Alltogether

AAC, AT, Families, Inclusion, Literacy, UDL

Introducing the Vantage Lite from Prentke Romich

by Samuel Sennott

It is exciting to report the arrival of the Vantage Lite, the newest AAC device from Prentke Romich Company.  In my early childhood classroom program we have been greatly appreciating the Springboard Lite.  The most important advantages of the Lite series in general is that they are physically lighter, have brighter backlit displays, are far more rugged, and have very useful handles.  The bluetooth features of the Vantage Lite is very exciting connecting to computers and other devices.  Here is the press release with a more full review to come when I am scheduled to get a chance to trial one next week.

Vantage Lite in Green

Vantage Lite in Green

Contact: Bob Nemens, Director of Marketing
Phone: (800) 262-1984 X243
rjn@prentrom.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 8, 2008

PRC Introduces Vantage Lite,

a Portable AAC Powerhouse

Compact, Rugged, Take-It-Anywhere AAC Device Enables Robust Communication on the Go

Wooster, OH, September 8, 2008 – Prentke Romich Company (PRC), the leading manufacturer of alternative and augmented communication (AAC) devices for individuals with speech disabilities, today announced the release of Vantage™ Lite, a dedicated device designed for AAC beginners and those ready to advance toward fully independent augmented communication.

The second in PRC’s popular new line of “Lite” devices, Vantage Lite offers the same powerful language and communication features of PRC’s classic Vantage™ Plus  but adds an array of hardware and software innovations, including:

  • Compact case with built-in handle for greater portability;
  • “High brightness” display with LED backlight and wide viewing angle;
  • Magnesium frame that prevents damage from bumps and drops;
  • Bluetooth® connectivity for computer access and wireless access;
  • Integrated Bluetooth® phone interface, a PRC exclusive.

Like all AAC devices from PRC, Vantage Lite enables rich, independent communication through PRC’s proven Unity® language system, which allows users to progress from simple words and phrases to novel and spontaneous communication.  The device’s expanded Unity Toolset features make it easy to build vocabulary, while 4-, 8-, 15-, 45-, 60- and 84-location display options allow communication capacity to grow along with the user’s abilities.

“Vantage Lite is a breakthrough in dedicated devices because it combines our critical focus on language development with exciting technological and design innovations,” stated PRC President David L. Moffatt. “The new design is a direct result of requests from SLPs and PRC device users for a durable, powerful, and portable speech device.”

As part of the Vantage Lite launch, PRC is donating a free device to a school or center.  Those registering online at www.prentrom.com/VantageLiteGiveaway/ by October 31, 2008 will be entered in a drawing for a free Vantage Lite in their choice of five bold colors.  The winner will be announced at the ASHA Convention in November.

PRC will be demonstrating Vantage Lite at the Closing the Gap conference October 16-18 in Minneapolis.  Onsite demonstrations can be arranged by calling a PRC Regional Consultant at (800) 848-8008.  Details about the new device and PRC’s other AAC aids are also available online at www.prentrom.com.

About PRC

PRC is a global leader in the development and manufacture of augmentative communication devices, computer access products, and other assistive technology for people with severe disabilities.

An employee-owned company founded in 1966 and headquartered in Wooster, OH, PRC has enabled thousands of children and adults worldwide with severe speech disorders to achieve spontaneous, independent, and interactive communication regardless of their disability, literacy level, or motor skills. 

In addition to its powerful communication devices –ECO-14, VanguardPlus, VantagePlus, Vantage Lite, and SpringBoard Lite – PRC also provides a wide array of high-quality teaching and implementation ideas, therapy materials, curriculum sequences, funding assistance, and training to speech-language pathologists, special educators, and the families of AAC communicators.

For more information, go to www.prentrom.com or call (800) 262-1984.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, Literacy, Special Education, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Downloading YouTube Videos for Education

by Samuel Sennott

YouTube is very likely blocked at your school. No the debate on viral video will not ensue. Instead we focus on application of YouTube in general and special education, specifically as a way for teachers of AAC users to help build background knowledge and to provide writing motivation. Let’s discuss both why we want to use YouTube videos in writing and how to download those videos in YouTube is in fact blocked where you are.

