by Samuel Sennott
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.
This opens up amazing possibilities for customized keyboards for all kinds of learners!
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.
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by Samuel Sennott
Update New Site: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/FreeIconToSpeech
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:
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.
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
hots from Speaking Dynamically Pro, Dynavox, PRC’s Unity software, and the newest Tango software respectively:
Dynavox Series 5 Software (above)
PRC Unity 45 Location Overlay (above)
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.
by Samuel Sennott
Individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities, may be able to use Speak, the open source software available for the OLPC XO laptop, as an augmentative communication tool to help meet their daily communication needs. The basic function of this application or activity as it is called in the OLPC world, is that you type, press enter, and it speaks.
Look for a video podcast on this topic soon!
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.
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.
 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 ();
- 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 ();
- the F2 key is the same as the Group view key ();
- the F3 key is the same as the Home view key ();
- the F4 key is the same as the Activity view key ();
- 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 (→).
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.
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?
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?
By Samuel Charles Sennott
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.