Friday, May 20, 2016

Saving Boardmaker PDF's to Google Drive

Hey Tek-Ninjas! This article is primarily written with my work colleagues in mind, as we are leaving one piece of software for another.

Many folks have a lot of work made in the first program. In order to be able to access it, you will need to save the files as PDF's. This will allow you to still use the boards, however, you won't be able to easily change them. If you have a lot of files that you want to save, plan on this taking awhile. You may want to do it in multiple steps.

But, here are the steps.

Open a Board file and then select "Print".

In the bottom left corner select PDF, and within that pull down menu choose "Save as PDF".

Before you actually click save, in the bottom corner click on "New Folder".

In the box that comes up, create a name.

Now, save your board in this new file. Subsequent boards will just be saved in this board. This process will make it easier to organize or even move to your Google Drive.

If you want to take the next step of moving your PDF's to your Google Drive follow these steps.

It is recommended that you download and proceed with the browser Chrome in order to upload a whole file.

Open your Google Drive and select "New".

Choose "Folder" and create a Boardmaker PDF folder.

Next, click on "New" and choose "File Upload". Now you can simply drag your previously made PDF folder into your browser. 

Depending on how many pages you have, this process may take some time. Good luck and don't hesitate to email with questions.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Abilipad: Customizable Notepad and Keyboard!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Are you familiar with Abilipad? If not, take a look at it. I reviewed it awhile back, but only considering one small aspect of the app. More recently, I've had further opportunity to dig into this robust app, and frankly I'm astonished at just how great it is.

The word prediction function remains good. But what is truly significant is how easy it is to create
unique and custom keyboards with pictures, symbols, individual words, and even whole phrases in a "key". It reminds me in some ways for Cricksoft's Clicker, or Slaterware's Pixwriter, but at a fraction of the cost; $19.99.

Making a custom keyboard is remarkably simple. The control board is intuitive. Pictures can be added from the iPad or from Pixabay. Text can be added, which can then be read out loud by a quality computer voice when "typed" by the end user.

Built into the app are links to several tutorial videos as well as an online instructional book.

Sharing boards is easy using the built in email or DropBox access.

Keyboard Creation
Adding to the value, if you run into a problem, there is a direct email link to the app creator, Cheryl Bregman. She is remarkably fast in responding, and very helpful.

Abilipad is ideal for your emerging writers, or to set up with scanning and switch access as an alternative writing tool.

Features are as listed:

The adaptive notepad provides scaffolding and support:
•Distraction-free writing space
•Word Prediction (available in English, Spanish, French and German language settings)

•Set the text style (font, size and color) and background color 
•Include images from the image library or use your own pictures
•Add, duplicate and reorder pages 
•Link keyboards to effortlessly shift between from one to the next.

•Words are highlighted as they are spoken
•Speaks letters, words and /or sentences
•AAC option with easily accessible clear text button
•Adjust the reading speed

Accessibility Features:
•Bluetooth enabled for use with a wireless keyboard 
•Insert text from emails, text documents or webpages to hear it read out loud 
•Languages include: Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch (Belgium, Netherlands), English (Australia, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States), Finnish, French (Canada, France), German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

For many of us, $20 feels like a relatively big chunk of change for an app, but really, for all it does, it is a remarkable bargain!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pogo Boards Changing the Landscape

 Hey Tek-Ninjas! Our district has been wrestling with a dilemma. We are planning on replacing all all laptops at the Elementary level. That is roughly 10 schools. We replaced the Middle school laptops last year. It is expensive.

On top of the significant cost, this change has unplanned ripple effects. Modern laptops seem to all be dropping CD drives. Remember 12+ years ago when Apple got rid of the floppy drive? Then PC's followed suit? We all kicked and screamed 'cause our software wouldn't work. Well, here we go again. Apple started phasing out CD drives a few years ago, and now PC's seem to following along.

Our district has approximately 100 copies of "THE DOMINANT SYMBOL SOFTWARE" (TDSS) out there, which was purchased with Stimulus funding back in 2000. It still works fine, but won't on the new laptops (or not without a major process/headache per each device), especially as we are changing OS platforms at some schools.

Our staff who use TDSS really rely on it. But, upgrading TDSS for the new computers would cost over $12,000 PER YEAR!

Home Screen
So, it was out of necessity that I started shopping around again for symbol software, but this time more earnestly.

Enter Pogo Boards. Pogo Boards is an online, subscription model which is easy to use, and provides access to millions of images through an integrated Google search, thousands of unique, custom symbols with SymbolStix and the PiCS symbol set.

Pogo Boards arguably has the most robust symbol library available in one place.