Students will be successful if they have a good accessible writing setup, writing strategy instruction, and the motivation to express themselves. YouTube videos can be a powerful way to engage students. Creating that feeling of “I just have to say something” may be elicited by the very funny videos of Gizmo Flushes or Eating Insects. Yet, others may be amazed by the Painting Elephant. Yet, others may be interested in sharing about the National Geographic Video Stream or the Discovery Channel’s. Maybe your more sophisticated students might like to email a friend about the Museum of Modern Art’s YouTube Video Stream. The goal of all of this is to provide fuel for the writer, inspiring them to pick up their pencil, click away at the keyboard, or use their alternative pencil.

So, check out some videos we have screened the old fashioned way, by watching them. http://otot.wikispaces.com/Writing+Setups

Here are the directions (with screenshots) for how to download YouTube Videos for free:

Download the PDF:downloading-youtube-videos

Goal: To create a library of downloaded videos that can be used to build background knowledge or be written about.

GECO Your Way to Downloading and Using YouTube Videos in Education

o Ex… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LHoyB81LnE

  • Enter the URL of the video you want to convert
  • Convert the video to your preferred movie format using http://www.zamzar.com

o We like .mpg for use with PowerPoint!

o Modify the template with a title, etc.
o Insert your video in the right spot. Resize as necessary.
o Make sure to cite the URL on the back page.

Here is a PowerPoint template that you can use for student to write about the videos you download.

Download the PowerPoint Video Connection Template: videoconnectiontemplate52908

So have fun and get motivated this summer with YouTube, even if it is blocked at your school!

Installation of Richard Serra’s sculptures at MoMA

June 4, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, Special Education, video, YouTube | 2 Comments

Ablenet How-To Videos: Step by Step with Levels

by Samuel Sennott

I have had creating a video guide to using a step switch on one of my someday/maybe task lists for a few weeks now. I meant to do this in response to how much trouble people have with using this device, especially when they are learning about both the old and new styles. I was very pleased to stumble upon a set of how-to-videos that highlight a number of Ablenet products. I think this is a terrific resource for AAC or AT labs in SLP, Special Education, AT, OT, and any other teacher training programs that benefit from clear and easily shared training resources. Thanks Ablenet! Click the link or image to play the video.

Step-By-Step with Levels Video

Here is the link to the How-to-Videos page on the Ablenet site: http://store.ablenetinc.com/press/multimedia.aspx

“How-To” Videos

All-Turn-It Spinner spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Battery Device Adapter with Jelly Beamer spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BIG & LITTLE Step-By-Step communicator spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BIG & LITTLEmack communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
BookWorm literacy tool Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
CRUISE adapted trackpad Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH scanning communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
iTalk2 communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Jelly Beamer wireless switch Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Mounting systems Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
PowerLink 3 control unit Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
ROCK adapted joystick spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Battery-Operated Scissors with Jelly Bean switch spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Sensitrac pad with Adjustable Arm spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Switch Latch and Timers (SLATs) Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Step-By-Step with Levels Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
SuperTalker progressive communicator Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Talking Symbols notepads Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
WAVE adapted trackball Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

FL4SH – In-Use Videos

The Out-of-the-Box Experience spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH – A Scanning Communicator spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Automatic Overlay Detection spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Building Language Libraries Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH’s Adjustable Viewing Angle Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Frame Lighting – SEE What You’re Saying Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
FL4SH’s External Messages Jack Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Flexible Communication Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Ease of Use Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
The Benefits of FL4SH Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
An Unexpected Benefit Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

Flip – In-Use Videos

Easy to Use spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Easy to Set Up spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Quiet and Convenient spacer
Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Accessibility Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Flexibility Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon
Shipping Details Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

Personal Story Videos

Josh’s Story Quicktime Movie Quicktime Icon

June 2, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, teacher training, video | , , , , | 1 Comment

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

UDL Editions from CAST and Google

Sent for submission by CAST

CAST Joins Google and Partners to Celebrate World Book Day

Releases innovative literacy tools to support reading and learning from books, websites


In partnership with Google, CAST today celebrated World Book Day, April 23, 2008, by introducing two new online literacy tools that provide robust, embedded learning supports for readers at all levels. UDL Editions by CAST (http://udleditions.cast.org/ <http://udleditions.cast.org/> ) are classics from world literature in a flexible online interface that supports and engages novice and expert readers alike. CAST Strategy Tutor (http://cst.cast.org/ <http://cst.cast.org/> ) offers adolescent readers customizable mentoring and support as they conduct Internet research and read websites.

