has done incredible paintings in spite of his disability. He was given a power chair and wore out the battery on his second day going to see all his neighbors and be independent. The goal is to assist him to be able to be an active artist as a profession.

Mobilize Mankind would like to share the progress of these 2 children and this young man with all of us this next school year, spotlighting different updates and sending video and images to put up on the blog. I am thrilled to begin to work on this project with the Edwards and we are looking at some time after October when they get donated equipment down there again and have time to settle into a routine with the school year and get images, video, etc.

They are always looking for special education teachers, AT specialists, OT's, PT's and SLP's, vision and hearing specialists, etc. who would like to spend a week in Cabo San Lucas going around to work with students. You can contact them at: Mobilize Mankind. Also, they asked me to share their phone (541) 514-9366 and email:

The Edwards' also shared about a unique park that has been designed with play equipment especially for children with disabilities. If used properly, it also provides therapeutic training and exercise for kids. I would highly recommend listening to this segment. You will be inspired by the stories you hear!

All the best to you!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Edition 5 is Up

The July Submissions for AT Blog Carnival Edition 5 are ready to read at There are some great submissions that I know you will enjoy.
I was in a mall 10 days ago when the new 3 Gig iphone was coming out. A line was forming in the middle of the mall. With all the buzz on the new iphone and the new Google phone coming, I am glad we have an interesting review of the iphone touch screen and how folks with disabilities can or can't use it.
There is a fascinating new technology that really could open up things for the blind. Read about it on Edition 5 as well as a review of a picture address book for the MAc and my own sharing of my posts and radio show interview about Notescribe a new searchable data base program for your notes and research on recipes, articles, web sites, you name it...

All the best to you!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ants, Elk Poop and the Milky Way: Take Advantage of Teachable Moments

The wood I was splitting yesterday had an "ant farm" in one piece. I split the piece open and little red ants came crawling out. There were 100's of eggs. I pulled my son and our 7 year-old niece who is staying with us for a couple of weeks over to look.
"I see an ant carrying an egg!" said my son excitedly.
"The large ants with the fat bodies are queen ants I think..." I explained.
"I see one!" said my niece.
I decided to stop the chore I was doing and take advantage of the opportunity. I thought, "Wouldn't this be a great opportunity to see the ant world up close?" I ran in the house and got out our son's little microscope and slides. I laid the box down and got out the tweezers and a catching jar. We got an egg-carrying ant and put him in a magnifying dish. The kids watched him carry the egg up close. We then put the ant on a slide under a clear vinyl cover while alive and they looked at his body. The most exciting part were the pinchers up close on the mouth moving up and down. "Can I see?" one would ask, then, "May I see too?" the other would ask. I would center the subject on the scope and tell the kids what they were going to see. They were beside themselves with anticipation.
We left the ant to go and look at the egg. I accidently squished an end - but this proved to be a good thing because the little ant growing inside hung out of the casing. With the microscope you could see its' body and legs, all clear and white-like. "It's all white!" They were amazed.
The kids' curiosity was sparked. They began to look for other small things to view. A dried up butterfly wing, a cricket. a gnat or little mosquito-type bug, all were stuck under the scope.
We took the scope inside and they spent time looking for things to see, re-adjusting slides for different views.

Last night we slept on our mountain. My niece doesn't spend much time in the woods and we have over 50 acres of mountain woods as our backyard and behind that it is National Forest. We hiked on a trail and I explained that we were on a game trail that deer and elk made. "There is elk poop, look out!" my son yelled. His cousin dodged the little black piles. Later, returning to the camp site, she didn't know where to go.
"Can you see where we smashed the grass down walking?" I asked.
"No" she said.
"Did you look around while we walked to look for things you recognize, or did you just follow me and not pay attention?" I asked.
"I just followed you." she replied.
"Well, if you learn to walk and keep your eye out for special trees, a meadow, a hill, a big boulder or a trail," I replied, "you have clues to help you get back where you started if you get lost."
We built a fire from little twigs - no newspaper - and got it to grow to a nice little fire. My son has learned that it takes two logs or sticks to keep a fire going and he was explaining that to his cousin while they got wood.

We were out looking at the stars later after another night of BBQ "shish-ka-bombs" in a clearing and it was so clear you could see the Milky Way like a misty swirl sweeping across the sky.
"See that misty fog-like stuff in the stars? That is the Milky Way. It is a galaxy full of stars" I said.
"The sky is so crowded tonight" said my niece.
We found the Big Dipper and looked at other constellations, although I need a planosphere to locate them and I had left mine at the house.
The day had been one of discovery. I too often allow my day to fly by and I ignore these simple, yet incredibly magnificent pieces of nature. Having a 6 and a 7 year-old with me allowed me to see the awe and beauty in our world all over again. I guess that is why I love children and education.

All the best to you!


Don't forget the Mobilize Mankind segment for Blog Talk Radio today at 10 a.m. Pacific.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mobilize Mankind brings Hope to Mexico Schools

I first met Greg and Gayle Edwards, the founders of Mobilize Mankind, a few years ago when they visited our ESD offices to pick up some donated used PT and OT equipment for the schools in Baja Mexico. Greg gave me a great video to watch and also shared that they can always use assistive technology folks to come down for a week or so and help with their equipment and students with disabilities.
I haven't made that trip yet (not that I wouldn't like to), but recently touched base with them about some used AT equipment. I mentioned that they might enjoy sharing about their program, what they do and what needs they have.

Talk Radio Segment Coming Tomorrow, July 26 at 10 a.m. Pacific:
I got an email yesterday from Greg saying they were home in Eugene, Oregon until August 1 and they wanted to try and connect. We have set up a Blog Talk Radio Segment for tomorrow morning, Saturday at 10 a.m. Pacific. Listen in on the live feed and call in if you have a question. Go to my No Limits 2 Learning Live show page to read more on the segment and listen to the live show tomorrow morning. The archive will be available afterwards there as well as on my sidebar player.
Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Submissions
You can still send me a blog post link for the July edition. Deadline is tonight. Send it to me at
All the best to you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Put some "Plurk" in Your Day

Plurk allows friends, family, colleagues and classes (classes? Yes.) to stay in contact through the day
"Are you tired of your existing social networks? Share your life easily with friends, family and fans."

