AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

2nd Generation OLPC Laptop has Dual Touchscreens

by Samuel Sennott

The new dual touchscreen XO

Things are changing. The second generation OLPC laptop will have dual touchscreens and will be designed to function like a book. What does this mean for early childhood education, special education, and augmentative and alternative communication? Over the course of this summer, we will be exploring this with the goal of being ready for these new technologies. Also, the goal is to be able to play a part in the universal design for learning of this powerful new initiative. For now, enjoy the pictures of this upcoming device.

New XO in typing mode

This opens up amazing possibilities for customized keyboards for all kinds of learners!

Friends playing New XO

Let’s Chat!

Overall, this is probably the best news we could have heard. As many of us have been holding the OLPC touchscreen vigil, the time is here. Much thanks to Pixel Qi for pushing the hardware design to new levels. AAC stakeholders may be interested in their new motto: The future of portable computing is all about the screen.

Additionally, many will be interested to note that Windows XP will be available on the XO.

I originally read about the update to the OLPC at: Xcomony.

This picture is inspirational when considering the accessible books project we are working on!

Here is a portion of the presentation announcing the update.

Other Related Articles

  1. PC World
  2. OLPC News

May 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, CAST, ebooks, inspiration, Literacy, OLPC, One to One Computing, OTOT, Special Education, writing, xo | Leave a comment

SETT Framework Templates

by Samuel Sennott

The SETT Framework, by Joy Zabala, a popular consideration framework in the field of assistive technology, a subset of special education, has made a significant impact since its inception in 1995. It has also made a significant impact on me personally as a practitioner. SETT stands for Student, Environment, Task(s), Tools and is meant to help in the assistive technology consideration process.

Here are some simple Templates that I have created and find especially useful to provide to teams helping gather information previous to an assistive technology evaluation.

Letter Size

the-sett-framework Template Letter Size

3 by 5 Card Size

3 by 5 Index Card Size: sett-notecard-1

3 by 5 Card Size (Four Cards)


Direct Download of the SETT Framework Paper:

small apple with leaf 2002 Update of the SETT Framework

April 10, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, AT | , | Leave a comment

MacSpeech Dictate: Pogue’s Take

by Samuel Sennott

With MacSpeech Dictate set to come out next month, there is quite the excitement. New York Times Technology columnist David Pogue has a simple review that may be helpful for sending to that special educator or Apple enthusiast that could benefit from learning about the upcoming software release. Also, it could be useful to send to that special education director to explain the widespread benefit of easy to configure and highly accurate speech recognition.

Here is the link to the video podcast.

pogue dictate shot

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, MacSpeech Dictate, OS X, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Widgets: Alltogether Widgets

by Samuel Sennott

Widgets are small applications that are helpful. In this series of posts, we will describe how they are helpful in three categories of ways. We will look at: widgets for personal productivity, widgets for many different student applications from book readers to digital turntables, and we will also look at how Widgets may affect the way we interact with the web, such as in social networking and iGoogle.

You may have first heard about Widgets when Apple incorporated them into the Dashboard component of OS X 10.4, Tiger. They were quite the buzz. Since then, things have really blown up. Between Facebook, Myspace, and Google alone, Widgets are big business.

Why should we be interested in Widgets? On one level, they can increase our productivity. Just consider how useful iGoogle can be. I remember reading about it on the CoolCat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis and instantly realized how many microseconds I save, not opening up GMAIL, my reader, going to the news, this or that blog, opening up Google Scholar, my university’s library link, etc. Now I simply set up iGoogle as my home page and everything I formerly went to regularly on the web comes to me. Not just my RSS feeds come to me, but nearly everything I do, step by step, I add as a Widget. For me this is very similar to the launchers and visual scene displays we create for our students. : ) Again, much thanks for AT not only helping my students, but helping me in my life and my work helping students.!

Here is a look at my iGoogle page. Note the Zero inbox! : )

igoogle look

Check out iGoogle and note how you can take advantage of the Tabs to create separate, manageable spaces.

Here are two useful widgets to stay current with this blog. Special thanks to Mark Coppin for the Creation of the cool Apple Dashboard Widget.

alltogether.wordpress iGoogle Widget Click on the icon.

