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

Photo Ball for Story Telling

by Samuel Sennott

Check out the Talking Photo Ball by Brookstones for creating a simple four location story telling voice output device.

Each of the four sides has a switch that can hold a recorded message. This could be a helpful tool for sharing short co-planned sequenced social scripts for direct selectors. Theoretically you could switch adapt each of the four switches. For the reasonable $15 price tag, I might get out the soldering iron myself and give it a try.

One drawback is that the switch tops are removable and could be a constant temptation to pull off. Definitely check this out next time you are in a mall, as sky is the limit with ideas for this tool. Here are six:

  1. Use it to send home a story from the day. Print out four pictures and co-construct the script.
  2. Write four line poems and put the text from each of the lines on each of the four sides.
  3. Buy 7 of them for $105 and you can put one letter of the alphabet on the sides. Countless games can be made up with this from taking all the caps off and matching them back on, to using it in a game with alphabet key words.
  4. Try putting the weeks word wall words and chants on them and use them during your word wall instructional time.
  5. Use it for providing key lesson instructions that student may want to hear repeated.
  6. Use it during the memorization or reminder phases of writing strategy instruction.

Feel free to leave more ideas in the comments section.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Co-Planned Sequenced Social Scripts, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

File Sending and Sharing with Wikisend

by Samuel Sennott

I have tried a number of file sharing sending and sharing sites and Wikisend is my new favorite.

Check out the clean interface and nice 100 MB limit.  The upload and download speeds were fast.

From their website:

Why our site?

Simple & Free

Upload and download lots of files, big files, small files, data files, media files, archives or backups – any files. With Wikisend it’s simple and free.

Share with Friends

Share files with your friends using E-mail, MySpace page, your blog, forums and so on. With Wikisend sharing files, photos, videos or documents is easy, fast, and reliable.

Start now

No need to register, activate, install or read manuals – use our uploading form, you’re ready to go.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Accessibility, Assistive Technology, GTD | 2 Comments

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

IconSpeak for the XO

by Samuel Sennott

Update New Site:

Current Article:

IconSpeak is the first attempts at a dynamic display augmentative communication software for the XO laptop. Recently, I posted about Speak, which IconSpeak is built on. Check out the main screen, as of Thursday 4/3/08:

IconSpeak Main Screenshot

You can see that there are sign language based icons, mixed with English words. Most of the cells, or buttons, link to additional pages. Check out the “eat” page.

IconSpeak Eat Page Screenshot

You can move the cursor to the cell, click it, and the word that corresponds with the icon moves to the message window at the top. You can then activate the play icon for the message window to speak.

Presently,  it does automatically clear the message window when you speak a message with the play button. Yet, if you make a mistake by entering a wrong icon, you will need to backspace on the keyboard to clear the display.  For those not familiar with the most popular AAC softwares, check out theseProxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

hots from Speaking Dynamically Pro, Dynavox, PRC’s Unity software, and the newest Tango software respectively:

pwp shot

SDPro running the Picture Word Power Set (above) Video Demo

dv series screenshot

Dynavox Series 5 Software (above)

vantage core

PRC Unity 45 Location Overlay (above)

tango category screenshot

Blink-Twice’s Tango Software (above)

So it is very clear to see that compared to the much refined commercial softwares, the initial prototype for IconSpeak still needs some work. Also, two switch step scanning needs to be considered for this software. Using tab or the arrow keys helps you navigate, but enter, the logical key command for entry does not work. There may be another key command I did not try that works, but nonetheless switch scanning would be a welcome addition to future builds. Features like switch scanning are representative of much more for this software to be fully valuable to a broad range of users.