I read the italics above when I visited the home page for Plurk. I was recently invited to join Purk by a fellow blogger who had started to post there. I had heard of this kind of "blogging" and went to explore the site. Plurk allows you to set up a profile, an image, and build "karma" by how many friends join, how often you personally Plurk (post an event in your day) and by how many folks respond to your comments. The screen shows a timeline that you can scroll forward or backward on to see what has been posted there. Your friends that join become part of your "Plurk world" and you can see all of you on the time line through the day and all the various things you all do as you post. If you ignore your Plurking, you can lose points you have earned. The point earning sets a kind of "popularity rating" so if you are one of those folks that was unpopular in high school, here is your chance to share interesting Plurks and build a network of friends (as well as prove all those old classmates wrong). If you are a bohemian that goes against the status quo, you can forget the popularity piece and just share your world from your point of view. The question is, to micro-blog or not micro-blog. What is it really and how does this enhance learning and support assistive technology?

Do you Micro-blog?
Social networking has been a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. New formats and platforms for sharing what we do, what we like and what we recommend to others have been showing up. Twitter was one of the first sites I heard about that offered "micro-blogging". If blogging once a day isn't enough for you, now you can micro-blog throughout your day. This concept has its' pros and cons, but first let me explain the concept a little further to the un-initiated.
Micro-blogging involves using a service like Twitter or Plurk to put periodic text updates about your day online for your friends to follow. These services allow you to use text messaging from your phone so you can post on the go. The idea is to share a quick sentence on what you are thinking about, working on, dealing with, etc. The idea is not to write an article or column on an issue or news item. Because the posts are small and occur through the day, the label micro-blogging has stuck. Micro-blogging can be a blessing and a curse. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

Good micro-blogging might include a comment and link to a new site you just discovered, a question you would like to throw out to your friends that are also connected to your Twitter or Plurk throughout the day, an encouragement, a tip, info on what you are doing and how long you will be doing it if you are networking with others in an office or a network where you communicate often throughout the day.
Bad micro-blogging might include mundane comments like, "I am eating breakfast right now", "I am driving to work", "I am choosing a new pair of shoes at Macys." There are certainly folks that are used to text messaging with friends who might want to share that kind of information, but in general, to make this service be a service, the idea would be to contribute something of value to reward those who choose to check up on what you are doing periodically.
You have a choice to use a service like Plurk or Twitter to make your life a "fishbowl", or you can be selective about what you share so that it is sharing value with others, not posting your daily events (unless they are relevant and within your comfort zone). Some folks will enjoy sharing every detail and others won't want to mess with it at all.

Using it as a professional tool
I would love to be able to have my Plurk or Twitter page up in the background through the day and be able to have collected a group of professionals in my field who are committed to contributing through the day. I can imagine looking at a glance and seeing that one friend is working on a text to speech application, one friend is writing an evaluation on a speech device, another is looking online for a good switch interface, etc. At that point I have the opportunity to ask the friend to let me know what the text to speech app is and send me the information, or if I know of a good switch interface, I could send the link right there to them. I am giving information and getting information throughout my day.
I am signed up for Google text messenger and right now, I have a small network of folks I hear from throughout the day already. We text each other and ask for answers, share information, etc. I guess I look at this as a more visual way to follow that type of interaction.

Sharing as a classroom
Imagine starting Plurk for your class at school and sharing topics, projects, information, etc. As you invited a few other classes to join you across the globe, you could be virtual pen pals through the year. You could ask questions and explore another culture, another state, another country and the students that live there as a class entity. Of course students' names and identities would need to be protected, but as a class entity, a Plurk could be a great opportunity. For educators, a Plurk could be a chance to share advice, information and support.

Okay. I have started my own Plurk, and here is my page . You are welcome to go there and visit. If you would like to try it out, just sign up and create a quick profile. You can help me build "karma" by visiting and if you join, you can begin to share some value within the community. I don't ever want to take this too seriously. "If it aint fun, don't do it"...that should apply here.
I will need to start getting into the practice of sharing periodically as I come up with things of value to share. It will take time because this is pretty new to me. Don't expect to see me share too much on the personal side - although I will probably end up sharing more than I think - we'll have to see.
I hope to see some of you on the Plurk side!
Remember, The AT blog carnival submissions are open through this Friday, July 25. I don't have too many this month so any last minute contributions would be great. Send your blog post link to me at
All the best to you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Have You Found Your Purpose?

I was driving down the mountain this morning to come into town for the "No Limits 2 Learning Live" talk show at noon today. I was thinking about my life and my choices, where I am headed and what my purpose really is in all of it. I received a letter yesterday saying that my presentation proposal for Closing the Gap in Minneapolis for October was accepted, I am training state-wide in Seaside, Oregon in August and I am starting in on a UDL training in-service with a high school in August. I have talk shows in the works for August that includes Dynavox, DAISY, gh Learning and some individuals and parents on aspects of disability and training. I have had verbal invitations to do training in Montana and Edmonton, Alberta in Canada.
I am working on the launch of No Limits 2 Learning website soon - so things are moving forward, but what is my motivation for doing this?
I see cookie cutter programs and resources all the time that try and pump out volume as far as how many folks trained, how many units sold, how many numbers of people attended... as if that equates success. The problem is, what about the quality?
I strive for quality and relevance in what I do, but beyond that, my motivation seems to boil down to a two-fold purpose:
My Purpose
"To provide tools and resources for children with disabilities, so that they become ALL that they can be towards seeing their human potential AND to provide the adults that support them with the best tools and resources available to make it happen."
Whether that comes from me driving 200 miles in one day to a rural community to support one child and a teacher; by teaching a workshop with 15 teachers; or interviewing a guest on No Limits 2 Learning Live that impacts hundreds or maybe even thousands over time, it all adds up to the same purpose for me. I have found it. Have you?
What is wonderful for me is that I have found a way to do something I love. I hope that you have that sense in your life as well. If you are a teacher, parent, volunteer or assistant involved with education, children with disabilities and technology, you are very special. I want you to know that today!
All the best to you!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Notescribe CEO on No Limits 2 Learning Live

Time to Organize

Do you ever say, "Its' time to get organized" then go out and buy a new file organizer, some tubs, and file boxes and get your life in order? I find that I am able to be more productive when my life is in order and I can find what I am looking for.
Notescribe does that for all those documents on your computer that you save in folders under different topics, and it is very powerful. When I type a new note, copy some text in and add a hyperlink reference, I can assign key words to locate it later with a great built-in search engine. I downloaded the free trial and have been playing with it and will be buying a permanent copy for organizing my notes.

