Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ready for a change

No matter how fancy the tool, it is not going to implement itself into your classroom. Implementation takes time and planning. It takes careful consideration of why you are using the tool for a specific student or classroom. Implementation of technology is where/when the we often fall flat on our faces. The software, hardware is on the computer system but the teacher is not sure what to do with it, how to use it or when to use it. The words "Use it often and at your discretion don't have much meaning". With that said, my blog is going to take a turn. I am going to move away from showing the new big thing and talk about the important thing how do these tools get used in the classroom with all students.

First things first – technology is not about the bells and the whistles. You do not have the newest and greatest to be in the technology forefront.

Second thing – it is not about the STUFF. You can have a classroom of stuff but still have nothing.

Third thing – it is about using what you have and what you are comfortable with. Once you start using, what you are comfortable with you will start to feel eager to try something new.

Fourth thing – admit it and own it. Admit what you do not know. Only way to get help with something is admitting you are not sure about how to use the tool or what features it has. There is no way you can use it with your students if you cannot use it yourself. Yes, there are students that can run circles around us adults. Once you admit where you need help you own the problem but you are also own the SOLUTION.

Fifth thing – Search and FIND. You are not the only one out there that is struggling with implementation or learning how to use a tool. All you have to do is go to your favorite search engine and type name of the tool you are trying to work with and you will be amazed on what you will find.

Favorite sights for tutorials: Tutorial for MS office products. has various tutorials. has various tutorials.
excellent resource for assistive technology tutorials. video tutorials on the smart board. The best thing is the ideas on the website.

Favorite blogs:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hello! From ATIA

Hello! Everyone

I hope everyone is doing well in their neck of the woods. I am sitting in sunny cool Florida enjoying ATIA. I had the pleasure of sitting in a few sessions and going into the exhibit hall. First let me say that I am an ATIA newbie. I cut my AT teeth at Closing the Gap. But I have to admit, ATIA may have won me over. When I walked into the exhibit hall, I had that feeling that I have been missing at Closing the Gap, the child in the toy store feeling. When I entered into the exhibit hall, I entered into my amusement park. Which way to go? What do I want to see? So I did the let's go this way and just random pleasure of seeing what was new and exciting.

Hands down the winners for today are:

Switch access for the KINDLE. Yes, you did read that correctly. It will be sold by Origin Instruments ( They are expecting it to hit the market in about a month. With the switch access you will be able to turn the pages forward and back. It will come with a mount that can be secured to a person's wheelchair or other location (table or desk). The cost is will in the $300-$350 (price subject to change).

Software called Point and Chat ( )for AAC users – it allows AAC users to Instant message and text messaging using their device. The message is typed in using the symbol communication from Saltillo Corp and converts into text. The piece that most will be frustrated with is that the message to the AAC user is in text also not symbol based. Don't be too sad because the software has text to speech. After sitting through Caroline Musslewhite's workshop in literacy, I have to say it not coming in symbols rocked my world. Often text messages and IM's are using high frequency words or easily decodable words. For students and young adults this gives them an additional opportunity to practice literacy without symbol support but they have the text to speech there if needed as support.

ComLink ST3G ( )is a device that I have not seen before. However, I have to say I really like their hardware. The device usesThe Grid 2 Communication software with symbol Stix Symbols from Tobbi Communicator. The device is durable. It comes with a nice rubber bumper on the covers the edges of the device. It is made of durable material without the extra weight. The flexible stand and handle are great. HANDS down the BEST Speech from a device that I have heard yet. I know other devices use the same speech engine as this device but for some reason it was clear even in a loud (very loud) vending hall without additional speakers. They also have an eye gaze system. It uses similar technology as other AAC devices (add on eye tracker).

Awww … another tool that I was excited about ….. The PenFriend. No it is not the software from Crick. This is an actual pen that you use to create "hot spots". It was originally designed for individuals with visual impairments or who are blind so they can read labels once tagged with the special self-adhesive label. Now that doesn't sound very exciting however let's think outside the box of labels. This tool can be used for students in the school building, during reading activities (definitions) or as an AAC tool. There is no limit to the length of each message that the label can hold. The pen records 70 hours of recording. You can do whole books or take a snapshot of a video or their favorite artist and they can listen to an MP3 of their favorite song. It comes with 127 labels in a mix of sizes and shapes. The price tag again is a tad steep but for a tool that can do so much, I am thinking I am going to put one in my tool kit.


More to come in a few – I have to get to the GYM.