Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Want to Super-charge your writing program in the classroom? How about adding regular blogging as a journaling activity with your students? If writing goals are a part of your 2009 strategy then you will want to explore the resources on the blog post below...
Paul Hamilton's Blog, Free Resources From the Net for Special Education, posted a great blog post sharing online tutorials and lessons for teachers who want to integrate a blog program for their students in the classroom: Blogging Lessons (Online Resources), posted Dec. 27, 2008. Along with 2 resources to get you started, Paul has posted video of students from a classroom he visited recently as they share about blogging.
In our region, our instructional resources team instructs our tech cadre of teachers on how to integrate blogging in the classroom. I haven't done as much of it as a special education initiative for sped students, but we have been using the blog platform as a medium to modify curriculum for text to speech and print disabilities. You can find my tutorials under the training link at my companion site, No Limits 2 Learning.

I hope you enjoy the last few days of 2008. Here's wishing you the best for 2009!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, December 29, 2008

UDL Tools Need to Play Role in NCLB Reform

What would the inclusion of Universal design for Learning tools in testing and all-around learning school-wide do to our AYP and School Report Cards? In a U.S. News and World Report Article, entitled: Education Reformers Tackle NCLB Flaws, the head chancellors of education for New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago (Arne Duncan - nominated by Obama to be the new Secretary of Education) and others, shared their input last July, on what reforms should take place in NCLB. This was in preparation for a revision of the NCLB document.
In a nutshell, this is what I saw as the recommendations before the committee:
1. A higher set of standards based on global content and comparisons - getting us to move from state standards to an national set of standards that reflect an even higher global based set of educational objectives - the one world school approach is on its way.
2. Merit pay for student scores - bonuses for leaps in achievement and higher scores.Nothing was said about remediation, comparing students to their own past personal best and weighing personal achievement vs. a standardized average score. If we teach students how to accommodate their learning styles and give them the tools to read, write and do math, higher test scores will follow as a natural by-product. One of the problems is that UDL tools on a computer aren't allowed to interface with the standardized test online programs for security reasons without penalty of being considered a modified test.
As to introducing a global set of standards, beyond language differences, words and numbers are used the same way world-wide whether we have a national set of standards or global ones. Let's address how we assess academic success and look at the content as it applies to real life problem solving and skills - not content to pass a test.Most of the comments from educators after the blog post from US News and World report, showed concerns about merit pay based on scores. The concensus was that teachers will push to teach to the test only - forget about anything else. Concern was that stress would fill the schools as teachers try and squeeze out student performance in higher scores.
I wrote this comment at the bottom of the blog:
"I am scared to see us go from comparing ourselves to each other state-wide with our "school report cards" based on standardized test score for meeting AYP, to a movement of comparing our country to other countries. Since all trends economic and political seem to point to a globalistic society with one "ruling committee", now we see the trend moving into our actual education hearings in D.C. before an overhaul of NCLB- surptise, surprise - no surprise.My guess is that the powers at the top will just dilute our education system's potency by getting us to teach to more standardized testing rigor and drop off two things:1. Teaching real content, skills and lifelong learning tools.2. Basing student achievement on individual past year scores vs. comparing with an ever higher bar standard.There are many universal design for learning tools that can support learning and accommodate HUGE print disability issues that many students have that are pulling down achievement scores, but they have to be implemented. We need to be allowed to give remediation and real life learning strategies for students - not global comparisons and teaching to tests. We also need to allow students with print diabilities the opportunity to use their tools in the testing process without penalty. If that is what they will use for real life in their world, let them use them now too. We are not getting it right yet by comparing ourselves to each other at home let alone the rest if the world."
I know I am just addressing the tip of the iceberg here, but there needs to be some changes to what we are doing and how we are doing it to see real student success - not just a passing score.

All the best to you...
Lon

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Parent Advocacy Vital Catalyst in Federal Policy

If you are an active advocate or are in the wings thinking about what you need to do towards advocacy but maybe are scared to be too forceful, etc., let me encourage you...an advocate impacts the community in a larger arena even though their primary purpose is their child.
I shared this advocacy topic on the FCTD discussion thread yesterday and thought it was a good one to post here as well The catalyst was a well written piece on the Special Needs 08 blog yesterday (link below) and a wonderful guest commentary from Patriciae Bauer's Disability News that really shares the impact parent advocacy has had on Federal Disability Services and Special Education law. Please check these links out today - they are terrific.

I shared on the thread:
"When you advocate for services and coordinate and draw others to collaborate together on awareness of those who have been underserved, you are creating a ripple effect that impacts many. On the blog, Special Education Truth, the author explained in a post titled "History Says: Advocacy Starts with You", that "Rud Turnbull, a special education expert at the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas, says his most effective work has been not as a professor, but as a parent." You can read the guest commentary by Rud here: http://www.patriciaebauer.com/2008/12/20/turnbull-guest-commentary/
One of his points is:
"First, the future of any child with a disability born in this decade is promising largely because of the private action –- the community organizing — that parents of children with disabilities began more than 50 years ago."
Rud goes on to share the impact that family advocates have had in shaping disability services and policies. On a similar note, in my own practice, it has been shared that clarification of law and instances of grey areas in interpreting special education law, will be clarified through practice and litigation - meaning, that when a lawsuit challenges, it causes clarification and brings us closer to accurate definitions. That is a sad commentary on how things sometimes get done, but that process again is triggered by a parent advocate or advocacy group oftentimes.
I would encourage you to read both of these posts in the links above. There is a lot of wonderful information in them and I am excited to find these new and informative resources.
Also, stop by the FCTD Discussion on advocacy I am co-moderating through the end of December. We would love to have you share your thoughts - or just stop by to read what folks are saying.
All the best to you,
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Obama Shares on Reform in Education and New Secretary

Obama says: "Well, I think it’s time we raised expectations for our kids all across this country and built schools that meet – and exceed – those expectations." This is taken from President-elect Obama's press release on the nomination of a new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. He shares his reasons for his nominating Mr. Duncan and gives us some inkling of his views on education reform.
One of the things I appreciated in his release was this:

"For years, we have talked our education problems to death in Washington, but failed to act, stuck in the same tired debates that have stymied our progress and left schools and parents to fend for themselves: Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more reform – all along failing to acknowledge that both sides have good ideas and good intentions.We cannot continue on like this. It is morally unacceptable for our children – and economically untenable for America. We need a new vision for a 21st century education system – one where we aren’t just supporting existing schools, but spurring innovation; where we’re not just investing more money, but demanding more reform; where parents take responsibility for their children’s success; where we’re recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers; where we hold our schools, teachers and government accountable for results; and where we expect all our children not only to graduate high school, but to graduate college and get a good paying job."

You can read the entire release and draw some of your own conclusions about where education is headed over the next 4 years. I didn't see anything about special education there, but you can go to Jim Gerl's Special Ed Law Blog and read what he says about it. I will be doing some research and seeing what I can come up with for you. Ever since Don Johnston told us in his interview about the re-authorization of NCLB and the opinions he had about trends coming, I have been trying to find out more.