Using Notescribe for Student Support as Assistive Technology
If you are or know of a student that has a learning disorder or disability that could use a computer tool to organize material from class, then this software could be a good support. I think the uses for students with TBI, ADD/ADHD, etc. could be huge. Being able to organize class notes and topics as well as other information can be a valuable help to those with the need to have support in that area.

I will be interviewing Jeff Sholl, CEO and founder of Higher Symmetry Software and developer of Notescribe tomorrow, Wednesday, July 23 at 12 noon Pacific time. I asked the Notescribe folks if their founder would like to share on Blog Talk Radio on my show and they were thrilled. We have set the interview for tomorrow. After hearing all the cool uses for the software that I haven't even thought of yet, I will just need to take the time to start organizing all those files on my computer...
You can access the interview and listen during the live stream at No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio. The archive will be available after the show on my sidebar player or at the link above. I am also going to start working on transcripts of the files for download for the hearing impaired to be able to follow along with these shows. Sorry it hasn't happened yet, but I will work on it ASAP.
Don't forget also- Assistive Technology Blog Carnival submissions can be sent to me up until Friday, July 25 at

All the best to you!

Post note 7/23/08: For some reason the Blog Talk Radio Service dropped out for about a minute through the middle of this interview. Their server had been down earlier so it was a tech glitch. If you hang with the interview a minute or less, it comes back- don't give up. I am editing the interview and taking out the dead space so you can listen to the interview without it at my site . Sorry for any inconvenience.

image credit:

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Talk Show Guest, Interviews & AT Blog Carnival This Week

I have some quick news for you as to what is going on here at No limits 2 Learning. I was able to interview my uncle, Hubert Thornburg, who was a pioneering special education teacher in Oregon from the 1950's through the 70's. He saw the origin of special education in Oregon and was asked to be one of the first pioneer teachers for this in the state. I spent two mornings with him while on a family visit in Portland area last week. I have a lot of editing to do, but I think the interview will be interesting and enjoyable when it is done. I hope to have it up and some old pictures he shared with me by the time school starts in September.

The CEO of Notescribe, Jeff Sholl, will be my guest this week on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio. The show is being scheduled for Wednesday this week later in the day, but I will have more specifics for you tomorrow after we finalize the time, etc. Notescribe is a great way to put all your information under a search and keyword system. You can enter all your sources for citations so they are viewed in APA format for various media. If you are in college, working on a masters or doctorate - or just doing research, this software would be invaluable to you. The interview will be a chance for the founder to share about the software in more depth as well as share the story of how it came about. I am looking forward to it and hope you can listen in.

Our next edition of the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival is due out July 28. Submissions need to be to me by this Friday, July 25. I know folks are busy and on vacations, etc. so we will post what we get even if it is a smaller one this month. If you have a post to share, please send it to me at

All the best to you!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great Schools has Summer Activities and Inspiration for Special Needs Children

Summer Ideas for Special Needs Parents:
As the summer wears on, maybe as a parent, you are looking for a break or are wishing you had a few more ideas up your sleeve for summer activities and alternatives. If you need some fresh inspiration, check out the summer activities articles from Great Schools by Schwab Learning.

Great Schools, a site for parent success in grades k-12, gives some great ideas for summers activities in their article: "Summer Activities for Kids with Learning Disabilities: Making Wise Choices." The article, by an educational psychologist, gives ideas on choosing what to do with summer's extra time in academic skill building, physical activity or the arts and reading. There is a link in the article to another section on using the arts with your child that is worth the read also.
For more topics on children with learning disabilities and summer, check out the site's Activities Out of School topics.

Have a great weekend...all the best to you!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tango Rolls Out Tango to Literacy & Assessment Assistant

Patti King-DeBaun to host 2 free webinars on Tango to Literacy & Assessment Assistant July 22 & 24
The Tango, by Blink Twice is a great addition to the list of devices we have to choose from in the AT, speech and communication field. Its unique software, size and communication topics make it a popular choice by many for communication. I have heard some criticism of its ability to develop literacy, and now Blink Twice has an answer...Tango to Literacy (Here is a pdf flier).
Tango to Literacy contains educational materials for building literacy and language skills with the Tango. It focuses on the first 30 core words so students learn to use the core vocabulary, develop phonics and spelling skills as well as conversational competence.
It contains 6 lesson sets, six small printed stories that use the core vocabulary, CD with an "e-bookshelf and e versions of the 6 stories, core word playing cards, dry erase board and pens and sentence strip. The price is $149.
I have not personally seen or used the Tango to Literacy set yet, so I don't know how it addresses literacy in general, but it sounds like anyone who has purchased a Tango for a student, could use these materials to get the student using the built in core words and gain fluency with the Tango more quickly and effectively. I know that in the case of one student we purchased a Tango for, the SLP, special ed teacher and assistants worked with him to build stories and sequences that he wanted to say as well as being oriented on where the topics he would most use were located. I think a package of materials like Tango to Literacy would be a great help.
The Assessment Assistant is on a SD card that goes in the Tango and guides the user through the assessment steps.

Patti King-DeBaun will be hosting 2 free webinars to demonstrate the software tools she helped create. According to Tango, here is more information:

"Next week, Pati King-DeBaun, M.S. CCC-SLP, is hosting not one - but two - webinars! Completely free of charge, these interactive online lessons are hosted in real time. All you need is high-speed Internet and a phone and you're halfway there. She will discuss two fantastic new Blink Twice products that she helped create, Tango to Literacy and Assessment Assistant.
Developed in conjunction with Maureen Donnelly and Dr. Karen Erickson, Tango to Literacy is an innovative, integrated, and intuitive approach to teaching literacy. You'll see how students will work with the Tango's core vocabulary, develop phonics skills, and build language mastery. And you'll learn about all the fun extras!
Assessment Assistant is the perfect evaluation package for the Tango. It's an incredibly powerful tool designed to help professionals through the evaluation process, perfect for those who haven't done many assessments, or any at all. Assessment Assistant comes on an SD Card and even includes a guidebook so you can get familiar with it."

