Sep 2011

New AssistiveWare video for an Introduction to Pictello

I want to share a new AssistiveWare video for Pictello, the storytelling app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. We created an Introduction to Pictello video divided in three chapters: playing a sample story, creating a story, and importing a story. Learn how to utilize all of the story features via demonstrations in the iOS simulator. The video is fully accessible with captions that can be viewed either in the YouTube player below (click CC) or on the Pictello website. You can also view the YouTube videos in HD and full-screen mode.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I am the author of this Introduction to Pictello video.

My path to working from home - Part 2: Apptastic therapy - “When we ask for something, we say ‘please’”

blogEntryThumbnailWorking with Proloquo2Go was the first experience I had that showed me the power of using apps. Although there weren't any other special needs apps on the market for iOS devices, there were reading, music, writing and math apps that my students with special needs could use. I was amazed to see how engaged my students were by the apps. They learned much more because the fun involved with these apps encouraged more learning. I could see that that the apps were going to completely change the way that education was delivered to students with special needs. The iOS touchscreen had incredible sensitivity in such a low cost device. It was head and shoulders above anything else available on the market for special needs. I could see that the field of special education was going to change forever.

One of the first apps I used with my students (other than Proloquo2Go) was Wheels on the Bus. The app is a musical book which involves the bus in fun, interactive pages as the classic song is played. Just like a traditional book, I realized that I could use the app for language therapy. The first time I used Wheels on the Bus with my preschool and kindergarten groups, they were immediately engaged and more interested in the speech therapy I was delivering. Using the app, I could target the expansion of sentences, grammatical structures, social language, and more. For an example of social language, there is an instance in the app when a frog swipes a cupcake from the chef without asking. I used this as an opportunity to model social language by demonstrating how to ask politely when you want something: “When we ask for something, we say ‘please’.” I would follow up by asking my students, “What do we say when we want something?” in order to elicit the response “please.” Since many of the skills contained in my students’ IEP goals could be addressed in a fun, effective way with the use of apps, I saw great value in using them. It was amazing to see the difference this cutting edge technology was making for my students.

I began wondering if the delivery of intervention could entirely involve apps. I started using other apps for reading and writing and then Proloquo2Go was released in the spring of 2009. After that, many types of special needs apps followed. There were apps for organization including reward charts; apps for dictating speech to text; and several augmentative communication apps to follow Proloquo2Go. I learned about as many apps as I could and I used them with as many students that I could to meet their IEP goals.

One of the first special needs apps I used was iReward. iReward is a visual chart that reinforces positive behaviors using rewards. For example, a star chart could be configured in the app so the child receives a toy after performing a set of positive behaviors. One of the charts I created for a student with autism was a star chart for remaining seated. He took to the app immediately and it definitely motivated him to successfully remain seated without much prompting from me. Although he couldn’t use too many words to express himself, his fingers on the iPod touch and his eye gaze told me what I needed to know: he wanted to use the device to achieve his goal. I hadn’t seen that level of interest from him previously with a standard paper chart.

After trying different apps with my students, I noticed they were increasingly more attentive. As a result, they would practice more and I was able to see progress a lot faster. Taking into account their tremendous interest and progress, I began gravitating away from all of the traditional therapy materials including traditional flashcards, paperback books, games, etc. and really focused on exploring the possibility of app-based therapy.

As my knowledge base of apps grew, I began to seek out ways to share my experience and tips with other speech-language pathologists and professionals. It seemed people were interested in using apps, but didn’t quite know how to approach them. So, I started speaking about apps and my experiences using them in therapy, and this led me in an unexpected direction.

Click here to view part 1 of "My path to working from home"

Closing the Gap Conference

blogEntryThumbnailI will be participating with AssistiveWare in this year’s Closing The Gap Conference scheduled October 10-14, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can come see me at the AssistiveWare booth or join us for one or more of the following sessions.