All the best to you,
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Friday, December 19, 2008

This and That: Snow Day, Political Special Ed Blog Discovered and More Toys for Special Needs.

The snow has been falling - you can see how much snow we have in our field. We have been Cross-country skiing up our mountain the past week or two. All our schools in our region are shut down today. A big storm came through yesterday - which means I am home today. My son was supposed to have a pajama party morning at school with his class, with the Polar Express movie, so guess what I will be doing this morning? Eating pancakes, drinking cocoa and watching Polar Express with 2 feet of snow piled outside. Yup. Polar Express Pajama Party time! I taught elementary school too many years to not know a good thing when I see one.
So if you are in an office or school somewhere today, I hope you will enjoy your day while I spend mine watching Polar Express and sitting by the fire sipping coffee and writing some posts for the up coming vacation. I will be sharing some articles and blogs of interest and pre-posting them so they are up over the next 2 weeks. I will throw in a few of my own updates in between as well.
I hope the shopping ideas and switch adapted toys were helpful. I sure wish you all a Merry Christmas - but I will save the real Christmas posts until Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
I wanted to give you a link to an article that I have found very informative:
"Toys for Kids with Special Needs" is from a blog I just discovered that you need to check out.
I have recently added it to my sidebar after the author, Mark Miller, had left a comment on a post of mine concerning the adapted toys. I visited his site and was impressed. I thought I would add his post on adapted toys today. Check out his blog, Special Needs Truth '08, where Mark comments on the political scene and special education. He has been following the new Obama administration in regards to education and I will be referring to some of his research and writing in some posts coming up.
Have a great day - All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Resources for Adapting Toys and Using Switches


Toys at Christmas are a big part of what makes Christmas what it is. If there isn't something to play with, even for adults, then something is missing. Imagine the children with disabilities who would love to have a switch hooked up to a toy so they could make it go themsleves. I have tried to give folks some information on this so they could go out and get what they need to do just that.
Electric Toys and Powerlink Units:
I shared a blog post, linked here, on some toys and devices that work with a Powerlink control unit. This unit, available from Ablenet, allows you to plug in appliances, radios and electronic toys to control the power to it via a switch. It can run fans, juicers, popcorn poppers, Lite Brites, etc. You use the switches you can get from Ablenet, Enabling Devices, etc.
I had recommended a slot car race track to use with a Powerlink, and later found it was battery operated. I edited the post to show a new electric race track set that would work with a Powerlink and let folks know I had not seen the tiny words on the box saying "runs with batteries" until I had zoomed in on it on a second visit.
This brought up a discussion with a fellow blogger who had gotten excited about using the race set. We discussed how you can use a battery interruptor and rig your own switch access to the battery operated set as well. I thought I could compare the two methods and share a little more on the battery type of switch access.
Battery operated toys and switch access:
If you have a toy that has a simple on/off switch to run it, you can put a battery interrupter inside between the positive end of the battery and the metal end plate in the compartment that holds the battery. The interrupter is a small copper disc that has a wire welded on each side for positive and negative. When you plug a switch into a jack on the end of the interruptor cord, and hold the switch down, the curcuit is closed and the battery juice goes on in. When you let up on the switch, the circuit is now open and the power stops. If you turn the toy on before you use the switch, it is ready to be operated by the switch - does that make sense? If the toy isn't on first, then obviously it won't "go" whether you have the switch pressed down or not.
The trick to adapting toys like this is that if you don't have a simple on/off switch on the toy - let's say it has multiple actions and there is a control unit up inside, sometimes using the battery interrupter won't get it to do the thing you want.

I bought a Curious George train engine once that tooted and ran in a circle, but you had a middle switch setting for off and a sound switch setting and a run the train setting. There was a brain up inside the toy and I would have had to tear it apart to get to it to bypass the other switch and get it to do what I wanted. To do this would have called for hard wiring. I have included a site with directions on how to do surgery on an Elmo to get to the brain up inside and adapt it that illustrates this hard wiring.
So when it comes to that race car set I told you about, you would definitely have to look at it up close first and see how it works before you would know how to adapt it. That's one thing I like about Enabling Devices. They do all the work for you so the toys are ready to play with. Whether you use a Powerlink Unit, a battery interrupter, do it yourself or buy a pre-made model, switch activated toys are great for kids with disabilities.

Let's get to playing!

Links to tutorials and supplies you might find helpful:

1. Link to purchase battery interrupters and other supplies.
2. How to install a battery interrupter.
3. Converting a toy via hardwiring - WARNING: Shows graphic pictures of Elmo in surgery!
4. Article on a non profit - RePlay for Kids which adapts recycled toys to give away - great idea.
5. Tutorials on Switch Adapted Toys - including how to make your own switch.
6. Adapted play and switch toys, shares on the importance of adapted play.


All the best to you!

Lon


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Desicritics.org: Children With Learning Problems - It's the Schools, not the Kids, Stupid!

Desicritics.org: Children With Learning Problems - It's the Schools, not the Kids, Stupid!: "No one really knows how many children in India have learning disabilities (LD), but it looks like a staggering 20 to 50 million might be affected. And still, there are very few schools that have any mechanisms in place to identify children with LD, or offer remedial therapy. The real tragedy is that LD children are not 'stupid' - some of the brightest minds of our time, from Einstein to Edison to Pasteur, have had LD."


Ho, Ho, Ho...you have ten days left until Christmas to get that last minute shopping done. You also have just a few days left to shop online and guarantee that you get what you ordered in time.
If you are stumped with what to buy and you are a parent, relative or friend of someone with a disability, then you might need some suggestions. We haven't seen or read a "Top Ten Special Needs Gift Ideas" list on any popular mainstream publications so I thought I would put out a call for suggestions from other assistive technology bloggers. We had a great response!

There are all kinds of cool gadgets and gifts in various price ranges. What is nice too is that the authors have given us their opinions and reviews on many of these items.

Read the Holiday Edition of the AT Blog Carnival, "My Favorite Things".

Enjoy...and Merry Christmas!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Voicethread Subscription Makes Great Holiday Gift for Families, Teachers and Parent Advocates

Voicethread is a subscription that can support networking and connectivity for advocacy or for fun inter-family communication and sharing...Imagine being given a year subscription to a service that allows unlimited Voice (microphone) and text commenting, Images, docs and videos, Doodling, Embedding, Moderation, Identities, Sharing up online AND the ability to have unlimited voice threads (or recorded comments) about the above media posted by friends, family or colleagues online. I think it is wonderful. The free version gives you 3 free voicethreads, where the $59.95 a year pro version gives you unlimited.
Here's a little story to illustrate how it works:
We were at a friends house for dinner yesterday and our hostess told at dinner how she had been working with an elementary teacher that day, helping get student-drawn pictures for Christmas with comments done, scanned and in a Powerpoint. They found that the the writing of the words each student would do with their picture would take up too much room on a PowerPoint slide, so they decided to record the students voices reading the text on the slides.Then they had a thought...if they dumped the pictures into a Powerpoint as a slide show from My Pictures, and then uploaded it online to Voicethread, it would be there for each student to comment on and tell about their individual pictures and then be there to share later as well.
Once you post a family video, a photo album, etc. and send the link to family and friends, they can go online and as they play the video or slideshow, they can record comments, actually write and doodle on the image, and use it to moderate discussions or do an analyisis of a topic.
I can see all kinds of potential in this for parents who are sharing videos of children with family members, maybe wanting an assessment from a specialist who is too far away to come visit personally, share school projects and assignments,etc.
You can watch different samples of what they do with Voicethread on the site. If you are looking for a unique and fun gift for someone who is really into online networking and communications, this could be a really great gift. Here is a breakdown on the difference between the free and paid versions. PricingBrowse what it can do HERE.There is an educational version designed for the classroom as well.
All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Assistive Technology Gift Idea: Switch Access Electronic Toys


Electric toys like a Light Brite, slot car race track or a train set, can be fun at Christmas, but how fun would it be if children with orthopedic diabilities could use a switch to run them? Don't skip these toys because a child can't access them...here's how!

