Sunday, December 30, 2007

One Laptop Per Lesley

I've ordered my XO laptop. Sometimes I'm crazy excited and sometimes I think it might have been foolish of me to spend so much money that I don't have on a machine that I'm not sure I can use.

I'm going to keep updating my attempts to make it a useful AT device.

I also need to link to my various AT projects on here. Like the books that I've put into Springboard PASS software so Jessie can read them on her device. And the interwrite projects I've made.

My dream is to help the XO become cheap, usable AT and for AT users in the US to be allowed to purchase them for educational use. But first I have to learn python.

Here's the olpc wiki page on educational activities. I think I want to build the assistive technology page in the wiki -- it doesn't exist yet -- but I need to wait a little more until I understand what the heck I'm doing.

Also, the Family Center on Technology and Disability addressed open source software in their latest newsletter.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No luck

So, no luck on the alphasmart quiz applet. I think we have to buy it. The alphasmarts we have, 3000s, are so old that I think they'd just GIVE it to us. I will research more though.

I did get to take home the interwrite pad that I used to bore my husband as I tried to force him to do second grade math on my laptop by using the bluetooth connection and sitting across the room. He was NOT impressed.

I think there is a lot of potential with these things. I wish the interface weren't so fragile -- that pen will last two seconds in A.'s mouth -- but I think it might really help the "lost between keyboard and screen" syndrome that so many students have. It's why the kids in the special ed class just pound on the computer and mouse -- they like flash games where they don't have to look down, put their fingers on a few keys, and pound like madmen to make something happen.

I wish I could transform the pad into a touch or switch interface.

No Lesley.
Bad techie.
No messing with someone else's hundreds of dollars of technology.

I will not use a screwdriver. I will not not use a screwdriver. I will be good. I will be good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am the AT bandita

I haven't had Spanish since high school, so I am unsure on whether that is the correct female form of "bandit."

I haven't spoken a lot about my new job because there is not much to talk about. I want to be an AT person. I'm a speech aide, who, as of right now, has a lot of time on her hands because she isn't really used a whole lot.

The problem is, I'm a good employee. I want to help. So if I don't have anything to do, I start thinking of things I can do. I start thinking of students, how I can help them, things I know through AT training and research that others just don't have time to learn.

And then -- brick wall.

To quote TLC: "SO I creep...ohhhhh yeahhhh."

That's not really it. I don't sneak. I scavenge. I am allotted no resources -- no computer, no internet connection, no interwrite pad that every one else got. But I went to the interwrite training anyway, installed the software on my computer. I make up games and interventions for students that I never will get to use. But it's good for me, in a strange way. I get to learn about students, what I would do if given the chance. Today, I borrowed an alphasmart, on which I will try to load a quiz applet. I tried to get permission, but no one knew what I was talking about. So I will load the vocab words that I make into flash cards every week. This way, the kids might actually study the words and quiz themselves, unlike the flashcards that I find on the floor.

I want to be a very useful engine, like Thomas (Can you tell I spend lots of time watching cartoons with kids now?) But I'm not allowed to be, So I pretend that I am. I rumagge in the computer lab for old software. I download and configure software to go along with with the kids are learning in speech. None of it gets used, but that's okay.

Well, it's not okay.

But if I do babysteps, break out the alphasmart quiz applet one day, the R.J. Cooper matching applications a week later, go slow, work stealthly, I might be able to be a useful AT bandit.

Until then, I creep. Ohhhh yahhh

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

XO News!

I'm keeping an eye on this link.

I really think the touchscreen is the key here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Will this change the world?

One Laptop Per Child

The $188 laptop. I want one. I am getting one after Christmas and therefore donating one to a child in the developing world in the process.

Why do I think it might be appropriate for AT applications?

It's not just a financial matter. Low cost = lower expectations = lower anxiety
No one wants to admit they don't know if a $6000 communication device will work for a child. No one wants to admit discomfort or the fact that they are unsure about their own abilities to make it work. So they come up with excuses.

2) portable and rugged as hell
It's designed for a third world country. Dust, dirt, liquids, heat, cold, rough handling. Yup. My kiddo with autism ate the SD card out of his mini-Auggie. So harsh environments are the norm where I work.

The only thing even close is a panasonic toughbook and it's a few thousand bucks.

3) good battery life
WAY better than any other off the shelf laptop. And you can recharge by solar power or a hand crank. How cool is that?

4) Operating system
Open Source linux
At first, I thought this was a disadvantage. Windows owns the world, like it or not. Even Macs are hard to come by these days in schools. I just rounded up a whole bunch of outdated Mac software at my school. I wouldn't know where to find a mac.

But, I really truly believe that because this is open to the community, I can really find resources to help me make this do what I want it to.

For some people, like M., the fact that it doesn't look like a traditional windows OS will be an advantage. She has such a bad history of being intimidated by computers that this will seem like a neat toy. For the kids at work who stim endlessly on flash games on Nick Jr and see computers as a toy they use to isolate themselves from the world with, this will be different enough to be functional for them.

It's a kid-friendly OS that relies heavily on large, understandable graphics.
No five million different drivers and extra windows junk to mess with. Stripped down.

However, Linux severely limits what I can do with my laptop. I can't run any R.J. Cooper software, for instance, which I think is the best software out there for communication, learning, etc. I can't run most of the special education programs out there. No intellikeys, no boardmaker. I can do touch screen adapters though.

Still, boardmaker, speaking dynamically, intellikeys, etc are GREAT programs, however, many teach people and educators think they are the only games in town. This requires thinking outside of the box a bit.

And learning Linux!

5) video camera and still camera built in.
Can we say "picture schedule"?????

In comparison to a regular, off the shelf laptop, the functionality is really poor.
But when compared to similarly priced devices, like say an alphasmart for education or a video game console system or mp3 player for recreation, what this thing can do is amazing.

And I like being part of something, you know? As I get into AT, I spend a lot of time seeing solutions that others have come up with and tryng really really hard to make them fit for someone else. I spend my time looking at third party vendor sites and trying to convince someone to buy a piece of equipment for a child. By getting this laptop, I would be part of a solution. It sounds cheesy, but the line that got me was something like "We encourage you not to think of yourself as a buyer of a product but a contributor to an educational movement."

I like that.
I'm a sucker for cheese.
But man... if I can make it work...