One participant will win a FREE Assessment Assistant. The webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, July 22nd at 10:00 EST and Thursday, July 24th at 2:00 EST. To register, simply click here. Or, visit, and click on Sign Up for Training.! For those of you that can't make either of the webinars, they will be be recording the sessions so you can listen in any time. They'll be made available the following week at
If you want to get in on these webinars you should register quickly because they are saying that space is limited.
Check out the link for a company pdf flier on these and other classroom tools.

All the best to you!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wee Sing Joins "kidthing" Content for Kids

The content for "kidthing" the new player for children's educational games and literature, has just added kid's music. Wee Sing a leader in music videos, CD's and lyric books for children has agreed to collaborate with kidthing with their brand of musical content through their video library.
According to the kidthing release:
"July 16, 2008, Los Angeles, CA –Wee Sing and kidthing, a web 2.0 global learning platform for children, parents, teachers, family and friends, announced an agreement to bring Wee Sing’s classic series of favorite children’s songs and musical videos to kidthing.

Wee Sing, which has sold over 50 million books, tapes, CDs and videos, will bring its award winning DVD series to a new generation on kidthing. For the first time ever, Wee Sing videos will be available to download as individual songs to kidthing’s digital media player. The music from all 9 award-winning Wee Sing DVDs will be available in the kidthing store beginning this fall, including: Wee Sing in Sillyville, Wee Sing Train, Wee Sing King Cole’s Party, Wee Sing Under the Sea, Wee Sing The Best Christmas Ever, Wee Sing Together, Wee Sing Grandpa’s Magical Toys, Wee Sing in the Big Rock Candy Mountains, and Wee Sing in the Marvelous Musical Mansion.

Wee Sing music enriches the cognitive, physical and social development of children with singing and dancing. Through songs, chants, movement and rhythms, children gain readiness skills of language development, auditory discrimination, body awareness, coordination and self confidence.

At kidthing, parents can preview and purchase fun and engaging content from around the world. The content is automatically downloaded to the kidthing media player, where kids can play the content, as often as they wish, in an ad-free environment that safely insulates them from the World Wide Web. kidthing has established content relationships with some of the world’s leading children’s publishing, game and media companies, including Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Penguin Young Readers Group, Charlesbridge Publishing and many others.

“When we started Wee Sing, we wanted to share our favorite childhood songs with our children in a way that was fun and engaging for them. Today’s kids are the digital generation and we are excited to be able to bring treasured Wee Sing songs to them in the safe digital world of kidthing,” commented Susan Nipp, co-founder of Wee Sing.

“Wee Sing has entertained and educated millions of kids through music on videos, CDs and DVDs. We are honored to be able to debut this incredible work for the first time digitally and downloadable at kidthing,” said Don Levy, kidthing’s President, Strategic Business. "
Having the Wee Sing content will broaden the spectrum of what is available on the player for special needs students to access in the classroom and at home. Using a switch interface and switch to access the player, orthopedically impaired students will be able to turn pages and have the player read books to them for smoe much-needed independence. Depending on how the controls are set up on the player for playing videos, the students should be able to play and stop a preselected music video.
An interesting side-note:
I have to share that in my younger years, one of the Wee Sing co-founders, Susan Nipp, was teaching piano in my Oregon hometown of Newberg. I took piano lessons from her for a year or so. Later in college life and beyond I recorded several albums of my own material at a local recording studio and at that time a producer and the studio owner -friend of mine were selected to produce the initial cassettes for Wee Sing (see history link on Wee Sing site also printed below.)
"Two years and 20,000 copies later, their book was acquired by Price Stern Sloan, a publisher now an imprint of Penguin Group, USA. Realizing the need to create more product that promised wholesome, educational fun, Pam and Susan continued to develop new titles. In 1981, they broke new ground in children’s publishing with the addition of audiocassettes to their established songbook collection. Barry Hagen and Mauri Macy of Early Bird Recordings in Newberg, Oregon, were selected to produce the music. After creating more than 40 audio products, Pam and Susan still work closely with Barry and Mauri. "
I doubt that Susan would remember me, but I have kept track of their successes through the years and have enjoyed the little connection I have to them through the past. It has been fun to see it come full circle today with this post.
I would recommend checking out the kidthing free player download and trying the sample content included.
All the best to you!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Vision Testing Technology Brings Early Detection for AMD and Diabetes

My grandfather on my mother's side had Glaucoma. I have unusually high eye pressures that have tagged me as a candidate for Glaucoma. I have annual tests to track the degeneration of the optic nerve. So far, so good, but my visits to the ophthalmologist are expensive and involve quite a few tests. Because of this, I have an interest in new technologies for early detection in visual impairments.
AMD, Age-related Macular Degeneration, according to the site, All About Vision, "occurs with degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive. Because the macula primarily is affected in AMD, central vision loss may occur."
Research at the University of Michigan by Dr. Victor Elner, professor of ophthalmology and Howard Petty, Ph.D., a biophysicist, has brought a new vision testing computer device that can detect changes in the eye up to 10 years earlier than previously possible. The focus is on Diabetes more than AMD but both become highly more possible to detect at an earlier age. The team is looking at researching the effects of vitamins and diet on the degenerative process and the postponing of diabetes. According to an article in The Detroit Free Press, the device takes a picture of the eye:
"The device is a camera linked to computer software that provides a numerical value, or score, that suggests the beginnings or progression of a disease. It measures the activity of a protein associated with abnormal cell changes associated with both diabetes and certain eye diseases. The team hopes to develop composite pictures of images taken of the retina."
The test is quick, painless and costs $20, compared to the $120 for a standard blood-glucose test.
You can read the complete article on The Detroit Free Press at I am always excited to see the new uses and developments in technology that help identify and prevent the occurrence of disabilities. This study and technology looks to be a promising development for folks with AMD and Diabetes.

All the best to you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Autism Grant Increases Hands-on Training Opportunities for Students in Therapy and Education

A major breakthrough came this spring when a severely autistic student in one of our high schools made the connection to use a set of "Go Talk Ones" for his communication development. We had tried several different ideas that incorporated assistive technology to help this boy develop a system to communicate and be able to do more than busy tasks. The special education teacher, the autism specialist and the occupational therapist had pulled me in several times to work on initiating some kind of tool. They started with picture symbol recognition and a reward system, and you can imagine how excited everyone was to see the Go Talk One click for him. We began to see meaningful and purposeful communication start to be initiated by him. We now have a foundation to see where it might take him in further communication development and more advanced AAC down the road.