Both UDL Editions and Strategy Tutor draw on CAST’s two decades of research and development of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an approach to creating inclusive educational environments that lower barriers to learning and while supporting learners’ individual skills, abilities, and interests. Carnegie Corporation of New York provided funding, and both projects are featured presentations of the Google Literacy Project (www.google.com/literacy), a joint nonprofit venture of Google, LitCam, and UNESCO, as part of its World Book Day Innovative Projects page.

The UDL Editions by CAST (http://udleditions.cast.org) render classic texts from world literature in a flexible online interface that provides just-in-time, individualized supports for struggling readers, and added-value features that engage novice and expert readers alike. Texts include English language works by Jack London, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as the Spanish-language classic, The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. Learning features include:

* Leveled supports to build reading strategies and help readers understand the elements of the author’s craft;
* Texthelp® Toolbar for text-to-speech, highlighting and collecting highlights, dictionary and encyclopedia links, and translation between English and Spanish;
* Embedded coaches guide learners in strategic thinking and planning;
* Context-specific multimedia glossaries and enrichment activities;
* Multimedia background resources, including story links to Google Maps.

The toolbar created by Texthelp Systems, Inc., a leading developer of literacy support software solutions with offices in the U.K. and United States, expands access for all individuals, including Spanish language text-to-speech and other features for Lazarillo.

CAST Strategy Tutor (http://cst.cast.org <http://cst.cast.org/> ) is an online multimedia program that provides diverse adolescent learners with customizable mentoring and support as they conduct Internet research, and teachers with supports for using Web-based resources more effectively in the classroom. Strategy Tutor helps students read, research, collect and understand information better and more efficiently.

Students can store all notes in a personal, sortable electronic worklog that can be viewed from any computer. Teachers can access professional development resources, such as a database of teacher-created lessons, and create their own strategy-supported lessons. Get help from embedded coaches there to guide both students and teachers.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, CAST, ebooks, Google, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | 2 Comments

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

Writing with Comic Creator on Read Write Think

by Samuel Sennott

Things have shifted dramatically where we encourage students to have comic books in school, all because they are reading and are motivated!  Writing a comic can be enjoyable for students of varying ages.  Check out the excellent Comic Creator on the Read-Write-Think site.  Be careful of losing work though as there is not a save feature.  For some users, you may want to create a system of drafting into an open document and cutting and pasting into the Comic Creator. Also, note that by using tab and enter, this application is two switch step scan accessible with a rating of moderate to good.  Learners without mousing ability will still need help to drag their choices of characters, bubbles, or items into the comic window.

Comic Creator Screenshot

May 7, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

Printable Making Words Cards

by Samuel Sennott

Making Words lessons are a terrific way to help learners actively construct letter sound correspondences and learn patterns of sounds that work together.  It is a reccomended lesson type in the Four Blocks Framework’sWorking with Words block.

Check out these printable letter cards. They are two inch symbols.   Simply print them with the lower case on one side and the uppercase on the other.  Originally, the pages were constructed with Mayer-Johnson’s Boardmaker/SD Pro.  I recommend using card stock and laminating them with glare free laminate.  Using 3 by 5 index cards cut in half can be helpful for writing down words from the lessons as well.

letter cards shot

Download the Printable PDF files:

  1. a to t lowercase
  2. A to T uppercase
  3. u to z lowercase
  4. U to Z uppercase

Also, you may find these files to be helpful from the 4 Blocks Site maintained by Joe Fuhrmann, Kankakee (IL) School District First Grade Teacher at Lafayette Primary Center 