Enter the Powerlink 3. These are what we have in my equipment center for trials. I am going to explain how to use electrical toys using a switch, without having to adapt or modify the toy or use any wires. The Powerlink 3 has two plug receptacles that allow you to plug in electrical devices and operate them with a switch. The switch (or switches when using 2 toys) is plugged into the Powerlink 3 and then the toy is plugged in. By pressing the switch, the child allows power to pass to the toy.

The Powerlink has 4 modes: (Described off the Ablenet website)
Direct: Keeps appliances ON as long as the switch is activated.
Timed Seconds: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 seconds with each switch activation.
Timed Minutes: Runs appliance from 1 to 60 minutes with each switch activation
Latch: First switch activation turns appliance ON; second activation turns it OFF.

We have been using one of these to teach cause and effect in order to develop switch access communication down the road. Activities have included a Lite Brite and a juicer to make fresh apple juice. The Powerlink can be a way to link electric devices that help teach strategies that will be used in life skills, but besides that they are just plain fun when hooked up for kids that normally can't do things. It is a thrill for them. If you want a memorable Christmas, hook up one of these and a special toy and watch what kids do - if it is the first time they have had control over a toy like this, the excitement is worth it all.
Ablenet, has a holiday gift ideas page. They are announcing 20% off on selected items in the holiday buyers guide area. The Powerlink 3 is listed there at $200. Check ebay too.

Some toys that will operate with a switch and a Powelink:
I found them at Amazon.com -
Slot car race set - I found one on Amazon for $34.99
Portable Radio - I found that a small portable radio makes a great music source. If it has a cassette and you have some old tapes, it works best. A DVD or CD doesn't work with the power interrupting because you have to start it again and have to press the play button to go again.
North Pole Christmas Express Train set - $44.99
Lite Brite - a whole bunch of them...
Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper - Kids love to watch the wire kernel pusher go and turn around. There switch can control it.

There are a few to get you started. You can get a switch from Ablenet as well.

All the best to you!
Lon


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mobile Library Tools Using Assistive Technology

Mobile Library Tools using assistive technology, mobile phones and other strategies are the topic of a post from 2 Cool Tools. Although the post is geared towards the librarian, there are some great ideas and free services.
Read about the use of an iPhone, Cell phone tours, Jott, and other great services. You can know for some of these, there is a higher cost, but the strategies are sound.

Assistive Technology Blog Carnival submission date closing soon.
The AT Blog Carnival is taking submissions on your favorite post that has to do with Christmas, great gift ideas, etc. The deadline is this coming Friday night the 12th. You can send them to me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com. One of the main topics for this edition will be some great posts by bloggers sharing what they want for Christmas and their lists of hot AT items for that special needs someone on your list.
All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea: Crayola Glow Station


Time for another Holiday Gift Idea - this one under $25: The Glow Station is a creative gift idea from Crayola. Children can write with glow pens and use patterned stencils to create wonderful designs. This has all the fun of the old finger painting but without the mess. Used as a station in a classroom with young children or as therapy for older students, the glow station can add a new and popular area for exploration and work on hand-eye coordination. I have been seeing this item on several teacher's wish lists this year.
You can find the Glow Station at major retailers for around $25.00. Target is selling it online for $24.99.
All the best to you!
Lon
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don Johnston Shares on Advocacy and the Obama Administration's NCLB Reauthorization

Don Johnston Speaks:
Don shares his strategies for student self-advocacy, student reaction to his book, "Building Wings" and changes he sees coming in the re-authorization of NCLB during the upcoming Obama administration.
Don talked of the "double-failure system we have in our school system where students fail in general education and so we place them in special education where they fail again. We bring in AT at the last as an intervention when it should be brought in FIRST.
Listen to our discussion on NCLB and Don's perception of positive change in the re-authorization of NCLB under Obama. He had some interesting things to say...and didn't back down on stepping on any toes!
You can access the full interview here: Don Johnston Interview 12/3/08
It is also on the player on my sidebar.
Access the online free version of "Building Wings" and download the companion teaching materials and reader's theatre script on their website HERE.
All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chidren Are Like Snowflakes - No Two Are the Same

Children are unique individuals - no two are alike.
I wrote on this topic on the FCTD Discussion thread last night. Here is what I wrote:
"When attempting to apply the "One Size Fits All" approach to learning interventions, educators shoot themselves in the foot. I had made the comment above, in the title..., on a thread tonight where a parent commented that they hoped teachers would see their low functioning child for who she really is.
In assistive technology, I gave up trying to apply AT software and equipment to students with the OSFA approach shortly after I started. It just doesn't work that way.
Here's why:
1. Every child is unique and has their own personality.
2. Every child has their own unique learning style.
3. Every child has their own unique manifestations of a disorder.
4. Every classroom environment has it's own dynamic which is unique.
5. As a child grows, eyesight changes, nuscle tone changes, equipment must adapt and strategies must adapt as well.
I am sure you could keep adding to the list.

One size fits all? Hardly.
I am amazed when I go into a highly organized life skills room and see all the accommodating unique to different needs of students. I will see a lot of tools available: computers, clipboards, magnifiers, text readers, scanners for converting materials. simple switch activated communication devices, switch adapted toys and devices, printed copies with enlarged text, headphones for listening in private, small groups working in teams on a project - all in the same room. Students are finding the tool for the task and matching it to their learning style because they are unique and they need what works for them. When they transition out of the high school, those learned accommodations will help them continue to know how to function - as long as they have the toolbox to go with them.
To me, that is one important function I have, to create life self-accommodators out of students so they can function to their highest capacity out in the environment they will transition into. My highest calling is to accommodate the individuality and see it shine through in the learning styles of each child.
Hear from A man who found his own way for self -accommodation:I will be interviewing Don Johnston on my talk radio show Wed. December 3 at 2 PM Pacific. If you want to hear him share his own story of finding his own way in self-accommodaion and how he co-wrote "Building Wings" his autobiography, check it out at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nolimits2learninglive
The interview will be archived there so you can hear it later if you miss the live stream."