My work in assistive technology involves collaboration with autism therapists working on a way to build communication skills in students and find tools to engage and teach them. Each student is unique and no method or tools set combination works the same twice. I also integrate AT with teachers that range from being completely comfortable with autism, to ones that don't know where to begin when it comes to working with students with autism. Our autism specialists work very hard to support students and try to give tips and training to the special ed and regular ed teachers. I was very excited to hear about the grant funding that is going into training future teachers in methods and actual hands-on experience with autism in the classroom.

The foundation, Autism Speaks, has given $20,000 to The University of Central Florida (see article) to use in their Real Experience in Autism Classroom's Helps program that will put 50 to 100 budding student teachers in real classroom situations with 10 to 20 autism specialists in the school system. The goal is to give them tools to use with autistic students and a background of experience to help them feel more comfortable when working with these students in the future.

I am excited to see these collaborative efforts and I am glad to see that folks believe in the benefit of giving students these kinds of experiences. Having a diverse experience in college to see first-hand some of the techniques and skills needed to work effectively in Autism will be huge plus for these students.

I was very impressed with the Autism Speaks site. Take some time to go there and browse their resources. They have a video archive, which is being updated and not available at this time, but will be back I am sure. There is a glossary of definitions and a link to a list of research programs that parents can get involved in as active participants. There are family resources and an interactive network for resources as well. This should be on any parent of an autistic child's list as a resource site for learning and being involved in Autism awareness and advocacy.

All the best to you!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Organize Your Written World with Notescribe

I have discovered a great new tool, but I have been putting it on the back-burner until I had some time to do it justice and really spend some time with it. The tool is Notescribe. I have piles of folders on my computer with bits and pieces of notes from speakers, conferences, audio learning sessions on Mp3 or CD, video tutorials, etc. I also do a lot of research for writing, training and professional development. If you are like me, you have tried to organize your folders and files into some system that makes sense for you. What if there were a program that allowed you to take all the notes you wanted, add in keywords and categories, drop them in a list under a category and add a search engine to find a note on a topic quickly and easily?

Welcome to Notescribe.

The software has an "Add new note" feature and the note is a notecard-sized window. You can fill it in, place it in a category, add keywords for searchability and even attach a file to it to have to open. If you have some old notes in a Word document, you can copy and paste them into a new note with all pertinent tracking tags/keywords to set up your database.
To search your database you are developing, you type in a search word that was a keyword (I would recommend thinking through your keywords you attach to a note so you have all possibilities of what you might try to use to find the note again) and then let it bring up the results.
The real power of the program is in the search engine. That is what attracts me. Because of the volumes of material I have written and saved, I can use a system like this to further organize my life. I might not go back and enter all the archives of past work, but if I start now to begin to enter my research and notes into Notescribe, after awhile, I will begin to see a searchable body of work at my fingertips to make my life easier.
One feature I tried to add in Notescribe and it didn't work, was to use my text to speech floating toolbar from Natural Reader with it. I thought it would be nice to see the application work for the visually impaired, or just to have a text to speech engine to use to hear my notes read back to me. Unfortunately, the interface of the two didn't mesh. I could highlight text in a note and have the Natural Reader toolbar over the page, but when I clicked to hear the note with the reader, the highlight went off the chosen text and the reader didn't do anything. The windows were seperate and I couldn't get them to work together. Another option would be to copy and paste the note text into a reader screen and then hear it.
I am impressed with the systematic way a person could use this software to archive and organize information as a really accessible database. I would like to begin to put my AT notes and info from various products and websites into Notescribe and build an accessible database of information.
For students, Notescribe can be a valuable tool to compliment a laptop that is taken to school to record assignments and information/notes and resources for exam and final paper prep. There is a source for the note feature that allows you to build a citation based on what media you are working in. Jake McGrew, CEO and designer, has shared on their blog that there is a calendar feature coming out that will allow organization of appointments, assignment due dates, homework, etc. They are working on email and text messaging reminders as well. you can read about these and other updates, news, etc. on the Notescribe blog.
I am excited about the potential for this software and the company. You can download a 30 day free-trial or purchase the software at a very low reasonable price. Check it out and get your computer clutter under control.
All the best to you!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Creature Discomforts Creates Awareness of Disability Issues

It is sometimes difficult to find a way to inform folks about the disability issues that effect day to day life for millions of people with various visible and invisible disabilities. I know that in my own life, other adults poke fun at me and make jokes about my confusion or lack of response speed not realizing that it is due to my own TBI issues from a stroke almost 2 years ago. I am not in a wheelchair and I do not have slurred speech or any visible sign that would alert someone to the fact that there is a real reason why I do what I do. I don't let it bother me, but my situation is a small one in a sea of millions around the world happening everyday.
Leonard Cheshire Disability, a UK-based company, has shared an innovative and entertaining way to create public awareness of various disability issues, including "invisible disabilities."
Creature Discomforts, takes real audio interviews of folks with disabilities and matches them with "claymation -type" creatures and puts them in a commercial/public awareness format.
The Creature Discomfort site has the videos to view as well as a forum and blog.
I plan to spend some time viewing more videos and hope you can find some time to check them out. Some of these videos would be a great resource to do an activity in the classroom to stimulate discussion on tolerance and acceptance.
All the best to you!

Friday, July 11, 2008

National Geographic Society and kidthing Partner to Bring World to Kids

Ever since I first discovered kidthing, I knew there was something different about this site and their service. I downloaded the free player, interviewed CEO, Larry Hitchcock on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio, and then I really began to understand the concept. I did a test-drive with my 6 year-old son and his friends and the content was a hit. We have downloaded quite a few books and games and once they are on my computer they are there for my son to play and read anytime, anywhere, off the Internet. He can create a "playlist" of books and games and his own pictures and email them to a friend or receive a new book read to him by grandma - an aspect still to come, but in the works.
If you haven't listened to Larry Hitchcock's interview (linked above), I would strongly encourage it. It will give you a better picture of what kind of treat we are all in for as this service grows. The possibilities and potential for it to be used in general and special education is tremendous. With a switch to activate a mouse click, orthopedically impaired children have the ability to turn pages of some of the great childrens books out there as they come available on kidthing. I believe it will be the premiere source for interactive games and literature on the Internet for children in the next year or so. Yes, you heard it here! (and could probably hear it from other places too as it continues to grow)

To support my belief, I share with you a release I received from their marketing director a day ago. This is HOT NEWS right out of the horses mouth! National Geographic is partnering with kidthing to design content specially designed for the kidthing player. I am thrilled but not surprised because Larry shared in his interview that they had a list that reads as a "who's who" of children's publishers in the wings to provide content. Having National Geographic as a resource for content secures the longevity of kidthing as a resource in education for children in the home and at school.

