Accessibility Problems

I promise to do better in the future.

I just completed twenty-seven SiteImprove accessibility modules and learning paths. The topics ranged from accessible remote classrooms to accessible websites and accessible documents. All of this made me realize that my website and documents are not at all accessible. Unfortunately, I am too busy with remote teaching to make any of the necessary repairs right now.

I pledge that all new content will be more accessible than my old content. I am starting right now by making sure that this post has a heading 1. I have no idea when I will have the time to fix the mistakes that I made in the past, but at least I can do better beginning with today.

I sincerely apologize to everyone who depends on or prefers accessible content. In fact, accessible websites and documents are better for everyone! I am still learning, but I can and will do better in future posts and other additions to this website.

Kayakers and Shark in Alice 2

Alice 2 Project Notes
Jeanne Stork
for Blue Marble University’s course:
Virtual Worlds Two

Development Process:
For the most part, these notes were written as I worked on the virtual world project. I want the reader to see my process and the resources that I used in the order that I used them. I did very little cleaning up of this document to enable me to present a more authentic presentation of my process. I decided to include the entire URL for each of my links. These URLs serve as a quick list of my references.

Alice 2, by Carnegie Mellon University, was downloaded from https://www.alice.org/get-alice/alice-2/.

This project began with the “Shark Attack!” tutorial then gradually expanded. Occasionally, a few of my students participated in helping to create this world, but it was too complicated for most of them, especially given the brief amount of time that I had to instruct them in what needed to be done. I had to do most of the problem solving, research, and reading myself, but I think that two classes could have participated more fully if I had the time to break down each step into a separate lesson and could spend a semester teaching the students how to create a project in Alice 2.

My computer lab is an English Language Arts lab and the same students who would benefit from an Alice 2 unit also benefit from their reading program, Imagine Learning. Imagine Learning is only instructional if students use it on a regular basis, so I do not interrupt their routine very often.

My notes and reference materials are listed below. I decided against organizing the information into a formal paper because readers me be helped by seeing the order that I found materials and reading my side notes as I wrote them. I also decided not to include a copy of my html export because the purpose of Alice is to learn the logic and basic procedures behind basic programming. I do not want anyone to copy my printout and claim this world as their own, but I would be honored if my work helped someone and was included in his or her references. Likewise, I have included all of my sources below and mixed in my personal notes where appropriate.

 Alice Tutorials: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials.php#essentials
“Name: Shark Attack! (2013)
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 min.
Date: July 2013 (Updated June 2015)
Corresponding Tutorials: Shark Attack!, An Introduction to Alice, and/or Getting Started with Alice
Description: An incomplete “Carnival” world challenges students to write in or fix code to make the world work using concepts learned in the introduction tutorials. There are also five short multiple choice assessments.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

Quad View: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice08/MotionOrientation/movement.pdf I quickly noticed that none of my shells and seaweed were rooted in place. They flew off into the air and escaped the island when I moved the kayak. I was unable to find a tutorial for attaching items to the land, but this tutorial included information on Alice 2’s quad view, which helped me very much.

Sunset:
I thought that the background was boring, so I added a sunset. Then, everything was too dark, so I lightened the scene. Lightening the scene turned the kayak red, and I decided that I liked the contrast of a red boat on a blue sea. I also like that the sky is a little grayer during the opening sequence when the camera is focused on the shark than when the camera is focused on the island.

True/False Decisions:
“Name: How Tall Are You? Introducing Decisions and the use of Functions
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Date: July 2008 (Updated June 2014)
Prerequisites: one-hour beginner tutorial, or 4 part beginner tutorial
Description: This tutorial shows you how to make a decision by asking a question whose answer is true or false. If the answer is true, you can do one action, if the answer is false, you can do another action. You will make a decision with an IF/ELSE statement and using functions height and distance. You will help the guy and the penguin figure out who is the tallest. The tallest will then indicate they are the tallest.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/introFunctionsTutorial/introFunctionsTutorialHandout.pdf