Recommended Reading:

  1.  Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use by Patricia Cunningham
  2. Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four-Blocks® Way by Karen Erickson and David Kopenhaver
  3. Teacher’s Guide to the Four Block’s by by Patrica M. Cunningham (Author), Dorothy P. Hall (Author), Cheryl M. Sigmon

March 31, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy, phonics, writing | 2 Comments

Helpful Literacy Images

By Samuel Sennott

These visual supports were created during the Literacy in AAC Seminar this past June at University of Florida Gainesville, taught by Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver. The always excellent CARD sponsored the event. The learning was terrific in this week long intensive seminar. The visuals were created using Inspiration.

Cognitive Clarity


Automatic Word Recognition

February 29, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Literacy | Leave a comment

Microsoft Word and Slater Software’s Free Online Symbol Resource-Video Podcast

An alltogether.wordpress.com Podcast by Samuel Sennott.

Slater Software, creators of the excellent literacy and communication software, Picture It, generously offer a free online symbol resource search tool. Click here to to it: http://www.slatersoftware.com/PixLibrary.html

slater logo

This assistive technology podcast demonstrates how to create a nine location augmentative communication board utilizing Microsoft Word and this free Literacy Support Picture Search Tool. First we create a button, or cell. Then that cell is changed from the default blue color, and the text is enabled and formatted to be centered. We then are free to add text, search for symbols at http://www.slatersoftware.com, and drag those symbols back into MS Word.
The advantage of using this resource is many people’s comfort level with Microsoft Word. A significant drawback of this resource for extensive use is the limited symbol searching capabilities. Slater Software’s Picture It software is a terrific resource to look at if you ready to take the next steps.

Download the 9 Location Microsoft Word Template Here: 9 Location Get Started

9 Location Get Started screenshot

Here is an example of a greetings and chatting board created using the method outlined in the podcast.

9 greeting ss

February 27, 2008 Posted by | AAC, AT, Literacy, writing | 3 Comments

Excellent Accessible Book List at TLWMN Blog

by Samuel Sennott

There is an excellent accessible book resource list posted by Kate Ahern at the Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs Blog. As part of my ongoing research regarding the subject, I am searching for accessible ebook lists, so please forward any you find. Here is the list on the TLWMN blog:

Alternate Format Books and Stories

Terrific, right? One to jump right into is Browser Books. It is great for two switch step scanners!

Definitely go onto the TLWMN blog to share your thanks for this generous list.

February 14, 2008 Posted by | AAC, ebooks, Literacy, Special Education, writing | 3 Comments

AAC Authors with Caroline Musselwhite

by Samuel Sennott

Thursday Morning ATIA 2008 9:45

AAC users as authors is a terrific concept that is incredibly exciting in this age of near instant publishing and really simple syndication. This workshop looks to be a terrific sampling of potent ideas to help us be better teachers of the writing process for our learners who use AAC.

Vocabulary Brainstorming & Rehearsal

Dr. Caroline Musselwhite is teaching us how to help students brainstorm a wide range of vocabulary. She tells about how she learned the technique from Dr. Karen Erickson. She show how creating a web of possible vocabulary is so helpful to fuel the authoring process.

Eye Gaze and Partner Assisted Writing Templates

Use the eye gaze frames and auditory scanning templates loaded with writing set ups that provide tons of vocabulary to use during drafting. This connects with the pragmatically organized communication displays that Linda Burkhart just showed, made by Gayle Porter.

Book Pick

Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver

4 blocks book sn

10:04 AM

Caroline tells about the portion of the Learning Magic website that helps with the connecting of  the Raps stories into your literacy curriculum.

 Performing Your Works

Seeing the pictures of the young children looking up at the AAC authors presenting their creative writing really drove home the point.   What an empowering process this is!

I am super inspired by this workshop and look forward to the writing camp we are hosting at Nova this summer!

Final video of an AAC author presenting on stage!

