Category Archives: Technology – things that help

puzzing intrigue

This kid does impress me at times.image showing the number pattern in blue squares being 44,88, 264, 1056, 5280and a red graphic representation of Mac's number grid (numbers 1-9, 0, 00) he uses for row/column scanning with two foot switches

OK, I know i’m somewhat biased and, as his mum, it’s my job to be impressed by him… soooo, at the risk of seeming a little ‘braggy’ i’m going to share a snippet from Mac’s recent school work.

Math(s) is still Mac’s favourite subject, it comes easily to him, he enjoys success with it and it’s easier for output than most literacy/writing based activities… so, what’s not to love?

In class Mac and his and his peers (now in 6th grade) were working on number patterns. Mac was working well and was given the first addition number pattern to complete as a warm up.

8, 16, 32, 64, 128

Mac typed “doubling” as his response to the teacher’s aide, ‘M’, to explain the pattern.

He was then required to provide ‘M’ with a subtracting pattern for her to try and work out, and so he typed:

100, 75, 50, 25

She easily identified it was subtracting by 25 each time.

But it none of this was really challenging Mac so ‘M’ upped the anti and asked him to create a really hard number pattern for her to do.

This is what he typed:

44, 88, 264, 1056, 5280

To quote Ron Burgundy, “well that escalated quickly”.

Seems he followed his brief… it is a tricky pattern.  Mac’s aide, ‘M’, worked on it for quite a while but he had her pretty stumped. None of the other kids in class could get it out – Mac assured them it was a proper pattern, that the numbers were correct.

Mac’s teacher, Mrs M worked it out… eventually… and in the end Mac gave the rest of the class the solution.

But it’s these little snippets and insights that intrigue us about this child.  Mac doesn’t use a calculator, it would be too tedious on this communication device.  When asked about his ‘methods’ for many things he says he “just knows it” and can’t explain his working.  Also, on his device he can only type left to right, unlike many instances in calculations where the rest of use might work right to left. So there’s plenty of times we adults are not quite sure what to do next, while Mac just keeps on doing his things his way, and yes, impressing and intriguing us as he goes.

Oh, and the answer?

Well, really I need to give those who love a good maths puzzle the chance to do it themselves.

But be sure to put your solution in the comments, I’ll pop Mac’s explanation he used for the class in the comments too, but don’t peek. 😉

Oh, and just so we don’t get too carried away as ‘braggy parents’, I do love the comment in his school workbook immediately following this entry which said… “Mac then dozed off in his wheelchair for a brief nap after all his work on number patterns”, seems it’s exhausting this math(s).

Way to go on the snoozing at school Macco!


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

why bother, indeed…

“Why would you even bother” her statement was more matter of fact than argument “he’s gonna get places quicker and have more fun if we’re pushing him in his chair”.

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be, like, easy, it’d be hard and you’d still need help” came another observation from one of the boys.

You see the question had been posed from a classmate:
“Will Mac ever be able to walk?”

Mac’s first response (with his switches) to that question was a swift “no”, and on further enquiry as to whether this “bothered him” another clear “no” response.

More comments, more discussion … the consensus was that, ultimately, “walking really isn’t all that important” the important thing was getting where you want with who you want (aka mobility).

If only more people would listen to the wisdom of 10 and 11 year olds.  How great for Mac to be involved in a discussion that ultimately determines that his way of existing is not only OK, it is totally authentic and not considered ‘less’.

Sure, there was some talk about Mac getting to drive his own wheelchair, what might be needed, how they can help that happen, what needs to be invented to make it better (of course robotics came up 😉 ) … but all that is about Mac being empowered, it’s not ‘dissing’ his current mode of mobility.

It is so refreshing to see these kids really think through what it is they are talking about, really think.

So much of our society can be quite superficial about these things, like walking is some amazingly necessary skill, or a prerequisite for a worthwhile life.

Mainstream media and social media got all excited about the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup having a paralysed man use an exoskeleton to walk and kick a ball – it was all a bit weird and ‘icky’ – I am glad Mac and his mates say “why bother?”

Sure, there may be some people out there who are unable to walk and really want to, I respect that.  I just don’t think we need to perpetuate a damaging message that walking is some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ for all people who use wheelchairs.