Avoiding Collisions:
“Name:
 Checking for Collisions (2 objects)
Level: Intermediate
Time: 30 Minutes
Date: July 2008
Prerequisites: 4-Part Introduction Tutorial, Introduction to Functions
Description: This tutorial explains how to create and use a function that tests for the collision between two objects in Alice. Concepts used include functions.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/checkCollisionsTutorial/checkCollisionsHandout.pdf

Another Collision Method:
https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/simpleCollisionDetection/simpleCollisionDetection.pdf
These directions use lists and While the World Is Running instead of multiple collision functions (island, shark, and lighthouse) and an infinity loop.

I was unable to move the Move Kayak method into the if/then statement, so I devised a system of combining both sets of collision detection methods.

Two of my advanced students get very angry when they think that they have made a mistake; this can lead to anything from breaking the headphones to pounding their own heads with their fits. I thought about showing this project to their classes before adding the collision detection method. After consulting with one of their teachers, I decided to try the collision but I did not add any indicator of incorrect motion. I was informed that even a simple “nice try” or “try again” could bring on aggressive behaviors. I also have the scene wait a few seconds before the collision method begins to allow for a potential initial collision. Both students were fine with this approach.

My original attempt to modify a previous method did not work, so I hid my previous method related to the collision and started again by adding a new method. I then ran into another problem – the directions said to find the object’s width in the properties tab, but I found width in the functions tab. As with many of the tutorials, specific instructions may not have been updated but a creative person can often find a solution.

Loops: https://www.cs.bu.edu/courses/cs101/slides/CS101.Lect22.Alice.Repetition.pdf
This method worked well when I stopped pressing an arrow during a collision but allowed me to steer the kayak through objects so long as I kept pressure on one of the computer’s arrow keys.

 Adding Music: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/sound/soundTutorial4.pdf
A problem with some mp3 files is mentioned. I switched to the wave format, and the sound now plays throughout instead of stopping after only a few seconds.
https://www.alice.org/resources/alice-2-audiolibrary/

Jaws music was purchased in iTunes and the bird-song was downloaded from https://www.bird-sounds.net/blue-grosbeak/. I edited both of these sounds using Apple’s Garage Band so that they were a length and format (.wav) that Alice 2 could easily use. I will remove the Jaws theme music from the version that I post on YouTube because of copyright issues. I have recently read many articles warning teachers about posting even educational videos with background music. This article explains the issues in easily understood (non-legalese) language: http://schoolvideonews.com/Copyright/Copyright-issues-when-using-music-in-videos.

Walking: I had some extra time, so I decided that my people should walk into place along the edge of the island rather than simply gliding with the move motion. The scuba diver had a walk function, so I began with him. I only had to figure out how far to make him walk, how to get him to follow the land’s curve (not go off into the air or drop into the sand), and how to walk both forward and sideways (so that he could get into the boat later on as realistically as possible). The following tutorial helped me with the ballerina, but I had to greatly modify it. https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/methodsTutorial/methodsTutorial.pdf

Sometimes, one refinement disrupted another formally finished movement. For instance, when the scuba diver just moved into place at the edge of the island, I had him lower his arms as the ballerina was lowering her arms. Once I had the scuba diver walk to his location, the movement that was used to lower his arms made him cross both of his arms behind his back so that his hands stuck out on the opposite sides from where they once were. This was fixed by locating and removing the previous arm-lowering commands.

Last (or so I thought), I adapted the walking procedure to make the bird flap its wings.

Student Interaction with this Virtual World:
At this point, several of my classes tested my Alice 2 virtual world. Students interacted with Kayakers and Shark Virtual World in Alice 2 between one and five minutes each; depending on their age, abilities, and interests. When I showed the project to one of my students who can talk well but does not remember academic concepts such as letters and numbers, he promptly declared, “This is boring.” Students today are used to games with richer visual and animation aspects. Many of the educational games that are used by both non-readers and students who can read are more immersive than a simple Alice 2 project. My more advanced students who could participate in building the world and follow its story and directions enjoyed the project very much. One nine-year-old student with severe autism who has only been talking for about a year recognized the Jaws theme music. Another student in his class who knows how to read told the characters to “stay island;” he agrees with the original tutorial that the people would be safer on the island than in the water, but the coconut that flew up into the tree and the shell that flew into the ballerina’s hand did not phase him at all.

