Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An APP for Google Chrome that a two switch student can use

I am working with a young man that is a two switch scanner. We have developed customized access to websites via PowerPoint, Clicker, SD Pro and other programs just to have the sites no longer available, no one is updating the sites of interest for the student or when the student made a transition to another classroom the programming was left behind and the IT department wiped the system. Sound familiar. And you are probably saying but I am sure you backed it up. Yes, I will assure you that I have backed it up but since I am a consultant and things change or should change, I wouldn’t have the latest information.

So the other day, I was bored and when I am bored I just start randomly searching places and things. My target was the Google Chrome store. I carry an Android phone, tablet and I use Chrome to access the internet but I really don’t spend as much time in the store as I do the iTunes store. Work vs. Personal time. Most of the information that is shared is about Apple apps although there are more Android phones on the market. If you don’t believe me read: http://www.phonesreview.co.uk/2012/09/05/android-vs-iphone-market-share-52-against-33-percent/

I had no real goal in mind which can always be dangerous for time management and getting lost in the details of the web. Today was my lucky day. You know one of those days that the sun shines, the birds are singing and all the right music is playing on the radio.  I found SpeedDial2 (http://speeddial2.com/) for Google Chrome. And I believe I might be in a friendship not ready for love just yet as you know there are some flaws.

Speeddial2 is similar to big picture speed dial except that this is for websites. You can customize the number of row and columns (less on the page the bigger the button). The biggest you can go is 2 columns 2 rows (4x4 squares). The smallest is 20 columns (about the size of a stamp). You also have the ability to add space between the icons (10 point to 50 points). To visualize that it is about the width of matchstick (10 point) and a plastic knife handle (50 point).

You can change the background color. I have come to like sea green. It is comforting to the eyes. Not too bright just enough to pop the icons from the page. There are other options that you can let the student make a choice. For students that love YouTube, you can even make a page of music for the week.

Of course you know that that I must let you down, right. You knew it had to happen.  For students that are using switches and tabbing, there is no way to get back to home in Chrome. This isn’t SpeedDial2 (http://speeddial2.com/) issue but more of a Google Chrome issue. It isn’t a perfect solution but it is better than nothing and better than hours of programming for a few minutes of play. There is an upside if you turn on the side tab and you have a savvy user you can tab through applications, bookmarks and frequently used items.   

For two switch user all you need to do is have your switch interface set up to Tab and one switch to enter. When the student uses enter their page will open in a separate tab.  Once the student opens the website they will need a way to navigate the website. Not all websites work with a tab/enter.  

 You can also get this app as an add-in for Firefox. As I don’t use firefox, I cannot tell you how good it works within the Firefox browser. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thinking Caps on -- Professional Development is one type of learning

Welcome back to the school year 2012-2013. Your students are ready to learn what you have to offer them. But are you ready to learn about the opportunities that you are offering? 

As I sit and wonder why my school year will look like, I also begin to wonder what my learning opportunities will be. Each year, I pick a topic, subject, disability, service, or something that I want to learn about. During that year, I expand my knowledge on the content material. For this school year, I am struggling with what I would like to expand my knowledge on. For me to learn I need to be passionate about the topic or at least have my interest peaked.

Then I realized something, how often do we remind others that learning about something is a forever process. There are times that we forget some things that we once knew like the back of our hand because we don’t use it often. Or we have progressed in our skills think “I got that”.  So this year, I am dedicating myself to refreshing the old brain and going back over skills that are rusty.

I am signed up for three sessions with AbleNet University http://www.ablenetinc.com/Professional-Development.

The first session: Course 2 - Switch Mounting: I've found a Location, Now How Do I Keep It There? I have been doing switch access for about 20 years. I know my switches and what each one does however, it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn about mounting techniques that I have never considered. New tools, a different point of view on mounting and learning from others experiences is extremely important to me. 