I don’t hate the technological advances that come of these ventures – who knows what may come of them?  We may finally end up building better wheelchairs where steps, gutters and raised thresholds soon become no obstacle.  Chairs might be able to become more compact, more comfortable and well, while you’re at it … could we perhaps make them ‘hover’?

In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to the wisdom of kids.

As I was digging around for a suitable image to use in this post, I came across Red Nicholson’s post over at Attitude Live.

Red nails it – have a read.


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

switch access for iDevices… from those in the know!

INKY ED OUTSOURCED? well, just for today…

  1. Because I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on the “APPlicator” yet (but plan to).
  2. Because Jane’s Blog is one you should be visiting regularly in any case.
  3. Because Jane has provided a great review  of the Pretorian APPlicator.
  4. And, because Jane & Alex have compiled THE comprehensive list of switch accessible apps.

Here’s two links you shouldn’t miss.



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Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help

timing is everything…

Are we there yet?  How much longer?
When can we go?  How much more?  

Sound familiar…  ?

Time Timer (visual timer for visual people!) from Time Timer on Vimeo.

Another parent shared the Time Timer® with me the other day.  Her daughter is using them at home and school to help her with time management, understanding time concepts and planning.

They are fantastic items and thankfully, just as good ‘in the flesh’ as they appear on the site.

There are watches, 3x timers with prices starting from about $35, software for $24 and  via iTunes you can buy iPhone and iPad apps (AUD$1.99 and AUD$7.49).


For Australian families the best deal you can get is from Bilby Publishing and Consulting.  A business I have just found out about even though it’s ‘just down the road’ (hmm, well four hours drive) – they have some other interesting items so will probably be ‘poking around on their site a bit more’.  Bilby are the official Australian distributors for Time Timer® (which is why they can offer such low prices) and schools can order on account.

I will be using the Time Timer® to see if we can help Mac with motivation to get work done in a set time.  I think the visual for him will be really useful and perhaps, at other times help him feel like there is an ‘end point’ to an exercise and that he won’t be working on something for the ‘rest of his life’.

It may even help him understand that “our” 10 minutes isn’t actually the equivalent of “everyone else’s”one hour.  Unfortunately I have to take full responsibility for that one.  I hate to think how many times I have told him we would do something in 10 mins and actually get to it so much later (even hours later) – poor kid never stood a chance in understanding time management.

And, yes, I have already downloaded the iPhone app and plan to use it ‘keep me honest’ at home.

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Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help

classroom friendly wireless keyboard/mouse


The Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard has a built in trackball mouse.   It comes with a USB dongle and works wirelessly from a distance of up to ten meters, it is compatible with Windows 7, XP and Vista (does anyone still use Vista?)

Mac’s aide this year is a Gen “Y”er and awesome when it comes to thumb typing.  This little keyboard/mouse is fantastic for maneuvering around the screen without having to be in touching distance of the computer or communication device.  We primarily use this with Mac’s Dynavox V (open device) and do have lots of macros set up in toolbars so much of the everyday stuff is just a click of an icon..

These little keyboards would also work really well for group time when you have the entire class sitting around the whiteboard.  Just because most kids can clamber up and use the interactive whiteboard doesn’t always mean the need to.

I am sure you can waste a lot of time waiting for kids to stand up, step over other kids, do their stuff and sit back down again.  Some days it might be easier and novel to hand the wireless keyboard around the group.  It’s a new level of dexterity required, it’s less disruptive on those days where you just need to keep things calm and it’s great for kids in class who may not have the physical ability to get up and access the whiteboard – or might just find standing up in front of everyone a bit too much pressure.

We got ours off eBay and so far it has got a five star rating from both Mac’s aide and myself.

(We did try a bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo but found it wasn’t reliable enough with its pairing on the Dynavox.  Not sure if that was a Dynavox issue or that Keyboard’s issue.)


March 12, 2012 · 1:18 pm

kobo, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

I have been going back and forth on what eReader and/or software to consider for Mac or whether to bother.