10:15 close

January 31, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, ATIA2008, inspiration, Literacy, OTOT, Special Education, writing | 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

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 http://www.buildyourwildself.com 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 http://segatech.us/ 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

Project 365 …er…6

by Pam Harris

I’m delighted that Sam asked me to share one of our AAC projects. Josh and I showed a powerpoint presentation about Project 365 at the 2007 Closing the Gap.
Project365 is something I heard about from my daughter last year. The premise is simple – take a picture every single day of the year. The idea came from Taylor McKnight at PhotoJoJo.com. I started to think about it, and how my son Josh and I could try it. We wanted Josh to practice writing, and he needs structure to do so. What if he wrote daily about the picture he took?
First, he needed to learn the vocabulary of photography.

From there, we created a light tech board.

And then we were ready to go! He would take his picture, upload it to his blog and then use his talker to write a few descriptive sentences about what he saw or how the picture made him feel.
Example:

This is Josh dad red Shelley Grandma and mom
This has been a wonderful experience for many reasons. Josh isn’t only getting the writing practice we hoped for, but is able to make connections to people through his blog. He is paying closer attention to the people and things around him. His responsibility for this daily task is increasing. He is learning and mastering technology popular and important to other people his own age (19 now).

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we’re doing it again. We’ve begun Project 366, but now we’re using Flickr to upload, write about and host our pictures. Want to join us? It’s a great investment of your time and Josh would love to see what you have to share. You can google Project365 for tips and variations or make your own – who says you can’t do it weekly? With themes? All of one location? The possibilities and outcomes are as infinite as your imagination.

January 24, 2008 Posted by | AAC, family, Literacy, photography | 7 Comments

AAC Intervention Tip of the Month

by Samuel Sennott

Have you ever checked out the excellent resources at the AAC Intervention website by Dr. Caroline Musselwhite and Julie Maro? The tip of the month feature is terrific. I have found fabulous and very useful resources there, including literacy support materials, simple accessibility ideas, AAC resources, AT resources, and more.

The archives go back to 1999, so definitely go digging!

Here is the 2007 archive.

January 2007 Barrier Communication Games for AAC Users July 2007Matching Activities to Standards
February 2007Wiley and Durrell List – On Steroids! August 2007Tech Tips and Social Scripts
March 2007Conversation Parts September 2007 Songboards as Visual Supports
April 2007WAV * AIFF * MP3 * MP4 * WMA * M4A – Managing Sound Files October 2007Honey, Not Vinegar
May 2007iTunes for Us

Ten Terrific Reasons to Use iTunes

November 2007Talk of the Town
June 2007Rhyme, Rhythm, Repetition December 2007

2006

January 2006 – AAC Device Tracking July 2006Songboard Websites
February 2006Moving and Grooving and Talking! August 2006Initial Letter Cueing
March 2006Talking Everywhere September 2006Fire House Stories
April 2006Story Scripts October 2006Halloween Wheels
May 2006Collections November 2006330 Top Sight Words
June 2006Mealtime Placemat December 2006Regional Geography

January 21, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, inspiration, Literacy, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

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

Apple Announcements

By Samuel Sennott

Were you hoping for the Apple PDA/Tablet with a 1.5 times form factor as the iPhone? I sure was and my hopes were dashed. I was also dreaming a bit, hoping for the Macbook tablet. Yet, based on the evidence described today, I think it is on the way. The new Macbook Air, the last of the big keynote announcements today, incorporates multi-touch technology in the trackpad. Touch technologies of this kind are not only hardware based, but software as well. The fact that Apple has the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and now increasing touch capabilities in the laptops gives hope for this.

Nonetheless, it was exciting hearing the Macworld updates today.

Watch the Keynote

I like the Time Capsule the best! It is a 500GB or 1 TB wireless hard drive/ airport extreme device that both backs up your Mac, as well as provides an innovative storage solution. No more slepping SDPro Boards or Audacity tweaked language banked samples around on flash memory every few minutes! Just kidding.

Yet, did you see the MacBook Air? macbook air

Can you really believe how thin it is? Check out the Macrumors article with some great enlargable images. Anyway, the solid state hard drive is the feature of the biggest interest to me. That means it is flash memory and not the spinning drives, we are used to. Much more durable for AAC devices and laptops for children.

