Thursday, March 5, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Story Telling and Typing (pt. 2)

Hey Tek-Ninjas, this is part two of Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs. You can read part one here.

Story Telling:
Pictello: $19.99, Everyone loves to tell fun, engaging, and imaginative stories. Go ahead and make a social story or visual schedule for a child with autism or a slide show of holiday pictures for your friends - Pictello makes it a breeze to create and share! Whether you use the included natural-sounding Text to Speech voices, or record your own voice, Pictello is the perfect tool for visual storytelling.

Toontastic: Free, Refer to my blog article. Toontastic is a creative storytelling app that enables kids to draw, animate, and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world.

Comic Life
Comic Life: $4.99, Refer to my blog article. Comic Life isn't just for creating comics.

You can retell a family vacation or capture a special day using your photos. It's simple to do: just drag photos onto the page and add your text in speech balloons and captions.

Voice Dictation with Siri: Standard on iPhone 4s or later, iPad 3rd gen or later, iPad mini, and iPod Touch (5th gen). Siri seems to work better with my students then some of the most expensive voice dictation software. Good blog article here

Pictello: $19.99, Everyone loves to tell fun, engaging, and imaginative stories. Go ahead and make a social story or visual schedule for a child with autism or a slide show of holiday pictures for your friends - Pictello makes it a breeze to create and share! Whether you use the included natural-sounding Text to Speech voices, or record your own voice, Pictello is the perfect tool for visual storytelling.

Abilipad: $19.99. Refer to my blog article. Abilipad is a customizable keyboard and adaptive notepad, with word prediction and text-to-speech.

Snaptype: Free, Refer to my blog article. SnapType helps students keep up with their peers in class even when their penmanship holds them back. Students can easily complete school worksheets with the help of an iPad or iPhone.

Turbo Type
Typing JR: $ 0.99. The fish are swimming towards a shark. You'll have to save the fish by typing in the word, before they get eaten by the shark. Fun and hectic game for the kids, where they learn how to typ.
Turbo Type: $1.99. Race to the finish and turbocharge your iPhone typing skills!  Battle the ruthless CPU opponent in a no-holds-barred typing race across expansive retro-styled scenery and environments, attempting to keep up with the randomly generated sentences and stay ahead of the enemy racer by avoiding deadly mistakes.

Be on the look out for part three of this blog soon.

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Favorite Apps of a Dozen School Based OTs: Letters/Writing/Drawing Practice (pt. 1)

Hey Tek-Ninjas, back in June of 2012 I wrote a blog titled “Favorite Occupational Therapy Apps”. Several years later, it remains one of my most consistently visited blog pages.

Many of the apps are still some of my favorite, however I am not working directly as an OT anymore. Instead, I am serving my district solely as an Assistive Technology Professional.

Recently a colleague sent an email out to the Occupational Therapists in our district, asking what were their 3 most often utilized iPad apps.

I plan to share the responses in a four part blog.

This is not necessarily my endorsement, but rather the endorsements of several very skilled and experienced Occupational Therapists working directly in a public school setting. 

Letter/Writing/Drawing Practice: 
Letter School: $4.99, Play to learn how to write all letters of the alphabet: abc - xyz and the numbers 1-10 with LetterSchool. Kids practice essential skills as they play four exciting games per letter or number.

Handwriting Without Tears: $6.99, Make handwriting practice fun! With our Wet-Dry-Try Suite App, children learn and practice correct formation habits for writing capitals, numbers, and lowercase letters. The app simulates our Slate Chalkboard and Blackboard with Double Lines and helps children learn handwriting skills in the easiest, most efficient way. The result truly is handwriting without tears!

Doodle Buddy: Free, Doodle Buddy Gold is the most fun you can have with your finger! Finger paint with your favorite colors and drop in playful stamps. Connect with a friend to draw together over the Internet.

Write My Name: $3.99, Write My Name is a fun way for children to practice writing letters, words, names and phrases. Write My Name supports children ages 4 through 6 to learn how to write their name, trace uppercase and lowercase letters, and write over 100 familiar sight/Dolch words. Write My Name meets some of the basic reading and writing Common Core State Standards for kindergarten such as the introduction and mastery of print and word recognition concepts.

Snaptype: Free, Refer to my blog articleSnapType helps students keep up with their peers in class even when their penmanship holds them back. Students can easily complete school worksheets with the help of an iPad or iPhone.

Ready to print: $9.99, Ready to Print progresses through the pre-writing skills in a specific order, so that children can master the visual-motor, visual-perceptual, and fine motor skills necessary for correct printing patterns. It is designed to teach children the correct patterns for printing, and to avoid bad habits that are difficult to change as the child gets older.  

iWriteWords: $2.99, Refer to my blog articleiWriteWords teaches your child handwriting while playing a fun and entertaining game.

Look for the second installment soon.

Happy Therapy!

SnapType Upgrade!

Hey Tek-Ninjas, a few weeks ago I blogged about SnapType.  I was and still am very impressed with
the product.  If you've not checked it out yet, do so. But if your a school system, wait until tomorrow. I will elaborate.

My only complaint about SnapType, and one I shared with the company, was that the product is free, with the option to "upgrade" with an in app purchase.
I'm not complaining about the "freeness", just the upgrade option.

