Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LocLine Modular Hose

Assistive Technology, it's part assistive, and part technology. Who would have ever thought it would also be part industrial? I have been thrilled with an assessment kit from LocLine Modular Hose which is flexible hose that can be mounted to a wheelchair for switch trials. The main purpose for this hose is for industrial use. Somehow along the way, assistive technology professionals saw it's potential. Now they have a kit specifically for AT use. I have quick attached the hose to my very own "wheelchair" so you can see how it works.

The hose is flexible, but stable. You can easily move it around, yet it won't bend back like a gooseneck mount can. You can also snap off a length of it to make it shorter, or pop it back on(with a little force) to make it longer. The kit comes with 3 feet of hose with a circular base. It also comes with Velcro coins and reusable zip ties. The kit is wonderful for AT evaluations, and trialing switch mount placements.

I hope you find this kit useful for your AT trials!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Popsicle Sticks: A Simple and Versatile Low Tech Tool

Once upon a time, each of us probably made a Popsicle stick picture frame with lots of paint and glitter, and presented it to our moms and dads with grinning pride and joy. It was simple, and easy to make, and our parents pretended to love it.

Sometimes, in the fast paced technologically advanced world we live in, we forget about the simple tools that were once commonplace in the pre-technological classroom. Today, I am going to remind you of the simplest low tech tool of them all: the Popsicle stick. The Popsicle stick is versatile because, well, it's just a wooden stick. You can paint on it, color it, glue it, use it as a bookmark, use it to identify seeds planted, use it to practice tallies, use it to count, use it to stir things, use it as a pointer, and so on and so forth. I am going to share 3 examples with you that I learned from an Autism make-and-take workshop.

1) Follow with your eyes
Have you ever been reading aloud in a classroom, asked a student to follow with his eyes, and he puts his eyes on the book? Here is a solution to helping kids follow along in the book:
2) Asking too many questions
Some students ask many questions, or frequently ask to go to the bathroom. If this is the case, you can make Popsicle sticks with appropriate symbols. Give the student a set number of Popsicle sticks. When they ask a question or ask to go to the bathroom, they give you a Popsicle stick. When they run out of sticks, they cannot ask anymore questions or go to the bathroom anymore. The student will then learn how to space his or her questions out. You can also start to reduce the number of Popsicle sticks as time goes on.
3) Understanding parts of a story
Labeling Popsicle sticks with parts of a story (plot, character, conflict, resolution, setting, etc) will help students to focus on that particular area of the story. Give a student a Popsicle stick. Read the story aloud. When the story is over, the student will share what he or she found in the story related to the Popsicle stick they hold. The group can then discuss. Picture clues on the Popsicle stick will help the student remember what he or she is looking for.

If you have more great ideas for uses of Popsicle sticks in the classroom, please feel free to post below! I hope you find these ideas useful!


Monday, May 10, 2010


Great news! My friends at Indiana Assistive Technology Act Project (INDATA) have added my blog to the links on their blog. Check out the INDATA blog here: http://blog.eastersealstech.com/

So, if you folks from Indiana stumble across the link, and say "what is this blog from Fargo, ND doing on the INDATA blog?" The answer is this: Twitter.

Twitter has allowed me to social network with other Assistive Technology Professionals from all over the place. I guess the folks at INDATA liked what I was writing about, so they put the link up!

My goal for this blog is to share some AT tools that we are using here at West Fargo Public Schools. Some of these tools may not apply to you folks in Indiana, but I hope you are able to find some information that may help you to be more independent.

Thanks for reading! Stop by again sometime for some assistive technology tips and tools.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Virtual Math Manipulatives

Recently, I have had two wonderful websites shared with me filled with virtual manipulatives for mathematics. As a person who has struggled with math her entire life, I understand the need for these tools. Giving students the chance to visualize and manipulate math helps them better understand the problem. Numbers and symbols look like a new language. And, guess what? Math is a language. In order for our students to understand this language, we need to give them pictures and an opportunity to try it out.
The first site comes from Glencoe/McGraw Hill. You can select grade levels, background templates, and different manipulatives. My personal favorite is the Bears in a Boat for the Kindergarten level manipulatives. This also has some really nice drawing tools at the bottom of the screen.A second site is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. From this site, you can choose different math subjects for different age levels. For example, you can choose Number and Operations for grades 9-12, or Algebra for grades 3-5. There are excellent manipulatives in each category. Below is is the Geoboard under Geometry for grades 3-5. This provides challenges on the side for students to complete. I only wish it gave some feedback for correct or incorrect answers.

I encourage you to explore these sites. Hopefully you can find some useful tools to help instruct and guide your students through math!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Speech Maker in Read and Write GOLD

I am always excited to learn about new features in Read and Write GOLD software. In our district, we have Read and Write GOLD at all of our upper level buildings, as well as single copies in each of our elementary schools. A great feature of this software is the "Speech Maker" tool. This tool allows you to turn text into an audio file (MP3). Simply pull up a word document and highlight the text you would like or highlight some text you would like from the web or a PDF. Then, click the speech maker button. This will ask you to choose the voice, where you would like to save, and what file type you would prefer (MP3 or WAV). Then, the text is scanned and converted to an audio state. If you have chosen the MP3 format, you can then put it on a student's MP3 player.
This tool is wonderful if you have students who benefit from that extra auditory help. For example, they could have their vocabulary words loaded onto their iPod, and listen to help them study for the test. They could also have their speech transformed into MP3. As they listen to it over and over while practicing, by the time speech day comes around - they will have their speech memorized!

I hope you will find this tool useful for your students!