iPads and Chromebooks and Smartpens, oh my!

Why would I want to use an iPad?

Students:

  • Make reading and writing tasks much easier by using the text-to-speech and voice dictation software that comes available and ready-to-use on your iPad.
  • Treat Siri as your own personal assistant! Talk to your iPad’s built-in software that responds to every one of your voice commands, and makes many of your school-related tasks much more manageable. Bonus: She can help with spelling, too!

Others (NOTE: These tools can also benefit students of all ages!):

  • Reduce the amount of visual clutter on every web page with your iPad’s Safari Reader view, making it easier to focus on the information that matters most.
  • Take advantage of the Word Prediction function built into your iPad. Using just the first few letters, this feature will provide you with word suggestions to make sure that you never make a spelling error in an important message or piece of writing again!

 

What’s available on your Chromebook?– Some Assistive Technology tools to try

Spoken feedback with ChromeVox: With only a few minor adjustments in the Accessibility Features menu, you can have your Chromebook provide you with audio feedback for any command that you perform while using it. This feature is great for students who struggle with reading and/or writing, or for whom auditory processing is the easiest and most effective way to learn. This is because ChromeVox allows you to hear everything that you click on/select, meaning you do not need to rely on visual cues alone.

On-Screen Keyboard: Just like a Mac or Windows computer, Google offers their users the option of operating the device without the use of a physical keyboard. If your Chromebook features a touchscreen, you are able to activate the on-screen keyboard and type text using your finger, or another pointer device. This tool can be beneficial for a large number of people, and it is available in your Chromebook’s set of assistive technology supports.

Braile display: This feature definite must-have for anyone who is blind or vision-impaired. Google’s Chromebook is compatible with several different Braile display programs, which once activated will make the device much more easily accessible.

High Contrast: By selecting this accessibility option, Chromebook users can change the colour of their text and/or screen background in order to increase the level of contrast between the two. There are a variety of colours to choose from, meaning that you can easily cater to your unique individual preferences. This tool is also a great way to make reading easier for those who struggle with it, or to help students with ADHD, ADD, or any other attentional issues to concentrate on their schoolwork without unnecessary distractions and frustration.

Screen Magnifier: Another great reading aide, this assistive technology feature allows you to zoom in on a portion of the screen, or even on an entire screen. The settings are adjustable as well, meaning that you can receive as much or as little magnification as you need in order to complete any reading-related tasks.

 

Livescribe’s Smartpens: A Different Type of Assistive Technology

As an owner of the older model of Livescribe’s Echo Smartpen, I can confidently speak to their effectiveness as an assistive technology device. The audio recording pen was a lifesaver during the first few years of my undergraduate degree, as it removed the struggle I experienced with note taking, and allowed me to focus solely on participating in class and getting as much information as I could out of my course lectures. The following is a description of Livescribe’s two newer pens, both of which are great assistive technology options for special needs learners.

The Echo Smartpen by Livescribe is a handheld audio recording pen that makes life much easier for anyone who takes notes on a regular basis. This is because while you are writing, the pen will store every word that you jot down into its memory device, allowing you to access your notes later through its included software program. The Echo Smartpen also lets users record audio data while they make notes, and this data can be accessed easily using one of two methods. At any time, you can access saved audio files simply by stopping a recording, and touching your handwritten text with the pen. Echo’s software program also allows you to access your audio by connecting the Smartpen to a Windows or Mac computer using a USB cable. Any notes that have an audio file attached to them will appear ingreenwriting.

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen  uses Bluetooth technology and an infrared camera combined with a free software app “ Livescribe+” which allows users to instantly capture notes written on special Dot Paper and transfer them to an iPad or other mobile device. Like the Echo Smartpen, the Livescribe 3 Smartpen contains built-in memory that will store notes for as long as you need them, and has a USB adaptor cable to re-charge your pen. The Livescribe 3 Smartpen sends the audio to be saved directly on your bluetooth connected mobile device. The pen’s touch-screen compatible stylus tip is another new feature, and it will come in handy when using Livescribe+ with an iPad or other tablet.

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