Several of my students discovered that the sunset and water do not last forever. First, the sunset disappears then the water disappears if the kayak is moved too far from the island. This happens when students press the forward or backward arrow too long. They also discovered that before they run out of scenery, the kayak moves too far away from the island to find its way back again. A couple of students even kept the kayak going until it ran out of sea (blue water).

Alice was developed to help students learn coding basics and not for teachers to use to develop their own activities. Although it can be used for the latter if a teacher has enough time, I strongly feel that its strength remains as a tool to introduce students to coding concepts.

My Final Improvement:
I showed this project to my mother and she wanted to see the shell hit the shark. Originally, the ballerina threw the shell in the direction of the off-camera shark, and the shell flew out of the scene toward the shark. Even though none of my students complained (they probably never even noticed), I decided that this would be a nice challenge to see the shell hit the shark. It took a bit of work to make this happen in a method that I liked, but I finally succeeded in having the shell hit the shark, making the shark react, and having the camera watch the event then return to the island.

I think that I am finished with this virtual world, but one can never be sure. I may make additional modifications in the future or I may use this as part of an Hour of Code lesson and allow my students to make modifications. I will make sure to keep this original just in case the students’ “improvements” cause something to fail.

Video:
I am unable to upload my Alice 2 world to WordPress, so I decided to create a video of it in motion. This also prevents anyone from completely stealing my ideas because I never show the entire code. While I am grateful to the numerous people who post Alice tutorials and offer their assistance, I would not want anyone to copy my entire project.

I had to record the video and the audio separately because Alice has started overheating my personal computer. The activity monitor says that Alice 2 uses anywhere from 90% to 107% of my CPU (central processing unit) capacity even though I have a quad i7, 16 MB RAM MacBook Pro that exceeds the operating requirements of Alice 2. This appears to be a known issue, but the fix listed at http://www.alice.org/community/showthread.php?t=7216 is not available in my version of Alice (2.5). For now, it is enough to know that I do not want my computer’s fan to be recorded with my voice.

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/lyWc7Ucm8oE

Questions?
If you have specific questions about how I did something, submit them using the comment section below. I am not willing to give anyone my entire coding printout, but I will answer simple questions.

Student Worksheet:

Kayakers and Shark in Alice Challenges, Jeanne Stork, Adapted from https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

 Challenge 1: Return to the front of the island.

Challenge 2: Use the arrow keys to move the boat around the island.

2A. Circle just the island by going between the lighthouse and the island.

2B. Make one large circle around both the lighthouse and the island by keeping both items in the center of the circle.

 Challenge 3: Use the arrow keys to make an eight or an infinity sign as you move the boat around the island the island and the lighthouse. You will have to go around the island in one direction and around the lighthouse the other way.

Advanced: Complete challenges 1 – 3 without bumping into the kayak into the island, the shark, or the lighthouse.

 Challenge 4: Move the boat to the front of the island so that the bird clearly faces you. Figure out what letters move the bird.

Letter              Bird Moves:

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

 Challenge 5: Open the coding blocks and change what the characters say.

Practice Building Quiz Questions: Contact Forms, Shortcodes, and Polls

Five Qustion Quiz Built Using WordPress.com’s Contact Form Creator:

 

One Quick Question Built Using the Quiz Shortcode:

(shortcode found online at: https://en.support.wordpress.com/quiz-shortcode/)

Who would need to know about light’s color wheel?
Oil painting artists
Painters do not generally create using colors of light.
Children learning about primary and secondary colors for the first time
Children typically first learn the traditional common color wheel’s primary and secondary colors.
Stage electrics specialists who want to increase the visual tone of the production

 

Two Quick Questions with the Included Polldaddy Poll Function:


	

K-12 Online Learning Platforms

I looked at five of the online learning platforms that are currently being used by schools. What I discovered is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The platform that a school or school district chooses to use will be determined by a number of factors such as course accreditation, teacher individualization, teacher-created content, target students, home versus school use, and the ever-elusive price. Before recommending any online learning platform, I would need to have additional details about how the service would be used and I would need a more thorough hands-on evaluation of each company’s product(s).

