Thursday, May 21, 2015

Talking BIG Math

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Recently I have been working with a unique situation.

I have a student whom I will call Mike. Mike is very bright. Exceedingly bright. Top of the curve bright. However, he has some significant motor impairments, which leave him unable to write with a pen/pencil, and unable to type functionally.

I have worked with Mike for many years. We've tried voice dictation on and off, but his voice quality was never quite good enough. I always thought, eventually his voice would mature, he might get better breath control, and the voice dictation software would continue to become better.  All of which has come true.

Mike is taking Calculus. He has been dictating formulas to a scribe/TA. It is challenging to find
people who can dictate such formulas easily that are also willing to work for a TA salary. Let me be clear, I don't mean to denigrate, the fact is, I would be hard pressed to scribe for him. Math has never been a strong point for me.

Recently Mike asked to give voice dictation a try again. We set him up with a Windows 7 computer and Dragon 12. Mike was able to successfully complete the Scott Adams training module, which is the hardest of the training modules. I choose the harder one, because in order for Mike to be able to use this tool functionally, he needs to be able to dictate with the sophisticated vocabulary he utilizes.  Anything else, would essentially be pointless. He struggled with just a few words, but overall it was a great success.

Along with Dragon Naturally Speaking, we are using Scientific Notebook and Math Talk.  Scientific Notebook is essentially a word processor designed to create documents that contain text, mathematics, and graphics. Scientific Notebook can be downloaded for a free 30 day trial to get a sense of what the software can do.  A student license is $79.

The third component, Math Talk is a unique and phenomenal piece of software that integrates with Dragon Naturally Speaking to allow the user to voice any math phrases, including pre-algebra, algebra, trig, calculus, statistics, and graphing. An individual student version retails for $275.

Now, these are all pretty robust pieces of software. Layering of technology can often lead to problems. But, when loaded correctly, following the directions from the folks at Math Talk, and the training is completed, it is very impressive what a user can accomplish.

This is not a particularly inexpensive intervention when you tally a laptop, Dragon Naturally Speaking  Scientific Notebook, and Math Talk. But, in the long haul, it is significantly less expensive than hiring a scribe.  Also, I have yet to find anything that will work in this type of situation. My expectation is that the intervention will open up a significant level of independence for Mike.

One more note to make. The dove-tailing of 3 pieces of software can at first seem daunting. It did to me, and I tend to be fluent in this sort of venture.  If you follow the written directions from the Math Talk, it will work.  Or, if you call Math Talk for help, you will get NanciLu on the phone. She is the creator and owner of the company. She will make you laugh, and help you experience success with dictating complex math to a computer.  That is a win!

For the right student, this intervention is phenomenal, and I encourage you to take a look at a video or two if you think you have that student.

Happy therapy!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Believe the hype!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! First, let me say, I love rap music. I do. Old school, and even new school.

Second, I also love when everyone gets to participate in cool stuff!

So, if you haven't seen this clip, dig it... a sign language interpreter at a Public Enemy concert. Too cool!

Happy Friday!

AVAZ returns with a bang!

A few springs ago I was introduce to Avaz, and blogged about what a great AAC app it is.

Well, the folks at Avaz have not simply rested on their laurels.  They continue to offer Avaz Pro, receiving accolades from parents, teachers, and researchers. In addition, they now offer a great companion app called Avaz Together.

Avaz Together is available for a monthly subscription rate of $9.99.  

What makes Avaz Together unique is that it is a communication app designed specifically to guide parents in teaching their child to communicate at home. 

It is filled with ideas and tips for the parent to
create communication opportunities throughout their day. The communication board is easy to navigate, and to customize. In addition, Avaz Together tracks data regarding the number of words your child uses, and sentence lengths.

For those of us wanting to be evidence based in our work, Avaz offers a page of research behind Avaz Together, and the insights that went into the app.

For folks who want to or need to take their child's communication experience past the therapist's time, Avaz Together may be just the tool needed!

Happy Therapy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Look a Little Closer at Ginger...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, recently I wrote about a grammar and spelling correction software called Ginger. I have removed the blog post, as a friend has directed me towards several online complaints about it.

Several users complain that the software works as malware. They also indicate that it is very difficult to remove. Other folks explain that Ginger coming up as malware as a secondary function of it being an online tool. I don't necessarily understand the explanation, suffice to say these users suggest it's not an issue.

Nonetheless, there are enough complaints that I am a little leery of recommending the software. I intend to write the company and see what their take is on these complaints.

I will report any response I get from the software engineers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little Help FOR Our Friends...

Hey Tek-Ninjas, don't we love it when we find a great app? How about when we like an app a lot, and make a suggestion or two, and those suggestions get incorporated in the next update? How cool is that?!?!

Well the good folks at ModMath built an amazing app. I wrote about it awhile back (read my blog here).  They built it originally with their own son in mind, but to date around 27,000 people have downloaded it, so clearly, we like it. And, folks are making a lot of great suggestions for various updates.

