Thursday, December 20, 2012

iPad Flash Video Player

Photon Browser

A common criticism of the iDevices is that they won't play Flash based web-sites.  You may have noticed this when you browsed over to a favorite educational site on your iPad, only to find the following message: "To view our website, you need the latest version of Flash. Upgrade now to Flash 9".  

When you go to update, you are then plagued with this message: "We're sorry, this content requires Adobe Flash Player, which is not supported by your device."  

The late Steve Jobs was not a fan of, and he criticized Flash security, performance, battery life and reliability.  Adobe and Apple just haven't gotten along well.

Still. There are terrific sites that we'd love to access on our iPads with students. For example: Tarhill Reader for some great read-alouds, Priory Woods for a wide array of "cause & effect" switch activities and more read-alouds, or Bitesize for English, Math, and Science for all grade levels. 

Lightening Bolt
There are a handful of work-around apps that allow you to run Flash based web-site on your iPad. My favorite to date is Appsverse Photon Browser. It sells for $4.99, and works on any iPad with iOS 4.2 or higher. 

With almost 5,000 ratings, Photon users give it 4 stars which is pretty respectable for a 2.0 version.  According to Appverse, Photon has been the number one paid browser in the app store for months. 

The interface will be very familiar to anyone who has used a web-browser in the last decade. Everything looks familiar and clean. What's different is the Lightening Bolt in the top right of the tool bar.  Enter the address you want to get to, or search in the search box. Once you have arrived at a site that utilizes Flash, touch the Lightening Bolt, and Flash will be enabled.   You will notice a slight decrease in display quality, and a subtle slow down in performance, but frankly less than any other Flash browser I've tried. 
Flash Enabling
Photon is a fully realized browser, not just a Flash enabled tool. You will get tools such as private browsing, URL toolbar that combines history and search keyword suggestions, email/Facebook sharing capability, rotation lock, brightness control, and the ability to personalize colors.

Happy Therapy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Tragedy in CT. Heartfelt prayers to all involved.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Landfill Harmonic

So, this is a bit of a departure from technology, but truly a celebration of the human spirit, ingenuity, and resilience.  And at the end of the day, that is what I get excited about!

Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable orchestra from a remote village in Paraguay, where its young musicians play with instruments made from trash.

I am amazed at the tonal quality the musicians get from instruments made of trash.  Creating such beauty in the face of societies refuse, surely there are some powerful metaphors happening here!

You can learn more about this project here, and also see them on Facebook here.

Happy living!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Role of the Related Service Provider in the IEP

Tech Ninja is glad to have Guest Blogger: Ashley Robinson once again!

I have a question for all the school based related service providers and assistive technology professionals:  Have you ever struggled to explain your role in a student's education to a parent or teacher? As a speech-language pathologist at a middle and high school, I see many students who have received speech-language as a related service since preschool. In many cases I wonder if the role of the related service professional has been explained to the team. So, I came up with my own explanation. 

Figure 1
A student who qualifies for special education services cannot access the curriculum (in most cases the Common Core). (Fig. 1)

The IEP is the bridge to the curriculum. It should address the skills that the student needs so that he can follow the Common Core. For example, there is a sixth grade boy who struggles with written expression.  Instead of writing a goal that states “Boy will write on grade level,” think about what is keeping this student from writing on grade level. Perhaps this student is not using complex sentences or is using ambiguous pronoun references. 

Figure 2
The IEP team will work together to review data on a child and determine the needs of a particular student. In this case (Fig. 2), the student does NOT require any related service support, so the special education teacher is the one building the bridge. Another possibility is that the team may find that a speech-language impairment is the primary disability holding the child back, and the SLP will be in charge of building that bridge. In either case, additional related service support is not needed.

In my experience though, most students have a disability (think ADHD or specific learning disability) and language disorders (or sensory issues, or assistive tech issues....) are a part of that disability and require related service support to access the IEP.  (Fig. 3) The bridge cannot be built straight across - there needs to be a ramp.

Figure 3
This is how our lead SLP explained it to us, “If you take away the student's primary disability (e.g., ADHD), would they still have a language disorder?” This is a clinical judgement question for each student; however, I've found the answer to be “probably not.” Thus, speech-language is a related service. 