Any app with in app purchasing is not able to be purchased with Apple's Volume Purchase Program. This is not a problem for an individual, but if you want to buy the app for a school (for example), it's hard to be legally compliant, providing the company with payment every time you load the product.

The developer Brendan Kirchner responded promptly to my email, apologizing for any inconvenience, and indicating he'd heard the issue raised before, and he was working on it.

Well, today I received a follow up email which I've shared below. 
I'm writing to tell you some good news... SnapType Pro for schools goes live tomorrow! We had many people reach out to us and ask for a standalone option of SnapType Pro and I'm happy to say that Apple has just approved it. You'll see it in the App Store tomorrow morning and will be able to deploy it effortlessly to multiple iPads with the help of Apple's volume purchase program. It will be $2.99 for a limited time as a launch special. Let us know if you have any questions, we're always happy to help!
 I share this because I think it's terrific when a company hears the requests of it's users, and works to address those needs. It suggests they are paying attention, and that's good for all of us! So, kudos to the Brendan Kirchner!

Happy Therapy!

Here is the link gone active today:

'bout sums it up folks...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mac Chargers Cost a Lot...

Make a loop up top
Hey Tek-Ninjas, have any of you had to replace your Mac laptop charger? If you have, you know they cost about $80. There are no knockoffs. No cheapy versions. It is a cost that is simply unpleasant, but when necessary, there is no getting around it. 

Wrap the cord with loop
Most Mac chargers break where the thin cord comes out of the block. The breakage often occurs because of the way in which we wrap our cords. Apple thoughtfully provided wings to wrap the cord around. But it turns out that how you wrap the cord can greatly impact the life-span of your cord. See the images for the preferred way.

Happy Therapy!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Just Let Them Dictate...

Recently I was in conversation with a fellow OT and colleague (Molly) whom I've worked with since I came to this district. She is a veteran therapist, a wealth of knowledge, willing to share, and inquisitive ( I work with some really terrific people).

We were discussing the amazing progress in voice dictation software. We also discussed some of the inherent challenges of voice dictation, which users often don't recognize. Switching from brain-->pen/paper to brain-->voice output is not as simple as it might seem.

She made some really interesting observations, and so, seeing a gold mine to tap, I asked her to guest blog.

Below you will find Molly's thoughts on helping to train/teach students how to use voice dictation successfully.

The “go to” solution for children with handwriting problems used to be “just let them keyboard.” This solution was rarely a quick fix – 

keyboarding is a skill that needs to be learned and if a child has fine motor problems to begin with, keyboarding is also going to present challenges.  

Now, a frequent “go to” solution is using a speech to text program.  Thankfully, these programs have improved immensely in recent years and can be effective in helping a reluctant writer get words onto paper.  
However, what are the necessary component skills to make a child a competent dictator of text?  How can a therapist or teacher help a student use this software successfully?  
I am on the beginning of this learning curve, but have learned a few things that might be helpful for others.  
1.     Reading pre-written sentences is a good way to start using speech to text.  It gets the child used to the “mechanics” of the program (like turning the microphone on/off), and gives them a degree of instant success.
2.      The child will need to learn to say punctuation.  Reading from a written copy with big red periods/question marks helps teach this skill.
3.     As with writing, using some type of graphic organizer is crucial to organize and sequence information before dictating.  Using a traditional graphic organizer with key words does not work well.  The child sees the key word(s) and says that without thinking about putting it into a sentence.  What works better is “sentence starters” combined with the key word(s) so the child knows where to begin.
4.     Rehearsing with the graphic organizer can help achieve increased success.  It might also lead you to add additional words or cues to the graphic organizer if you see “stumbling” points.
5.     Proof-reading is vital.  Dictation software is not perfect and the child must learn to read their dictated text carefully to catch mistakes.  (You might even use a text to speech program to read it back to them.)
Dictation software has come a long way from the days when you would end up swearing at the computer because it was mangling your words.  It can now be an invaluable tool for children who are resistant to writing for any number of reasons.  You might even find yourself beginning to use it.

I hope this provides you with some useful tools in working with your students. Thanks for the guest blog Molly!

Happy Therapy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Symbols!

Recently I have been delving into what symbol software to procure for our district. We have been using the industry standard for awhile now, and most of my folks are very happy with it, but, there are a few issues. 
Pricing Structure

The main issue is that it is costly. 

So, I've been considering various options including web-based software, some of which is subscription based, and not platform dependent (meaning, I get a subscription, you can use it on a PC, Mac, or Chrome device). 

Recently I came across Smarty Symbols. This is an online, subscription based service or purchasable disc that provides access to over thirteen thousand illustrations.  It alone may not be the solution to my question, but it is a really interesting service.

Smarty Symbols does not provide a a user interface to create boards so the user will still need something to do this, though it could be a simple word processor with tables. 

What is unique about this service is that the user is allowed to sell products made with these graphics. This is not the case with any of the other vendors, at least not without significant royalties. Their library is huge, and if you still don't find what you need, they indicate that custom images can be created. 

If you are looking for symbols with which you can publish a product, Smarty Symbols is a great solution. Or perhaps you don't need to own symbol software, but would like to "play" with some for a month or two, again, Smarty Symbols is a great solution.

Happy Therapy!