Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Remember?


Me and my two older sibs Christmas Eve
Hey Tek-ninjas! Do you remember when you were children? I am remembering when I was a child, and the joy and excitement that the Christmas Holiday brought to me and my family.  When we didn't travel, we stayed at home in Hampton, VA.  We would have a big Christmas eve dinner. Some times we'd go to Catholic Mass, a left over tradition from my mother's Catholicism. In later years we attended Quaker meeting for worship. My family typically opened presents Christmas Eve, late. My mother and I always went for a walk in the wee hours of the morning. I remember those walks as being very special.

It's Christmas Eve, and now I'm at home in Chapel Hill with my wife and two boys. Tomorrow morning we will head north to Richmond to see my extended family. I am missing my mother who passed 7 years ago, and my brother who passed this summer. I am loving my family, and finding joy in the season.

I hope you and yours are finding joy this season as well. 


Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and a Happy Hanukkah if this is your tradition. Peace and Love to you all. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Co-Writer continues to set the Standard

Years ago, I asked a Don Jonston sales rep when the company would put forth a word prediction for the iPad. He said "never", indicating that iPads did not have enough muscle to do true word prediction. Well, since then iPads have become far more powerful, and Don Johnston made a Co-Writer app.

For those few of you who don't know about Co-Writer, it is the industry standard for word prediction, a go-to tool for Occupational Therapists working with students who are confounded by the writing process. It has been available for Macs and PCs since before I started working as an therapist 14+ years ago.

Flexspell at work
The Co-Writer app retails for just under $18.00. While this is a bit more than some of the other tools out there, the power of the app is worth it.

Word Prediction
The very powerful Flexspell, and Topic Dictionary features really separate this app from its 
competition. Flexspell is Don Johnston's phonetic or inventive spelling feature that deciphers the most creative spelling.  The Topic Dictionary really shines as well, especially the ability to create a quick topic by adding the word, and it essentially "scrapes" the internet to create a word bank.  
Word Bank sizes
Another terrific feature is the ability to set the level of the dictionary for each user, based on the size vocabulary they might be using.this function alone is missing from most of Co-Writer's competition.

The word prediction works just like I'd expect from Don Johnston: very well. Word choices are offered above the keyboard. Swiping an offered word to the right, I can hear it read aloud before I choose it.

The Co-Writer app is very simple, intuitive, and powerful. Once again, Don Johnston has set the industry standard for word prediction. Now it's available on your iPad!


Happy therapy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick iTip

With iOS7.0.4 on your iDevice

Did you know: within Settings if you go to iTunes and Apps Store you can now turn on Automatic Updates and app updates download and install automatically.

This makes remote management that much simpler!

Happy Therapy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Publishing A Book!

Tek-Ninjas, I have long been an advocate of making books with students. Whether to reinforce Social Skills for students with Autism, to create a step-by-step set of directions for a task or job, or to support the writing process. Over the years I have used PowerPoint, Comic Life, and Pictello just to name a few software and app titles.  I still am a fan of many of these titles, and find them appropriate for different tasks.

Recently, a new tool has entered the mix that may replace many of these other tools. iBook Author is an intuitive piece of software which allows users to simply create a e-book, using text, photos, video, sound, and widgets.  These features alone duplicate many of the tools already available. The end product can be read on your computer, iTouch, iPhone, or iPad.

What separates iBook Author from the rest, is that you can share your book on Apple's iBooks, for free, or actually sell it. 

iBook Author is free, and available here.  To create your book, there are several templates to choose from.  Much of your creation can happen by literally dragging and dropping pics or video where you want, and typing text boxes where you wish.  Apple's Widgets add multi-touch possibilities to your book as well, including swipe-friendly photo galleries, animations, pop-over widgets, and 3d objects. Also of significance is the built in accessibility features including voice over technology.  

When your ready to publish your book, iBooks Author will hold your hand in walking you through the process. If you don't actually want to publish on iBooks, but you do want to share a book with one or a few specific people, you can export the book and then Air Drop it, Drop Box it, or email it.


A few months ago my nephew Niky wrote a short story. Over the course of a month or two I created illustrations for his story with his direction. Using iBook Author we are publishing it on iBooks. Currently it is available here. As soon as it is available on iBooks Store, I will link it here. 

