Saturday, February 21, 2015

Working around Worksheets- Two Free Apps to Help Gain Access

If you have ever worked with, had, or was a student with terrible handwriting or who couldn't physically access the worksheets to which they/you were handed, then you may want to try a combination of two free apps: Paper Port Notes and CamScanner.  Separately, the apps are pretty awesome.  But with their powers combined, a worksheet can be made a little more accessible.  What the apps do is create an editable PDF (or Portable Document Format).  In a nutshell, you take a picture of the worksheet, then the user can input the answers via the onscreen keyboards, with a stylus or even his or her finger.

The following is a step by step account for using the apps.  Don't get overwhelmed by the number of steps, because it is actually easier than it seems. But I know when I am learning how to use a new program, I like to know exactly which buttons and at what points to use them.

Once you download the apps:
1. First open Cam Scanner 
2. On the right hand side of the screen there is a camera icon, press it.  this will open up the camera feature
3. Make sure you have good lighting and take a picture of the document you want to work on
4. Press done
5. When you press done, it will show 8 dots. By moving the dots you will be able to adjust and make sure you have just the document you want to work on
6. Once cropped, press next step and it will show the cropped section
7. Press Next Step again which will open up a new doc, press on that.
8. Now press on the three dot icon  (...) and select OPEN IN (select PDF FILE) then select Open in Notes that looks like the Paperport app
9.  Now the document is in the Paperport notes app 
10. If the sidebar is showing, just tap on sidebar and it will go away.
11. At this point, there are a variety of editing buttons in the top right hand corner. T for creating text, the Pencil for circling/drawing, the Highlighter to highlight facts, and Eraser to erase stuff
      (11 a.) To type on the document, press the T. Then use your finger to touch and drag along the area on which you want to type to create a text box.  If you want the font to be bigger, create a taller box by dragging your finger up or down while you are dragging across.  When you are done typing, just touch the T again and it will close out the option.
      (11 b.) To circle answers or draw on the document, tap on the Pencil icon then go to work on your touchscreen.  When you are done drawing, tap on the Pencil icon again to close the option.

      (11 c.) To highlight information, tap on the Highlight icon then go to work on your touchscreen.  When you are done drawing, tap on the Highlighter icon again to close the option.
      (11 d.) To Erase things you have marked accidentally, tap on the Eraser icon then go to work on your touchscreen.  When you are done erasing, tap on the Eraser icon again to close the option.
12. When you are done working on the document, there are a few options.  Touch Menu at the top left corner.  Select the document you wish to share.  If you have access to a wireless printer, select the document, Share Selected and choose print. If not, sending the document as a PDF may be an alternative option.  
13. Select Share
14. Select the document you want to share
15. Protect (enter a password... I would make it something simple and that you can always use like the child's name or a number, making sure you tell the person receiving it the appropriate password)
16. Share Selected
17. Select EMAIL and send to your desired recipient.

I know this looks horrendous. But I swear, it isn't.  I have been training an amazing first grader how to use it.  So if that student can do it, you should give it a try.  

There are a couple of barriers you may come across.  First, if you do not have a wi-fi connection, you will not be able to send the document at that time.  And you will have to figure out how to orient the camera so you don't get stuck with an upside down document.  You also need to make sure you iDevice has an email account set up on it.  But there are also a ton of great features including uploading to Google Drive and DropBox.

Paper Port Notes by Nuance and Cam Scanner are available through the Apple App Store for FREE.  I am an Apple girl, and though Cam Scanner is available on the Android platform, I don't believe Paper Ports is.  And I am not sure if or how they would work together in non-iOS devices.    So if you have experience or feedback, please share!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sharing the Love of Sign Language: Love Letters by Emily

It was at the 2014 Assistive Technology Conference of New England that I met Emily and her mom Carolyn. I had seen the name of the vendor, Love Letters by Emily, come across the planning committee correspondences. I was intrigued to find out what they were. The products were photos and collections of photos of hands ASL signing letters; I had done something similar a few years ago with my son who is of typical hearing abilities, so I already loved the idea. But when I read the story and met the family, it just made my heart sing. Love Letters by Emily is a labor of love, family and dedication.
I had the chance to connect with Carolyn Maxwell and talk a little bit about the business, being a parent of child with special needs, and the role of assistive technology in Emily's life. 

Emily was born with developmental delays and hearing impairment. She attended the Rhode Island School for the Deaf during which she received extensive educational and therapy services to support her growth and communication. But when she had completed her role as student and was transitioning to a new role productive working citizen, mom Carolyn wanted Emily to be engaged in something she loved to do, shop and sign.