All the best to you,
Lon

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Assistive Technology Gift Idea: Ergonomic Fllex Keyboards.

AT Gift Giving Guide: A Roll-up Computer Keyboard
Have you seen those silicone, rubberized, thin keyboards that you can roll up and bounce? When I saw these, I immediately thought of those students we have that are prone to temper issues, being rough with equipment or issues with saliva. All these are good reasons to check out the Duraflex Keyboard or one similar to it. It is durable, thin, lightweight and easy to clean.
The Duraflex is from ErgoKomfort and is $54.95 plus shipping (9.50).
There are other brands for as little $24.95 from Lone Star Keyboards. They have a wide range of prices and styles to check out.
For one student, who could throw a pretty good fit, we suggested that the parents put the monitor behind plexiglass and lock the tower underneath so it is like a monitor in a museum, and then give the student the roll-up keyboard to access the computer. They were wanting any ideas because they had gone through several monitors, but believed the software was helping their son.
The silicone flex keyboard is a holiday gift as low as $24.95 with shipping. By the way, I am not getting any percentages by linking you to these places via my blog. I just want you to know about them. Later this week we will look at some other ergonomic ideas.
Remember, Don Johnston will be with us tomorrow on the live broadcast from No Limits 2 Learning Live, Dec. 3 at 2 PM Pacific. He will be sharing about his book, "Building Wings" and the impact it has had on instructing, learning, and heping children.


All the best to you!

Lon


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don Johnston on Talk Show Wednesday, and, Finding a Foothold: Online Discussion Starts on FCTD

Don Johnston on his book "Building Wings", will share with us on No Limits 2 Learning Live - Blog Talk Radio, Wednesday, December 3, 2:00 PM Pacific.
ALSO...
I have started a kick-off topic for December at The Family Center on Technology and Disability. Finding a foothold, to me, means setting up a piece of data, a test, a legal mandate that applies to the situation, or any other anchor than can initiate a positive push towards FAPE for a child in the school setting. You have to have something tangible that starts off an exploration of services for a child with credibility.
I share a situation where there is a breakdown of advocacy on part of the family and communication and accountability for mandates on the part of the school in another state. We are discussing teams, advocacy, school/parent partenrships, etc.
You can read my topic and opening statement and jump into the conversation - or just read what folks share.
Come join us this month!
Go to: http://www.fctd.info/webboard/index.php

All the best to you!
Lon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


"What are some other assistive technology access methods for keyboarding other than the virtual keyboard/scanning or a Big Keys Keyboard?" I was asked yesterday. The occupational therapist asking me is a tech wiz and we have had fun collaborating on several adaptations.
"Let me show you what I mean," he said as he pulled out his iPhone. He showed me a mobile application he downloaded for his phone which is "ShapeWriter" a unique virtual touch keyboard. It utilizes the touch screen on the iPhone to type in entries. Instead of tapping with an up and down movement, you drag your finger starting at the first letter and then on over to the second and then so on. As you do this, you get a blue line that connects the keys in a sort of web you are spinning. As you drag, the letters begin to spell your words up above in the document.
The OT began to explain, "Something like this on a computer would be great for a student I am thinking of who can't do the fine motor of typing with the vertical up and down key action or tapping, but she can drag a finger around in lateral movements. I started to research and see if it was available in another format other than mobile phone, but haven't had time."
Well, thanks to that prompting, I was intrigued. Here is what I found: There is a WritePad article that tells about the ShapeWriter. It is a free download apps for mobile phones and come in several versions for different phones - yes, there is a Windows mobile version, but remember, it can only be used on the new touch screen style mobile phones made popular with the iPhone. You can see a demo of how it works here.
There was not a PC or Mac application available that I could see. I would think that this new keyboard would be a hit on tablet PC's. If we had this on a tablet with a large monitor surface area, imagine how a person might be able to write by a drag of a finger and no tapping.
If you have a student that has a touch phone and could use this form of support, check into downloading it and giving it a try. Let us all know what you think.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I will be taking the day off, but I will have an exciting piece of BIG and exciting news on a special guest coming up next week on No Limits 2 Learning Live - Can't WAIT!! Check back if you have a spare moment in the next few days and I will be sharing a special Thanksgiving post and announcing my special guest who I AM truly thankful for having the opportunity to interview.

Until then, Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving for all our U.S. readers.

All the best to you!
Lon
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Assistive Technology Gift Ideas: Talking Photo Frames


Using Recordable Picture Frames:
I have been using the Go Talk One recordable photo frames for an inexpensive AAC tool over the last 3 or 4 years. You can re-record them quickly and slip new pictures in and out. They are also pretty durable, thin and compact.
I like to use them in sets where we put 4 together and have choices or activities on them. They allow the student to handle choices and language in a manipulative way. They are great for sequencing life skills and events. The auditory cues within the recording can simulate and encourage speech. Linda Burkhart has a tutorial on how to design and use them here. Hers is an older Radio Shack frame that has a hinge and folds over. the new ones don't appear to do that anymore, but there are some good tips there.
The Go Talk Ones by Attainment Company are around $12, and the Radio Shack variety with a clear arcrylic frame are $9.99. They make a great gift or stocking stuffer to have around the house with food or activity choices, selecting a feeling, colors, numbers, etc.
Leave one out Christmas Eve for Santa to record a message!

All the best to you!

Lon

I have been receiving a few ideas via email for AT gifts. If you have one you would like to share, send it to me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Assistive Technology Holiday Gift Idea: Mp3 Player Jump Drive


The RCA Pearl 1 GB Jump DriveMp3 under $30!
My Mp3 player jump drive goes with me everywhere. I bought it after attending a day workshop on print disability tools and converting text to audio Mp3 files. I found that I preferred it over my iPod (which I love too). The iPod has to work through iTunes which is proprietary so everything has to be loaded into it and then the player has to be synced to it to add new material. I wanted to be able to add files "on the fly" and skip that extra step.
With a jump drive player, you have a built in USB so you can plug it in, open it as an external memory device from "My Computer" in Windows and then open the music folder and literally drag your files in to store or out to throw away.
I go on websites that have archives of interviews for talk and radio shows that comment on the news, etc. I download new files almost everyday, listen and then dump when done and drag on new files. There is no putting it into a player software first - very easy. There are quite a few varieties of these jump drive USB players - I just found this one to be easily available and priced very reasonable.
If you are looking for a cheap and effective tool for your family member with print disability, processing or LD issues, think about this as a way to support literacy and learning by listening as well as seeing. Following the text while listening is very supportive and is used by such companies as Read Naturally. I have used the Premiere Literacy tools to convert pdf files into mp3 audio files as well and then put them on my player.
Where Do I Get the Free Books?
Gutenberg.org is one of many sites with public domain literature to download for free. Many of the titles have an audio file option to hear the book being read. Another is Free Classic Audio Books. The service, LibriVox uses volunteers who read, record and send in files of books so you get a large library of public domain texts by real voice readers - free.
The Pearl Mp3 has a built in radio and also a voice memo feature that allows a student to record directions from a teacher or voice notes from a class and download them as Mp3 files to a computer for future reference or playback on the player.
I have been showing folks how to use a free blog with the free odiogo service to convert a blog post to Mp3 like I do here on my blog. You can cut and paste or write anything, download it and play it on an Mp3 player. You can find my tutorials and notes on how to do this on my website, nolimits2learning.com under the resources section and the training section.
There is a new Pearl Mp3 version 2 out now with 2 GB and an optional mini sandisk slot to expand memory. It is still under $30 from Amazon on a special right now. I don't have this new version but it looks like they have just expanded and improved on the old one. I can't think of a bigger bang for your buck in a piece of technology that will support learning and be fun at the same time!
All the best to you!
Lon
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Building an AT Gift Idea List for the Holiday Season