Pre-conference sessions
Preconference hands-on iPad workshop 1 (presented by David Niemeijer, Mark Coppin, Eric Sailers, Jennifer Marden, Martijn Leopold, Cathy Kingeter): PC-2 An Introduction to the iPad and iPod touch as Assistive Technology Solutions. Monday, Oct 10 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

Preconference hands-on iPad workshop 2 (presented by David Niemeijer, Mark Coppin, Eric Sailers, Jennifer Marden, Cathy Kingeter): PC-13 In-Depth Exploration of Some of the Most Advanced Assistive Technology iPad Apps. Tuesday, Oct 11 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

Main conference sessions
Lab by Mark Coppin, Cathy Kingeter, Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer, Eric Sailers: In-Depth, Hands-On Exploration of Leading iPad Assistive Technology Apps (Two Block Session). Wed, Oct 12, 2011 from 8:00 am – 10:30 am.

Session by Mark Coppin, Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer and Eric Sailers: Effectively Using the iPad 2 with Communication Apps: Proloquo2Go, ArtikPix and Pictello. Wed, Oct 12, 2011 from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm.

Lab by Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer, Eric Sailers: In-Depth, Hands-On Exploration of Leading Speech Sound and Story Apps for iPad (Two Block Session). Wed, Oct 12, 2011 from 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm.

Lab by Mark Coppin, Cathy Kingeter, Martijn Leopold, Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer, Eric Sailers: AAC on the iPad: Hands-On with the Latest Proloquo2Go (Two Block Session). Thu, Oct 13, 2011 from 8:00 am – 10:30 am.

Lab by Mark Coppin, Cathy Kingeter, Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer, Eric Sailers: In-Depth, Hands-On Exploration of Leading iPad Assistive Technology Apps (REPEAT) (Two Block Session). Fri, Oct 14, 2011 from 8:00 am – 10:30 am.

Lab by Mark Coppin, Cathy Kingeter, Martijn Leopold, Jennifer Marden, David Niemeijer, Eric Sailers: AAC on the iPad: Hands-On with the Latest Proloquo2Go (REPEAT) (Two Block Session). Fri, Oct 14, 2011 from 11:00 am – 1:30 pm.

Source: AssistiveWare events page

My path to working from home - Part 1: Beta testing Proloquo2Go

blogEntryThumbnailPrior to working from home, I began constructing the groundwork a while ago. And I didn’t even know it at the time. Back in the winter of 2008, I got involved in testing Proloquo2Go (an augmentative communication app for iOS devices) before the app’s release. I became a beta tester along with one of my students who has augmentative communication needs.  Once my student started using Proloquo2Go on an iPod Touch, I began to think about how an app could completely change not only my student’s life, but also my life as a speech-language pathologist. I soon realized that I could use iOS apps to facilitate communication for my students.

When testing Proloquo2Go with my student, I saw that it was a very sophisticated, yet easy-to-use solution via a mobile device. It had a lot of features while the interface was very user friendly. Additionally, the mobility factor was very important for this particular student because he walks and needs to communicate wherever he goes. The AAC device he had at the time was bulky and thus limiting communication to a tabletop. Proloquo2Go with an iPod touch, on the other hand, could go with him anywhere, whether the device was in his pocket or attached to a lanyard around his neck.

I recall one day I wanted my student to use Proloquo2Go at recess with general education peers. I took him to the playground and he wanted to play soccer. Since he had an iPod touch with a protective case, I figured why not. If it would allow him to interact with students beyond his special education classroom, I was all for it.

During the soccer game, my student ran after the ball as his iPod touch with Proloquo2Go was attached to his neck with a lanyard. The general education students approached him with great interest. They wanted to know how it was possible to use the cool device to communicate. With some assistance from me, my student was able to show them by asking questions and making comments. The students were very patient in waiting for him to communicate. I was highly impressed to see the conversational exchange between them. Plus, it was amusing to see how many of the students became more interested in my student and his “talker” than in playing soccer. It was something I had never seen before and it gave me chills that ran up my spine.

This experience with Proloquo2Go was the catalyst for further exploration of apps to use with my students.  My life was about to take an exciting turn as I entered a new chapter in my career.

