Thursday, August 28, 2008

Emergency Procedures

The say there is no furor like a women’s fury and Mother Nature has been showing frustration and power over this hurricane season. We are only up to the letter H and we have already seen Fay cry 26 inches of rain over Florida. I am not exactly sure if Fay had a boyfriend leave her or she just loved Florida so much and was having a tantrum every time Mother told her it was time to move on but she kept coming back like a 4 year old that was told to no more ice cream at an ice cream parlor. There is another storm on the way and the men are trying to flex their power sending out their third to bat Gustav. He is demonstrating to be a sturdy and tough storm. He is heading to the United States and there is warning for the Gulf States. I am praying that he turns away because Florida and Louisiana do not need the visits.

Since Katrina many in the AT field have tried to help people with disabilities and their families or guardians prepare for such weather emergencies. There is a wonderful site that was shared on the QIAT list serv this evening
Disaster Preparedness and People with Complex Communication Needs . So many individuals with disabilities lost valuable equipment, service animals and tools during Katrina. It is often said that things can be replaced but you cannot replace a life. This statement is true but for a person with a disability their equipment is their lives. So if you have students, consumers, friends or family, please take a look at what was designed by a collaboration among the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC) Gulf Relief Committee, the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC), and News-2-You, Inc.

Please remember to have your own preparedness kit for your family. I live on the Jersey shore and I can tell you that I wait with bated breath during the North ester storms or Hurricane season. We haven’t suffered from a hurricane in 10 or more years. So as I say we are living on borrowed time since we had to evacuate. With that thought in mind and knowing that weather is not the only thing that can make me leave our home I have done the following:

  1. A plan of where will we meet if we cannot reach other by cell phones.
  2. Cash to pay for hotel – gas and food for a week. I think of the “need a vacation fund”. Our family pulls our funds and creates a special account for these emergency moments.
  3. Make sure that I have a list of all the members of my immediate family with their most current picture.
  4. A list of all cell phone numbers of immediate family.
  5. Emergency contact cards for each person. This is often tricky because when we travel we carry emergency contact cards – we list a person that we are not traveling with. We have special contact people for when we are together.
  6. Our family had to list 2 people that we trusted with our important information. We have purposely picked 2 people that do not live in our state but we trust with our most precious information.
  7. A list of all medications that each member of the family is taking with their doctor’s names, refill numbers and any allergies that they may have to other medications.
  8. Copies of birth certificates, marriage license and insurance policies.
  9. I have an electronic copy of all medical reports and IEP files.
  10. Photos of our cars – the conditions they are in.
  11. Photos of our pets, pet records and shots.
  12. Copy of all credit cards with numbers to call to cancel or get further assistance.
  13. Copy of all banking information.
  14. Scanned family photos and copies of movies or videos stored on DVD’s and internet vault.

I am sure I have missed some things that we have. Now how we store this information.

We each have a set of the documents in a secured location. The electronic information is stored on encrypted jump drives. It is a lot of work to maintain them but it is worth the piece of mind.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Word Clouds

So often as educators we want our students work neat and tidy. But student in general do not think in the organized manner that we adults do. Children love to play with how things look, how words fit together (not sound together) and how creative they can be. Look on any students notebook that has been doodled you will see Word Clouds. Word Clouds are a bunch of words that are linked together in a creative fashion. They are anything but organized. Visually they are a piece of art. is a tool that students can use to create an electronic worldle. It is a quick little program that may excite students to use new words in their writing or even encouraging a student to write. In Wordle, you can change every aspect of the word art that is created by using different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. One of the things we know is that words have different meanings to students and sometimes it is not how something is written but the intent the words have. With written words we have to add the tone, but with Wordle we can have the students give us the tone of their writing by being creative.

Have some fun with words. Writing is an creative outlet. Let the students that struggle with writing and often organization have some fun with it.

What about the old Apps?

