Artzy Librarian

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Module 3-Software

I love exploring what Discovering Assistive Technology tasks are set before us each week.  This week it is software.  The icomunications video I viewed is amazing.  Those who are deaf or hard of hearing now have a way to communicate that is quicker and more "real time" than translations.  The software takes the voice of the person speaking and then sends it to the listener's computer where it is translated with sign language and print.  In reverse, the deaf or hard of hearing person can learn to speak by "listening" and getting feedback on their sounds.  The computer is "teaching" them to speak.  Very cool! Dragon Speaking Naturally is a video about voice recognition software that will allow a person to type on the computer with just their voice. The National Federation for the Blind website gives many possibilities for hardware and software for the blind or visually disabled.
#1 Create a rubric for software evaluation.  I did!  I will use it in my software assignment. I used Word to create mine.
#2 Inspiration is a great tool to use with students. I use Inspiration with my students to help them organize data, brain storm individually or with a class. The graphics are pleasing and the software is quick loading so you're not left waiting during class time.  Wonderful software, every classroom  should use it!
#3 I was most fascinated with the Kurzweil 3000 software which is used with hardware such as Pathfinder which a school district adopted for a student because not only would it help one particular student, but it was going to be adopted by the state to be used for students with physical and learning disabilities to help them take standardized tests.  What a awesome tool!
#4 I discovered that my current operating system, with Microsoft Vista already has some AT  features. I could choose to use another pointing devise besides a mouse, or just use the keyboard, or use the keyboard instead of the mouse or, there is speech recognition. (who knew!) There are tutorials for making the screen easier to view, the keyboard easier to see, and the mouse easier to use. Vista has instructions for using text visual clues for sounds. Narrator is a text to speech program that reads what is displayed on the screen. You can be notified of time limits with sounds or flashing visuals. Background visuals can be moved or hidden if they are distracting. To make the web easier to view the fonts, colors, accessibility settings, and zoom can be adjusted to make the computer more compatible with the user.
#5 Info Eyes uses iVocalize software to enable visually disabled persons contact librarians with questions.
#6 After doing these exercises I've learned that a lot of adaptations and modifications can be made to help those with disabilities with minimum expenses.  (For instance, all of the possibilities within the current operating system.) These would require either dedicated computers or adjustments quickly made by staff members. The California State Library lists all of its services for those disabled, including in and outside of the library. I think AT for the library would depend on the needs of the patrons, the budget of the library, and the staff's participation in achieving hardware and software needed to make the library accessible to all patrons.
#7 Review Software using a Rubric
I have reviewed Kurzweil 3000 and WordTalk (Downloadable Software compatible with Microsoft Word , and Read and Write Standard (TexthelpLTD).  I was looking to see how well they would assist students in a learning support classroom whose IEPs require Text to Speech, keyboard adjustments, and enlarged font. They also need to assist with spelling and definitions.  I rated the Kurzweil 300 10/12 points.  It filled the requirements the best.  The WordTalk is an excellent choice when there are budget restraints.  It's free!  I rated it 9/12 points.  The font can only be made so large and the software is only compatible with Microsoft Word.  The Read and Write Standard was almost equal to the Kurzweil 3000.  It was quite a bit more expensive and I rated it 9/12 points.  All of these programs require hardware that is not currently available in this particular classroom.  I am revising my Hardware Assessment to match this software.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Module 2-Hardware

    This week I have been reading like a crazy person.  While the 6 chapters in our Oden text were not long, it still took awhile.  The 4th Chapter of Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom, by Shelly, Cashman, Gunter, and Gunter, was informative, meaningful, but long! Whining aside, I learned a lot about Hardware, Equipment, Networks, Classroom Support, Maintenance, Security, and the System Unit (And other parts of the computer).  I will try to work that information in as I go along.  We'll see! I have always been adventuresome, taking my computer apart when I didn't really know what the parts were.  I've replaced sound cards, added drives, and luckily not totally messed up my computer.  I find them such fascinating machines.
    But, back to this blog...I visited Enable Mart and was amazed at all of the hardware and software available for those with disabilities. The keyboards with large keys, with altered shapes, and with voice recognition are amazing.  I enjoyed the YouTube video called We can because we think we can. Absolutely amazing! I also think that the adaptive tools including adaptive mice, Roller Joy, Magic Touch, and others, for moving around the screen, are very cool. Beth Ann Luciana's - a DynaVox Success Story about a woman with Cerebral Palsy who gets a voice with her DynaVox.  I got a bit teary eyed, such a great story.

    I thought about students at my school that might benefit from AT.  Having voice recognition would be helpful to those who have motor skill disabilities.  We had a student with vision disabilities.  How nice it would have been to have had Portable Magnifiers for her.  Her aid was constantly enlarging with the copier but it wasn't always easy to read. I know we have a student with a hearing disability.  The teacher and student use an amplification system.  I know when I substituted I was in several classes where those were used. Such an easy solution and so useful! I know that many classes have microphones.  Such a wonderful thing for students and their teacher's voices. I'm thinking that there are quite a few students who could use the Voice Cue devices to remind them when to move on to a new task, or when time is up. Just setting a timer would be a less techie way to achieve that, but it might be more noticeable to other students.