Since we have been experimenting with the magnifying screen reader at school it appears that Mac may actually be reading more than we thought.  And, considering we are always going to be lugging around technology, it seems silly to carry books around too.  Mac will never be able to hold a book and, despite decades of people trying, it seems no one has ever perfected a portable, affordable, mechanical book holder and page turner.

I stumbled upon Kobo which I guess started as an alternative to Kindle.  Like most things we aren’t anyone’s “target market” – I have learnt to accept Mac’s needs/requirements are far more “bespoke”… but I have to admit to being really happy with what Kobo is offering us so far.


Image courtesy of:


We HAVE NOT worried about buying an eReader.  We use the school iPad, our Mac mini (plugged into the large loungeroom TV) and Mac’s Dynavox vMax as his locations to store his “library”.

So how do I love thee?

I love that Mac can auditory scan into the Kobo Desktop App from his Dynavox and then his two switches are allocated to automatically take over the task of turning the pages forward and back.  In time, who knows, he may be responsible for reading his own ‘full book’.

I love that I can also sync his personal Kobo library to his iPad at school which will allow his peers to choose from his bookshelf, not just the class books, if they want to read to him.

I love that it puts a bookmark on the page you are up to and then syncs this with your other locations when you open them.

I love that it has a dictionary option so if you press/click on a word while reading you can look it up in the dictionary right there on the screen.  We’ve only used this feature on the iPad – not sure if it is available on desktop versions.

I love that you can add notes in the same way which will be particularly useful in years to come I imagine.

I love that you can change the screen colour and font size to suit the user.

I love that the graphics look like real bookshelves – attractive, colourful, fun and motivating.  I love too that you can build your own shelf groupings for better management of your books.

This is Mac’s bookshelf so far…

So… any negatives?

Sure – nothing is perfect.

I would love to be able to buy a number of books at once – this may happen as they keep improving their site, currently there is no ‘shopping cart’ option but they do now have Paypal.

I don’t believe you can access the bookstore via your iDevices and the Kobo app – I thought you used to be able to so this may be a recent change (I’m thinking someone may have upset the “Apple” cart).

I would love to be able to have some sort of screen reader access for those with a vision impairment like Mac.  I haven’t tested this fully yet, but don’t believe it can happen – for now we use Audible for our audio books and Kobo for our eBooks.  Audio books are far nicer to listen to than a screen reader but every now and then a screen reader might be useful if Mac got too fatigued to read and it would be good practice to get used to screen reader technology and voices.

I would love to have the Kobo desktop version (PC & Mac) bookshelf switch accessible so Mac could scan through his bookshelf, select a book and then read and turn pages with the same switches he currently uses for auditory scanning on the Dynavox.  Of course, it would be great to have the iDevices switch accessible with R J Coopers switch plug – this would require a little bit of ‘app updating’ from Kobo, but hey, you never know…

But for now, we are pretty happy with our Kobo experience.

What eBook and eReader sites are you using?

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Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, things that make me go "glll"

more MyReader…

The myReader2 is getting a decent workout by Mac’s aide Ms M.

She has declared her “love” for it after just two days…

Things she likes doing:

  • scanning a few pages of the reader for Mac and his reading group so he can read along or everyone can see it on the screen;
  • set the text from the book onto a suitably timed scrolling speed;
  • putting Mac’s spelling words on the screen and having him copy them down using morse code NOT telling him what the word is (I think he only typed 4 words less than his peers wrote);
  • scanning the ‘editing’ paragraph and have Mac tell her what letters/items need to be changed;
  • using it in ‘live view’ and putting real items (counters/toys/dice) on the base and using them to ask questions on arrays etc;
  • scanning the maths worksheets and seeing just what he can answer with very limited, or at times, no instruction.
Sample of Mac’s work using the myREADER 

Of course I am always going to have reservations about an expensive bit of equipment that is big, bulky and only available to use during school hours.

I would hate for it to just sit there not being used effectively.  So… if it is decided the benefits outweigh the few reservations I might have then I might try and ‘cut a deal’ for a brainstorming session on how many ideas we can come up with to use it as an inclusive tool for the entire class.  That way we could make up a cheat sheet with ideas on it that could be attached to it and I would feel so much better… it really is the little things.

Have you got any ideas for activities or how it should be positioned/located in the classroom?

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Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help