How is your budget looking with the holidays coming up? I have been watching the Today and Good Morning America variety of shows and they are already giving us tips on how to cut holiday costs and do more family activities. Christmas, Hanukkah and other seasonal celebrations might look a little different this year. I was listening to an economic forecaster a month ago as he shared opinions on the free-fall economy and the path he thinks we are really headed. He said, "This Christmas will go down as the worst Christmas since the great depression."
Coming from my own personal level, I don't believe we can have a "worst" Christmas because Christmas to me has never been about how much money I do or don't have. There are many wonderful aspects to the holiday season that go way beyond the shopping statistics that have all our merchants worrying. As I shared yesterday, there are many families that have special needs and disabled members who could use some great ideas for low cost and effective assistive technology gifts that can make the season bright and be very useful at the same time.
What do you use or what have you adapted that has really meant a lot to you or could be a potential great find for someone else as a holiday gift this year? I am calling for submissions on the AT Blog Carnival, but I realize that many of our readers don't have a blog and therefore don't have anything to submit. So here's your opportunity!
Share Your AT Gift Ideas:
How about a post or an email? Just send me an item or a link or your explanation and I will add it to my idea list - "Santa's list" for folks to check into. Maybe we can get a great list going over the next 4 weeks. As ideas come in, I will start a list on my sidebar and put it on my website main page as well.
This seems like maybe it would take an extra minute - but it would really help me with some ideas and will benefit all of us to see what folks come up with. Who knows, maybe your idea or suggestion would be the gift that makes a difference for someone this year.
Send ideas to me at: lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com or you can post a comment below. You can check my sidebar for the holiday gift idea list and see what grows there. If it is empty - maybe you need to put something there! Also, look for the AT Blog Carnival up on December 15th with Christmas ideas submitted from AT blog writers .
All the best to you!
Lon
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mayer Johnson Launches Adapted Learning Site

Mayer-Johnson, developer of innovative software products and symbols designed to help special needs students learn, announces the launch of AdaptedLearning.com (www.adaptedlearning.com). This free resource provides a place to find and share adapted curriculum created with the company’s popular Boardmakerâ Software Family products. It also provides online community functions as well as feature articles and expert tips that meet the needs of the spectrum of Boardmaker users. Developed to provide better symbol-enhanced learning tools and make it easier for special educators and parents to adapt curriculum to ensure accessibility for all students, the website provides resources and tools that allow students with special needs to learn more effectively and succeed academically.
Over 100,000 special education professionals and parents have come to rely upon the Boardmaker Software Family of products to help children challenged by significant speech, language and learning disabilities achieve academically and socially. AdaptedLearning.com stretches the reach of the products by creating an international community of Boardmaker enthusiasts.
The keystone of the free website is the searchable database of communication boards and other educational assets created using Boardmaker products and shared by therapists, teachers, and parents of students with special needs. Additional resources include:
An online community that allows educators and clinicians to connect and share ideas and information with other Boardmaker users, as well as create public and private areas for groups of colleagues and parents,
Feature articles highlighting implementation ideas and other resources, and
Training videos featuring application strategies to enhance student learning

- MORE -

and communication, and show how to create tools that make it easier for children with special needs to succeed.

Information organized by subject area in the News & Views section of the site ensures that members quickly locate the resources they are seeking. New Boardmaker users will find the Getting Started articles helpful as they experience all that the software has to offer. The Classroom Implementation area provides application ideas so that members can apply newly acquired skills and discover new ways to use previously learned skills. A resource for parents, the Home Connection provides information to help families support the child’s education and communication journeys in the home and in community settings. Find success stories and case studies that provide information and inspiration in the Results area.

“AdaptedLearning.com comes in response to the requests of the many loyal Boardmaker users who were looking for a place to share their work and access new content,” said Jim Mills, DynaVox/Mayer-Johnson’s vice president of education products. “We’re please to be able to offer them a place to share that work and their great passion for the Boardmaker Software Family of products.”
To register for this new web resource, visit www.AdaptedLearning.com.

All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

AAC Activities for Early Special Needs Learners, Part Two

"Let's go over to the Reading Corner," I said. I was taking a Big Mack to one of our Early Learning Centers to play with some special needs kids and show staff ideas with the device. We sat down with "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" and I held down the record button and sang the first page.
The students took turns pressing the switch and listening to the first line of the song as worded on the page. We continued through the book and finished the book re-recording each page as we went. (By the way, a Step-by Step, also by Ablenet can record sequences and allow for responses as well - great for conversations, jokes, books, songs, etc.)
After I had modeled requesting with markers (See yesterday's post) and had gone through a book with a song, now I was ready to engage these eager learners in more literacy by having them "read" a book to me using the device. We chose a book and I did the first two pages like we had done the song. Now, on the third page I asked one of them to record what the words said. I held down the button and switch plate while the girl shared her interpretation of the words on the page.
"Shooga, ooga, up, up, up!" she said.
We listened back. She was ready for the next page. Her words were similar and always ended with "Up, up, up!" We would listen back.
The next page showed a mother holding her child. "That is me mama," the little girl shared. "Let's record that." I encouraged. "That is me mama" she said again. She pressed the switch and heard it play back.
One of the staff who was watching got excited. The student had not used that many words before in a situation like this. She was also getting the contextual information from the illustration on the page and combining language and real life situations in an interaction with the book. Wow.
The staff decided to start using the Big Mack as a fun way to share around circle time. They have each student share their name when they look at classroom jobs in the morning and share a word for the day, etc. One boy in particular, the one I really brought the device for, is non-verbal and he wasn't there the day I brought in the device. They would like him to be able to use the device to say his name when it comes around to his turn.
As I shared yesterday, by incorporating a device like this to support communication, and using it throughout the day and in many situations, students get comfortable and familiar with the device and the principles for using it. It sets them up for self-accommodation at an early age. What a gift to give all our special needs children.

