Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lost in the shuffle

I was co:treating a student with a Speech Therapist on Friday, and we were using a Tech Talk 8. The focus of sessions for this student for some time has been to get her to consistently recognize symbols, and to scan the array and make an appropriate choice. After several minutes of moving symbols around, recording, re-recording, etc. I was hit by a sudden flash of insight. NO, not make overlays and use levels, it takes me longer to slide an overlay into that tiny slot than to just move the symbols around! But that there was a tool on the market that would easily do what I was doing. In all the excitement over dynamic display communication devices these days, there have been a couple of really exciting new lower tech devices that have entered the market recently that haven't generated a lot of publicity. I had recently had the opportunity to meet Kevin from ProxTalker and see the Logan ProxTalker up close and personal. This cool tool fills the area between static devices, and dynamic display. Check it out when you get a chance at It's a little pricey, but a great concept for those kids who need voiced output, lots of words, but aren't quite ready for branching boards, etc.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Post Ode Post

As I was sitting on my thinking throne this morning several thoughts occurred to me.
1. Why do I do my best thinking in the bathroom?
2. Writing the “Ode to Zach Who Fixed My Mac” has taken much longer than I thought, but kept my wandering attention for much longer than most non-mandatory projects do.
3. I also thought of some more ideas for what to do with it once the poem was written as I began to think about some of my favorite poets, and some of the rhymes I was working on. Eminem, can make words rhyme, in ways that baffle my ears. (Yes, he is a foul, blah, blah, blah, but he is a genius with words in MY opinion.)
4. Kapow!!! I was engaged in what I had just learned about in my Universal Design for Learning class. I was involved in a Project Based Learning experience. My Affective networks were engaged. I was using my preferred method of output and surrounded by the tools that helped me to best accomplish a task. I listened to my poem using the speech tool on Word, I didn’t worry about spelling, I used rhyming dictionaries on the Internet. I looked up the proper uses of words. I created!
5. But, was I LEARNING? How many 41-year-old adults (used loosely) do you know of will take most of a holiday weekend to write a poem about the guy who fixed her Mac? Will research words that rhyme, try new vocabulary words, listen to her poem aloud, think about using Garage Band and making a Rap, then a Pod cast, and posting them onto a blog, then realize that it is all a great promo for PBL and UDL? And not even be graded on it? Think about asking our students to do this and throw in some content and currency… Was I learning? Will THEY? You decide, I’m tired, I’m going to take a nap.


An Ode to Zach Who Fixed my Mac

An Ode to Zach Who Fixed My Mac

Twas a dark night, or day, several months ago,
When my MacBook Pro started going slow.

And Classroom Suite, I’m an Intellitools geek,
Would suddenly freeze, and refuse to speak,

I would click and press, the screen stayed still,
And despite my trouble shooting skill,

Nothing would happen, children’s minds would wander,
Where was the computer wonder?

I uninstalled, I reinstalled.
I deleted and updated.

I upgraded to another cat,
If you’re a Mac you know about that.

I checked permissions, and then I did,
The last thing from which I hid.

Although I knew bad news, a risk,
I ran the utility, verify disk.

And then the news that I feared most,
An error found, the hard drive its host.

Alas, alas, no system disc,
My CD drive wonky, and always a risk.

Aha! I know, a place I can go,
Mr. McGonegal, a good guy to know.

“Can I borrow your disc, and give it a try,
I’ve damaged my MacBook, I really might cry!”

So he gives me his disc, and into hiding I go,
I insert it gently, and restart just so.

The computer thinks for a moment, then the grinding is NASTY,
Much like I would imagine a cheap rhinoplasty.
(I totally threw that in for the rhyme)

For reasons unknown, it could only be fate,
I am looking beneath when with one final grate,

The disc slides back out and I catch just a peek,
Of what looks to be paper, then back in it does sneak.

“Oh, no! That’s not good!” I think in a fright.
“Mr. McGonegal will kill me when I tell him my plight.”

“I’ve ruined his disc, I’ve ruined my life,
From this day forward nothing but strife!”

“Take a deep breath, calm down,” I think to myself,
“If all else fails, you can dig into your wealth.”
(Buy a new copy in other words)

I press eject and grab the disc,
But the paper was too brisk.

I hemmed, I hawed, and then once composed,
So carefully with tools in the drive I probed,

But no luck in getting the feisty parasite,
It cleverly stayed hidden out of my site.

What to do, what to do? This has gotten much worse!
This is going to take a large chunk from my purse.

Then a flash of inspiration, not the software, no, no!
To the computer, to Firefox, to Google I go.

“Paper in slot-loading optical drive” I type,
Is there nothing too weird for Google or Skype?

A long story short, there are plenty of tips,
A Post-it retrieved it with a couple quick trips.

A communication symbol, “I want” it said,
Yes, that, Eileen, was what filled you with dread.

“Okay,” you say, “Enough of this marathon,”
“Where is this Zach, let’s get this story moving on.”

Fixing my Mac now is a challenging chore,
But just for fun I’ll try the Apple store.

I’ve not much hope for the Genius Bar,
I’ve only observed them from afar.

For real repairs, you should go pro,
Like Computer Loft, they really know.