Because I'm an SLP, I am going to use speech-language services as my example; however, this analogy applies to OT, PT, and Assistive Technology (at least with the model we work under in my school system). 

Once the team determines that speech-language services are needed to address a goal (stay tuned for a future post on this), then the question is – what is the role of the SLP as a related service support provider? Here's what I think:

Figure 4
Related service is the RAMP to get on the bridge (i.e., the IEP). (Fig 4). What language skills does the student require to even get on the bridge? Again, goals or objectives should be developed to address a student's language needs that are impeding him from accessing the IEP (e.g., explicit instruction in pronoun use or sentence construction). Once the student has mastered these skills, and is on the bridge, then the special education teacher is the one to continue moving forward to build the bridge.  Speech-language services are no longer necessary. 

Goals should address the needs of the student, and with each year the student will (hopefully) close the gap until he is working on the curriculum (YAY!!!). Some students will never have a bridge that stretches all of the way across; however, it is important that goals are systematic and are bringing that student as far as possible each year. 

I'm curious to know what you think. How do you see the role of the related service professional in the school? Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions!

Ashley Robinson – MS CCC-SLP and AT professional

Monday, December 3, 2012

ChoiceBoard Creator: Free App!

Splash Screen
ChoiceBoard Creator by Techno Chipmunk is a really terrific iPad app for creating customizable choice boards for the unique needs of individuals with communication challenges.  It reinforces correct choice by expanding the selected image as well as playing the customized auditory rewards.  Think of it as a streamlined "ChooseIt Maker 2".  Granted, not near the bells and whistles, but much easier to setup, and FREE.    

It is an excellent tool to train and prepare users for more sophisticated communication devices via an easy, simple-to-use choice-making platform. The possibilities are limited by your creativity.

Picture Setup
•Many therapists and educators use this app to provide simple Q & A to books

Audio Setup
•Users can download their own pictures

•Users can create blank boxes as distractors to suit users of all levels

•Now users can preset multiple "correct answer" boxes, and download different sound files to each box – a feature that allows users to choose their favorite music with just a tap

•Other than image files, users can now type text into the choice box – use this feature to teach sight words, letter, number recognition

•Ease of use. Intuitive interface allows user to set up activities in minutes

•Allows users to create multiple pages for each "game" or activity

Examples of choice boards/activities:

•Odd one out (find the image that is different)
Text Setup

•Music player (touch the correct image to play the tune)

•Present vocabulary, sight words, shapes, numbers, or alphabets in array of boxes and ask your child to find the right one.

I'd love to hear how others are using this app with their students.

Happy Therapy!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The GReAT Conference!

Are you going? 

Every year since I've been an Occupational Therapist I have looked forward to, and attended NCATP's Assistive Technology EXPO. Last year, they did not hold it. I never was able to find out why, but I imagine it came down to funding. This year, they are back on.

The EXPO is always a terrific place to see and hear about the latest in Assistive Technology.  One of the interesting factors about this conference is you see AT providers and AT users/family members in attendance.

WHEN: December 5th – 7th, 2012
WHERE: Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, NC

This year, attend two motivational and inspirational keynote addresses:

Tom Hartman: Artist living with MS using assistive technology to paint and work and,
Allison Massari: International motivational speaker, Artist, and TBI/Burn Injury Survivor.

Choose from over 30 sessions focusing on rehabilitation and assistive technology:
Tracks: Vision, Education, Employment, Exhibitor, Independent Living
  •   Celebrate award winners for their work in rehabilitation and assistive technology. th
  •   Visit the FREE-Open to the Public-Exhibit Hall on December 6 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with 50 plus vendors
  •   Network with individuals, family members, educators, counselors, assistive technology professionals, engineers, vendors, and others
    Registration Includes:
    All sessions: opening, closing, breakout sessions.
    Awards ceremony on December 5th
    Evening networking event with Exhibitiors on December 5th Continental breakfast on December 6th and 7th
    Box lunch on December 6th
    Exhibit hall (Thursday, December 6th ONLY)
    Hotel Options: Two options within walking distance:
    Sheraton Raleigh Hotel: 421 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919.834.9900
    Raleigh Marriott City Center: 500 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC 27601 919.833.1120
    Other options from the Visit Raleigh website Convention Center Parking: Decks I and E: (see map insert)

Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Technologies merging...