Click anywhere on this sentence to open my report in a new tab.

Virtual Reality Exploration

I conducted a lesson using virtual reality (VR) with my students the week of Halloween. Everyone had a wonderful time! Many of my students learned to use the goggles independently while working on their communication skills in a novel activity. Although this lesson was a success, I will not be using VR on a regular basis because I generally work on more targeted individualized English Language Arts, fine motor, and technology skills. Click here for Jeanne Stork’s paper about using virtual reality with my students with significant disabilities, “Gaming 2 Interactivity and Engagement Lab.” I am very excited to be adding virtual reality content to my teaching toolbag.

Jeanne Stork’s Virtuality Exploration on YouTube:

Struggles with “Not”

Many of my students have difficulty learning the concept of “not.” If you show them four spoons and a plate, they can find the plate. If they have four spoons and a plate, they might not be able to show you which one is “not” a spoon. I have seen this problem in students who are on the object level of communications, use pictures or picture symbols, and who know how to read written words. True, some students have learned to follow “not” directions, but it is a struggle with many of the children I see each week.

This particularly interferes with some literacy activities that track progress. Some of my students will have success when the computer asks them which words are action words (verbs) but will be incorrect if it is turned around so that the question resembles “Which word is not an action word?” The last thing they heard was “action words,” so that is what many students will click on. The computer program interprets this as meaning that the student needs more assistance and practice with learning action words. Every program I’ve seen so far assumes that the problem is with the vocabulary they are assessing and not with the way the question is worded.

I am just mentioning this as a caution against using computer-generated results as a teacher’s only means of determining student strengths and academic needs. Academic software and Web sites are wonderful teaching tools, but they will never replace my observational skills. Language learning is a complicated process that must be generalized to a wide range of environments. Students who are learning a new concept, such as “not,” need to use it in different locations and activities (i.e. classroom, computer lab, cafeteria, gymnasium, home, etc.). Working together, teachers and speech therapists can help students to fill in the gaps in their understanding and use of language, including the pesky word, “not.”

Creating A Screencast: Setting Preferences for Students with Disabilities

The description that I included on YouTube is not visible when the videos are embedded into WordPress (click here for the page with another embedded videos). I have included that information here and added more information about the video’s content.

The screencast portion of this video was recorded in Camtasia’s trial version, and I edited the entire video in the trial version of Camtasia, so the watermark is highly visible. I am evaluating this software to determine if it is something that I would like to purchase. So far, I’ve found the zooms easier to manage than in iMovie, but iMovie fully integrates the videos and photographs in my MAC’s Photos application. I may decide to purchase Camtasia for projects that require many post production zooms, although up until now all of my zooms have been done with my camera’s optical zoom.

These directions are for Apple’s Macintosh computers running MAC OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan). Other Apple operating systems have these functions, but they may look a little different. Below are the basic steps that I demonstrated in the video.

Screencast Introduction Transcript:

Hello! I’m Jeanne Stork. I teach in a computer lab for students with significant developmental delays due to severe autism or intellectual disabilities. My students use Macintosh computers, either iMac desktops or MacBook Air laptops. This is how I make some adjustments to make the computers easier for them to use.

            System Preferences: The system preferences are located under the apple in the upper left corner of the screen.

            Accessibility Preference:

Display: Shake Mouse (Some students play with shaking the mouse, but it helps students with attention and visual perception difficulties who often lose track of where the cursor is located on the screen.)