Second session: All About Computer Access: Adaptations and Alternatives to the Standard Keyboard and Mouse. This is a session I have taught and one that I continue to explore because new tools come out all the time.  Again, someone can refresh my memory of a tool that is still available but I have forgotten about because I am using a tool that I have access all the time too. It is also great to see how others present the material. Sometimes taking a course is about learning from your presenters about timing, or how they work the room via a new medium (webinars).

Third session: Course 3 - Positioning for Optimal Access to Assistive Technology. Just because you have the switch access doesn’t mean you have optimal access to the tools. I struggle with access of devices especially for my students and adults that spend the majority of their day in one flat position. So it will be great to see/hear how others resolve the issues that they have encountered especially on limited budgets.

I also signed up for Webinars from Cambium Learning Technologies (CLT). Cambium is home to Kurzweil 3000 and Intellitools software.  http://www.cambiumtech.com/special/webinars/

I am taking a session called: The SETT Framework: Straight From the Horse's Mouth. The SETT framework is a core value in my evaluation process for the clients that I interact with. As time passes you begin to modify and adapt what you are doing while following the process that Dr. Joy Zabala developed. It is important to always come back to the root of the design and be reminded of something that you may have forgotten about. Dr. Zabala has also added to the SETT framework so it will be wonderful to hear how the process has developed over the years.


I signed up for a workshop on Kurzweil 3000: Tips and Tricks. I use Kurzweil 3000 on a daily basis in one fashion or another. But there are so many things that Kurzweil 3000 can do that sometimes you just need that fast shortcut to get you through something. So I signed up for this course because I have students that I am asking them to sign up for it. It is important for me as an AT person to encourage my students to seek support beyond myself. My job is to make others independent so sharing resources are part of that.


These are just a few webinars that I have signed up for September and October. I have made it a goal to sign up and attend at least 3 webinars a month.  If I am going to be the best AT specialist I can be. I also know that I need to ground myself on the principals of AT. As the year progresses my training may change because of different skill sets needed. But the important thing is to always make sure that you not only focus on teaching others but that you take the moments and be the student. We are all forever learners. Being forever learners we need to move back and forth in our roles as mentors, facilitators and student. Your professional development should not be one dimensional. You should embraces special education, general education, Speech, Occupational and Physical therapy course but also go to a session on sports, art, language arts, and reading.


Places to look for professional development:


Software vendors often give Webinars on their products. Go to their websites and look under their training possibilities.


ATIA - www.atia.org/webinars


RESNA: http://www.resna.org/professionalDevelopment/index.dot


Atomic Learning: www.atomiclearning.com


Even Podcast are considered professional development. Remember learning takes place everywhere and in different formats. The important thing to think of is what you intentions of learning and what a gem(s) of information you have walked away with.


A.T. Tipscast is one that I enjoy listening and learning from. Chris has a way of addressing concepts from a common sense nature and doesn’t make you feel like you should have known that already.  http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/a.t.tipscast/id272223032


Find them on Facebook also: https://www.facebook.com/attipscast


EdCeptional this is a hosted chat. Each session you get to hear from other professionals and knowledgeable individuals on different topics.  http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/edceptional/id452869249


Also look at Twitter. Twitter had turned to be one of the best places to learn about professional development. Learn what general education is doing. The hottest trends in education are. And you get your hands on some amazing blogs and tips from others.


Check with your state colleges. There are some wonderful stuff out there. And branch out. AT is not always about the tools but about learning about reading strategies, math courses or science curriculum.


Check your state museums. You would be surprised at what they offer. Yes, it may not be related to AT however you never know what you might learn about art and how to encourage students to explore possibilities.

Take that writing course at the adult school. Or how about that knitting class that you want to take but you can't find a reason. Who needs a reason to learn? Who needs a reason to find time for themselves? 


Learning possibilities are all around us. You have to be willing to take a class that you have no idea why you are there other than it might come in handy later. OK, must go, I am off to my class at the local hardware store. My session PVC and projects around your home.