Tildee Tutorial
A resource teacher that I work with just emailed me this really cool link. It is a tildee tutorial for Dragon Dictate on an iTouch that she made. I've blogged about both tools before, and I love that she made this tutorial about Dragon Dictate using Tildee, and is sharing it with staff and parents!

Here is the tildee blog, and here is the Dragon Dictate blog.

Happy Therapy!

And here's an addendum: she just sent me a second tutorial on how to email your Dictation to your self.  Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AT Classifieds in NC

Need a piece of equipment but maybe your funding is all used up? Want to find a home for a piece of equipment you are no longer using?

It is with this in mind that the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) publishes the Assistive Technology Exchange Post.  Think of it as a Craigslist in North Carolina for Assistive Technology equipment.

Sorry out-of-state friends, only residents of North Carolina may list assistive technology items for sale on the Assistive Technology Exchange Post. Designed to facilitate equipment exchange between individuals the program is not for the use of vendors or distributors.

NCATP does not profit from the sale of listed devices, nor do they warranty items listed, so do shop with both eyes open!

Happy Technology!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Visules: simple, clean To-Do lists

Visules is an app for iDevices that allows caregivers to quickly and easily create picture schedules on the fly. Visules is very simple, streamlined and effective. Retailing for $4.99 it is a bargain. 

Dean Huff, creator and owner of Visules writes that "as a father of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I have learned that communicating visually with my son is often the most effective way.  As a professional application developer and avid iPhone user, I knew we needed to have "an app for that."   The result is Visules, which communicates checklists and individual cues using text, images, and colors.

Visules is very streamlined and has two collections, actions and flows.   

Actions are individual cues.  You can make your own actions using your camera or images you find online.

Flows are series of actions.  Flows let you create a to-do list for the user. When they've finished a step, touching that word or icon places a check in the right side indicating it's done.

List Mode is the setting to use Visules. Actions and Flows are not editable in this setting.

Edit Mode  is the editable mode. 

For a simple, easy to use scheduler, Visules is hard to beat.

Happy Therapy!

Pwning Assistive Technology in School! NCDPI EC OT Institute

On November 14th, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Occupational Therapy Institute, a day long, annual event which is part of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Exceptional Children's Conference. My topic was how Occupational Therapists deliver Assisitve Technology in a school environment. I had a terrific time, and think the presentation was successful.

Here is the link to my Prezi presentation. Enjoy, and feel free to comment or ask questions!

Happy Therapy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Join Me: Intervention for Visually Impaired Individuals

I have long been a fan of LogMeIn, software which allows me to help my wife or sons when they are struggling with something on their computers (say adding a printer).  LogMeIn was designed for remote management over the web.  So, I can be at work, and my wife at her work, and she may call to ask for help. Sometimes I can talk her through a process, but other times, I really need to drive the computer. LogMeIn allows for that, even if her laptop is across town.

The folks at LogMeIn have taken their remote management and streamlined it to allow users to share what is on their computer screen with other users, specifically on iPads. The beauty of this is that the viewer can view, but cannot edit. JoinMeIn was originally designed with a business user in mind, but really is an amazing tool for our students with visual impairment (VI).

Imagine the teacher using the SmartBoard, and all the students are engaged watching the lesson unfold. Some VI students might follow along by pointing their closed circuit tv at the SmartBoard Screen, but this is not ideal because the image quality is not great (CCTVs are not really designed for this use).  Now imagine that the VI student is able to watch the lesson on his/her iPad, even taking screen shots of salient images. The student is able to expand, and hone in on anything they deem important. Watch the "how-to" video here.

JoinMe is free. To use it, first download the iDevice app here. Or, if your an Android user, get the app here.  Then get the software for your computer. PC users here, and Mac users here.

Happy Therapy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

iPad Success Story

I shared this story at the NC DPI EC Conference on the 14th, and thought I'd share here as well.

One student we are involved with has significant visual impairments. Lets call her Adison. She's a smart middle-schooler who works hard.

In school Adison uses a laptop with ZoomText, a portable CCTV and an iPad with Read2Go and Learning Alleys to access her curriculum.