I really like this app. It is a stand out because it allows math students to complete their assignments without writing out answers longhand. And it's purposefully built sans calculator so the teacher can see if a student doesn’t understand the concept, or has simply made a computation error.  The app builders, Dawn and Josh Denberg could feasibly leave the app as it is, and walk away feeling successful. However, they would like to make it better, and they want to incorporate many of the ideas users have suggested. In order to do so, they will need some money. They indicate that "An upgraded ModMath 2.0 supporting advanced algebraic equations is about $25,000. An Android version with the exact same features will cost $30,000".

Dawn and Josh have started a ModMath Kickstarter campaign.  For this first iteration, they are asking for $20,000 and in about a day, they are already half way there!

If you like ModMath, if you would like to see a more powerful/robust version of ModMath, or simply need a worthy place to donate, consider supporting their fundraiser! Also, be sure to "Like" their Facebook page.

Happy Therapy!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Communication, Math, Timers, and Organization

Tel-Ninjas, this is part four, and the final segment of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Communication: (certainly considered a SLP domain, OT's can be involved in this process)
Proloquo2Go: $219.99, Proloquo2Go® is an award-winning symbol-supported communication app providing a voice to over 100,000 individuals around the world who are unable to speak.

ModMath: Free, ModMath is an adaptive program that improves math skills. The app lets you type math problems right onto the touch screen of an iPad rather than write them out long-hand. You can then solve the problems using the touch pad and print or e-mail the assignments all without ever picking up a pencil.

VisualTimer: $1.99, Refer to my blog. VisualTimer is a 60 minute timer with a graphical display that's also incredibly easy to use. To get started, just touch and drag the meter to the desired time and hit the Start button. It's that easy!

Metronome!!: $0.99, An easy to use and accurate audio/visual metronome for your iPhone and iPad. Keeping tempo has never been so simple.

Blogger: Free, Refer to my blog.  Compose a post that you can save to draft or immediately publish

First Then Visual Schedule HD: $14.99, FTVS HD lets you easily and quickly create and use Visual schedules, Task analyses, Social stories, Choice boards, and Video models.

Folks, I hope some of these prove useful to you. If you have some favorite apps, I'd love to hear what they are, and maybe a blurb about how you use the app in your sessions.

Happy Therapy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Visual Motor/Visual Perceptual, pt. 3

This is part three of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here, and part two here.

Visual Motor:
Dexteria: $3.99, Refer to my blog article. Dexteria is a set of therapeutic hand exercises (not games) to improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults. Dexteria’s unique hand and finger activities take full advantage of the multi-touch interface to help build strength, control, and dexterity.
Just Find It: $0.99. You are presented two images almost identical but at most 4 different spots. If you find all the differences in each stage before the countdown timer runs out, the remained time will be added to your score. Be careful! Wrong spot means time penalty! But you will be relieved to know that some unused item is left!
Bugs & Buttons
Bugs & Buttons: $2.99. Bugs and Buttons 2 seamlessly incorporates numbers, letters, patterns, shapes and so much more into 18 exciting games and activities. Use a rubber band to bounce falling buttons and acorns away from a parade of marching metallic green beetles. Fine-tune your motor skills in a high-speed race on a remote-controlled car gaining speed boosts, avoiding obstacles, and running competitors off the road. Practice your listening skills in a fun game of “Simon Says” with a funky, button covered puppet! Learn to play popular tunes or record songs of your own with a working keyboard. Guess the shape as a water bug creates geometric ripples on a gorgeous, three dimensional, babbling brook.

Visual Perceptual:
Shape Builder: $2.99. Shape Builder educates & entertains your little one with easy to move shapes that snap into place on top of silhouette puzzles. Each puzzle has 5 to 10 pieces & after positioning all of the pieces, the real image is revealed along with a professional voice recording of the word spoken by a licensed speech therapist that specializes in early child development. Shape Builder encourages cognitive thinking & fine motor skills plus exposes young minds to new music instruments, animals, produce, objects & the alphabet in a fun & engaging format with LOTS of sound effects!
ShapePuzzle: Free, Shape Puzzle is a jigsaw puzzle especially designed for little children. After you complete a picture, a cute turtle will pops out and tell you the name of the object you just assembled. What's more, each object belongs to a certain scene and after you finish all the items, a vivid scene appears!
Injini: $29.99, 10 feature games with 90 puzzles, over 100 beautiful illustrations, 8 farm-themed mini-games and more. Injini is ideally suited for early intervention - it brings fun to learning and at the same time practices children’s fine motor and language skills, understanding of cause and effect, spatial awareness, memory and visual processing.

Kids Can Match - Animals...: Free, An interactive, adaptive and fun memory game for children of all ages. This app contains an amazing, one of a kind, collection of over 70 authentic animal images and sounds.

Happy Therapy!