All the best to you,
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, November 17, 2008

AAC Single Message Activities for Early Special Needs Learners, Part One

When it comes to working with Early Learners in pre-school who are low or non-communicators, a Big Mack single message device is great for encouraging speech and words through simple games and activities. Whether it is at the art table, the book center, with manipulatives or circle time, try some of the activities in this series to get your students engaged and talking. The Big Mack has a bright colored 5 inch target switch plate for making choices, requests and hearing all kinds information you want to record.
Along with this, you can begin to encourage self-accommodation even among these little ones by having communication devices and switch accessible games, books and activities in places for easy access and play. By doing this, you are encouraging a UDL approach to access in the classroom. You will find that students with disbailities that need these tools will gravitate to them and use them if they have played with them, are comfortable with them and know they are available.
We received a grant from a local casino/gaming foundation to purchase assistive equipment, which included one Big Mack and one Cheap Talk 6 level communication device for all of our Early Learning Centers. I took a Big Mack to one of our Early Learning centers last week to begin to demonstrate some things that can be done with it. I spent time with several students at the art table and at the reading center, where the students were intrigued and eager to use the switch. I will be going around to all our centers to play with the students using this device and modeling ideas for staff.
Choice and requesting activity:
I set the switch out on the art table and immediately the students wanted to know what it was and how it worked. I asked them what color they liked out of the marker tub and one of the children pulled out a blue. I pressed the top and side record button and said, "Blue please." I then pressed the switch and it said, "Blue please." They grinned ear to ear.
" You try it." I handed the switch to the little girl that picked out the blue. She hit the switch and when it asked for the blue, I handed her the marker. She made the connection and grabbed another pen, pink this time.
"Pink Please" I said into the device.
"Here you go" I said as I handed her the device.
"Pink Please" she said, using the device as her voice.
I handed her the pink.
This started a whole session of picking pen colors, recording and requestng by the three children at the art table. I would use this for students to pick chalk colors at the chalkboard, plastic animals, pots and pans and food in the kitchen play area, numbers of unifix cubes, etc. The sky is the limit and students really get the idea of associating the use of the device for various activities and tasks in their day.
Tomorrow I will share on some literacy activities from the book corner and circle time ideas.

All the best to you!

Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free E-Book "Building Wings" by Don Johnston, Supports Self-Accommodation and Advocacy

I spent some time this Veteran's Day reading Don Johnston's Story, "Building Wings: How I Made it Through School." I have had an autographed copy for several years with good intentions to read it and it has sat on my shelf waiting for me to pick it up.
We had friends visit over the weekend who have a daughter that could really get a lot out of reading Don's book. She is a middle schooler that struggles with comprehension and needs others to read aloud to her. She gets terribly embrassed and wants to hide her disability. I shared some tools for accommodating print disabilities and in light of their situation, decided it was time for me to read Don's book. I am going to share it with our friends too.

The book is large print and set at a 3-5 grade reading level, so it was easy reading for me but the concepts and issues were laid out to cause anyone reading the book to stop and think. I had to look at my own practice as an educator and reflect on how I support students and their learning. Do I challenge them to reach for higher achievement or do I allow them to settle for the easiest plateau? Don's story caused me to reflect on my own learning in elementary school, first impressions of school, my desire to learn and how that changed over time. I even decided to read it to my first grade son.We sat down last night and I read the first 3 chapters to him where Don shares his kindergarten and first grade years.
My son was glued to the story and had lots of questions. He wanted me to read more but it was time for bed. We talked about his coming to me when he can't learn something and not being frustrated, but rather let the teacher and me help him find the WAY he can learn it.
Don Johnston has a Building Wing's Reader's Theatre Contest that I will share about tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out the book and read it here: http://www.donjohnston.com/offers/buildingwings_online/one/index.htmlIf you work with children and you have never read it - you owe yourself and your students a good read of this one!

All the best!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Virginia Special Education Students Receive Digital Access with Read:OutLoud

Don Johnston Read Out Loud Chosen at State Level as Reader of AIM:I received this press release yesterday and thought you might be interested in the way the State of Virginia is providing accessible instructional materials in their schools under IDEA. Read about it and post a comment telling us what you think. I think it is a step in the right direction for schools that are overwhelmed about making decisions about what text reader to use and how to get it implemented. Here, the choices have been made for them. I am sure the hope is to streamline the process and get materials in the student's hands in a more timely manner.

Press Release:
The Virginia Accessible Instructional Materials Center (AIM-VA), part of the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities (KIHd) at George Mason University, (GMU) has entered into a two-year statewide license agreement with Don Johnston Incorporated to use its Read:OutLoud® accessible text reader in support of students with special needs. The Read:OutLoud software will enable eligible students with IEPs to access new electronic textbooks and other instructional materials as required by federal law.
The AIM-VA program will ensure that students who are eligible will receive timely access to
digital textbook formats and educational materials as required by the IDEA 2004 Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act. Through the AIM-VA website, http://kihd.gmu.edu/aim,
Superintendents and Digital Rights Managers can sign up to receive the Read:OutLoud text reader and training at no cost. Students can use the text reader at school and at home to take advantage of several reading comprehension strategies and support tools.
John Eisenberg, M. Ed at the Virginia Department of Education Office of Special Education Instructional Services Severe Disabilities/Assistive Technology Specialist, said, "AIM-VA will be the Department of Education's response to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(IDEA) to ensure that students with print disabilities receive high quality accessible formats of instructional materials in a timely manner. In partnership with GMU, we are excited about improving access to accessible materials through the use of Don Johnston's Read:OutLoud text reader. Accessible instructional materials used in conjunction with assistive technology will help students with disabilities make significant progress toward improving their educational outcomes."
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than 90%
of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) read below proficient levels, yet only an estimated 1-3% has access to technologies that will help them overcome reading barriers. Read:OutLoud is known for its supportive reading guide templates designed to leverage strategies recommended by the National Reading Panel and Reading Next. In this initiative it will serve an estimated 170,000 students in more than 1,900 Virginia public schools.

Read:OutLoud will open and read all common accessible file formats, including the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), PDF, DAISY, Text Files (txt), Rich Text Format (rtf), HTML, XML, and Bookshare.org. The program includes a web browser to access the Internet with speech-enabled audio, an eHighlighter to improve study skills, the Franklin Talking Dictionary with over 32,000 word definitions to build vocabulary and a bibliographer to help students accurately cite research.
Michael Behrmann, GMU Professor of Special Education and Director of KIHd, is an advocate for assistive technologies and the visionary behind the project. His team specializes in working with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to design innovative programs in support of persons with disabilities in K-12 and higher education. He said, "AIM-VA was designed to be a 'central library model' where materials and services are provided at no cost to support the
needs of its citizens. The VDOE has put us in charge to be a one-stop solution to provide schools with accessible and appropriate reading materials in a timely fashion. We want to ensure that they can comply with this law and are relieved of the burden of coordinating the logistics to access the digital materials, convert the files, purchase the technology and then support our students who need access to become successful learners."

Watch a product demonstration to learn more about Read:OutLoud 'Whole School' License Options - http://www.donjohnston.com/readoutloud

All the best to you!

Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Access and Ability by Ron Graham: Transitions for Students With Disabilities into Higher Education

"I am a man who happens to be blind, not a blind man." Ron Graham, author of Accessability Blog is my latest guest on No Limits 2 Learning Live.
Ron was in a car accident and suffered brain injuries that caused a loss of his sight at the age of 31. He went on to earn his associates, bachelors and masters degrees after the incident. He is an active advocate and resource for accessibility for all, and his positive attitude shines through.
Ron has a unique story that includes his belief that you must be a self-advocate. "If you can't speak up and believe in yourself, who else will?" Ron says. His experience as a director of disability student services at the college level combined with his own disability establish him as a unique expert in transition and higher education for folks with disabilities.
Our discussion led us to the topic of accessibility issues within the college campus and access to textbooks, etc. Ron shared that pre-planning is a huge piece in the process of being successful in college. You need to know what tools you need, how to ask for them and be organized with the strategy to learn.
Listen to the interview: Access and Accessibility Ron Graham's Wayhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/nolimits2learninglive/2008/11/05/Access-and-Ability-Accessibility-Ron-Grahams-Way
You can also access it on the Blog Talk Radio player to the right on my No Limits to Learning blog sidebar.

All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Merging AT and General Ed: FCTD Showcases No Limits to Learning

When Worlds Merge: AT and Instructional Technology in the General Ed Classroom
I was honored last month to be asked by The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) to be interviewed and showcased for the November Issue. I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with the writer from New York. We had a semi-formal interview until it came out that I had been the recipient of a torn right vetebral artery and continue to spend time with an "invisible disability". Come to find out, the writer has had his own processing and learning disability his entire life. Once we established that common ground, we had all sorts of things to talk about.
The editor sent me the rough draft to edit and return. I made a few corrections, but I am amazed at how smart they made me sound! Really, I guess we all just do what we do and don't really think anyone would want to dedicate an entire issue of a newsletter just on what makes up our profession, beliefs, committments and discipline - but that is what they did and there are some good nuggets in there if I may say so myself.
They have an awesome staff, writer, and editor - thanks to them, you will find the information presented with some interesting ideas to chew on. They have included some nice links from my blog posts and interviews as well as mentioning the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival and the Blog Talk Radio -No Limits 2 Learning Live talk show, (Which by the way will have my good friend Ron Graham on today at 10 a.m. Pacific, who is blind and is a blogger (Access Ability) and advocate for UDL and equal access as well as a former director for student accessibility in higher ed. - now retired and donating time to work in public school work with children and vision impairments. His story is AMAZING. Check it out!)

I am very proud and honored to be one of the professionals that FCTD has chosen to include in their resources. You can read the issue at: http://www.fctd.info/resources/newsletters/displayNewsletter.php?newsletterID=10064

FCTD has also asked me to co-moderate a discussion thread on their newly re-vamped site next month (December 2008) on advocacy and school partnerships. I will be sharing the moderation with an expert parent advocate so I am excited about that. I will let you know details when I get the specifics. I hope you will join us.

No Limits 2 Learning .com
I also have my companion website up and going now. There are some interviews, archives, activities and pdf's for download there from my trainings as well as a section I am building on links to free resources. I am constantly adding and building there so check in often: http://www.nolimits2learning.com/
I refer in my FCTD interview to an Action Steps for Advocacy Report that will be available. It is done, but I want to give you a subscription to a newsletter where I will periodically share news like the above with you and share free resources, reminders and links to upcoming interviews, etc. So I am working on a page to have you sign up to get the free report as a download AND the newsletter. I am trying to get that link done and ready on both this blog and the website. I will try and get it done ASAP. Also, your email address will stay exclusively with No Limits 2 Learning and will NEVER be sold or given away to others.

I guess that's all the news for now - there are all kinds of interesting folks we are planning to interview in the near future and projects getting launched. I hope they are of value and interest to you - they sure are fun and enriching for me. I am honored to be able to do this. Thanks so much for your support in reading and listening.

All the best to you!

Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Eye Max Field Tested in Our Region Last Week


I had the opportunity to put the Eye Max by Dynavox to work in a field test last week. Our field consultant from Portland drove one out to set up with a VMax for Halloween Day. We callibrated it with a high school boy who has trialed many access methods with his laptop over the past two years. We had loaded Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro on his laptop and tried using his head array to access communication boards. I even set up Mp3 files of his songs to play on an Mp3 player board (that would make a fun tutorial here sometime) and we hoped for some extra motivation factor with that one.
We moved to a reflective dot on a cap with a head tracker and stabilized his head with neck support. We worked with a sip and puff but he couldn't get his mouth to curve and grip the straw without air leaking out...so, enter the EyeMax.
The Dynavox rep/field consultant placed the unit on a stand. The EyeMax snaps into the battery compartment of the VMax from the back and has a lens and 2 lights that stay on when it "sees" both your eyes - or one or the either corresponding to each individual eye. Once callibrated, the lens sees you and locks in on your head movement and by dwelling on a button, you can click and open it. When your gaze moves across the board, a blue frame show up on a button. If you dwell there, the frame gets thicker and begins to move inward to fill the button until it clicks to open the linked board or say the message, etc.
Our student had a rough time callibrating because of several things. One was that he has used a head array for years and he has a habit of moving his head instead of just his eyes. Getting him to keep a soft body and just work with his eyes will take him some practice.
Another issue is that he has some problems with holding his head still and we have him braced up every way we can think of short of a halo. Our PT and OT have done a great job of collaborating in a team setting wiith the SLP, myself and the case manager and mom to get this far.
He was able to callibrate it enough to get access started. He played a concentration game, opening and matching squares. He also used a simple yes and no button with large target size.
We have scheduled a loan in January to do a more extensive trial. The devices are being bought as soon as they are ready and the company can't keep them coming fast enough according to the rep. Needless to say, the wait list is long for the loans as well, so if you are interested, check with your regional Dynavox consultant to get a reservation set up.
We are going to be practicing the eye gaze technique in the meantime. I am encouraged by what I have seen.
I would encourage you to check it out if you have a student that has been unable to access a device through any other means. I don't have a price at this point. I know the team was talking about it and I just was busy working with the student and the device. You can find out by calling your Dynavox rep as well.


All the best to you!

Lon


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Assistive Technology Blog Carnival "Mad Scientist" Edition is Up!