Whatever the drawbacks, this software shows what is possible. This software release clearly demonstrates the potential for an open source AAC software running in Python on OSX and Windows. : ) The ability to quickly add your own images, ideally from the XO’s digital camera, would make it a potentially useful AAC tool very quickly. There is much more to be discussed about this software, but as they state on the wiki page that it will be updated rapidly, so we look forward to that and following the progress. So we watch, wait, and see if we can co-participate, knowing that the most important step is the successful release of a touch screen modification for the XO. It happened for the EEE PC.

verbs IconSpeak shot

April 3, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, OLPC, One to One Computing, Special Education, writing, xo | 4 Comments

iPhone Drawbacks

by Samuel Sennott

iphone sdk icon

There looks to be some significant initial drawbacks to the iPhone  platform.  The most important drawback, that only one application can run at a time, has come to my attention in a personal communication and in the form of this TechCrunch post.   This will make the scanning software, as well as some of the overlay controls much more difficult to configure.  As I look at working with the iPhone as a tool for special education as a long range project, it is good to note this and other major challenges.  Another major drawback is that the SDK is limited to only US developers presently.  Nonetheless, as Dan Herlihy often shows, when there is a will there is a way.

March 7, 2008 Posted by | Accessibility, iPhone | Leave a comment

iPhone SDK First Looks

by Samuel Sennott

iphone sdk icon

The iPhone SDK has been released! Why is this important? Because it could become a key platform for learning and communication tools for people with special needs. From a 9 location pragmatically organized communication set up for an elderly individual, right down to utilizing digital images and visual scene displays with our youngest learners, the iPhone/Touch may prove to be a more easily accessed avenue to the use of AAC and AT. Truly there are limitations at this time, but there are significant rumors about larger form factors and even the seemingly destined tablet. Some of the features are very exciting, like the ability to capture pictures and also the amazing multi-touch potential. One key feature of the SDK that could prove interesting is the iPhone emulator. While on one hand this is helpful for giving designers a chance to test their applications, on the other it is helpful because it gives a platform for running an application created for the iPhone for users to take advantage of.

See a picture gallery of the simulator here:

iphone simulator

Additionally, I see this tool and genre of tools being a key piece in the implementation of a one to one computing initiative. I look forward to dialogging with friends about this.

Watch the Presentation held on Thursday March 6th, 2008

jobs iphone sdk

Go to the Development Website:

March 7, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, AT, iPhone, Special Education | Leave a comment

XO Keyboard Shortcuts

by Samuel Sennott

As I am preparing for a flurry of XO based posts, I just have to get some of it out. The one to one concept is exciting me as a teacher more and more. It is important for us to learn the operational commands for the tools we use. Check out some of the commands for the OLPC XO computer. Go here for the full page, which includes the combination keystrokes.

Keyboard Shortcuts


Jump to: navigation, search

This page is maintained by the OLPC team.

This page provides a listing of the agreed upon shortcuts for the system at large and for various controls within the activities, which should be referenced for consistency across them. For a high-level philosophical on the usage of various modifier keys, please refer to the HIG.

Please see cheat codes for a list of boot options.

For the general public

[edit] Special keys

  • the Ctrl key has a solid diamond on it (♦);
  • the Alt key has an open diamond on it (♢);
  • the Esc key has a white × inside a black circle (Esc.png);
  • the Tab key has double arrows on it (↹);
  • the Tilde key has a tilde on it (~);
  • the Frame key has an open rectangle on it (□);
  • the F1 key is the same as the Neighborhood view key (Mesh key f1 small.png);
  • the F2 key is the same as the Group view key (Friends key f2 small.png);
  • the F3 key is the same as the Home view key (Home key f3 small.png);
  • the F4 key is the same as the Activity view key (Activity key f4 small.png);
  • the Delete key is the same as Fn-Erase.
  • the Page Up key is the same as Fn-up-arrow (↑).
  • the Page Down key is the same as Fn-down-arrow (↓).
  • the Home key is the same as Fn-left-arrow (←).
  • the End key is the same as Fn-right-arrow (→).

