Tag Archives: technology

the problem with scare campaigns…

As the month of AAC Awareness (augmentative and alternative communication) draws to a close I was struck by the amount of times the QUIT Victoria ad from 2007 “Voice Within” has been running on TV.

Here’s the link:  http://www.quit.org.au/media/?id=28073

It frustrates me that we are constantly bombarded by the insidious messaging prominent in this ad, that, if you can’t speak you can’t communicate – something AAC acceptance is constantly up against.

And… not withstanding, that once again “walking” is put out as the great ‘hope’ not “communication” (ugh).

I accept this ad is important in the context of “quitting smoking” but concede it is quite damaging to the ongoing awareness and acceptance of AAC – it’s pretty offensive.

This maybe have been something addressed (by AAC users and professionals) when it first aired back in 2007 but the reappearance of it during my TV watching was just a little jarring – particularly so when Mac is often watching when these ads come on.

I discuss with him why people choose to use that type of fear based portrayal and why it is so wrong.  We lump those people, the “fear mongers” into the same basket as the “pity peddlers” and the “disability charity merchants”… there is no place for them in our world.

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liver la vida

It’s hard to know how much involvement to have in assignments when your child has no chance of doing it on their own.

A lot of the assignments to date have been more about me teaching Mac the concept of choosing topics, researching and then deciding what to include – I guess this is probably much the same for everyone.

That being said… I wasn’t overly thrilled when he brought home the requirements for his assignment on “organs”.  He had been assigned “the liver” and was to present to the class as if he was ‘the teacher’.

Ugh, the liver, I thought.  How are we going to find age appropriate stuff and avoid the obvious drug, sexually transmitted disease and alcohol damage issues that seem to feature ‘way more prominently’ on the internet than any other.

With some focussed searching we did OK.   We watched some cool videos, found some good websites.  Mac had to decide what he wanted to include in his assignment.  I showed him how to change up the information so it sounded like something he might say.

We decided to go with a Powerpoint presentation so he could progress it with his switches while ‘taking the class’.

We created his own avatar using the WeeMee Avatar Creator app (we like it because it has a wheelchair accessory).

We popped his Avatar into his CrazyTalk 2D animation software so it could speak with his dialogue.

We decided to use the Acapela-Box to download the voice.  We had to pay for some credits to use this despite having his Dynavox.  Thing is the Dynavox doesn’t really ‘hold its own’ for long tracts of speech.  It gets crackly and breaks up a bit too much for our liking.  With Acapela Box we can use the same voice he uses on his Dynavox but with greater clarity and no chance of it failing mid-sentence.

I poked around on the internet and found some pictures, bought some stock images to include and created some of my own elements.  I discussed with Mac what his images might look like, what we could include and importantly made him choose the ‘liver’ image he liked the best.  From memory… I think he over-ruled my first choice for making “liver dude”

Here’s the video version of his Powerpoint presentation
(you’ll need your sound turned on & be sure to read on after you’ve watched it).

THE LIVER by Mac Burns

Did you learn anything new?

Oh, and for those super-observant folk…
Disclaimer: no M&Ms were harmed in the making of this assignment… but, that’s not to say a few weren’t hacked 😉  


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum

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

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

the laptop lad

We are starting to push for more computer activities in the classroom.  It has been a staged introduction of technology from my end.  I know, for those who ‘don’t eat it up’, technology is quite overwhelming.   By approaching it in a gradual fashion I am hoping more sticks, more is used and understood.

I am just starting to get Mac’s laptop organised for school.

  • 66 Microsoft Updates were uploaded yesterday (oops)
  • Service Pack 2 installed (another oops)
  • iTunes loaded (needed SP2) and Hooked on Phonics podcasts downloaded
  • SwitchSkills 1 loaded in preparation for some switching activity
  • ChooseItMaker2 ordered and awaiting delivery

The computer we are using for Mac is a Fujitsu Lifebook P series tablet computer.  It has an 8.9″ display which is a touchscreen (finger or stylus) and can be connected to bigger screens (and Smartboards) if we want.  It weighs less than 1kg and currently runs XP Tablet Edition software.

my laptopMac has a mouse (tiger-mouse?) which has been switch adapted by his Pa.  We bought it off  Ebay (Hong Kong) for less than $10 including postage.

TigerMouse   HeadSwitch

We also have a Jelly Bean Switch to use as a head switch.  Our adapter comes off a $14 clip on desk lamp which we pulled the electrics off, added a small piece of 3ply wood with velcro and attach switches to that.   Significantly less than the $700 special needs mounting device suggested to us.


 Down the track I would consider getting one of the headswitches like this…  but at almost $300 it can sit on our wish list until it becomes ‘essential’. 

The next step is to decide what software I need to use to design a “web style” dashboard (but local on his computer) for all his schoolwork/programs etc to be accessed.  I think Adobe’s Dreamweaver might be the right option – but any suggestions are most welcome.  Basically I want something that is easy for anyone to find what they are looking for from a digital native 5yo to a technologically challenged adult.


Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad

what he said!



Thanks to the ‘smart people’ at www.inclusive.com for saying it so well.  

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Filed under Technology - things that help