Add to Google

alltogether.wordpress Apple Dashboard Widget Click to Download.

alltogether.wordpress Apple Dashboard Widget

Look for the next installment of the Widget Series: Digital Instruments and Widgets. For a sneak peak, check out the turntable set up here.

January 27, 2008 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, iGoogle, productivity, Special Education, widgets | 3 Comments

Get in Touch with Your Wild Self and Write!

by Samuel Sennott

So its Friday afternoon and your students are getting a little wild. Go with it! In fact, go right to and have them create their wild selves. Here is my wildself that I made.
sam wild self

What a terrific fuel for creating a story. With countless options for a character and a number of good backgrounds, you really do have a neat creative tool. Thanks to Flash, there is decent two switch step scanning built-in. The click, clack sound designed in by the programmers is appreciated as well.

Nice literary connection with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak .

So now that you have your main character, how about describing them with some of your vocabulary you are practicing on your AAC device. Wait, how about making a few more characters for your story. Too much scanning effort, try the Go Random Feature to create other characters with one press.

An additional feature is the multimodal aspects of this web application: there are many sound effects. The character I randomly generated now is surrounded by laughter samples that are actually making me laugh! The next one I just did created an ambient underwater sound.

So in closing what a great multi-level and simple tool to share with your students or other teachers. Children of all ages will enjoy this and even some teenagers might get into it as an abstraction tool. I read about this on the site and first heard about that site from the Tech Savvy Educator blog.

So go wild!

January 25, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, art, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Listening to Research as MP3 Files on Your iWhatever

by Samuel Sennott

I have been listening to PDF research articles converted to MP3 files on my iPhone on my early morning walk, in the car, and in the evening working out. As teachers of many kinds, we work hard serving our students. We work tirelessly preparing, teaching, caring, and assessing. Many of us are working on degrees at night and on the weekends(Ya Simmons AT). Do you ever resent that professional journal that comes in the mail? I really love sitting down and reading research in my interest area when I have the time and space. Yet, as my teaching interests call me deeper into my academic pursuits, I find myself facing a crunch. Leveraging knowledge of assistive learning technologies to benefit ourselves is very helpful.

There are many different software solutions for this task including:

  1. Kurzweil 3000
  2. Texthelp’s Read and Write Gold
  3. TextAloud
  4. iSpeak It
  5. iThomas (That’s when you get your friend to read it to you as your falling asleep)

I have been digging around for few weeks and finally found a free resource that is working quite nicely. Thank you very much .

spoken text diagram

This free resource has a decent sounding voice and is sent to you in your email in a timely manner. There is much to speak about this terrific Read/Write Web application. From busy parents receiving the newsletter as an MP3 attachment to a cool way to help kids access articles on the web to graduate students being able to read and incorporate those stereotypical five research articles for their review, this technology can help. What other applications do you use for this? Ideas for use?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, GoogleDocs, Special Education | 13 Comments

Dragon Naturally Speaking for Mac

by Samuel Sennott

What terrific news!  The best voice recognition software comes to OS X.

Blue curtains

ITWire reports that Dragon Naturally Speaking will be released for OS X by Macspeech, replacing iListen.  ilistenSignificant discounts will be given to licensed iListen users.  So start digging into those AT Team boxes and scour the attic, basement, or wherever your old software lurks.  Early rumors are that the voice training may be easier than ever.  February is given as a release date.  Maybe it will be at ATIA.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | 5 Comments

Reporting on the Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote

by Samuel Sennott

You can use your Wii remote, a projector, freely shared software, and some led light pens to create a multi-touch interactive whiteboard. I read about Johnny Chung Lee’s project on terrific Weblogg-ed and echo Will Richardson’s sentiment about how terrific it is to see the free and open source sharing involved in this project.  Check it all out here.

What can you do with this? It looks like pretty much all the basics you can do with a Promethean Board, mainly using a board as a large touch screen display.

I am very much interested in working myself into a position where I can collaborate with individuals in this sort of way. After being able to hack the iPhone into an AAC device and seeing the Tar Heel Typer, I am intrigued with the idea of collaborations between special education and computer science divisions at the university level.