I am presenting the complete press release for you below. I couldn't say it any better. Enjoy!

Wide-ranging strategic partnership will bring one of world’s most recognized brands to kidthing’s innovative learning platform

LOS ANGELES (July 8, 2008)—National Geographic and kidthing are partnering to bring National Geographic learning games, read-along stories, creativity products, videos and more to children, parents and friends through the kidthing service.
The partnership will engage kids in better understanding the world they live in and inspire them to care about the planet in a fun manner. kidthing’s proprietary sharing tools will let kids personalize their content and share it with their friends, families, classmates and other kids around the world.
kidthing is a leading Web 2.0 digital platform that provides a safe environment for children to explore and learn. kidthing is a free downloadable digital media player and a connected store filled with a broad variety of entertaining and engaging content from the world’s leading publishers and content providers. At kidthing, parents choose content for their children by browsing, previewing and purchasing rich digital versions of their favorite books, interactive games, creativity products, digital videos and more. Products are available for purchase in the kidthing store on an a la carte basis for as little as 99 cents — and there are no ads or subscription fees. kidthing puts parents in charge of their children’s digital media experience.
As part of the multiyear, wide-ranging relationship, National Geographic titles about animals, habitats, space, geography, dinosaurs and more are being specially created for exclusive distribution on kidthing and will be featured in National Geographic’s own learning area within the kidthing store. This learning area will open in fall 2008.

“kidthing plays an important role in National Geographic’s mission to inspire people to care about the planet. The kidthing service is a unique platform that promotes exploration, personalization and sharing in an environment that is completely safe for children and families, providing a rich, meaningful learning experience,” said John Dumbacher, senior vice president, licensing, at National Geographic. “kidthing’s powerful and secure publishing and distribution platform creates an important new distribution channel for National Geographic.”
“National Geographic has been inspiring a greater understanding of the world we live in through its unique content, brand and global initiatives for more than 100 years. All of us at kidthing are honored to be working with the National Geographic Society to bring this inspiring content in a digital format to kids around the world and to help them learn to be good global citizens,” said Larry Hitchcock, kidthing CEO.
The partnership with National Geographic lines up well with kidthing’s mission to keep kids safe while using the Internet to have fun learning, sharing and getting to know the world around them. kidthing has established publishing relationships with some of the world’s top publishing companies and content providers in arenas such as children’s books, games, animations, learning materials, music and movies including Dr. Seuss, Penguin Young Readers Group, Stuart J. Murphy, Charlesbridge Publishing and Tocali Games, among others. kidthing opened its general access beta release during the first week of March and has downloaded 40,000 players.

All the best to you!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

New and Exciting Topics Update No Limits to Learning During Summer Months

I am happy to say that I have FINALLY set up wireless Internet on the mountain here in Oregon where my family spends most of the summer and fall. I have been writing posts at my office and doing 2 or 3 days at a time to post automatically so I could save a little gas expense of driving to town everyday (30 miles) to do a post (since I am supposed to be in summer vacation mode). Because of having to work that way the past 2 weeks or so, I feel like I have kind of lost some continuity and relevancy in my daily posts, but now that I am sitting in my easy chair up on this beautiful mountain enjoying writing to you from my favorite setting, I can breathe a sigh of relief, relax and enjoy sharing with you on a more personal and daily level again. I can work a short amount of the day and play the rest!

New Projects, News and Interviews Coming...
Dynavox: I have had some very exciting highlights this past month, and getting to share with Ellen Witham on the AAC strategies she used with her son was one. Since she works for Dynavox, I am coordinating a Blog Talk Radio interview through them with the SLP that designed the InterACCT software for Dynavox. We will discuss the levels of communication you can graduate through and how to get the most use out of each level, as well as some of the foundational principles around the InterACCT system. Ellen will join us as well, so it should be a dynamic session for anyone using the Dynavox system or anyone considering it. I will give you more on a date as the session pulls together.

Kidthing: I have received breaking news from kidthing that is very exciting. The news was just released yesterday (July 8) and it will be my post for tomorrow. Since kidthing posts have been top-read posts and my interview with Larry a top-downloaded interview for me on Blog Talk Radio, I have wanted to keep everyone up on what is happening there - so check in tomorrow for all the details on what is going on with them.

gh Accessibility: I have been working on an interview with the CEO of gh Accessibility. We have just have to nail down a date for the interview and it should be coming up the end of July or first of August. ghAccessibility provides a player for digital talking book files that are compatible with DAISY and NIMAS formats.

DAISY Consortium: The interaction between the DAISY team and this blog has been a jumping off point for some nice correspondence via email and an invitation for the DAISY Consortium to share in an interview on No Limits 2 Learning Live. It is a go, and the plan is to have George Kerscher, the Secretary General, on to share, but again, we are coordinating schedules to get the date set and layout our topics. You can look forward to this interview sometime before summer is over - hopefully in August.

AT Summer Institute from Seaside, Oregon:
August 11, 12, & 13 I will be at our state-wide AT workshops. I will be doing a day workshop on designing interactive activities and using switch accessibility with them. While there, I will have the unique opportunity to get some folks on live for some interview sessions, so I will be planning a couple of those either as live podcasts or live interviews on Blog Talk Radio. More specifics will be coming. If you are in Oregon or Washington state and want to attend a session or all three days at Seaside, the sessions are open to anyone. Go to the summer institute page on the OTAP website for more information.