    For my AT Hardware plan I choice to find technology that would help my Kindergarten students who are struggling with letter recognition and sounds.  I will be teaching 3 beginning after Thanksgiving, who so far this year only recognize 1 or 2 letters and their sounds, unaided.  Granted that one day those students may have IEP's but they do not at this point.  So, in funding AT equipment I would need to look to our Parent Teacher Organization, and/or the district, or federal funds from Title 1. Currently I use many items with them that I'd call low or "nontechie".  We use play dough, magnetic letters, puppets, picture cards, puzzles, poems, and many other tools to help them with their sounds.  I believe that if they were motivated or stimulated my even more means it might "click". If monies were available I would ask for :
    Leap Desk Workstation.  This multisensory tool is for Pre K-1st grade for phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. I'd love to have 3 or 4 of them over a period of time but could make do with one that they could be taught to use independently while I worked with the other students.  (One workstation is $345, 4 stations would be $1, 380.00) This workstation is also a tool for assessment as what they have done is recorded. If the funds were not available we do have access to computers that just need head phones, software and I'd add wireless mice.  This software is Leap Into Phonics for  5 stations, I found 5 Caliphone headphones with boom microphones, and 5 Microsoft wireless Mice on sale. (for 5 stations hardware and software would be $266.95) I believe either of these would be a positive addition to my current teaching tools. Practice and motivation are powerful tools.
    I have really enjoyed this week's tasks.  There are so many wonderful tools to assist those with disabilities. I hope that as I continue to grow as a teacher, and someday a librarian, that I will be able to offer technological tools and work with students with disabilities to help them achieve their dreams. What a wonderful educational experience!

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Module #1-Types of Disabilities and Accomodations

      I registered for Discovering Assistive Technology 2.0. I went to explore TransAccess which is a great site. I found myself thinking, "I’d love to do this!" Making people’s lives better is a great goal. To quote their purpose, "TransAccess provides persons with disabilities access to adaptive technology and career transition services so that they can achieve their desired education and employment, and improve their quality of life." (TransAccess) I looked up disabilities on Wikipedia and was amazed at the definition. The definition is not just physical disabilities; it includes, mental, social, and economic disabilities and other, too. Wikipedia estimates 53% of the United States population have disabilities under this type of definition. That’s a percentage to wrap your head around!

      Then I explored the sites listed on Discovering Assistive Technology 2.0 and discovered a lot of famous people with different types of disabilities. What was interesting to me was to see how many people live with disabilities and still have wonderful lives and achieve great things.

      I learned what JAN is,  Job Accommodation Network. JAN provides person-to-person worksite accommondation technical assistance services, electronic technical assistance services, a quarterly electronic newsletter, and an electronic topical newsflash called Consultants' Corner. (from JAN official websiste.)

      I know that I’m going to learn a lot of new terms. When I went to one of the linked sites I ran across blogs with JAWS being discussed. Well? What is that? So, I looked it up. JAWS is a screen reading software. How cool! I have lots to learn. I'm especially interested in technology that might help students who have learning disabilities.  Since I'm currently teaching readers who need help with strategies and/or have learning disabilities, I'm interested in finding out what technologies might be able to help, how available it is, and the costs. We are given the site for National Center for Learning Disabilities which may help in this pursuit.

      I also "toured" The site for National Federation of the Blind.  How cool to have a Newspaper available to listen to!  The menu allows the user to choose what they'd like read, the voice, the speed, and if they need words spelled out.  There are lots of options. This site gave all sorts of leads to assistive technology for the blind. It was interesting to read about the National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal. The goal of some of the programs, such as the  NCBYS Science Academy, is to encourage youth who are blind to pursue science related activities and careers. Teams are successfully launching rockets and successful parachute deployments, and even dissecting sharks. There are many scholarships available to assist with the cost of these pursuits.

      I know that when I substituted I was frequently in a 2nd grade classroom that was taught by a teacher permanently in a wheelchair.  Her room was set up to accommodate the chair and allow easy access to all of the children and materials she needed to teach.  I'll admit that when I came in I had to look for a place to sit...she had her own chair, I was the one looking for an accommodation. She had everything low, and the only thing up high was stored by a friend that she had come in once a week to help her set up.  Her students saw her as their instructor and had no difficulties looking past her disabilities. We have come so far and I look forward to working on learning more about Assistive Technology!

      Saturday, November 7, 2009

      WEEK #9

      Thing #20-Discovering YouTube and sites like it.