Audio: Play Stereo As Mono (for students who hear better with one ear than the other and would miss a stereo channel)

Increase Double Click speed (to reduce accidental double-clicking from my repetitive clickers)

Mouse:

I do not use wireless mice because many if my students pound the mouse. Wireless mice break easily.

I increase tracking speed to reduce the need to pick up and reposition the mouse.

I make the two major buttons the primary click (left-click) and turn off all other buttons because the vast majority of my students do not know how to click one button at a time or how to differentiate when to only left-click.

I turn off scrolling to further simplify the mouse for my students. The scroll function can also interfere with the educational software that I use.

My students enjoy playing with the mouse, so the more options that I can turn off the easier it is for them to complete their work.

Trackpad Preference:

Point and Click:

Turn off all options

Increase tracking speed

Scroll and Zoom:

Turn off all options

More Gestures:

Turn off all options

Screencast Conclusion Transcript:

As you saw, I spec up the mouse and trackpad so that the cursor moves fairly quickly and the mouse and trackpad don’t have to move all that much. This prevents students from hitting each other with the mouse as they are moving too far to the side, moving the mouse off the table as they are dragging the mouse toward them, or even dislocating the mouse from the wire if they get frustrated because they need that extra inch and the mouse just won’t move. With the trackpad, sometimes my students will actually move their finger off the pad onto the frame of the computer itself and wonder why nothing’s working. Well, of course nothing’s working, they’re not on the trackpad, but the students don’t understand that, especially in the beginning. As students progress, I can give them fewer adjustments, but I tend to keep the adjustments on just because it makes my life easier. I don’t have time between classes to readjust computers. But if necessary, I can always make individual adjustments. Feel free to explore and see what works best for you. Thank you.

Video Editing: Creating the Flying Fish Video

The description that I included with the video on YouTube is not visible when the video is embedded into my Web site, at https://jeannestorkspecialeducationinstructionaltechnology.wordpress.com/projects-digital-and-other/the-importance-o…deo-in-education/, but you can read it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_3bLtyarQ8. Some of that information is below, with additional information about the video’s content and how I made the video that would not fit in the YouTube description field.

I used the Flying Fish Market video as part of a series of videos during a mini-unit on fact versus fantasy. The volume had to be turned way down because of inappropriate lyrics. We discussed what is real and what is fake or pretend using a variety of vocabulary words. Some students needed more concrete questions (“Do fish fly or swim?”). The difficulty level and wording of the questions varied with the students’ abilities to answer them. Whenever possible, I included the whole range of Norman L. Webb’s (et al) “Depth of Knowledge Levels,” as used by my school district. Most of the students in three of my classes were even able to ask each other questions with prompting. A few of my classes have some students who neither talk nor have effective use of picture symbol communication boards or devices; those students work on attending/focusing skills and using non-verbal communication skills such as eyegaze, pointing, and gesturing as they learn to use picture symbols. One of my verbal students declared my videos “boring.” Another student screamed that the movie was broken every time I stopped it to ask the class questions; he had to be repeatedly calmed down to prevent him from hitting his head. If I had waited until the end of this video, the students would not have remembered the sections about which I was asking. The rest of my students enjoyed the videos and the way I presented them. Having only two upset students during a week of class lessons is excellent progress in my school. The other videos may make it to YouTube someday, when and if I find the time.

I could have used my camera’s backlighting setting when recording the centered shots. I did not realize how much the white clouds in the background were affecting the video. This was very noticeable when I showed the video to one of my classes as part of a fiction versus non-fiction lesson, so I made some corrections in iMovie.

I wanted to highlight as much of the action as possible, so my cuts often do not make sense if you are following the music. I used transitions (spin in, spin out) between some camera takes, but the music is still rough. I found that if I included too many transitions it created a visually choppy video, so I used my judgment for which transitions to retain and where I can eliminate excessive transitions.

I use a Panasonic HC-X920 camcorder for my introduction and conclusion. I like this camera because its three MOS sensors seem to pick up great detail. Unfortunately, I might need a replacement. As of this recording, I have not decided whether to get another X920 or to go for a more modern one that adjusts better when light and dark are in the same shot but has only one sensor. I want it all for as little money as possible!