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Would you want to hear Christmas Carols?

Hey Tek-Ninjas, a while back I posted a link to a mother's Facebook Fourth Annual Timpanogos hearing & Balance Christmas Hearing Give Away.

Julia is trying to win a hearing aid for her son Jordan. Tomorrow is the final day of the contest. I want to reach out to you and ask you, if you've not followed the link and "Liked" her entry, please do so today.

Let's help 13 year old Jordan hear Christmas Carols this holiday!

May your Holidays be blessed, whatever you celebrate!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Voice Dictation on your Mac

Hey Tek-Ninjas! If you have a Mac, and it has Lion or a newer operating system, you have the option to run a pretty powerful voice dictation. I've posted a video here, on how to turn the feature on. Pay particular attention to using the Enhanced Dictation. This feature creates a more robust dictation when off line.  I have been very impressed with Apple's voice dictation, especially considering that users don't need a special microphone.

Happy therapy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Elegant Chrome-based Reading and Writing Solution, part 2

Yesterday I wrote about TextHelp's Read&Write for Google (RWG), which is a great extension for your Chrome browser or operating system.  Mostly I focused on it's applicability as a word prediction tool and study tool. Today, I want to share one other significant function of this extension: screen reading.

Rather than recap the tool, I will share the video made by the TextHelp:



RWG will read PDFs, ePubs, and KES files, as well as any text in your Google Word Processor.  The voice quality is very good. To emphasize this, while reading the sentence being read is highlighted in yellow, and the word in blue. This function allows the reader to follow along with the text. The translation tool is interesting and unique. Also, the tool bar is simple and intuitive.
Toolbar
The combination of word prediction, study tool, screen reader, and translator makes this a very powerful tool, again a possible must have for your EC students.

Happy Therapy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Elegant Chrome-based Reading and Writing Solution

My school district is struggling with the question of "how do we afford to replace our teacher laptops"? Every organization struggles with this eventually. Best practice suggests replacement every 3-4 years. That, as you can imagine can get to be very expensive. One option we are considering is the variety of Chrome laptops. As a linux-based operating system which utilizes web applications Chrome products are often relatively inexpensive ($200 to $500), fast, and capable.

The primary concern that I have, is making certain that my staff are able to take advantage of the various special software that we've grown accustomed to using, including read aloud, word prediction, and symbol software. More and more companies are addressing this issue, increasing the functionality of Chrome laptops.  Such products do exist, such as word prediction by Appwriter, and Google's Screen Reader, but these are stand alone extensions. 

TextHelp, veteran software designers for our EC students have developed a terrific app or "extension" for Google Chrome called Read&Write for Google (RWG).  RWG works on PCs, Macs, and Chrome-books. RWG is incredibly robust, rolling together word prediction, read aloud, highlighters, vocabulary list building, dictionary (with picture symbols), annotation tools, translation, and navigational tools into one product.

The RWG tab is built right into your Chrome browser, and you can open or close the app with a click. The word prediction is powerful, with good phonetic spelling. In addition, the user can determine how many word choices are offered. 
Symbol Definition

The dictionary is excellent with the ability to provide symbol based definitions, or make a direct Google search. 

There are 4 different highlighters, and the ability to "collect" highlighted colors in groups. From those collected words, the user can build a vocabulary list with definitions provided. 

The read aloud voice is of good quality, not too robotic sounding, and the pace of reading can be customized. 



Premium subscriptions are available for single users, groups of users, or domains.  Not sure? Well, the good folks at Text help offer a 30 day fully functional trial to see if the product is for you.



I would like to see a tailorable dictionary for the word prediction such as beginner vocab, medium vocab, and advance vocab. Also, a small nitpick detail, is that when I see the numbers next to the word on the word prediction choices, my inclination is to pick the number off the keypad to make my choice. This only types the number. So, I'd like the software writers to either remove the number, or give me the ability to "turn it off".  Those are my only two criticisms of RWG. 

Read&Write for Google is a very powerful addition to the Chrome experience.  It is one of the apps that makes the Chrome-book a viable option for the special educator. Speaking with a representative of the company, they are already anticipating specific improvements to come to this first iteration.  If that is the case, this very capable add-on will be a "must have" for your Chrome browser or Chrome computer. 

Happy Therapy!