About a month ago, Adison's mother shared with me that all her life, Adison has been reluctantly attending her brother's soccer games. Adison is reluctant because she can not see what is going on, and the noise gives her headaches. So, there really is very little pleasurable about the experience for her. However, at one particular game, of her own initiative, Adison got out her iPad, opened the camera, zoomed in on the game, and watched her first soccer match ever! Pretty powerful stuff!

More recently, Adison's mom shared with me that Adison used her iPad to view pH strips in Science class, when her CCTV was unavailable.

What a tremendous tool the iPad is proving to be for this young student. I especially love that Adison thought of these uses on her own.

Do you have interesting success stories such as this one? I'd love to hear some!

Happy Therapy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

OT Institute: Greensboro, NC

Hey Tech Ninjas!

Occupational Therapy Institue, Nov. 14, 2012
My writings have been a bit sporadic of late. Apologies for that.  I have been preparing a presentation for Occupational Therapy Institute at the NC DPI 62nd Annual Conference on Exceptional Children.

I have been so excited about the technology that we've been working with here in our district, and the impact it is having on our children, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm and ideas with other Occupational Therapists in our state.

At this point, I'm ready, and I'm filled with a mixture of excitement and a wee bit of OMG's at the notion of presenting in front of such a large crowd.

So, after tomorrow, I will be back to sharing ideas here, and hope you'll be back to read and share yours with us.

Happy Therapy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Keeping Tabs: Addendum

Hey folks, so I have had mixed responses to the prior posting about "respecting our children's privacy". I appreciate everyone's feedback, and realize that as parents we have to make difficult decisions about how we monitor our kids.  What works for one family may not work for another. All I can really say is good luck! Parenting can be challenging to say the least.

A parent emailed me and asked what to do if her child's phone number wasn't appearing in the list of options. Follow these steps to address this issue.

Remember from the prior post how to open your Settings, and go to Messages? Refer back to the prior blog if need be. You need to get to "Messages", than "Send & Receive", at the bottom in "Start New Conversation From" (circled in red), check the phone number.

Now on your computer, open up "Messages". 

Next, click on "Messages" in the top left menu, and click on "Preferences".  

When the "Preferences" window opens, click on "Accounts". On the right side of the window, click on "Add Email". Add your child's phone number is the following format: 999-999-9999.

You will then be prompted with a message about a verification email. This email will be sent to the phone 

Email with questions!  Happy Parenting!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Keeping Tabs on your iAdolescent

The first blog I wrote on TechNinja was about the importance of helping our teens be good cyber-citizens.  The amount of freedom kids can experience with technology can be scary.

Early on I provided my two boys (11 and 15) with access to technology, but with the caveat that I would be monitoring them closely. I have set up Find My iPhone on their phones. This allows me to find them quickly, and verify that they are where they say they will be. I have also synced their texting to my iMessage. This allows me to monitor their texts.

Really, I don't even check that regularly. But they know I have the ability to do so. Now, some of you may be thinking, "ewe, too invasive!", "what about their privacy?", or "how bad are your kids that you don't trust them?"... I understand those questions.  So let me say that both my boys are wonderful! They are turning into fine young men. I am immensely proud of the both of them.

I also know that adolescence is full of pitfalls! And, I do trust my boys. I trust them to behave like the teens they are. I trust them to struggle with some decisions when presented with some opportunities.  And there seem to be so many unfortunate opportunities.

Other parents have questioned me, "don't you think that they can just set up other email or text accounts?" Of course they might. But I feel that I'm setting up a standard of expectation, and backing it with action. I'm fairly confident that they've not set up alternative accounts. I generally don't comment or get involved in their text unless there is something really significant going on. I've only once had to talk with my oldest son about a text exchange. So, I try to give them some space. The oldest has even said that he doesn't mind my monitoring. I think it helps him feel safe with boundaries.

So. How set to this up?

You can set this up on any iDevice with OS6 (the latest update) or on your Mac computer if you have Mountain Lion.  Android users, sorry... I don't have any experience for you. Perhaps some one out there can send us a solution.

For an iDevice follow these steps:

First your child should 1. have the same iTunes account as you, and 2. have iMessage already set-up on his/her iDevice. Most likley they've done so, 'cause they seem to know intuitively how to do so!

Click on "Settings"

Click on "Messages"

Click on "Send & Receive"

You child's phone number should appear in your list. Click on their number, and a check mark will appear by it. 