I did not use an external microphone when I recorded the Universal Orlando show, but I think that the loud music would have still made the some of the performers’ words difficult to hear even with an external microphone. I do not have a license for professional taping and felt that it would be a waste of my money to purchase a microphone that Universal might not even let me use.

The background noises during my introduction and conclusion could not be avoided. I live in a large busy city; noises, as I discovered when I moved here, are a fact of life. I tried taping in my apartment and at work, in the evening and in the morning, and quiet never happened. I’m not sure how much you will hear on your end, but I had forgotten just how much of a luxury silence really is. I also tried to get rid of the reverberation in my comments by using an external microphone, but it was not compatible with my camera so the audio and video did not quite line up and could not be fixed by separating and adjusting the tracks in post-production. I am not real happy with the way I sound, but after over two hours of trying, I gave up and just chose the best clip.

If you want to get the full experience of the show, you will have to visit Universal Orlando yourself. It is a trip that I highly recommend. I am not an employee, nor do I have any personal or business connection to the park, but I can say that shows, such as the one you just watched, are best seen live. Besides, you can’t ride the rides from your computer.

Video Introduction Transcript:

            Hi! My name is Jeanne Stork. I teach in an adapted computer lab for students with significant disabilities.

This video demonstrates how angles and zoom can be used to avoid obstacles and to highlight action. I recorded the show at Universal Orlando from the center, left, and right, and I zoomed in on the action to highlight particular performances. I’ll be back after the show to discuss more of my process.

            Video Conclusion Transcript.

            Hi! Jeanne Stork, here again. I had to remain stationary, so I panned a bit horizontally and vertically, being careful not to disturb any other audience members. The shot taken from the audience’s right side is at a closer angle to the stage than from the left side, so I played with shooting angles that way. I selected the angles for this video that worked around obstacles, mmm such as performers standing in front of the camera waiting for their turns, and that highlighted action that I found to be particularly entertaining. The camera’s optical zoom let me capture a few of the stunts up close then return to a wider shot to record more of the action. I also added a post-production digital zoom to close the video. I wanted to focus in on the upper left corner of the screen and avoid the audience crowding the rest of the shot as people got up to leave. I used the camera’s optical zoom many times while taping, but it is nice that iMovie has this cool zooming function. Please, read my notes if you want some additional information. Thank you.

Mobile Operating Systems: iOS and Android

I decided to blog about mobile operating systems because I feel that instructional technology is gradually including more mobile devices. Here in the United States, iPads and Android tablets are competing for expanding educational markets. I have iPads that I bring to the classes on the first floor with students who cannot go up the stairs to my second-floor computer lab. Many of the students in these classes have difficulty using computers due to severe intellectual disabilities, and the iPads are often easier for them. I do have students who think the iPads are great chewy toys and make fun sounds when pounded against tables or thrown on the floor, but I also have students in those classes who really enjoy using the iPads as instructional devices. I know less about Android tablets but will do a bit of computer research.

Apple iOS

iPads use the iOS operating system. It is created by Apple and only runs on Apple devices. The current version of iOS is 10.2.1, but iOS 10.3 is expected soon. iOS 10 can run on iPhone 5 and above, iPad 4 and above (including mini 2 and 3), and iPod Touch 6th generation (Apple, 2017 a). I run iOS 5.1.1 on original iPads (also known as iPad 1), iOS 9.3.5 on my iPads 2-4, and iOS 10.2.1 on the iPad Airs. I’ve kept the iPad 4 at a lower operating system because even though iOS 10 can run on iPad 4 doesn’t mean it should; iOS 10 will probably slow things down, but I might change my mind in the future.