March 5, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, OLPC, Special Education, xo | 1 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

Stixx Bowls

By Jessie Pahl

bowlstixx bowls

Stixx by Design for Living: BabyWare Bowl Set with Suction Base

This amazing gadget is called “Stixx SuctionWare.” When working with children in the past, I have used other types of suction bowls, but they have never been able to stick to the table through the whole snack/meal. This bowl is by far the best I have seen for children! This is how it works: as the lever on the base is pulled counter clockwise the bowl creates a vacuum bond with any flat surface. To remove the suction, just pull the lever clockwise and it lifts from the table. The bowl is microwaveable and dishwasher safe. I found this item at Linen’s and Things in Florida.

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Accessibility | 1 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

Color Talking Word Wall Template with Apple OS X

by Samuel Sennott

Good news! TextEdit does allow you to color the cells in a Table.

color word wall shot

I provided directions in a section of the updated guide to using the Talking Word Walls. Here is the text from the mixed(visual and text) directions:

Part Two: Working with the Colored Template

1. The colored TextEdit template is a bit different from the standard template because you must use a Table to be able to color the background of each word.
2. Check out the file WW Color Doltch 15 Example. You can see what a finished product looks like. Notice how we now have a Table and that each work has a cell inside the table. The unfortunate thing is that you cannot easily add cells. So our template allows for five words per letter. If you plan on having more, please make the adjustments ahead of time!

3. To create your own, use the template: Word Wall Color Blank Template. Add your words. Note that the template is set up for 22 Point Comic Sans MS Font. Adjust according to your needs and monitor.

4. To change the color in each cell go to: Format: Text: Table.

5. Go to the Cell Background and Select Color Fill. Choose the color bar right next to it and select the color you would like.

Download the Updated Guide: Word Wall Updated Guide Parts 1,2

The Color Template and Example: @ the OTOT site.

To make this better in the future, it would be terrific to find a way to add cells or rows into a Table in TextEdit. Also, future directions are to create guides for creating walls like this into SD Pro powered AAC systems, as well as for use in ICS 3/4, on Series 4 and 5 Devices from Dynavox, PRC Devices, and more importantly, easy use in a Windows Environment.

January 9, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, Special Education, Uncategorized, writing | 8 Comments

Apple Computers Allow Talking Word Wall

by Samuel Sennott

You can utilize the OSX Voice over feature to create a personalized word wall system that has simple text to speech by clicking or arrowing into the letters or words on the word wall.

TTS Word Wall pic

Doing a daily word wall practice as part of a systematic phonics instructional program is a terrific way to provide the exposure, anchoring, and visual memory connections to the high frequency words of the language your learners read and write in.

Download the guide at the OTOT wikispace. Here.

ww tts guide pic

Enclosed is the Dolch list in alphabetic and frequency orders, the template, the guide, and sample word wall with the first fifteen words in Karen Erickson and Gretchen Hanser’s Literacy Through Unity 45 Location systematic phonics instruction program for learners who use augmentative communication.

On the QIAT Listserv, Ruth Fuller brought up the excellent idea of how cool this concept is on an interactive whiteboard. Gosh, Word Wall goes high tech! I bet if we change those voices around to the hysterical or robot, you could have quite the Friday Word Wall Sessions! Anyway, here is a mockup:

smartboard mockup

I think it would be cool if you could have the color coding aspects.  To color the text is not hard, but to do the color blocks behind the words presents a formidable challenge.  It would be terrific if you could color the background of each cell in a table.  Oh, wait.  you can, as I just figured it out.  Look for an update soon.

January 8, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, OTOT, Special Education, Uncategorized | 6 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

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

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

AAC Considerations and the Stages Framework

By Madalaine Pugliese, Stages author

The Stages Framework is based on a balance between what research tells us about both cognitive and language development and is designed to help us best understand when and how to introduce assistive technology tools and strategies in the learning process. Consideration of how and when to introduce AAC is a key piece of the research. Here is a modified excerpt from the book containing the research as it applies to language acquisition from a developmental perspective.

Also attached is an observable checklist that will help to identify a learner’s current functional Stage.

What follows is a brief overview of communication implementation recommendations for each Stage.

Stage One
Establish reliable cause and effect behavior for learning. Without this behavior it is not advised to expect interaction centered around meaningful communication.