There is a free 14 day trial to get a feel for PogoBoards, and I encourage users to sign up and use it with a student or classroom in mind, not just to tinker around. This process will facilitate you actually learning how to use it.

The PogoBoards website offers several "how-to-videos" to help you in your learning curve.

As a user, if you are at all familiar with Microsoft Word, the interface will be intuitive. It looks similar.

The bottom line though, is the price is down-right affordable. My subscription for the same group of folks on the TDSS will be roughly $2,500 annually. Thates a significant savings.

Users can make their boards on a Mac at work, then when they get home, feasibly log into a home PC or Linux computer and access the same work.  Cross platform is huge.

In addition, boards made online can be downloaded to the free app on your iPad or iPhone.

And finally, sharing of materials within a school or district is simple.

Change from a preferred tool is often challenging. My hope for our district is that this won't be too painful. I will keep you all posted!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Switch Access Continues to Improve!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! I've been wrestling with switch access lately. It is often a source of frustration for me. The promises are big, the reality is often less than!

Of the many switch interfaces I've played with, the one I keep returning to for the most success is the
 Swifty, made by Origin. Swifty uses standard USB Human Interface Device (HID) drivers and works with Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers and many AAC devices.  The Swifty retails for $79.95.

For accessing iPads, Origin has answers as well. They provide the Tapio for newer iPads using a Lightening charging port. With Tapio and an adaptive switch, a single switch user can have complete access to an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod touch, using Apple's Switch Control. The Tapio
retails for $99.95. If you have a 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, Origin still has an answer for you. Purchase the Tapio with Apple 30-pin Dock to USB Camera Adapter and a USB Extender Cable. This bundle sells for $109.95.

Just a Few Switch Choices
Using the Swifty or the Tapio allows you to then also use a myriad of switches depending on your
user's needs. You may decide to go with a jelly bean switch, toggle, or any of the other dozens of switches, mounting them wherever your user has the best consistent volitional movement. I recommend involving your Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist in determining these locations if possible.

The other bit of switch access that has me excited is the iPad's use of the camera and/or the screen. Using a Tapio in conjunction with the camera, we can set up step scanning, and using a head turn, or tapping the screen (anywhere) of the iPad to select. When you are in accessibility, and choosing your switch, after having chosen "External" for the Tapio, try "Screen" or "Camera". One of those options may prove helpful in unlocking a student's potential.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Increasing Your Switch Access Activities a Thousand Fold!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! I am really excited to share with you some new finds (new for me anyway).

The folks at UNC are busy writing code, creating easy, free switch accessible, online software.

For example, they have a terrific site called Accessible Youtube. Accessible Youtube does require that someone can type the initial search.  Once the search is typed in, navigating the controls is relatively intuitive

When I stumbled on Accessible Youtube, it was exciting, but not quite what I was searching for.  I was looking for the ability to embed Youtube videos into some "magical" interface that would work like the old latch timer, so a student would hit the switch, get some video, and then it would stop, thereby motivating the student to hit the switch again. Yes, we are working on early "Cause & Effect" switch access.

So, I emailed the help link on Accessible Youtube, and very quickly got a response from Gary Bishop.  Gary is a Professor of Computer Science here at UNC-Chapel HIll.  Gary and his students create software to enable folks with disabilities participate fully in education, literacy, and play. He and his students may be my new heroes.

Gary sent me a link to that "magical" interface I'd been seeking: Tar Heel Gameplay (THG) It was as though the programmer made a project just for me! 

Customizable Switch Prompt
On the surface THG seems simple, which is evidence of good design. But there is so much going on here. The teacher/therapist/parent can make a one-off activity, grading the amount of support dependent on what the user will benefit from; single switch, cause & effect, to multiple choice responses with many different outcomes (play, start over, rewind, etc). In addition, if the caregiver wants to utilize the service more than once, they can create an account (free) and save their "games".

Please take a look at this site, and be sure to share with your friends!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A New Blogger in Town!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Back on the 8th of March my colleague Tamika wrote a guest blog for me. It was a great article, and evidently may have helped serve as a catalyst, because Tamika has since then launched her own blog.

Tamika will be blogging about being an Occupational Therapist, a single mom, and a Woman of God. Her blog is called TherapymomMe, and I encourage you to take a look at it.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Shameless Self Promotion!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Today  I have made a few changes to my blog site.

For a while now I have experimented with advertising. You may have noticed on the right side of the blog, a selection of ads. I've decided that the advertisements detract more than add benefit.

So. No more ads.

In addition, I am embarking in a little shameless self promotion. If you note at the top of my blog at the menu bar I have a new link: Jim's Art. Please take a moment to explore some of my digital as well as oil creations.

As always thanks for looking!