I look forward to the next couple weeks of playing with this set up and seeing if the OS X version is released soon.

January 12, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inspiration, OS X, Special Education | 3 Comments

Motivation to Write

By Sam Sennott

We can share many things when we write. We can share our selves, joy, pain, insights, laughter, encouragement, discouragement, a kind word, information, or curiosity. For many people, being highly motivated to write is an assistance to the writing process. What do you think motivates you most to write? What motivates your students?

Here is an idea: Use “YouTube” videos to motivate. You can do it in as many ways as you can think of. Here is the first of many to share. Gizmo Flushes: The cat that cost his family a great deal in a water bill! All day long that curious cat was flushing! Download Intellitools File: Here at the OTOT site Download PowerPoint File: Here at the OTOT site

Giz screenshot

After a good hearty laugh, you can go to it and write your impressions or what you thought about the video. Maybe this spurs your mind to think of something else that made you laugh! Maybe you want to write about your cat and something they did that is funny. These writing starters are meant to be something that someone may want to write about, and intended to be a choice. Please consider, how you give “writing assignments”. I hope you and your students like them and I also hope you are spurred on to think of others ways to use this basic premise.

December 1, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, family, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing, YouTube | 1 Comment

Poster Boards of Interest at ASHA 2007

By Samuel Charles Sennott

Poster Board World

The poster board sessions at ASHA 2007 on AAC, literacy, and special education for individuals with communication disorders were a terrific chance to speak with the presenters and actively engage in learning about the subject presented. I will try to briefly summarize an impression of a few of the excellent mini-lessons, I experienced.

Beukelman Sessions

1. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):
Augmented Speech Recognition for Severe Dysarthria: Initial Pilot Study Results

  • Susan Fager, Madonna Rehab Hosp, Lincoln, NE
  • David Beukelman, U of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Tom Jakobs, Invotek, Alma, AR

This session showed an amazing new way to help people with under 20% intelligibility use speech recognition by triangulating between trained voice, initial letter cueing, and an innovative optimization of voice recognition. Definitely check this research out and I really can’t wait to see this in the market!

2. Implementation of Eye Tracking SGD Access: Profiling for Success

  • Laura Ball, Munroe-Meyer Inst, Omaha, NE
  • Susan Fager, Madonna Rehab Hosp, Lincoln, NE
  • David Beukelman , U of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Katrina Kersch , U of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Brianne Mohr, U of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

Terrific to see research emerging to complement the amazing work of this new technology. If you have not tried this, it is amazing to type and control a computer with your eyes. This research work was focused on adults and simply was focused on how to best implement this technology.

3. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):
Head Tracking for Persons With Minimal Movement: A Case Study

  • Susan Fager, Madonna Rehab Hosp, Lincoln, NE
  • David Beukelman, U of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Tom Jakobs, Invotek, Alma, AR

Using direct selection is powerful for AAC users and head tracking systems are a great form of direct selection. Yet, have you ever been using a head tracking system and it gets off its calibration, like when the pointer is off the screen? This new technology uses a series of mirrors to create what they call, absolute head tracking. The technology looks promising and it seems as if this emergence will push the envelope. Nice! : )

Costigan Poster Shot
4. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):
Preservice Training for AAC Team Members

  • F. Aileen Costigan, Pennsylvania St U, University Park, PA
  • Janice C. Light, Pennsylvania St U, University Park, PA

Download the Handout/ Poster

This meta-analysis of the research confirmed what we know: that in special education, speech language pathology, and related fields there is an average of zero to one courses in AAC. After attending this session and hearing that it has a chance for publication, I feel off the hook about doing the survey of the special education teacher training programs. Although it still would be valuable, we know the unfortunate state of affairs. As we look to the organizations optimized to change this, we must consider a sustainable system. I feel so strongly about this issue and think it is one of the keys to helping the learners we serve! Nice work by the researcher!

5. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):Developing AAC Labs: Knowledge & Skills for Service Delivery

Download the Handout Here

As a wonderful contrast to the reasearch Aileen Costigan reported on regarding the lack of AAC training for SLP’s and teachers in training, Elizabeth Bagley reported on the terrific success of Ithaca College’s method of training their future SLPs in AAC work. She highlighted the student created and taught modules and the excellent feedback they have been getting regarding the program. This presentation was a terrific example of the concept of you learn best what you teach. I tried to walk away with the excellent binder the last class had created! : ) I look forward to finding out more about how this project progresses, as the researcher mentioned they would like to expand the process from design, create, and teach to include teaching to local school districts. That epitomizes what I believe we should be doing and was floored when I heard how close they are to making it happen. Right on Ithaca College!

November 25, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, ASHA2007, Literacy, Special Education | 3 Comments

AAC: Display Characteristics That Support Aided Symbol Use: Color & Animation at ASHA

By Samuel Charles Sennott

Visual display shot 1visual display shot 2Visual Display shot 3visual display shot 4

This session foreshadows the influence that digital natives will have on the AAC systems and software systems we use in special education. Additionally, the research focus on clearing the unnecessary access challenges with traditional AAC systems is terrific. Seeing the presenter, Lacy Donofrio, speak about authoring her lessons in Flash was a moment I will mark in time. Our method of presentation will certainly change, as we are on the cusp of having very inexpensive displays and computing systems entering into our classrooms. The work of this team seemed to be one part brainstorm and one part research. It was terrific to see. What do you think will happen in special education over the next five years, as many more digital natives are at the helm of classrooms across the country? Here is the abstract from the presentation:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC):
Display Characteristics That Support Aided Symbol Use: Color & Animation

Download the Handout Here

* Krista Wilkinson
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA
* John McCarthy
Ohio U, Athens, OH
* Lacey Donofrio
Ohio U, Athens, OH
* Janice C. Light
Pennsylvania St U, University Park, PA
* Michael Carlin
U of Massachusetts Med Sch, Waltham, MA
* Vinoth Jagaroo Ph.D.
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA
* Jennifer Thistle
Emerson Coll, Boston, MA

The speakers in this symposium will discuss how various physical characteristics of aided AAC displays might influence responding by children with or without disabilities. The first presentation examines whether PCS symbols that share a color are best arranged together (providing a subset within which to search) or distributed throughout a display (enhancing the salience of each symbol individually). The second presentation describes how animation can be exploited to facilitate scanning as an access method in visual scenes. The final presentation illustrates the utility of FLASH methodology for display construction. Clinical implications will be identified by the presenters and the discussant.

To me the most important component in this type of work is the connection to good teaching. Making good teaching and good learning more easy and prevalent is the goal. You could have a gold iPod that changed size to whatever you needed, but unless it has the good instructional concepts and tools, it is worthless. I liked the thought process of this group and definitely will look to see the work that comes from them in the future. : )

November 25, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, Literacy, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Evidence-Based AAC Interventions for Infants, Toddlers, & Preschoolers with Janice Light at ASHA

By Samuel Charles Sennott

The opening sentiment was: “How do we provide access to the magic and the power of language and communication for young children with complex communication needs who require AAC?”

Light Infant/ Toddler

Dr. Light demonstrated a terrific research project out of Penn State that seeks the answer to this question and lays out a framework for accomplishing it for very young children. By the end of this presentation, I was trembling. For a number of years now, since I delved into the work of Maria Montessouri I have had this wonder about early childhood and learners with significant special needs who use AAC. I think I was so moved because I saw here a team that is actively seeking and finding answers to those questions. Seeing the video of the case studies was truly amazing. Not only because the children were so young, but because the “intervention” looked so natural.

I highly recommend downloading the handout here and going to the AAC-RERC website to watch the webcast which is very similar to the live presentation we heard at ASHA.

Dr. Light, in the two hour workshop, took the group on a journey that in many ways we are familiar with. The stages she was presenting were familiar, as working from play to more in depth communication and literacy instruction is what I have immersed myself in both practice and research over the past years. Yet, this was with children as young as six months old! Additionally, there was a clear focus on ease of access and purity in the cognitive clarity of the tasks, err games rather. From using an old school Gemini to the Linda Burkhart style games and songs, they made teaching very young children the basics of access and AAC look familiar, possible, and integrated. This amazing presentation really showed both what is possible and that we can do it! Here are a few of the key principles described :