Photographing Emily's hands is a beautiful way to share her knowledge and experiences. But the ETSY shop isn't just a portfolio of her hands. There are many tasking in running the business that Emily partakes. She shops for the frames and materials, goes to the post office, addresses notes and envelopes, and visits local shops to restock inventory. It isn't just a picture, it is a purpose.

I asked mom about technology's role in Emily's life. She candidly shared a story about her experience.

"I have always been conflicted about using AAC apps - not embraced by the Deaf culture ~ one of my more memorable personal Facebook postings happened after a loooong conversation in sign with Emily at the grocery check-out observed by a Job Coach working with the bagger who asked, "Have you thought about getting her a Voice Box, I think she'd do well!" My thoughts were, she is communicating well, the rest of the world just needs to learn sign language!"

Emily has had experience with ProLoQuo2GO (available on iTunes for $219.00) in the school setting; but when she graduated, she had to return the iPad that was loaded with all the personal information. And community outings with the app are frustrating because the recipients of the speech output either can't hear it or just are surprised by its use. So for Emily (for now) low tech picture cards are a more efficient way for getting others who don't know sign to know what she is thinking.

However, the iPad and computer is a great leisure tool for Emily. She enjoys watching YouTube, looking through her photo library and cruising Facebook. It inspires socialization. The have used Stories2Learn (available on iTunes for $13.99) to join text with photos to write social stories.

I know that this is one of many stories across the world that touch upon so many barriers to living life to its fullest. From navigating doctor's visits to school system conflicts to developing meaningful vocation. But take it from Emily and Carolyn: don't be discouraged, be inspired.

Visit their shop, Love Letters by Emily on ETSY or follow them on social media via twitter @LoveLettersByEM or Facebook

"♥ Love Letters by Emily ♥ was inspired by a Valentine’s Day gift from our daughter’s Teacher of the Deaf who photographed her hand fingerspelling L-O-V-E with American Sign Language letter handshapes. It’s one of the sweetest and most thoughtful gifts from the heart we’ve ever received, and it’s a gift of love that we wanted to share. One idea led to another ~ and another . . . and our Etsy shop was born!"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Easy Pickings with Pick-Ease

This past October, I came across a local inventor mom, Melissa Desrochers, thanks to social media.  Her idea was simple and intriguing: a food pick inspired by necessity.  Her son was a picky eater.  Toothpicks worked, but she didn't like the idea of handing over a splinter of wood to her toddler.  With that, Pick Ease was born.  Once we connected, Melissa sent me a few Pick Ease to try.  I was very eager to use them with my own picky eater.
From an occupational therapist's view point, this product has a lot of great features including a fun and friendly sticker design and a 1" by 3/16" circular area to promote developing grasp patterns.  The unique design has a stopper for the tips of the fingers to help remind children not to use a fisted grasp around the utensil.  For children with typical cognitive development, Pick Ease could be a great transition tool from finger feeding to pierced food utensil feeding.  However, even though the tip is considered rounded, mine was still pretty sharp.  Because of it's small (and sharp) conical end, children, but especially those with developmental delays, need to be closely supervised with this product.  Impulsive or ataxic movements could cause accidental injury when self feeding.  With that being said, the tip can pierce a variety of soft and firm foods, especially those that have been cut into small pieces.   Crispy foods do not work, they crumble beneath the force.  Pick Ease could also be used to help with pacing.  One can only get so much food onto the Pick Ease. When only given a little bit of food at a time on the plate, a child may learn to take his or her time.
From a mom's perspective: it's really unique.  It's dishwasher safe, though the decals are starting to come off.  And it's BPA free.  My Mudge is a relatively picky eater.  He thought these were fun to use.  And though he wouldn't try the nugget with it, he enjoyed poking at his plated meal.  Combined with his Fun with Food Fred Plate, (another local RI distributor) and the old school mini Tupperware pitcher with 1 ounce cups (available on eBay and Amazon), the Pick Ease added another option to encourage new foods, along with his "Trying Something New Star" on his Star Chart.
Melissa is always posting creative ways to present tasty, healthy foods for the finicky kid on social media.   She has also shared a free, downloadable eBook "29 Healthy Kids Snacks" through her website since fun presentations can help increase the picky eater's edible repertoire.  So if you are looking to try something new because you have been struggling with a picky eater in the house, the $8.95 cost for a set of two may be an option for you, without breaking the plate.