Happy Halloween!
I am proud to present the October Mad Scientist Edition of The Assistive Technology Blog Carnival. We have quite a few posts this month from some great bloggers.
Check out ideas on talking book PowerPoints, useful Mac tips and ideas, creating switch adapted toys, A mad scientist party, Using Multiple Communication boards, and more.
There are some mad scientist projects like a tech'ed out pumpkin, a look at Tesla on video, Superman fights a mad scientist and a Mad Scientist site with online how to science experiments. There is even a link to a Mad Scientist video game you can download (a pretty substantial demo) for free.
I hope you enjoy!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DAISY Consortium Leadership Share the Vision: Interview on Information Accessibility


Secretary General of DAISY Consortium will be my guest this afternoon at 2 PM Pacific on No Limits 2 Learning Live on Blog Talk Radio.
Ever since I worked on several pieces concerning the process of converting text to the DAISY format using MS Word last spring, I have had some wonderful discourse with folks from the DAISY consortium. They proved their ability to be on top of the online discussion concerning their tools and public opinion when they left comments clarifying some technical issues I had with converting text.
I commended them for their involvement at this level and the team expressed their thanks for the positive input. You see, we forget that there are folks hard at work dedicating days and weeks and months of time to build software to make our lives easier. Many times their efforts go unnoticed and only the negative responses are all that get heard.
I want to share that the DAISY Consortium team has gone above and beyond in their supporting their tools and technology. In light of this, I am very honored to be able to present an interview with George Kerscher Ph.D. and Secretary General of DAISY Consortium and Lynn Leith, the editor of the DAISY Planet online newsletter and Head of Information Services. Lynn has a long background in Canada with the CNIB Library for the blind in audio master production. She has been great to correspond with me and work on setting up this interview.
We will be discussing the NIMAS standards, an update for the MS Word plug -in, strategies for using DAISY files for learning supports, as well as future goals and projects. We will also be talking about the WBU treaty proposal for WIPO -World Intellectual PropertyOrganization taking place on Nov 3 and their thoughts on its implications.
I hope you will join us today, Tuesday, October 29th at 2 PM Pacific time at No Limits 2 Learning Live for the interview.
As always, the archive will be up after the live stream for folks to access from the player on my sidebar at the No Limits to Learning blog or from the talk show archive at the link above. I am also starting to put all the archives on my No Limits 2 Learning.com site under the archives link along with many other resources.
Remember also that the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival "Mad Scientist" Edition will be up on Halloween day and there will be some fun surprises.

All the best to you!
Lon
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yikes! A switch Adapted Toy for Halloween


A vintage battery operated Frankenstein brings memories of the fun we had as kids with Halloween toys. Why not create a fun switch operated toy using a battery interrupter to bring some Halloween fun to the orthopedically impaired?


Whether it is a screaming doorknocker, a Frankenstein dancing to the monster mash, a rat with glowing eyes or an animated witch, using a battery interrupter can transform a simple toy into a fun treat with a seasonal flair.
There are two ways you can do the battery interrupting. One way is to get a thin piece of copper metal and using snips or scissors, cut it in a circle or square about the size of a dime.
Using speaker wire, solder one of each of the two wires to either side of the copper plate. The other end needs to have the wires soldered to a 3.5 mini jack plug that you can buy at Radio Shack or at a computer electronics shop.
The following tutorial will give you some pictures and directions that are more specific:
Making A Switch Adapted Toy by Dave Grass


Here is another way for the more technically challenged:
Save some time and buy a pre-made battery interruptor from Enabling Devices for $9.95. They also have a nice free tutorial pdf on how to install and use their battery interruptors.
I have used a notching file tool that allows me to notch a hole in the side of the battery door so that the cord can fit through. These can be bought through infogrip for $9.
I have found that the straight-forward toy, as far as having a single action and single switch, is a lot easier to adapt. I bought one toy that had 3 settings and by using the interrupter, I only got one feature and it wasn't that exciting. To get to the main brain of the toy, I had to undo a lot of screws only to find a plastic casing I would have had to break. I would suggest looking for the simplest featured toys you can find for this kind of project.
Here are some pictures and links to some fun Halloween toys that might work I found on a quick search:
A Screaming door knocker.
A dancing witch



Switch adapted toys can make all the difference for kids with orthopedic impairments or low functioning students working on cause and effect. Just make sure that you know what stimulates or scares your students so you are not setting them up for a real scare that you didn't intend on having happen! If you have children that have fun with the ghosts and goblins at Halloween, these adapted toys could be a real treat!


All the best to you!
Lon


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Have a Mad Scientist Halloween Classroom Party Using AT

It is officially Halloween Week! I have several posts to share with a Halloween theme this week as well as the release of our AT Blog Carnival Mad Scientist Edition coming out this Friday and a new No Limits 2 Learning Live Blog Talk Radio interview.The mad scientist in me is having too much fun.I hosted a weekend party up on our mountain this past weekend and the dinner Saturday night was a Thai meal. I dressed up in my asylum shirt, fake tattoo arms and hockey mask to serve the dinner.

Late Saturday night, I went to work on this month's Assistive Technology Blog Carnival and found an email submission from Alicia Odom, author of smdteacher blog. She had so many good ideas, I couldn't wait until Halloween day to post her link on the AT Blog Carnival, so I am linking it below so you can get some ideas from it. Maybe you can use something for your classroom party this week.
Mad Scientist Halloween Party
I love her games. integration of AT devices and supports. Thanks Alicia!

Make sure to check out the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival Mad Scientist Edition on Halloween Day. We have more from Alicia and others on creative uses for AT. There will also be some video clips on mad scientists, links to student activities in science and some other surprises. It's not too late for YOU to submit something either!
Submit to lonthornburg@nolimits2learning.com

Tomorrow I will be sharing how to adapt some fun Halloween battery-operated toys for the orthopedically impaired and some cause and effect fun. My guests for my talk show are starting to line up again after a brief hiatus to get my fall school schedule up and running. I made lots of contacts at Closing the Gap for interviews. DAISY Consortium is working with me on an interview possibly this Wednesday for No Limits 2 Learning Live - I will know soon and you can check back on Wednesday morning to see if it is happening in the afternoon that day or not.
More details to follow...Happy Halloween Everyone!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Starting Bell on Wall Street: Carnage as Dow Falls, But Life Goes On in Special Education

I have been feeling life move in slow motion lately as I have watched our world financial crisis. This morning at 5 a.m. as I was readying myself to write a post for the day, I put CNBC in the background and watched as the reports came in from the opening of the European markets earlier today. A plunge in stocks had an impact on U.S. futures showing a drop of over 500 points before we are even open. The implication is that we will see an 1,100 point plunge at the opening this morning. Russia has closed their market for the day and will not open until next week.
NYSE said they were committed to open on time at 9:30 Eastern time. At this point CNBC have their cameras on the NYSE floor and the host said they will be there for the starting bell and they will be recording "the carnage". The opening is starting any time here as I write.
I just have to share this today because my first thought isn't about where my retirement is going (although that thought is there!) but more the thought of what the implications will be for schools and special education services. Will schools opt to cut therapist jobs and make do with their own staff to meet needs? Will services to these students suffer because of the process of cutting corners?
What are your thoughts on where we are headed? I asked our superintendent almost 3 weeks ago if he thought it was too early to forecast where we were headed. He shared that we are OK through this biennium, but the next one will be hard. He is looking at all kinds of options to cut costs that involve new fuel efficient vehicles, teleservice and video conference service delivery options where possible. (The NYSE is open and has fallen 322 points in the first 3 minutes. Now as I write it has dropped 390. Now 425 points while I write this.) He also shared that education has weathered the storm better than many other professions in recession. During the Great Depression schools still opened and teachers taught.
I welcome your thoughts on this. I would like to know what others are sensing as to the implications for student services. Whatever is happening in the financial world, I am still getting up in the morning and meeting with teachers, specialists, students and pressing on with state initiatives for opening up access and availability of accessible instructional materials.
Life goes on...

All the best to you!
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!