      I loved the videos that Classroom Learning 2.0 sent us o view!  The first one, Introducing the Book was funny.  The March of the Librarians was great.  It was quite appropriate that the music sounded like a PBS nature special.  Conan the Librarian was a bit irreverent but short and fun. I really loved the video from TeacherTube Videos called Azalea goes to the Library. What a great look at how important a library and a good teacher/parent can be in a child's early reading skills.  This is a long video but I enjoyed it! There are so many sites to visit, deciding which is appropriate, useful, and exceptional can take some time.

      Thing # 21-Podcasts

      Reading chapter 4 in our text by Nancy Courtney, Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's Users, was helpful for this "Thing".  She says that besides the definition of a podcast, the user definition is also important.  For a listener, it is an "automatic, anonymous, free delivery system of audio on demand." (p. 36) There are three steps to take for presenting a podcast on the web. 1.  An audio file is uploaded to the web 2. RSS 2.0 feed is associated with the feed and also uploaded to the web. 3. The feed is read by a podcatcher application, which then downloads the audio file. I was also amazed by all of the applications for Podcasts for the library. Noting the issues and decisions that are involved when creating a Podcast are important, too.  Getting permission (From authors, speakers, artists, etc. ) and considering copyrights stands out as a big concern, but doable. I liked that there are music sites where the music is freely available for Podcasts.;;  When I explored here are some things I found:
      Nancy Kean's Book Talks where I tried out her Podcasts I learned that they are only done with audio. I know that is within the Podcast definition but I've gotten spoiled, I wanted pictures.  She has a really great site that includes a lot of book talks as well as student booktalks and blogs.  I liked that she had a table-like homepage that allowed you to access books and Podcasts in several ways, subject, author, titles, and awards.  It was a very assessible website.
      I visited Manchester Public Library's teen podcast "Prime Speaks" and subscribed to it with my itunes account as well as the RSS feed.  It also is audio only but done by teens.  Very interesting!
      I went to OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) and signed on, even listened to the beginning of a Podcast lesson.  I think this is similar to our Wimba sessions on Blackboard, correct?
      The Denver Library has lots of Podcasts.  I visited the one about storytime and listened to a story about The Talkative King, about a turtle.  Nice!

      Just to confirm that I had the definition correct, since all of the Podcasts I went to were audio with no video, I went to Wikipedia and found this definition, which confirms the one in my text and on Classroom Learning 2.0. "Researchers at the Center for Journalism and Communication Research at the University of Texas at Austin in the USA are proposing a four-part definition of a podcast: A podcast is a digital audio or video file that is episodic; Downloadable program file,  mainly with a host and/or theme; and convenient, usually via an automated feed with computer software."

      Thing #22- Explore ebooks and audiobooks
      I have already been a fan of audiobooks.  I love checking them out from the library for a long trip in the car!  I remember years ago taking Forrest Gump with us on a family vacation.  My children, then 10 and 14 thought it was awesome.  They wanted to listen to all of it even before they asked for videos  on the TV we brought. (I never got to watch TV in the car as a kid!) As for ebooks, I have used a few for my online classes through Clarion. 
      I did explore but found you need to be a member to see how it works.  Maybe someone else was able to click on a way to view books without joining but I didn't.
      I went to LibriVox and had a bit more luck. I was able to download a poem by Oscar Wilde onto my itunes site.  That's pretty cool!
      Next I went to British Library Online Gallery and had to install Adobe shockwave to view William Blake's  Notebook. How cool to have the book pop up on the screen!  I couldn't read much of the handwriting but the illustrations were really interesting. Then I went to Alice's Adventures Underground.  Wow!  I got to see the beautiful book, and I could listen to someone with a great English accent read it to me, or read it on my own.  What a great idea!  Very enjoyable! (I did have to download another "reader" but it worked.)

      There are so many places to go for free books online, at the library, and even places to share ebooks with others by mail.  Very informative!  I will have to try more of this.

      Thing #23 Summary

      This has been an excellent program.  I am rather methodical in my learning and tend to get overwhelmed when everything is given at once.  Putting tasks and learning tools into small bits with great introductions has been most helpful for me.  I have tried things I normally wouldn't.  I'm afraid of downloading virus's (Actually, still am.) so had always avoided things like Facebook, and Twitter, and other social networks.  This program made me try those and more.  I've enjoyed exploring and plan to continue.  I get a bit nervous about downloading so many things on my computer. (My computer actually got a horrible virus while I was doing this.  However, it has been taken care of thank goodness.) I now have a different virus protection that I hope will protect me as I explore more.
      I think my favorite discovery was the avatar, what fun!  I had no idea what they were.  My technology vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds, by mega bytes! It is also great to learn about RSS feeds and be connected to other's blogs and feeds.  So much to keep up with, but I like that you can do what's possible and the rest will still be there.  (It may change, but the concept will still be there!)
      I am an avid learner, and have continue to learn as I've grown older.  I don't plan on stopping.  If Classroom Learning 2.0 had another "class" I would definitely participate!