Wow, sorry I have been gone so long. Or not, if you find my infrequent posts painful to read. The start of the school year included my son turning 22 as well as the usual work craziness. I've had a thousand different things I've wanted to post on, but not one ounce of focus. Anywho, I've been working on mouse skills in a variety of forms with a number of students recently and here are some thoughts!
Some kids (and adults) pick up mouse skills almost automatically and others seem to need a lot of teaching, tricks, and practice before they become proficient mouse users. I thought I would share some of the things I have tried over the years that have been successful in different situations.
1. Never throw away an old one button, USB, mouse with a ball! These mice…….. okay, I’m back after a little Google search for the correct way to describe more that one mouse, and the internet overwhelmingly agrees that some people use mice and some people use mouses. I think mice sounds better, so….. anyway, these mice, make great stepping stones between switches and mouse use. I take the ball out of the mouse, use a second mouse to position the cursor over a clickable spot on a web site or game, and then, even if the student moves the modified mouse around, a click still results in a response.
2. Use the Universal Access control panel to modify the size and speed of the cursor to make it easier to see and follow. There are several either free or inexpensive utilities for making the cursor bigger, brighter or more visible that are also useful for this including Biggy Cursor by RJ Cooper ( http://www.rjcooper.com/biggy/)
3. Startrail is a neat utility that adds a visual trial of stars, moon, clovers, and makes your cursor magically delicious, drawing attention to it’s movement across the screen. At $4.95 it’s a cheap fix, and fun, especially when training someone to use a head mouse. Available for the Mac only. http://www.pawn-soft.com/
4. I love the track pad on my MacBook Pro, and have found that several kids that have had a hard time manipulating a mouse, can use a track pad successfully. I also think that it is helpful that the move and click can be separated; I usually turn off tap to click. It is possible to buy a track pad for any computer at a variety of web sites. Cirque/ Adesso is a major manufacturer (http://www.cirque.com/desktoptouchpad/touchpad-mouse-overview.aspx).
5. One last trick for now, is to use a drawing tablet and pen. Some kids pick up on the concept of the tablet as a map of the screen and holding a pen. I also use a tablet and pen to motivate kids to practice writing. Many kids who are reluctant writers will hold the pen for the tablet and scribble and explore in Kid Pix or Tux Paint for long periods of time, when they won’t color or draw with more traditional tools! The tablet I use is the Wacom Bamboo, and it also came with a wireless mouse that uses the tablet. It has the advantage of NOT being an optical (no fascinating red light) or ball mouse (no opening on the bottom), and is only active when on the tablet. This helps to some kids learn how to manage picking up and repositioning the mouse more effectively. (It looks as though Wacom has updated their product line and my exact combination is no longer available, but check out the touch… very cool. Next paycheck!) www.wacom.com
Here are some web sites for learning how to use the mouse or mouse exploration.
Mouse Exercises- http://www.seniornet.org/howto/mouseexercises/mousepractice.html a mouse use curriculum designed for seniors but appropriate for older students learning to use a mouse or learning to use an alternate mouse.
Singing horses- http://svt.se/hogafflahage/hogafflaHage_site/Kor/hestekor.swf easy, click on horse makes it sing
games- http://www.pbclibrary.org/mousing/games.htm clicking, rapid-timed clicking, and clicking and dragging, includes classic games such as Battleship, Pong, IQ test etc.
Sebastian Chevrel- http://www.seb.cc/ the experiments area of this site has several Java or Flash experiments that make wonderful mouse exploration opportunities. One of my favorites is “spacializer”, but watch out for “Peep Hole” although it might be motivating for working with older users! (PG not R)
Click and Play virtual instruments- http://monxmood.free.fr/play.htm some of these may be small on the screen, but if you adjust your screen resolution they will look bigger and be better targets!
Neave- http://www.neave.com/ another artistic site, some fun games to click around and experiment in. Some may be a bit visually too stimulating for kids with seizure disorders.
Spider- http://www.onemotion.com/flash/spider/ game in which basic mouse skills control and feed spider.
Have fun and happy mousing!!