Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fusion Keyboard Enhances Writing with Text to Speech

I spent the day yesterday at our state AT Advisory Board meeting in Salem. I always enjoy listening to what other AT coordinators are using and what they are excited about. One of the pieces of equipment I heard several leaders mention was the Fusion Keyboard by Advanced Keyboard technologies.
I have been using an Alphasmart Neo coupled with Write Outloud To Go from Don Johnston. I bought a small set of speakers that plug in the headphone port and the students have been using it to type to talk. Although I like it, I have had trouble with the WOL To Go disappearing when the battery dies. I have to re-sync it every time. I also have trouble with the speakers not being attached. I like what I read and hear concerning the Fusion Keyboard.

Here's what the company says about it:
"In response to the specific requests from AT, OT and Special needs teachers from around the country, AKT developed the Fusion portable keyboard. Fusion offers the programs and features that Special Needs professionals have been asking for - for years: Text to Speech, excellent word prediction programming, a large LCD display with adjustable font size all on an easy to use, low-cost platform."

You can order a demo device for trial through the website. I like that it has a built-in speaker so carting around an external speaker (like I have been doing) isn't necessary. The cost is $369, but I have heard you can get them for less depending on where you order it.
I have ordered a demo device to look at. I will let you know what I think when I play with it awhile. The company has a cart that holds a lab set, and a charger. This might be a great support alternative so that the whole class has a choice to use this tool, not just one or two that need special support. We all know how kids hate to stand out - plus, we are offering that UDL principal of tools for everyone. Wouldn't this be a great tool to support accessibility to writing and editing for many of our students that don't qualify under traditional eligibilities, yet need the extra support?

All the best to you!


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!

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