Adding a number onto your Mac Computer is equally simple.

Againyour child should have iMessage already set-up on his/her iDevice. Open the program "Messages".

Click on "Messages" in the top left corner, and then click "Preferences".

Next, click the number that you wish to add. 

That should do it! Email me with questions or thoughts!

Happy Parenting!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Blog Section!

Some of you may notice a new link at the top of the TechNinja blog. VideoNinja.

The purpose of this portion of Shinobijimbo: Techninja is to make available short (1 to 5 minutes) videos that show how to perform a specific task. Typically these are tasks that I get called out to a school to show. 15 minutes each way in the car, for 5 minutes of instruction. There had to be a better way.

Hence the video. If there is something you'd like to see, shoot me an email, and I will see what I can do.  I hope they prove useful to you!

Happy Therapy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tildee makes things easier!

Wow, wow, wow!  Here is a website that allows you to make free tutorials.  

Create an account and other's can access what you make.

I'm thinking, social stories, work schedules, and to-do lists especially for your students with Autism.

Here is a link to a tutorial I made in less than 4 minutes.  Be sure to make a free account so you can always find the tutorials you've made!

The following is from the tildee website:

What's Tildee ?
Tildee is a free tool to help you create and share instantly and easily tutorials on any subject
It's Easy !
With a clear and user friendly interface, you go straight to the point:
→ write your own tutorial.
More than that, you will be able to add maps, images and even videos to any step in a tutorial. One click and it's done !
It's not required to create an account on Tildee to start writing.
Easy to share: every tutorial has its unique short URL.
Hey, why don't you start writing now ?

 Once you've made your tutorial, you may want to put a short cut to it on your iTouch, iPhone, or iPad. For example, your student with Autism, who has started a new job at the Animal Shelter may be using multiple work schedules for feeding the cats, than the dogs, and maybe walking the dogs as well. Instead of having a bulky notebook, let's set him up with an iTouch with a link to each task tutorial.

Make your work schedules with Tildee. Then put a shortcut on his iTouch for each schedule.  Follow this link to see how to put a shortcut on your desktop.  Now your student is no longer carrying a big old cumbersome notebook!

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

IEP Detail: Devices OR Services

If you are familiar with IEP's you have no doubt run into the troublesome Yes/No boxes pictured below:
Many of us have wondered how to respond to this question, especially when we are in a "trial" stage with a student. We are not comfortable saying that Johnny needs word prediction software, because we haven't settled on that intervention at the time of writing the IEP.  But, we don't quite feel comfortable saying no either.

Tom Hinton, the Section Chief for all VI, HI, and AT services at NCDPI (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction) reminds us to pay attention to the "or services" which I highlighted in yellow above.

We may be running trials, trying different bits of software and hardware, but what remains consistent is that the student is receiving assistive technology services.  So if that is the case, check "Yes"!

Happy Therapy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walter Dalton Announces Education Plan, NC

This seems good for our fine state. Dalton for Governor.

Walter Dalton's 18-page education plan includes a detailed outline on his plan to increase educator pay, restore cuts to the classroom, expand early childhood education, and make higher education affordable and accessible.

To read Walter Dalton's education plan, visit this link

Dalton says: "Growing our economy is as much about creating jobs as it's about making certain we have the graduates to fill them. Our state's economic success will depend on how well we align our education system with our job needs. If we fail to make this connection, our economic future could be in jeopardy and the best jobs might move out of state or never be created at all.

While in these tough economic times state government must prioritize how it spends taxpayer money, it's during this critical period when we should be investing in public education - not turning our back on it."

Check out more on Walter Dalton here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Case Against Assistive Technology, by Don Johnston

I absolutely love this video!  Especially the historical quotes from folks resistant to the forward march of technology.

Thanks to the folks at Don Johnston.

Happy Therapy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google Forms on your iDevice!

In my last blog entry, I discussed how to make a Google Form. 

Well, the forms are only as useful as they are accessible. 

I use the forms on my iPhone often, and find it's easiest to have a short-cut on the home screen. 

This video shows a quick way to get your form onto your iDevice.

The video is just over 2 minutes long.

