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Christmas Already!!!

21 Dec

Merry Christmas!!!

A busy first half of the year and I’m looking forward to the Christmas break!

At Palliser, we are currently using Read&Write Gold (RWG) which is a nice assistive technology.  It has many capabilities but unfortunately, the program as a whole, is not ‘stable’ or reliable enough to use in the classroom environment.  At first, we had students accessing the program by loading it from the server.  This really didn’t work well, especially when students were trying to access the program wirelessly from a laptop.  IT then went and had the program installed on each individual local machine.  The hope was that this move would result in the program becoming more stable and usable in the classroom.  For the most part, it was but there were still issues that we simply haven’t been able to overcome.  The one that sticks out is the ‘word prediction’ component.  When the predictor is working properly, a blue window should list 12 words that RWG thinks the user might want.  When it works, it is great.  But for whatever reasons, in a class of 25, maybe half to two-thirds could get this function to work.

As a result, I have always been looking for possible alternatives and thanks to Daryl Jones from 2Learn, he has shared the following technology – MyStudyBar (http://eduapps.org/?page_id=7).  The software is available for free and it takes up about 250 Mb of space on your computer.  It offers a large range of tools that cover a lot of what RWG offers.

When you first open up MyStudyBar (MSB), you will see the following menu which stays at the top level on your monitor regardless of what program/tool that you are using.  The menu looks like:

MSB menu

Each of the areas seen above offer various functions:

Planning:

  • Xmind – a mind mapping tool which really is easy to use.
  • Sunbird – a portable calendar
  • Hott Notes – a ‘sticky note’ tool

Reading:

  • T-Bar – is a screen masking tool
  • RapidSet – a tool to change the text color and the background color as well
  • Vu-Bar – works similar to the T-Bar; it offers a bar or a screen ruler to view the text through
  • ssOverlay – this tool tints the entire screen with whatever color you select
  • Orato – this tool will read whatever text that you select and copy

Writing:

  • LetMeType – this tool works as a word predictor.  The user must load a previous piece of work for the software to start ‘learning’ what possible words to suggest.  As you work with the program, it becomes more robust in ‘guessing’ your words – just like the word prediction module in RWG
  • Lingoes – this is a talking dictionary tool; type in the word and have the definition read to you
  • Balabolka – this is a neat tool to use in conjunction with Voice.  Once you have the text in place within Balabolka, the user can then convert the text to an MP3.  This feature is similar to Speech Maker in RWG
  • TinySpell – a spell checker
  • Rapid Typing – a touch typing tutor

Vision

  • Magnifer – this tool acts as a screen magnifier
  • Sonar – the user can use a circle or rectangle to move around the screen to focus the attention to a certain area
  • Thunder – this acts as a screen reader.  I need to work with this one more to get a handle on it.  Has potential though

Voice

  • This is the speech to text tool.  Basically, it works off the Speech Recognition software through the Windows operating system

In keeping with the Assistive Technology theme, RWG can now work within the Google Apps for Education domain (GAE).  I’ve installed it (for FREE) and it works well.  You don’t get all of the functionality of the full-blown RWG, but it offers a few essentials.

GAE RWG menu bar

As you can see, you have access to the following tools from RWG:

  • Text Dictionary
  • Image Dictionary
  • Play, Pause and Stop buttons
  • Fact Finder
  • Translator
  • Collect Highlight tool
  • Vocabulary

Since we are moving GAE, it is another neat and useful feature that students can now access to assist them in the studies.

The Chrome Web Store offers many apps to support those students who require extra assistance.  ‘Voice Note’ is one app.  I was really impressed with how effectively the software was able to convert speech to text.  I simply hooked up my headset and began talking.  It converted everything to text with not one mistake.  The user could then simply select, copy and paste the text into a document and go from there.  As I mentioned, the Chrome Store has ‘a lot’ of apps at no cost.  You have to check it out!!

Some apps to share for the iPad:

I came across this site the other day – Google Maps Maniahttp://googlemapsmania.blogspot.ca/.  You might want to have a look at this one.  The author has a lot to offer in the area of Google Maps.

Little things to share:

  • If you are using a Toshiba laptop and your mouse pad is locked or you want to unlock it – use the Function key and F9.
  • Your mouse pad is ‘gesture’ capable.  If you wanted to enable any of the gesturing, locate the mouse pad icon in the lower tray – right click and open ‘Mouse Properties’ – select the ‘Advanced’ tab and you’ll be able to enable the following features:
    • circular scrolling
    • Pinch zoom
    • Pan scroll
    • Pivot rotation

Toshiba gesturing

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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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