The key selling points for iOS 10 include redesigns to Photos, Maps, Messages, and Siri. Apple claims that iOS 10 is “More Personal. More Powerful. More Playful.” (Apple, 2017 A). Other improvements in iOS 10 that I have noticed are simplified multitasking between apps by swiping between open apps or seeing two apps at a time in a split view, the ability to see notifications when the device is in lock-screen mode, and the ability to delete some of the built-in apps to free up storage space. As mentioned earlier in this report, I never perform upgrades when they first come out (at least not on purpose), but I have found iOS 10 to be helpful.

One key point for me as a special education technology teacher is that Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant, now works in more apps. I have a student who is verbal but quadriplegic. Since he cannot use his hands, I would love to set up an iPad that he can control with his voice. It will be interesting to discover if Siri is simple enough for a young child with a mild developmental delay to use, if his voice is loud enough, and if the classroom noises interfere too much for Siri to be effective. I am going to wait until the fall for this project because the boy is just beginning to speak loud enough to be heard in a silent room. It will make a good blog topic.

Google Android

Google is currently advertising that “Google Assistant” and “Android Auto” will be available for many additional Android devices (Google, 2017 a). Assistant allows users to speak into Android devices, similar to the way Siri works on iOS devices. Auto is a mapping/driving direction app. Google is currently rolling out Android 7.0 “Nougat”. Along with improvements to Assistant and Auto, Nougat has improved the speed with which photos can be found in the Google Photos App and increased the ability of users to personalize their devices. Google also states on the Android Web page that they have “more apps than iOS.”

My Preference

Except for a few short months with a cheap Android phone that would not connect to my school’s Wi-Fi (a problem with proxies that Android has since corrected) and was already out-of-date when I purchased it at a large discount chain store, I have been an iOS user, beginning with the original iPad. I have used iPads with my students almost since they first came out. My school received the original iPads from a grant for classrooms, but I purchased the ones that I still use today. Some of the specialized apps that my students use are still only available for Apple’s iOS devices. Eleven out of my twelve iPads are still working (an iPad 2 died last year) and I have a collection of educational and assistive iOS apps that I paid for (or obtained for free during promotions). All of these factors lead to one basic fact: it would not be cost-effective for me to use anything other than Apple’s iOS devices. It makes no difference how great Android devices claim to be, I am not spending my money to replace what I have.

Daylight Savings Time Rumination

Does anybody really know what time it is? The farmers near where I grew up hated the time leaps. They kept their milking cows on the same schedule, but the relative time changed. If the morning milking was at 7 am the summer “half” of the year, it became 6 am in the “winter” time. What really confuses me is how the U.S. Congress came up with the dates. The dates are not equal distance from the solstices. The 2016 winter solstice was Dec 21; Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended Nov 6, 2016, and began again March 12, 2016. There were 45 days between the ending of DST and the winter solstice. There were 81 days between the winter solstice and today’s beginning of DST. To confuse matters even more, the sun set at 5:47 pm in NYC on the last evening of DST in 2016 then jumped to 4:46 pm the first day of standard time. The sun will set at 6:59 pm tonight (first evening of DST) and last night was 5:58 pm. Where is the science that shows that shows that these times make sense? How was it determined that the days and sunset times needed to be different for the beginning and ending of DST? Show me the science!

Voice-to-Text Struggles

I often attend workshops that include learning about adaptive technologies as part of my job. My school district generally has about six workshops a year for what we call “technology liaisons,” the person who volunteers his or her time to help the school with instructional and adaptive technologies. Adaptive technologies include just about any technology that can help a person with a disability in school, at work, at home, etc.

This brings me to my struggles with voice-to-text applications. My shoulders have both been injured at work and neither one likes repetitive motions, such as typing. I can lift a ten-pound box chest high, but I cannot spend two hours at the computer. So, I decided to experiment with voice-to-text software that lets me speak into my computer. I tried two different brands, both of which promised to improve as I type. The more I use the software, the more accurate they should become. Unfortunately, I have discovered that even speaking these two simple paragraphs requires me to do a lot of editing on the keyboard. For me at least, typing and taking frequent breaks is more effective than using voice to text software. This field of assistive technology has improved a lot in 10 years, but it does leave me concerned for people who have no ability to use the keyboard.