Special Education Pioneer Interviews:
I have the great fortune to have an amazing pioneer in my own family. My uncle, Hubert Thornburg, is a retired special education teacher in Oregon, now in his late seventies and living outside of Portland. While visiting he and my aunt last fall, I began to ask him questions about his past experiences in teaching. What he began to tell me was amazing. I realized that I was talking to a man who started teaching special education in the late 1950's when no one knew what it should really look like or what was best for kids. He was starting into a new field of study where special needs kids were still puzzles to be figured out. There were no protocols in place and certainly no assistive technology.
I will be going down to spend several days with family in Portland, mid-July and will be taking the time to interview him, so there is an archive of his recorded history. My plan is to release these interviews as a series of podcasts this fall so we can enjoy hearing his reflections on an era most of us can't relate to. I know I was floored to hear about things we take for granted daily in our work with special needs in education that didn't even exist at that time.
You will not want to miss these interviews. I think they will give us a huge reference point to see where we have been and what we have accomplished over the past 60 years or so. Something to look forward to - I am excited about doing that series of interviews!

Also...The Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Edition 5 will be up Monday, July 28. If you would like to submit a blog post on AT - we will just keep it open on what you would like to share - please send the link to me by Friday, July 25 at:

There is much more, but...
There are more projects, more posts, interviews and reviews planned, but I won't write anymore about them right now. I do want you all to know though, how grateful I am that you read this blog. I don't take for granted that you have a choice of many online blogs and podcasts to read and listen to, and that out of them all, you choose to spend some time here at No Limits to Learning.
I think of many of you as family more and more as I hear from you through comments, emails and even some Mp3 voice files! My hope is to provide you with a fresh perspective on AT, special education and news about the folks that are providing us with so many great tools and services.

All the best to you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mouseless Navigation with Integrated Keyboard

Mouseless navigation can be done with integrated keyboard software.
I received an email about a new software from Integrated Keyboarding. The home page has a quick visual demo of the program and how it works showing that you can navigate and work from your keyboard and never have your hands leave the keyboard for other peripherals. The cost is $19.95 and comes in a right and left-handed version. There is a 10 day free trial also if you want to test drive it first. There are some nice testimonials on the main page of the site to read.
If you are looking for alternative access methods this might be one to explore.

David Hostyk shared with me in his email that his software does the following:

"The program allows you to control the computer from the keyboard, without moving your hands. Whether it's moving the mouse, moving the cursor, scrolling, dragging, highlighting or numbers, you use your second, third and fourth fingers in their home-key positions.
There are separate versions for right-handed and left-handed people. The program is useful for:
1) Improving overall efficiency (especially typing and data entry);
2) Left-handed people who are tired of using their right hand for navigation;
3) People with hand-motion pain;
4) Server control.
Future updates will automatically download to your application. A free 11 lesson inter-active tutorial will be available shortly (in both right-hand and left-hand versions). Once it's ready, it too will download automatically. In the meantime, self-learning tutorials are available from the home page, or click on the following for:
Right Hand Version:
Left Hand Version:"

Thanks for letting us know about your software David. I am glad to share about the service you provide and hope that it helps folks find a better way to access their computer.

All the best to you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Fajita Wrap BBQ Recipe You HAVE to Try!

I am going a little off task here to share a recipe with you all. It was so tasty I had to share it with you...
I hope you had a great fourth of July here in the U.S. If you are somewhere else in the world, I hope you had a great weekend. My son and I went camping and invented the following recipe for Shish-ka-bobs done like fajitas with grilled tortillas. You have to try this! I know this doesn't have anything to do with assistive technology, but folks in AT need and deserve some good food too!
My son is 6 and he calls them "Shish-ka-bombs." Seeing that they were made on the U.S. day of independence and patriotism, maybe his recipe title isn't too far off!
Here it is:

"Shish-ka-bomb" Fajita Wraps

Cut and cube all ingredients below to fit on skewers. I made the amounts to serve the 2 of us -we pretty well cleaned it all up!

1 Rib eye steak or 2 chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper
1 half a white onion
1 green bell pepper
Handful of cherry tomatoes
8 mushrooms quartered
1 red apple cored, peeled and cubed
1 packet of dry fajita seasoning or a bottle of teriyaki sauce.
1 package of flour tortillas
Salsa, cilantro, avacado, sour cream, shredded cheese for toppings.

Marninate cubed meat in a zip-lock bag several hours with fajita packet mixture or teriyaki sauce. (we used teriyaki sauce for ours). If you use wood skewers, soak them first so they don't catch fire!
Place ingredients on skewers and lay across grill. At the end of the final turn when a set of skewers are almost done, lay a tortilla over the top of a set of three skewers and let it warm. The tortilla should puff up into a little basket shape and toast a little. Depending on how hot the fire is, 2 minutes or so should be plenty.
When done, slide the shish-ka-bombs off onto the tortilla, serve with salsa, chopped cilantro, and avacado. Use sour cream, shredded cheese, as an option. My son is allergic to dairy so we skipped these ingredients.
This is fun to do as a party meal. Allow guests to build their own shish-ka-bomb and lay on the grill, lay their tortilla over at the end and fix their own fajita. It goes great with fresh fruit and some raspberry iced tea!

I hope you will try this fun and tasty summer treat!

All the best to you!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Telemedicine: Computer Networked Service Delivery Assists in Rural Areas

I shared a post few months ago on telepractice and how rising fuel costs were having an impact on service delivery to learners with disabilities in outlying communities. I suggested an answer might be found in using a computer network and the Internet to do "Teleservice" for speech pathology and other service deliveries. In assistive technology, many consult activities could be done via this medium. I came across an article to share with you that supports this model through telemedicine, the spreading practice of using a computer network to conduct long- distance exams and transfer medical information.
The article is: "Use of Telemedicine Expanding in Ohio's Rural Areas, Appalachia".
In the article, they are applying advanced medical applications to an Internet network to use a stethescope, do ultrasound viewing, etc. One example is described below:
"Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron is using telemedicine to connect special-needs children at two schools in rural areas of Ashland and Wayne counties to their family doctors if the children get sick at school. The system features video conferencing, electronic stethoscopes and the capability to transmit photos of symptoms."
Although the service lacks personalization and human interaction, it demonstrates that there is an alternative method to delivering support. Folks I have visited with or articles I have read, recommend personal visits for initial services and evaluations from time to time, with networked consultation in-between to save on expense.
It will be interesting to see where this heads - even as fuel prices continue to climb over the next few months. What do you think of using these types of services where practical, in the delivery of assistive technology? Let us hear from you pros or cons...

All the best to you!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Integrating AT in General Education: Interview Today

I am proud to present an interview with Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed today on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio.
The interview will be at 11 a.m. Pacific time, and will be available as an archive on the sidebar after the show is over this morning.