Stage Two
A learner’s ability to work attentively in a receptive vocabulary environment, to comprehend language, and to process information provides us with information that helps us make decisions about communication skills development. Before we can expect a learner to communicate effectively, he must be exposed to and understand words and symbols. Once he understands a word or symbol, then he can apply it, or use it to express himself at a later Stage.

For years it has been understood that exposing learners to all forms of emerging literacy that are meaningful promotes language acquisition. This is the time to introduce a single message device labeled with one photo, drawing or symbol. With a light-tech device placed in physical context with an activity such as this, the learner can activate simple prerecorded messages with the press of a button even without intent. As the learner receives reinforcement for an unintentional press of the device, he can learn the connection toward intentionality.

Language is representative of real objects and actions. Pictures or symbols in isolation carry limited meaning. Therefore, activities to extend understanding are important. We want learners to understand that the object is the same in a photograph, in a representational drawing, and in real life. Is an apple always red? No! We have to provide opportunities for learners to develop an understanding of the nuances in the ways that words and symbols can work. First, make sure that the learner understands the real object. Next, pair that real object with a photograph. Then pair that photograph with a drawing, and finally, if appropriate for your learner, with the symbol.

Stage Three
Stage Three is a time to help learners begin to use more complex language as they learn to communicate choices for the first time. Introduce a light-tech, multiple message communication device at this time. These devices offer a few buttons that are used to deliver simple prerecorded messages, typically centered on a specific theme.

Now is the time to work on expressive vocabulary and expanding concepts. Object and action identification is simply matching an object or action to its spoken name (for example, “Find the cat” or “Which one flies?”). Category identification enables the learner to demonstrate an understanding of language by categorizing or identifying objects that belong to the same group (for example, an apple is a type of food).

Stage Four
Child development research points to the need for a good balance between academic study and social development. Social and academic development goes hand-in-hand in Stage Four. It is important to provide opportunities for social interactions and play at this Stage. Many child development specialists believe that if there is a barrier to working in small groups, interacting in fine and gross motor activities, engaging in pretend play, sharing materials or communicating, then there is a potential roadblock for cognitive and further language development.

Help learners find opportunities to use a communication device in fun and motivating ways. Single message devices, which speak prerecorded text, can initiate successful communication. For example, use the device to tell a joke, contribute to “Show and Tell,” deliver messages and, as in the example above, participate in activities with repetitive lines in stories or songs. These activities will help the learner develop appropriate timing skills as he uses the device.

Stage Five

This is the Stage where a learner’s vocabulary use quickly expands. Prepare for rapid assimilation of new phrases that are context-related in more advanced learning areas. As learners are exposed to advanced concepts, they will incorporate new vocabulary and content words into their written and spoken communication methods.

Before increasing the difficulty or complexity of the content, be certain that the access device, custom settings and other accommodations are appropriate. Also make sure that the learner can use the access device proficiently. Content is almost impossible for a learner to address if the process for the interaction is distracting, unreliable or uncomfortable.

If the learner has been using a communication device or symbols, now is the time to introduce a dynamic display device. This type of high-tech device features a computer-based display that changes based on the learner’s input. For example, the question “What would you like for lunch today?” might lead to additional choices. Once the learner says she would like a hot dog, which condiments would she enjoy?
A learner able to understand the concept of a dynamic language needs a more sophisticated device.

Just as we’ve established a pattern for developing language and academic skills, the same considerations are needed for selecting communication devices. At Stage Two we introduced a single message light-tech device because it was developmentally appropriate for the language use of the learner at that time. At Stage Three we introduced a multiple target light-tech device because this was the first time that a learner would apply choice making in the communication process. The use of this light-tech device should continue until the learner is using the more complex language described here for Stage Five. At this time a dynamic high-tech device is appropriate to consider.

Please see the attached Observable Characteristics Checklist.

Respectfully submitted,

Madalaine Pugliese, Stages author

Stages Observable Characteristics Checklist

More about Stages

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September 19, 2007 Posted by | AAC, Accessibility, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, Special Education | 4 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!

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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