The Apple movie rental system could be cool for many individuals with special needs. The integration between the OS and the many portable options is very nice.

Yet, the big one for assistive technology is the February release date of the developers kit. On your mark get set… Seriously, the newest Apple technologies give us hope, because of the literacy connections and the AAC connections similar to those described in the recent study: Children’s ideas for the design of AAC assistive technologies for young children with complex communication needs.

What do you think of the updates?

January 15, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, conference, Literacy, OLPC, One to One Computing, OS X, OTOT, Special Education, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Macworld: What Will It Bring?

by Samuel Sennott

Macworld

I am so excited about the Macworld Expo keynote tomorrow. Out of all the possible new products, I am really hoping for the release of an Apple tablet. It seems unlikely at this time, yet I think it would be so terrific for special education. The research and practice I am doing considering Visual Scene Displays for AAC and literacy applications really is pointing to having touch displays as an option for a wide variety of learners in early childhood. I am excited to share my recent work on the subject at ATIA 2008.

Other bets for tomorrow are the ultra slim laptop release and a wireless hard drive system. Also, there should be some iPhone news too. Looking forward to the developers kit too. ; ) Anyway, it should be interesting to see if they announce any new educational programs. I can hardly wait to tomorrow to read the updates at http://www.macrumors.com and see the keynote at http://www.apple.com.

January 14, 2008 Posted by | AAC, Assistive Technology, AT, Literacy, OS X, Special Education, Uncategorized | 2 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

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

Presenters:
* 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

OLPC and AAC for the Developing World with Adam Bowker at ASHA 2007

By Samuel Charles Sennott

OLPC ASHA shot

This poster board session at ASHA was authored by Adam Bowker and Dr. Janice Light, both from Penn State. There is one powerful, clear message that was presented here: that you could never hand a child with disabilities something like a Dynavox Series 5 Device in a developing nation. Yet if everyone has XO’s and the learner with a communication disorder accesses it with switches it is no big deal. This is a strong message and chance for universal design. What do you think about that for AAC in the nation or nations that you care about in the world? What do you think about that for AAC in the United States?

I mistakenly forgot to take an image of the excellent poster, but here are the top resources for finding out about the OLPC project.

http://www.laptop.org The main project site

http://wiki.laptop.org The wiki site that provides in depth information, specific hardware specs, as well as ways to get involved such as the listservs and wikispace sections.

www.laptopgiving.org The best way to try one of these laptops out. The deal is that you donate one and you get one. $399 with an extended period to December 31rst.

Most importantly in the USA, this movement comes as a challenge to specialized instruction, ese, sped, whatever we name it. My interpretation of this movement is that we, the people who care deeply about the education of people with special needs, need to create and design the one laptop per child in the United States. It is certainly coming and it is up to us to be ahead of the curve in arguably the best chance we have at narrowing the gap.

Just think about the alternative: trying to retro fit what is created and given to us. I have been following part of the developments by monitoring the OLPC Project, the intiatives in the state of Maine, and the Intel Classmate.

The presenter, Adam Bowker, and I spoke about how excited we are for receiving the laptops, which are promised by OLPC before Christmas. The most promising use initially seems to be as a literacy tool for people who use AAC. The Tar Heel Typer can serve as an option for an electronic pencil and it will be great to look at the best way to port electronic books into the system. As soon as the devices are shipped it will be fun to look at this as an inexpensive way for people to connect to the Internet with their AAC devices, most notably Pathfinders, Vantage/Vanguard Devices, various Dynavox Devices, and the Tango.

Overall, this is the technical domain I am most encouraged by out of all the emerging technologies found in AT, The Read/Write Web/ Web2.0, and in Special Education. Additionally, it was terrific to see a well thought out and progressive presentation by the researcher, Adam Bowker. He is a second year doctoral student at Penn State and looks to have some notable and promising research interests.

November 25, 2007 Posted by | AAC, ASHA2007, Assistive Technology, AT, ebooks, inclusion, inspiration, Literacy, OLPC, OTOT, phonics, Special Education, Uncategorized, writing | 1 Comment