Good luck, and Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Google Forms

If five years ago someone told me I would be able to make a portable form or test which would collect data in a spread sheet, that I could make it to my exact specification I would have been skeptical.  If they told me I would be able to make such a form in just a few minutes, I would have been beyond skeptical.

Well, that's a reality now.  Google Forms provides this ability, all for free.  I use Google Forms a lot.  When I was providing direct Occupational Therapy I used the forms to track my contact notes. I currently use it to keep track of AT inventory, and my milage. I have staff using Google Forms to track student behavior, and others make quick tests. Using a built in reader, as provided by Macs and some PCs, many students benefit from having a test and the possible answers read to them.

I've attached a video here on how to make a Google Form. What forms would be useful for you? Could your teacher's use such forms? Take a look... and as usual, I'd love to hear from you all about innovative ways you are using Google Forms.  The video is about 14 minutes long.

I will blog next about how to add a short-cut to your Google Form onto an iDevice. I would have a folder on my iPhone with all my contact notes. Make sure your device is password protected if you have confidential information!

Happy Therapy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reducing Distractions on your Student's iDevice

One concern administrators, teachers, and parents express when our team wants to assign a student an iTouch or an iPad, is how they will manage the built in distractions. Distractions like students surfing the web during class.  

If the iDevice is for a specific function such as tracking homework, following a schedule, or a aug comm device, this is easily fixable. The iDevices have a built in "Restrictions" utility that lets you remove different functions.  Let's get rid of some the unnecessary and distracting apps. 

Begin by clicking on the "Settings" icon. Then click on "General", and then click on "Restrictions".

You will be prompted to create a "Restrictions Passcode". Write it down somewhere if your not confident you will remember this! Otherwise the only way to override this is to restore the iDevice to the factory settings, thereby losing any materials you have on the device.

Also, if you have a tech person managing your iDevices, be so kind as to share that code with them too...

After entering your passcode twice, you will be presented with a page of options. We often turn off Safari, iTunes, as well as the ability to Install or Delete the apps. 

With some students turning off the ability to delete apps is really important! I cannot recount how many times a device has come back to us that has "mysteriously" lost a bunch of apps! 

When you go back to your "Home Page", you notice that the Safari and the iTunes icons are gone. 

Depending on the student goals, we may remove the FaceTime Camera as well. 

So there you go! Pretty easy to reduce unnecessary distractions for our iDevice using students!

Happy Therapy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Edudemic! What a great blog!

"School administrators should be explaining to their constituents that the iPad supports essential skill areas — complex communication, new media literacy, creativity, and self-directed learning. Instead of focusing on the convenience of ebooks, they should instead be emphasizing the incredibly immersive and active learning environment the iPad engenders and the unprecedented opportunities to develop personalized, student-centered learning. They should highlight some of the beneficial consumption, curation, and creativity activities the iPad facilitates — as well as the student empowerment it inspires."

Love this article! Excellent for gen-Ed and special needs!

Click here for the full article.

Have you met TED?

Educators, parents, therapists, teens, people! Have you met TED yet? TED of TED Talks?
TED is a video library of great thinkers and doers giving a 10-15 minute talk of their lifetime about their passion.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, and DESIGN.  

TED's mission statement is: "We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. 

Here are three of my favorite TED Talks:

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter...

Tony Porter: A call to men

and of course, Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

So you see the topics range far. Some are uniquely funny.  Other's inspiring. All though provoking. 
I would love to know what your favorite TED Talks are!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Growing Children's Skills for Life...

The focus of Shinobijimbo: TechNinja is often about how technology helps children access their curriculum. But the necessary underpinnings for my interventions to work are that the child understands how to participate in their many varied communities. If you work with or have children ages 3 to 8, Acorn Dreams is a terrific website with quick and easy concepts for raising children. Their agenda is to be "a resource center and store for practical tips and research-based materials that help foster children’s positive behavior and lay the foundation for success in school and in life."  Sounds good to me!

I really like the section "In a Nutshell: Quick tips to help Grow Children's Skills".  With header tabs such as "Healthy Habits", "Self-Control", and "Social Skills", the reader can get quick tips to facilitate such skill growth.  As an Occupational Therapist, I can definitely see sharing these Quick Tips with teachers and parents of the students I work with!