  • Start early
  • Keep the activities authentic and in the natural environment
  • Focus on sustained turn taking activities that are more than just need and want based
  • Model, model, model
  • Have a dynamic system that can grow exponentially
  • Keep it super fun

Everything that Dr. Light described seemed very possible and many of us have most of the resources that would be necessary already in our toolkits. Yet, additionally, she really drove home the meaning behind the Visual Scene Display work. She described the work better than anyone I have ever heard, teaching us how the whole purpose of it is to make the entry into the system as much like a child thinks as possible. From the visual representation comparisons to PCS pictures that made us all kind of blush to the seemingly obvious focus on the most interesting people and things in the child’s environment this section of the presentation truly was a lesson in teaching and child development.

There is plenty more to unpack here, but I really wanted to keep this post relatively simple, as there is a wealth of resource to check out in the webcast. Ultimately, this session really brought a great deal into perspective for me in both my present work and the work that is in the future. It also seemed to sum up my experience at ASHA, which taught me the importance of good research combined with teaching children very well.

Yet, most importantly this work reminds us to think like the people we are working with, in this case young children. Over the coming weeks, I am excited to share the work my classroom has started on the subject.

November 24, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, inspiration, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

AAC and OT by Aileen Costigan and Janice Light at ASHA

By Samuel Charles Sennott

AAC and OT shot

Seating and positioning often has a significant effect on AAC users. Teachers of all kinds can do a great deal in this domain, but it is important to know when you need the help of an OT or PT. This hour long presentation at ASHA titled: Practical Principles of Seating & Positioning in AAC for SLPs was a terrific way to learn or review seating and positioning principles and learn about how these considerations work in the team process. Would you like a refresher course or have a quick way to share with a friend or colleague about some basics regarding seating and positioning?

Download the excellent handout here.

AAC/OT handout shot

The main presenter Aileen Costigan was terrific. Not only was the information extremely well prepared and organized, but the presentation style was great. I think that this topic would make a great component in an AAC/AT/UDL course at the undergraduate and graduate level in both teacher training of special educators and in the training of SLPs. For you all trying to follow the handout, you will see a marked similarity to the SETT Framework, as in OT there is a very similar consideration principle. This is definitely a handout to print and fyi your favorite special education teacher, OT, PT, or SLP.

November 24, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, ot, Special Education, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tar Heel Typer: An Open Source Alternative Pencil

by Samuel Sennott

THT screenshottar heel pic

The Tar Heel Typer is an excellent new open source writing tool that is a flexible alternative pencil with word prediction that is both available online and as a standalone download. Created by Daniel Parker, a Computer Science Student at UNC Chapel hill and is a collaboration with The Center for Literacy and Disability at UNC. The program runs best in Firefox and is created in Flash and Java. Here is what you first see when you are setting up your alternative pencil. (only a portion of the whole menu)

setup ss

You can choose your input type between the options of Braille, a keyboard, automatic single switch scanning, and two switch step scanning! There are excellent customization options during scanning such as seeing one letter at a time, or for seeing the whole alphabet. Additionally, you can set for group scanning. The word prediction is a bit basic involving importing a list of your own, but this level of control may be helpful for scaffolding the writing of early learners and I am sure that a text file will float around soon to augment the sample list provided. There are some fun extras as well, including a music player, which in the future could be modified to be a juke box.  Also there is a helpful feature that allows you to email the writing when you want!

Here is what it looks like to two switch step scan seeing only one letter at a time. Click on the image to go to that setup.

THT screenshot

This project is not only valuable to use with learners right away, but it shows the power of open source software for who we are trying to help provide learning technology to individuals with special needs. This project, as it is created in Flash and Java, running on Firefox, can be easily adapted to run on the XO laptop as well. Just think of what else can be created to run on a machine like that.   It will be interesting to look at how the Hawking Toolbar can be integrated with this writing tool on the XO.  Thanks goes out to the creator for the excellent work done on the Tar Heel Typer!

