Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Readability and Evernote Clearly

If you are like me and would rather not be distracted by adds and irrelevant information while perusing a website, then Evernote Clearly and Readability are two options that will make gleaning information from websites a little more pleasant for the average individual and a whole lot more accessible for the student struggling with ADHD or reading difficulties.  These two applications are both available through Google Chrome- Readability is also offered as an app for the iPad.  These applications de-clutter websites and open the text you are actually interested in reading in a new, clearly formatted page, without the distractions.  The option of highlighting or printing the page is offered, allowing the student some flexibility with the newly created page.
Readability is offered as an app in the App Store, but it can also be accessed through the Google Chrome Store.  The iPad app provides directions on how to create a bookmark that automatically alters webpages that you are currently viewing into a more readable format.  This reminds me of pinning favourite webpages into your Pinterest account, in that there is a special bookmark to complete the task of 'pinning' a webpage. The Readability bookmark sweeps all the unnecessary content off the page.  Pinterest is a whole other post in itself.  If you don't have an account, you are missing out on a great resource.  Most evenings I end up browsing technology pins instead of reading Tolstoy. 'Tis the nature of a TILT.

Preventing the Accidental (or purposeful) Deletion of Apps

Concerned about students deleting apps or making in-app purchases? Here is what you need to do to prevent this from happening:

Visit http://osxdaily.com/category/tips-tricks/ http://osxdaily.com/category/tips-tricks/ for some great iPad tips and tricks!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Using Co-Writer in Microsoft Word

Here is a short video demonstration on how to open up the Co-Writer feature while working in a Word document. 


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Creating your own PLN

David Warlick was the engaging keynote speaker at the Embracing the Edge SAGE conference at Tec Voc Collegiate on Friday, October 19.  His afternoon session was a great education into creating and maintaining your own Personal Learning Network (PLN).
The definition of a PLN, according to Warlick, is a connection of sources that one maintains. During the keynote speech, Warlick spoke of the necessity of teachers to transform themselves from teachers into master learners.  He believes that our focus should shift from teaching content to infusing learning opportunities for both the instructor and the students within the classroom and that as master learners, our daily learning should be on display for students in the classroom.  No longer should literacy be the crux of our teaching, but teaching students learning literacy, the ability to inquire, investigate, and make sense of the surrounding world using a variety of reliable information sources.  One way that Warlick suggests we can help students to become more literate in learning is to develop our own PLN, making global connections to other professionals in the same educational niche.  A network developed and fostered over the internet is bigger than one thinks- the people that one is connected to are connected to other people and so on.
Warlick offered some suggestions for developing a PLN, employing the gardening metaphor. Contacts that we have developed with people will grow into great sources of information, but pruning is also required to maintain a PLN that meets our personal or professional learning needs. As our teaching positions and change, so does the curriculum from which we instruct, hence the need to add or 'prune' certain contacts on our educational network.  Here are a few internet resources we can use as professionals to foster the growth of our PLNs:
  1. technorati.com is a blog that list blogs posts related to a particular topic.  You can hone in on blogs themselves or simply search posts contained within blogs related to your topic of interest.
  2. If you hold a twitter account, see topsy.com, which allows you to search through tweets.  It is a social media search engine.
  3. Bookmark pages on social networking sites using diigo.com or delicious.com
  4. Use flipboard.com to tag and collect info and post it to your own personalized board.  Similar to the always addictive Pinterest. Information comes from RSS feeds, which stands for "Really Simple Syndicate"- see here for your own personal information.
I'm glad I spent the time to sit in on David Warlick's talks.  It allowed me the chance to open another door to developing myself as a professional and I learned something new that day, something Mr. Warlick deems of great importance as an educator in the 21st century.

Embracing the Edge 2012

I feel part cyborg after attending three technology conferences in a five day week!  Attending Closing the Gap on Monday and Tuesday and then the conference offered by the MANACE SAGE was a little much to take in all in one week.  Nevertheless, I connected with some great people with great pedagogical ideas about technology in the classroom.  That's not the meat and potatoes of today's post however...
At the SMARTboard Bootcamp session I attended on Friday afternoon, I gathered a great deal of info in an hour and a quarter on SMARTboards and some great sites that can be used with that particular piece of technology.  Joan Badger, Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Learning with the St. James Assiniboia School Division presented the group with some fabulous sites to access when using the SMARTboard. You can visit her blog at www.sssbootcamp.blogspot.com for many great suggestions for infusing the SMARTboard into everyday instruction. Here are some tidbits from Joan's presentation:
  • To spice up your lessons with a little auditory stimulation, record your own sounds using Audacity, or the GarageBand application on your Mac computer. 
  • Visit jamendo.com for copyright-free music. 
  • To add visual interest to your lessons, download copyright-free content from the Creative Commons website.  It will filter copyright-free images that can be used in projects or lessons on the SMARTboard or in other applications.
  • Use Screencast-O-Matic to film tutorials or creating videos for student viewing purposes.  Think of this app when you're contemplating flipping your classroom.
  • keepvid.com allows you to keep a list of videos downloaded from YouTube.  Save as an .flv format!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Here is a link to a site that provides PDF documents on how to work within the iPad app, Pictello.  Pictello is a great app for creating customized social stories for students as it allows you to record voice over and upload photos directly from your iPad's camera or photo library.  You can find some information about Pictello here and here.
Special Education Technology is a department of the Ministry of Education in British Columbia, Canada.  It has a website that is a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to find materials, information, and resources to do with special education technology.