1Password: Making my online life easier and more secure

blogEntryThumbnailFor a fairly long time, I have heard about the 1Password app, which involves the use of one master password for all your online passwords. I’ve read claims that 1Password will make your online life much easier and more secure. The reason is that the app automatically fills login information with a highly secure password unique to the given site. I hemmed and hawed about purchasing the app for a while, mostly because of the price: $39.99 for a single Mac license. I finally gave in and I'm very happy that I did.

About a week ago, I finally purchased 1Password for the Mac. Once I downloaded the desktop app, I investigated the 1Password extension for browsers because it appeared that the extension would be the best way to use the app for website logins. So, I downloaded the extension for main browsers including Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. The extension enables a handy auto-save login that pops up after you create or use a website username and password. The auto-save login automatically fills in your information, then you just need to click a button to save it. Plus, the saved information is automatically saved to the desktop app and the extension downloaded across all browsers.

I immediately began using the 1Password extension on website logins for email, bank accounts, social media, product registrations, and more. Although I experienced some difficulty with changing existing passwords on websites, the app easily handled the creation of a new username and password. I typed a username and I used the password generator to generate a very secure password unique to the given site. The password generator provided passwords as a random string of lengthy numbers and letters (e.g., 15 characters long).

In addition to storing login information, 1Password can store your identity comprising personal and business profiles, and wallet information including your Social Security number, passport, and bank accounts. 1Password is highly secure so you don't have to worry about your confidential information being leaked. Your confidential information is encrypted by your master password; just remember to use a strong master password. When you walk away from your computer, you can manually lock your data or set an automatic lock that occurs after a selected period of time (e.g., 1 min. of computer inactivity).

Finally, I purchased the universal iOS app, 1Password Pro, which works very well with the Mac app. Using a local WiFi network, I easily synced my 1Password information from the computer to my iOS devices. So far, the Mac and iOS apps have been great. I can easily say that 1Password is making my online life easier and more secure.

Using Dragon Dictation to hopefully blog more

blogEntryThumbnailI want to start blogging more, but I feel like I need some help. Since I enjoy helping myself independently, at least initially, I found that using the Dragon Dictation app (iTunes link) on my iPhone is easier for me to begin the writing process. At times, it’s difficult for me to begin typing what’s on my mind. When that occurs, I find myself avoiding the task all together. So, I’m hopeful that speaking my thoughts first will improve the writing process for me, and ultimately allow me to blog more.

With the Dragon Dictation app, I first record my voice, then the app performs a voice to text transcription. Subsequently, the transcription is available for exporting options. I prefer the copy option for copying the text to an email in separate parts. Usually, I can't say everything I want for a blog in a single recording because the Dragon app stops recording after about 30 seconds. So, when I want to compose a blog beginning with Dragon, I’ve found that I need to record myself in at least two parts.

After I record one part of the blog posting in Dragon Dictation, I copy the text and paste it in an email on my iPhone. Then, I return to the Dragon app to record again. Once the recording is done, I copy the new text and paste it in the same email. I continue this process as long as necessary. When I’m done with the process, I email the text to myself. Finally, I edit the text in a word processing document on my computer and paste the edited text in a WordPress post for publishing.

AssistiveWare's webinars for Proloquo2Go now available on iTunes

blogEntryThumbnailAssistiveWare recently announced their Proloquo2Go Webinar Series is now available on iTunes as a video podcast. Click here or go to iTunes and search for "assistiveware webinars." Part 1, Introduction to Proloquo2Go, was released first, with subsequent webinars scheduled for weekly release. Please subscribe to the AssistiveWare Webinar Series to stay updated and join in the webinar discussions at the Webinar Forum.

9.1.11 update: Part 6, iTunes and App Store, is now available here on iTunes.
8.31.11 update: Part 5, Advanced features (Word prediction and Grammar), is now available here on iTunes.
8.26.11 update: Part 4, Backups (Professionals) and Part 4, Tips and tricks (Users, Family, Caregivers) are now available here on iTunes.
8.20.11 update: Part 3, Vocabulary customizations, is now available here on iTunes.
8.15.11 update: Part 2, App customizations, is now available here on iTunes.

Disclosure: I do work for AssistiveWare and I'm the presenter for this Proloquo2Go webinar series.