The other segment of interest is the Acorn Dreams blog which is fairly new, but already filled with some interesting topics.  The first few blogs consider the use of praise and also weight issues. These articles are succinct, and evidence based. I'm looking forward to reading the next blog articles.

Acorn Dreams is really designed with the typically developing youngster in mind. However, so many of the ideas are generalizable for our students with special needs.  Take a look at it!

Happy parenting!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Good and the Bad of Technology #2 Texting and Driving

Here's an effective video. Share it with your teens, young adults, and if you're like me... with yourself. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Case Study #2

Some of this is a rehash of recent blog articles. But this time it's in action. I hope to report any stumbling blocks we encounter as well as our success.

We have an eighth grade student who we will refer to as Joe.  Joe was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and Autism. Both are relatively mild, but still hinder his ability to write quickly and effectively.  He is a fairly bright young man, and wants to do well.  Joe is mainstreamed throughout his day, and receives some resource services, and Occupational Therapy services.

As a middle schooler he is asked to record his homework from the board, as well as take notes of the board.  His mother has expressed frustration that he often comes home and neither he nor she can read his notes. They are non-functional.  Despite this, (and to her credit) she wants him to be responsible for gathering this information, and not to rely on others to do it for him. 

The plan is to set Joe up with a blog, which will serve as the repository for all his notes.  He will use an iTouch to take pictures of his homework, and any board notes. Joe will publish the snapshots onto the blog.  Refer to this blog for a quick look at the app Blogger

Lets break this down. 

Week 1: Joe's Occupational Therapist and I introduced the iTouch to him. We taught him how to take snapshots with his iTouch camera. We specifically taught him how to stabilize his elbows on his desk to keep the camera from shaking.  We have asked his classroom teachers to put up a "tape boarder" on their white boards to give Joe a target to aim around.  We also taught him how to email the photos to his personal email address. Refer to this blog for more on this process.  In addition, we taught Joe how to use Dragon Dictate on his iTouch and email that to himself, incase there are any short notes he wants to record.

None of you will be surprised to hear that a middle-schooler was quite comfortable using an iTouch!  Joe will use the camera and Dragon Dictate in this capacity for a week. He will photograph his homework and notes only. We've discussed privacy issues, and he understand that he should not photograph peers.  

Week 2: Assuming that Joe has had success using the camera and emailing photos and dictation to himself, we will teach him how to use the app Blogger.  This involves opening Blogger, clicking on the camera icon in the bottom, taking a picture, and than clicking the "Publish" icon.  Similiarly, we will have him copy from Dragon Dictate and paste into Blogger any dictated content, and then click "Publish".  

I have already setup a Blogger blog. I used this blog service for a number of reasons. 1. I'm already familiar with it... it's what I use for Shinobijimbo, 2. The Blogger app is really simple and free! 3.  Other blogs undoubtedly offer this, but I can lock down who the blog is available to. We wanted only Joe, his family, and select teachers to be able to access the blog.  You may be more comfortable with another program.

Ideally, Joe will be able to publish all his homework for each class. Each will have a date. If you look at my blog, on the right you see hyperlinks for articles by date and name. If Joe titles each entry it can be really easy to reference. He won't have to store dozens of photos on an iTouch, or emails on his account. He will have a running record for the year.  Joe will be able to access this information from any internet-connected computer.

Things to consider:

  1. I made an email account and a blog account for Joe. It felt important to get permission from the family to do this. I gave them the passwords, and encourage them to take ownership of both accounts. They can change passwords if they choose. 
  2. Students need to know that they cannot photograph other students without written permission from those student's parents.  Best to just avoid.
  3. I locked down the blog account. It does not appear in google searches, and the only way someone can access it is with an email invite. 
  4. Teachers need to be onboard with Joe taking his iTouch out in the middle of class, and snapping photos. With the knowledge that this is an academic tool for him, all our teachers were supportive. 
  5. It helps to have someone who will work with the student periodically to make sure they are learning the necessary skills to make the whole program work. 
  6. Don't just dump the whole idea on him/her at once. Build the component skills one at a time: learn to take the photos. Learn to email them, learn to use the Blogger App. 
  7. Tweak as necessary.

When it all comes together, the student should have a really elegant and easy to use plan in place to get his home-works assignments home.  I'll report back after we have some experience.

Happy Therapy!