Google Chrome

If you've never heard of Google Chrome, it will change your perception of internet accessibility as you now know it. Well, at least I think it will be that earth-moving!
Google Chrome is a browser that has wonderful extensions which greatly increase the accessibility options for anyone looking to customize their internet experience or anyone who needs additional supports built into the web browser.  Here are the steps required to get Google Chrome set up on your computer:
1- Open a Google account.  Go to www.google.com, look at the options at the top of your window and select gmail. Follow the steps to create a gmail account.
2- In your current web browser, search Google Chrome.
3- Download the software by clicking on the red, green, and yellow icon on the right side of the window and follow the steps to download.
4- Once you have downloaded Google Chrome, you will see it appear as a 'neighbour' to Internet Explorer on the bottom menu.
There are several apps that you can browse and upload the suitable applications that fit your needs or those of your students.  You can explore and browse the apps here.

Please note: Google Chrome has a portable app that can be uploaded to a memory stick and used by students who require the accessibility options that Google Chrome offers.  This is an easy way to use the features that Google Chrome offers without downloading it onto a computer! This can be accessed through a download at the website: www.portableapps.com

Please see my next post for excellent accessible options for PC!

The Human Brain

If you haven't discovered TED talks, there are hundreds of inspiring talks given all over the world and compiled for your viewing pleasure.  A variety of stimulating talks, delivered by high profile individuals throughout our global world, covering everything from human rights, environmentalism, medical research, politics, economics and beyond.  Here is a very relevant video for educators dealing with current brain research.  Please listen to Aditi Shankardass deliver insight into the human brain and the diagnosis of Autism and learning disabilities.


An inspiring short film, directed by an amazing young man. Please take note of the credits at the end of the film. Definitely something to share with someone you know with dyslexia.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Jumpstarting AAC

Light tech to high tech.  The evolution of technology is so rapid, that even expert presenters in the field of AAC are having a hard time keeping up.
Today I spent 8 hours in a session which reviewed the establishment of an effective alternative augmentative communication (AAC) program for students with severe and profound disabilities.  It was an education in conductive education, something I had never heard of prior to this workshop, and the history of the development of AAC. Pati King-DeBraun, M.S., CCC-SLP, a Speech and Language Pathologist hailing from Utah, and Rachael Skinner, special educator and director of Standing Tall, presented a portrait of a pilot program, now the Standing Tall private conductive ed program in New York City. Collaboratively, they provided the most important factors to consider when implementing an effective AAC program.
Here are some of the highlights:
1- The access point is the most important.  Switches might not always be accessed using the hand by individuals with severe physical disabilities. Consider alternative switch access points- ie: other parts of the body, such as the head, cheek, etc.
2- Don't expect the student to be able to respond with a "yes" or a "no". A student should be able to indicate their preferences or choices in the AAC system with their "best yes", a verbal noise, or physical gesture that indicates affirmation.
3- Use video modeling to demonstrate appropriate social skills.  Ms. King De-Braun offered some great tips for using video to demonstrate appropriate conversation skills for students with severe and multiple disabilities.  She recommends infusing conversation opportunities into the school day so that the student has repetition and variety in practicing newly obtained skills.
4- Most interestingly, she strongly suggests abstaining from programming subject area vocabulary into the communication device/tool.  She is of the opinion that these terms rarely come into conversation in a regular basis and the student very often demonstrates their understanding of or references concepts by either describing the concept with alternative attributes or other descriptive language that hones in on the concept being discussed. 
5- Students using AAC use parts of their brain similarly to writing.  Speaking is natural and relatively spontaneous.  The speed in which oral language flows from our mouths is much faster than the skills and brain power necessary for communicating using an AAC tool or device.  She referenced the dissertation of another researcher in the field of AAC and shared this very important piece of knowledge to consider when working with or conversing with students using AAC to communicate. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sensory apps

Finding a great deal on Apps Gone Free the other day prompted me to write a post about sensory apps.  I've got three on my iPad that can be used for different kids in a variety of situations.  White Noise HD,  by logicworks, is a great app for students with Sensory Processing Disorder, but can be used by anybody looking for a bit of background noise.  This app has 12 different background sounds to choose from including, campfire, sprinkler, forest dawn, and ocean waves.  This could be used with a student needing some extra sensory input or for a kid who needs some time to emotionally de-escalate.
Another app that promotes serenity is Pocket Pond HD by TriggerWave LLC.  It is marketed as an entertainment app, but the sights and sounds of this app lull the user into a relaxed state of mind.  The app has a screen filled with clean pond water and lush greenery.  The user takes care of the Koi fish in the pond by cleaning their water, feeding them and interacting with them. 
The Stardust app from Omerta is an interactive, allows the user to create and take photos of creations within the app, while the user enjoys a rather psychedelic instrumental accompaniment. This app, regularly $4.99 in the App Store recently appeared for free and was featured on Apps Gone Free.