I walk up to the concierge, ask for an appointment
“Zach’s available right now,” to my disappointment.

I gently hand this young man my Mac,
My hard drive has been the victim of an attack.

He deftly plugs in an external hard drive,
Runs a diagnostic in less than five.

(Z)“I can fix that, it will take some time,”
(E)“You can do it here, that would be sublime!”

He checks this and that, he gives it some pokes,
We joke and we laugh and make Star Trek jokes.

“Go shop for a while, when you come back we’ll test.”
So out into Burlington Mall I dash feeling blessed.

I have some lovely Chick-fil-a.
Those fries enough to make my day.

I return to see my Mac still thinking,
“about a minute,” and thinking, and thinking.

A Mac minute is a mysterious thing.
Related to time growing and shrinking.

“Don’t Panic” says Zach, “We’re doing fine.”
“42,” I think, but keep it in my mind.

At last its done, my machine reboots.
I cross my fingers, my toes, my undyed roots,

It comes alive, a planet shines,
I put that there; I know it’s mine!

“Let’s check some stuff to make sure it works,
Let’s run that program, the one that jerks.”

I open Suite, I type stuff in,
I watch the deadly rainbow spin.

I collapse and cry, I want to die,
Oh why, oh why, did I even try?

“Relax,” says young Zach, with uber calm.
“It’s the partition break, I have the balm.”

“Go shopping again, I’ll repair the permissions,
Go forth, go forth, on a clothes finding mission.”

So shopping I went, and bought a nice shirt,
Some capris, some socks, but never a skirt.
(all on sale)

I return to see my Mac still thinking,
“About a minute,” and thinking, and thinking.
(yes I copied and pasted)

It’s done thinking, and Zack reboots it,
I open up Suite and prepare for a fit.

I type and it talks,
I click and it walks,

It sings and it dances,
It runs and it prances,

It jumps and it shouts,
It appropriately pouts.

I jump up and down,
I act like a clown.

I bow down before him, to say I’m not worthy,
He looks at me like; I’m a sailor with scurvy.

“Let’s update your software,” he says quietly.
Poor Zach, not quite sure what to do with someone like me.

Have I mentioned before my wireless card?
It only picks up signals with a square yard.

“Oh, that,” I said, “Well it’s rather wonky.”
But leaving it for fixing would make me quite funky.”

“We can do it right here, it will take a Mac minute.”
“I’ll go get some ice cream so I don’t fidget!”

Some chocolate yogurt, some raspberry cream,
Some chocolate sprinkles, oh what a dream.

Then back to the Apple Store to see my friend Zach,
I anxiously await his return from the back.

There he is, there he is, I scream like a girl,
Who is seeing the Beatles, her head all-awhirl.

“Let’s see if it works,” he opens my Mac,
And there are four arcs, just staring me back.

So he writes a receipt, 99 bucks with tax,
No labor, no stress, no big bucks, a few wisecracks.

I pay for my Airport card, walk out with my Mac,
From now on for me, there’s no looking back.

When it comes to my Mac,
There’s only you Zach!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

hello again hello

A couple quick resources!
"Instruction for All Students" by Paula Rutherford is a great book I found while procrastinating in the education department of the bookstore the other day. It is a great resource for so many things I can only direct you to the web site and suggest you look at the sneak peeks of the books available in the resource center.

Heaven only knows what I signed up for to end up on this mailing list, but this catalog had some cool books in it when it showed up with the bills the other day.
Although the "Word Whacker" is simply a fly swatter!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

fun toy

I was strolling through Kohl's the other day doing some post graduation retail therapy and I came across this cute little gadget. "Oh," I thought, "This might make a cool little cause and effect toy, and it's on sale!" So I bought it. (Only $9.99) It takes very little movement to activate, although the light isn't super bright, it looks very cool in a slightly dimmed room. You can use just one of the posts included, and it comes to about 16" high, or all of them for a total of about 48". Even without the cool light up feature, this might come in handy for wheelchair training, hallway/ doorway control, etc.
Of course there has to be small print... beware of some flashy things with some kids with seizure disorders.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cool tools for reluctant writers

Even the most reluctant writers might enjoy these: -some links may not be appropriate for all audiences, and loaded with ads. not for every audience, but may work with certain themes
- how about creating a magazine cover?

coffee pots

I was getting ready for class the other morning, and it dawned on me that my Keurig coffee pot was a fine example of Universal Design, and/or Assistive Technology. The pod based coffee pod removes the fine and gross motor challenges of prying apart coffee filters, putting them in the holder, measuring and scooping coffee, dealing with a glass carafe, and depending on the model, only needs to be filled once every dozen cups or so. It brews right into the cup so no pouring is needed, another step saved. The little pods are just tossed, so fewer things to wash! Brilliant design. I wonder if we could get insurance to pay for them?
Just a thought.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What I should be doing!

Welcome to my Blog!
Now that I am but 2 days away from finally graduating with my Masters degree and being a real assistive technology specialist I have finally decided to start a blog! After all, I have to exhibit my ability to utilize all this cool web 2.0 stuff right!??
So, what will my blog be about?
A. Miscellaneous ramblings
B. More ramblings
C. Possibly some thoughts about the practice of assistive technology in a mid-sized urban school district.
D. Cool things hopefully.