November 13, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education, writing | 8 Comments

Digital Picture Frame with Switch Adapted Remote Control

by Samuel Sennott

Digital Picture Frame Screenshot 1

Have you seen a digital picture frame in a catalog, online, or in a store? This emerging technology will make a terrific book reader, photo browser, partner assisted communication tool, and electronic pencil. The good news is that they are quickly shifting to including a remote control with them. 🙂 That is wonderful, because we now have a wireless device to adapt much more easily than taking the whole unit apart! Truly, there will be units with sound very shortly, but until then, what a terrific way to read your PowerPoint books you made with Flickr, your books from the Accessible Book Collection, or whatever adapted books you can export as folders of JPGs.

How do you do this? Well, you need to have the soldering equipment and the switch jacks, but have no fear. The challenge is on for one of our favorite companies to provide this to us at a reasonable cost. Until then, on the assistive technology Ning site we are going to be working the project with a goal of providing directions, recommendations on the best digital picture frame, and a list of applications for the tool.

So, game on and let’s have some fun with this as we give something cool to the learners we serve! Also, feel free to put some pressure on the usual suspects…i.e.. RJ….Ablenet…Enabling…..Enablemart….

Oh, one last thing, this relates so much to the Visual Scene work and the Visual Storytelling work. Just consider how many different people with aphasia could benefit from having a tool like this to foster sharing, expression, and information transfer. I can’t wait to share the recent success we have been experiencing in this domain! Look for it in an upcoming post!

Digital Picture Frame Adapted Pencil Screenshot

November 10, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, art, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, family, Literacy, Uncategorized, writing | 4 Comments

50 Web 2.0 Tools to Tell a Story

by Samuel Sennott

alan levine blog ss

I think that I am going to send Alan Levine some sort of thank you gift. Maybe we should start a pool. Seriously, his wikispaces site highlighting 50 Web 2.0 Tools to Tell a Story is just terrific. This is a great way to share the multitude of tools available to that excited teacher. It is a place to simply let undergraduate students in teacher training in various courses explore. As I delve ever increasingly into the read/write web, I realize that it just goes on and on. There are some great literacy tools to explore on this list that who would have imagined in 1987? 1997? Yes, 2007 I expect it, but am still so wowed by the possibilities for our learners to express themselves and to explore what they are passionate about.

So share this list. We can work on baking Alan Levine a cake or something and let us see how these tools will be practically implemented with our learners. I leave you with this thought. In some ways, a list like this is dangerous. So many directions, options, and opportunities. What tool will we use, how long does it take to use it fluently, etc.? I say live dangerously and jump in, but jump in with the tool of the SETT framework and stay focused on good teaching and learning. Again, thanks goes out to authors like this, sharing resources we are all thinking and talking about.  The URL is:

November 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, GoogleDocs, Literacy, writing | 2 Comments

iJailBreak for iPod Touch

by Samuel Sennott

iJailBreak is the automated tool that unlocks and enables your iPod Touch to use, the third party application installer. It has become very clear that the iPhone and iPod touch can be used as both an AAC device component inside of a holistic AAC system and as a terrific flexible learning tool. The rationale is this: Apple makes superior hardware and it is accessible in that many people already have it and if they don’t it is easy to obtain, i.e. The Apple Store, Best Buy, etc… Using this hardware with excellent software has great potential. What are the applications? Here is just one: when the iPhone and Touch connect to the new slim Apple Bluetooth keyboard, you will have a terrific way for students to type their papers for under $400. Not bad, considering you can also surf the web on your OSX powered mini-computer. Just think about what else you could do…

Do you appreciate the potential seen in the terrific program installer for the iPhone and iPod Touch? has changed the way I see my work with children and adults with special needs. Seeing how the community of developers surrounding the iPhone and iPod hacking works has definitely made an impact on me in this way: seeing these folks work so hard on these open source projects for everyone to enjoy shows me ever more the power in working together.

iPhone 4 Blocks

October 14, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inspiration, Literacy, OS X, Special Education, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Using the iPhone for Digitizing Books

by Samuel Sennott

We started a E-Book project today that we are correlating with the Building Blocks kindergarten literacy framework. It is very exciting and I can’t wait to share more about it in the future.

So…have you ever come upon a flatbed scanner that seems to be a decendent of a tortoise? Well in our electronic book making project today, we sure did. It was a terrific first thing in the morning laugh. As we did not have anything else to use, I remembered someone posted on QIAT that Judith Sweeney of Onion Mountain Tech had been teaching using digital cameras for your turning books into electronic books. I have tried experimenting with this as well at times, but today it really clicked with me.