If you would like to call in and talk with us, call the listener dial in number: 347 945-5431. There is also a new way to call in by using your computer and a headset with microphone which saves on the long distance call if you want to check that out.

After this interview, I will be on vacation through Monday, July 7, enjoying some family time over our Independence Day. My son and I will be camping while my wife is away on a trip to Africa for a few weeks. I always appreciate hearing from you and I hope that all our U.S. friends have a safe and pleasant holiday.

All the best to you!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quality Indicators for Assitive Technology

The QIAT (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology) site is a great place to get information and support on assistive technology. The site has downloadable documents, a forum and an important list of quality indicators.
These quality indicators are based on the assumptions below that come from their website:

First, it is essential that ALL AT services developed and delivered by states or districts are legally correct according to the mandates and expectations of federal and state laws and are aligned to district policies.

Second, AT efforts, at all stages, involves on-going collaborative work by teams which include families and caregivers, school personnel, and other needed individuals and service agencies.

Third, team members involved in AT processes are responsible for following the code of ethics for their specific profession.

There are downloadable or printable documents that inform on considerations, assessments, the IEP, implementaion, effectiveness of implementation, etc. Have a look and see what you might be able to print off and weigh against your current services. This can be a great way to assess where you are in your quality of service or, if you are a parent, where to start on what you should look for in services from your school district or region.
When we have great descriptions and documents that have been labored over to develop in order to provide a better model, we should take advantage of them and use them to provide the best services we can.
I would highly recommend taking some time to browse through the site and take advantage of what it has to offer.

Also: Don't forget the interview with AT pioneers, Gayl Bowser and Penny Reed, tomorrow, July 3, 11 a.m. Pacific on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio, it will be a great way to hear some fresh and cutting edge thoughts on the implementation of AT in general education as we move into new demands with NCLB by 2 of our nations top trainers and leaders in AT.

All the best to you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Use of Clickers as Coercive Technology: Misuse vs. Appropriate Use

I read a very thought -stimulating post by Ira Socol this morning on Coercive Technology. He shares his commentary on a comment-debate that broke out between several professors who supported or didn't support the use of Clickers as a mandatory practice in university level classes. They were being used for attendance taking and monitor and adjust type activities. Ira's comment was that if he is in a higher ed course and the professor has everyone use Clickers to answer multiple choice questions, he is out of there. I agree. Once you are in college, it is time to get into higher levels of learning, extrapolation and application. This reminds me of my own life-experience at college I have to share...
I went to a liberal arts college, a Christian college that my father used to teach in, my brother and sister graduated from and most of my cousins went to also. Our home was 4 blocks from campus so I could live at home and attend at a lower cost than going off somewhere else. Also, I received grants and loans which made most of what it cost very manageable for me and for my parents.
I had grown up going to Sunday services, Sunday school, youth group on Sunday evening and then Sunday night service. Sundays for us were a no-holds-barred, worship fest of the most coercive family pressure you could imagine. I attended, against my will a lot of the time, no less than 4 church-related services on Sunday, and if there was a pot luck or visiting missionary there were more.
The college I attended was tied to this church and so all of the local church-going kids were channeled on into the college life. The services continued. We had chapel on Monday, Wednesday AND Friday at 8:30 in the morning. This was before the age of Clickers, so there were girls stationed at all entrances and exits to the auditorium (the chapel Gestapo) and you had to have their color of paper to sign your name on - and you only got one - no fair turning in a slip for someone else too tired to attend because of cramming for a test.
All the slips of paper were collected and the attendance was taken on each student. If you missed more than 1 time a week (we were told if you attended 2 mornings a week, it would average out and you would be fine) you were put on chapel probation the next term. If you were on probation and missed again, you were issued a warning that if it happened again, you would be expelled. I was in and out of probationary status even though I was on honor roll most every term -I know because I had an aunt who always cut the college honor roll list out of the paper every term, mailed it to me in a letter and let me know how proud she was of me. She was the media/librarian teacher I had that I have commented on before who has brain injury issues now. She understood that the education was more important than chapel attendance.
There was one rebel in my graduating class that eventually did get expelled because he didn't comply. Later in life he returned to be the chaplain!
The Clickers would have worked great to enforce that system back then, it just wasn't available yet at that time.
Okay, my point here is not to blast chapel practices at Christian Universities - if students choose to go there and agree to the system, then they need to be willing to follow along with the rules of that campus. Parents who want a more restrictive environment so their kids won't party and learn all kinds of vices, can send them to a school like the one I went to. That still doesn't guarantee that these young adults won't find a party if that is what they want to find. Believe me, there were plenty when I went there and that was a LONG time ago!
I look back and I turned out fine, I am not scarred for life. I actual have a solid faith and believe system that supports what I do. But what does this have to do with education? This is my thought on the debate of the clickers. I believe that any technology tool can be used for good somehow, the issue is how it is used - misuse or appropriate use.
Clickers can be viewed as a tool to control college attendance and be used for a nominal educational experience OR they can be viewed as technology that can be applied in a way that brings a new energy to learning and a way to assess what kids know. My experience with clickers has only been in the elementary classroom. I have seen children be able to use a clicker to answer a question and not be afraid that they will stick out if they answer wrong. I have seen interesting polls and surveys taken where the results immediately were shown on the screen to the class. To me, it all depends on what the tool is being used for, who is using it and how and how often they are using it.
I visited a high school this year where the teacher was the beneficiary of a new data projector. She used it as an overhead. She had a chapter summary worksheet shining on a white board and she used a marker to fill in the answers on the white board as the students looked up the answers in the chapter. The topic was Japan and America/ war and economics of trade. I can think of many exciting ways to make that subject come alive, and the projector on a white board wouldn't be one. This is an example of misuse of technology. Any tool can be misused just as well as have a proper function that can enhance learning.
I am excited about the new technologies that come down the pike every day. We have to be responsible to use these tools in ways that enhance, support and create a learning environment for all students to learn - and hopefully make it a joy and delight - not an experiment in force and coercion.
If the clicker concept/tool is new to you, here is the "EInstruction" site to check out what they are. They are just one company that makes this tool.
Thanks Ira for your post - I enjoyed it so much. There was so much to it and my discussion is not really doing it justice.

All the best to you!