About two weeks ago my desktop computer decided that it didn’t need to work any longer. Now you would think I would be stressed but I really wasn’t. Because my back has been so bad, I spent a lot of time flat on my back using my laptop. So all the major work I had completed or was working on was on the laptop. But I still needed the desktop. I am a creator of habit and I like reading my mail on a large screen and I like working on large screen when I am able. Thank goodness for my Sony desktop that I had sitting collecting dust. I am not sure why I ever got rid of the Sony but it is back doing the work that my HP decided was too good for it. So any way let me get to the reason for this post.

The Sony is naked of the programs that I find extremely helpful when creating tutorials or Boardmaker boards, I decided to Google for a program to replace SNAGIT. What is SNAGIT you may ask? SnagIt is a screen capturing program that operates under the Windows operating system. It is distributed by TechSmith. If you are running Vista and don’t need all the bells of the SNAGIT program you system already comes with the basic of the screen capture. However, I cannot live without the bells and whistles of SNAGIT.

You would think I know the address by heart but off I went to Google. I came upon a website that many of you with older computer systems or who don’t care about the newest and latest will love. It is called Old Apps . Now many of the applications maybe of no interest to you but let me tell you a few that are worth getting your hands on:

  • Snagit 7.0 screen capture software
  • HyperSnap screen capture software.
  • WinZip compression software. This is the most common that you see.
  • WinRAR this is a less recognized zip program but it actually zips better then
  • WinZip. It is a much tighter compression.
  • Paint Shop Pro – great for photos

Some of the software is trialware so check the description carefully. Other programs are full working programs with key registration codes.

Happy hunting to find a few gems of your own. I would stay clear of the peer to peer sharing sites. Limewire, Napster and Bearshare are rife with nasty viruses and malware programs. I would also check the company website because some of the applications that are being offered already are free if you use the lite version of the software.

Another great site:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Portable Apps

One of the best products that I have been given from work is TextHelp Read and Write Gold Mobile. It allows me to use students computers that they are familiar with during evaluations or training. I still go through the process of allowing the students to see all the options (WYNN and Kurzweil). So I started to think that there has to be some other applications that I can run from my portable drives.

With just a little searching I came across I am impressed with the list of applications that are on this list. I downloaded the Suite product. In the suite application you get the following the applications

  • Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition (web browser)

  • Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition (email)

  • Mozilla Sunbird, Portable Edition (calendar/tasks)

  • ClamWin Portable (antivirus)

  • Pidgin Portable (instant messaging)

  • Sumatra PDF Portable (PDF reader)

  • KeePass Password Safe Portable (password manager)

  • Sudoku Portable (game)

  • Mines-Perfect Portable (game)

  • CoolPlayer+ Portable (audio player)

  • Portable* (office suite)

  • Writer (word processor)

  • Calc (spreadsheet)

  • Impress (presentations)

  • Base (database utility)

  • Draw (drawing)

I have been using these products on a thumbdrive that I had hanging around it is a 1 gig drive. The application worked seamlessly on any PC computer that I plugged into as long as they accepted USB products. Since I installed the suite and it worked well I decided to give the other apps a whirl.

The new apps that I have added is the accessibility products - on-screen keyboard and screen magnifier. I am not crazy about the magnifier but it does exactly it is meant to do. It has come in handy a few times for my consumers. The on-screen keyboard app just allows you to find the windows on-screen keyboard that comes with windows. The benefit to this feature is that if you are on a unfamiliar computer it will remembers your settings for sound, hover to select or click to select, always on top, keyboard layout and more as you move from PC to PC. One less thing to worry about.

There is only one educational app which is a fun little app called portable planetarium. It is a app that seems will get little use in the classroom. The app that I have to give props to portable apps for is giving GIMP Portable. If you like Photoshop, GIMP is a product that will do the same with less bells and whistles.

If you are a mobile consultant or student, this is a great little application to have on your jump drive. All your settings are saved so there is no stress of having things look different.