Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The AT bandita strikes again....

So, I am the AT bandita again. So I creep... oh yeah, I creep....

What happens is that I'm often left with kids to occupy them. Or I'm often thrown into a class to entertain and break up dogfights while having little power to try to help change things to prevent the dogfights. Thank god for my little XO and the Gateway. Today I used the Speak application on the XO to play Simon Says when a crisis happened -- the internet was down and there was no computer lab for the day!! These kids live for their computer lab and flash games from NickJr, but we were able to survive as they typed commands to each other. It was awesome!

I've also requested and been allowed to pull a few kids here and there to ease the congestion in the special ed room. Because of that, I've been actually able to field test some of the AT I love. Again, not in any official capacity, but as a sneaky AT bandita. Here are my favorites so far:

Contents of my AT desktop folder:

Read Please 2003 Trial Version

I field tested several screen readers for the ATACP coursework, but this one was the best. The voices are the best of any of the free readers I've played with. You do have to cut and paste and that's a problem for a lot of users. A good interface too. The Trial Version never expires, but the fee version has more features. I have not tried the fee version yet, but I might one day.

EdWord
I finally got this one to work in a way that's really helpful. At the very basic level, it's a talking word processor that echoes keystrokes and/or words. I've had kids use it at this level and love it -- these are kids that can use a regular word processor, but often don't. The audio feedback seems to be such a plus. It also has a grid function where you can customize text and pictures. A user can click on the grid and the words will appear in the text document. I just now figured out how to make the grid editor work.

There are some really neat products from the DeafBlind Online site. I discovered them through OATS, the Open Source Assistive Technology Site. It's an awesome resource. I'm going to try to remember to put the link on my sidebar.
http://www.oatsoft.org/

The rest of the products are from www.RJCooper.com. He makes the best assistive technology/educational software out there, hands down. He does little things, like keep the program locked so that a curious and/or distractable kiddo can't stray out of a program unless he or she knows the hotkeys.

Spell-A-Word
Weekly spelling lists made fun. The program spells the word and then asks the child to do the same. I've seen kids jump with surprise - "Is the computer talking to me?" It's multi-modal -- words are seen and heard. I've seen some of my kids ace spelling tests when I give them the words, but still not be able to read the words back to me.

2+2

Same concept, but in math. Program goes through a problem, then the child types the problem.

Q&A
A bit harder. Program reads a passage, then asks a question based on the passage. Child must type answer. I'm waiting to use this one on my fifth grade vocabulary group. I think this has some awesome potential. It's in Beta right now.

Point-To-Pictures Studio
This is designed as a augmentative communication training program, but it's so much more than that. I use it to introduce vocabulary words. You could also use it to match vocab words to pictures and/or spoken text.

I've wished for a computer workstation for the special education/resource students where during spelling, for instance, when there are three or four different groups with three or four spelling lists, one or two kids could be doing their spelling via computer. It appears that my laptop is becoming that workstation by default. The kids love it. I just wish the adults in charge had time to see and understand it.

There's so much that can be done. I don't have the power to impliment it. Those with the power don't have the time or knowledge of what's out there...

So I creep...

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