So we tried using the iPhone for taking pictures of the pages. It worked well:

  • Having good lighting was important.
  • Natural light worked better than the florescent.
  • Be still!
  • Downloading from the iPhone was easy. Just plug in USB, drag and drop.
  • The images were good enough quality for our use in PowerPoint and ICS based books, where we rewrite the text into a text box.
  • You could also use another comparable digital camera.

The result was a quick way to produce a decent accessible version of the book, without the labor intense file naming, page aligning, and mouse clicking often involved in scanning. What else have people experienced using cameras for digitizing books? What have you found to be the best resolutions and picture quality settings? We are constructing a guide and would love vicarious input!

Listen to This Blog Entry

September 18, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, AT, ebooks, family, OS X, photography, Special Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Art Website Launcher

Having a visual launcher is much easier for many people. Check this one out that is focused on art websites.

I really like this technique for giving children access to specific sites. The visual component is excellent whether you are doing a web based scavenger hunt, simply exploring some art creation sites, or doing a full blown webquest. Patti Rea had great input reminding that using (alt and tab) on windows and (apple and tab) on OS X you can quickly and easily move between an application, like PowerPoint or Classroom Suite, and the web. On the ICS activity exchange, my classmate Cynthia Levine and I posted an overlay that does just this. A Day’s Websites.

Art Website Launcher PDF

Art Website Launcher PowerPoint
Art Launcher Screenshot smaller

August 21, 2007 Posted by | Access, Accessibility, art, Assistive Technology | 6 Comments

Simple Switch Scanning and Voice Output in MS Word 2004 for OSX

Download the Guide: Simple Switch Scanning in MS Word

Wow, I knew Word was cool, but this one got me.

In the Mac OS X version of Word 2004, open up the Speech toolbar by going to View: Toolbars: Speech.

Now open up a chart, like the one I have attached (This one is a reading overlay).  Click on the first grid. Now position the mouse over the Speak Selection button on the Speech toolbar.  Now you can have one switch set to tab and the other switch set to  click.

Tab, tab, tab, speak!
MS Word Scanning

Kind of cool right?  I wonder how this can be used?  It does not have an auditory preview, but if you could rig the switches so that one switch split and went to both tab and speak, that could hypothetically give you the preview.  Then when you hit the second other switch it would speak it again.  You may have to use two switch interfaces, though. Hmm…what else?

June 12, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, family, inspiration, Literacy, OS X | 2 Comments

On-Screen Keyboard in OS X

Do you know how to activate the on-screen keyboard in Mac OS X? Here is a pdf of a visual guide to the process. On-Screen Keyboard in OS X

In Leopard, OS 10.5, I had a bug that made the Keyboard Viewer not availabe in the Input Menu.  I looked up a fix for this where you paste a few lines of code into Terminal.

June 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Padded Head Switches and Loc-Line Mounting Arms


Creating comfortable switches is important, especially if they are being used by the head or somewhere else that is sensitive. When I first heard Linda Burkhart speak about it, I realized the great importance of a comfortable head switch. We are working to help kids access communication and learning. It is not okay for someone to be using an accessibility switch, that physically hurts their head or is simply uncomfortable. Here are the directions I created. Create a Padded Switch The directions are designed for creating the padding to add to an Ablenet Jelly Bean Switch, yet they can be generalized.

I also learned from Linda Burkart about using the loc-line material for creating your own mounting arms for switches. Linda has posted an excellent downloadable PDF how to guide on her website, which is found here under the heading: Make a Switch Mount with Loc-Line. . Some times commercially available mounting arms are unwieldy. You can find the material to make them at . I find it so helpful to use that material for the students I work with who change position day by day. If you need it to be stiffer, you can add some hard wiring inside the material.

Oh, I forgot to mention that you can build one of these set ups for under $30! Nice!

Additionally, it is great to use foam sheets to cover your padded switch. If you use colors, like yellow for yes/chooser and red for no/mover, it can be helpful for early switch scanners.

March 8, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Access, Assistive Technology, AT, Special Education | 1 Comment