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

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

IconSpeak for the XO

by Samuel Sennott

Update New Site: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/FreeIconToSpeech

Current Article: http://s54379.gridserver.com/software/applications/free_icon-to-speech_open-source_speech_for_disabled.html

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

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

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

Receptive Before Expressive with Linda Burkhart

by Samuel Sennott

How did you learn to talk? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Did you learn to speak english as a child? Did you learn spanish? I ponder these questions as Linda Burkhart starts the hour long workshop reminding us about the importance of modeling, as she brings us back to the classic Engineering the Environment texts and the concept of aided language stimulation.  This receptive before expressive concept and the idea of constantly modeling the use of components in an AAC system makes so much sense!  Here are some notes from the hour:

Partner Assisted Scanning

Asking the right questions is key. Automaticity with yes and no is a goal. Keeping the yes and no on consistent sides is helpful in the process. : )

Parter assisted scanning, while still English, has:

  • Different Structure
  • Different Pace
  • Different Pragmatics
  • Different Interactive Strategies

The Organization

Pragmatically Organized Dynamic Display (PODD) Communication Books (Gayle Porter)

Find out more by checking out:

http://www.lburkhart.com/handouts.htm

*NEW – Instructional Course – Presented at ISAAC in Germany – July 2006*

Partner-Assisted Communication Strategies for
Children Who Face Multiple Challenges

PODD Communication Books – Gayle Porter

Linda J. Burkhart and Gayle Porter

SEE KID SEE BOOK is such a good catch phrase to take from this workshop. It keeps it simple when you are trying to help a learner and the team surrounding the learner.

Practice, Practice, Practice using it yourself. (the system)

February 5, 2008 Posted by | AAC, ATIA2008, PODD, Special Education, writing | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Tar Heel Typer: An Open Source Alternative Pencil

by Samuel Sennott

THT screenshottar heel pic

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

setup ss

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

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

THT screenshot

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

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

Digital Picture Frame with Switch Adapted Remote Control

by Samuel Sennott

Digital Picture Frame Screenshot 1

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

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

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

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

Digital Picture Frame Adapted Pencil Screenshot

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

50 Web 2.0 Tools to Tell a Story

by Samuel Sennott

alan levine blog ss

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

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

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