For now, I will only resort to voice-to-text when absolutely needed. My shoulders are healing, but slowly. Many of my students will never be able to type.

Halloween Costume?

Would any of my coworkers know what this costume represents?

computer programming punch card costume

Color Coded Picture Communication Symbols

The phrase "I wrote colored symbols on this paper" using color-coded picture communication symbols
Click above picture to read the PDF on my bulletin board.

Background
My Experience
Background Colors
Research

Background

Some of my students are nonverbal (do not speak) so they are learning to point to picture communication symbols like the ones above to communicate. I chose black pictures on colored backgrounds for my website’s banner, following the method that I learned in a workshop at my school district’s instructional technology office. This symbol coloring style is based on the work of Carol Goossens, Ph.D., CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech-Language Pathologists).

Almost twenty years ago, I attended a series of workshops hosted by my school district on “Engineering the Classroom.” This work built upon Carol Goosen’s Aided Language Stimulation approach to teaching students to effectively use picture communication symbols. Typically developing children easily progress from single word utterances to conversing in full sentences as they mature. Students who cannot speak often need much more instruction to improve their communication skills. While it is true that not everyone colors their communication symbols, I began using this technique as soon as I learned about it.

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My Experience

My personal experience aligns with what I learned in the workshop. Students have to see their communication system in use throughout the day (and preferably at home also). Just as children who talk or sign progress from single words to complete sentences, picture communication symbols users need that same opportunity. I have seen color coded symbols assist students to communicate. They also assist me to make sure that I provide a full range of symbols that allow for varied communication opportunities and experiences. Some students eventually outgrow the need for color coding, and other students may never need it, but I find it is a nice thing to have in my bag of tricks. I try to remember to point to symbols myself as I speak with nonverbal students; this models and validates their method of communication.

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Background Colors

Here is the list of background colors that I learned in the workshops.
Pink: Verbs (i.e. walk, eat)
Blue: Descriptors — adjectives, adverbs, etc (i.e. warm, slowly)
Green: Prepositions (i.e. on, before)
Yellow: Nouns (i.e. chair, paper)
Orange: Miscellaneous category of interaction words
Question-words (i.e. Who, How)
Exclamations (i.e. uh oh, wow)
Negative Words (i.e. no, don’t)
Pronouns (i.e. I, them)

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Research

Although the workshop I attended was over twenty years ago, many people continue to use Carol Goosen’s Aided Language Stimulation with children and adults who rely on picture communication symbols to communicate. A brief survey on the Internet brought up two articles of interest. The first abstract I read was about working with adults (Beck, Ann R.; Stoner, Julia B.; and Dennis, Marcia L.). An investigation of aided language stimulation: Does it increase AAC use with adults with developmental disabilities and complex communication needs? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 25-1, pp 42-54, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07434610802131059). The second abstract dealt with children (Bruno, Joan and Trembath, David). Use of aided language stimulation to improve syntactic performance during a weeklong intervention program. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 22-4, pp 300-313, 2006. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/07434610600768318). Both of these articles confirmed what I learned in the workshop many years ago and through my own experience as a teacher.

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Helping Others Now Streamlined

During the summer, my school implemented a new procedure for me to help other staff members. Everyone is supposed to FIRST ask the administration if I can help, and then an administrator will email me. I hope that this will drastically cut back on people interrupting my classes asking for assistance. While I am very willing to do what I can for my colleagues, I cannot expect the paraprofessionals (teaching assistants) to be quiet and focus on the students if I am not.

The school’s principal devised this system. I used to have a sign-up sheet outside my computer lab’s door. He wants to be the one to decide what I work on so that he will know what is happening in the school. It is taking staff members a while to adjust, but I think that if I am strict about enforcing the principal’s directive, it will become easier for them to follow. People got used to my old system, where they could see how many people were above them, but I think they can adjust to something new. After all, it is the new procedure and we will use it.