Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Sabotage!" April Theme for the AT Blog Carnival on "Teaching All Students" Blog

The AT Blog Carnival is going on the road!
Patrick Black has volunteered to be our host for an April edition themed "Sabotage." Share your post on a strategy or share a story on how you used sabotage to help someone learn or develop. The carnival will be up April 9.
All the details can be found on Patrick's post here:

I am looking forward to some great stories...
Also - if you are interested in hosting a future edition of the AT Blog Carnival, contact me at:

All the best to you!


Friday, March 6, 2009

Guitar Hero Motivates Middle School Use of Writing Support Tools

"How many ways does Guitar Hero help your brain work better?" I asked. I was working with a boy that needed writing support for some slow processing issues. He was easily distracted and couldn't spell worth a lick.

"Hand-eye coordination," he said. He was very confident, sharp and really knew the laptop we were using. He shared he had a touch-screen tablet laptop at home.
"Good one!" I shared. "What other things do you do that would strengthen your brain?"
"I don't know..." he looked around the room. He was interested but had a hard time staying focused. I prompted him a little and said "You are getting distracted - pull it back in!" with a smile.
And so we worked - but I got him when I had him open "FreeMind" a mind mapping software and we typed "Guitar Hero" in the main cell. He began to label new ones connected with Hand-eye coordination, patterns and memory.
After doing the web of our little writing activity with the mapping, I opened "DSpeech," a talking word processor, and we chose a cool young guy with long hair falling across his eyes for the voice. I showed our student how to shrink both application's windows so he could see his map and copy the words of the main ideas into sentences he typed on the DSpeech text window.
He struggled with the first sentence, and hit "speak" to hear what he had so far. He caught that he had missed a space between two words when he heard them run together and fixed them.

When we were done, he had written 3 sentences, combined his ideas and had correct spelling. He liked to say, "Let's hear everything we have so far" and play it back. There was a sense of progress being made everytime he heard a little more. When he was done and listened to the whole thing, it was ready to be published or converted into an Mp3 sound file for others to hear.
He loved that he could downloaded the Access Apps Suite on a jump drive for free and access them. He could also save his homework on the jump as well - and nothing had to be loaded on a computer. It could all go between school and home.

I shared with the teacher afterwards that we could use DSpeech to write some writing prompt directions and save them to open so he could hear what he was going to do, then open Freemind and have an assistant help him organize his thoughts, then use DSpeech or another tool like Natural Reader by Naturalsoft to write and proof read through text to speech. These are two free tools that can really support developing ideas and provide an order to writing so a student gets guidance through the process visually. I showed him "The Sage" a dictionary and thesaurus that gives him word ideas. If he can't spell a word we will work with a free spell checker tool and get that going for him too.
I had buy-in and interest today as I worked on teaching this student these tools. Using Guitar Hero, gave me instant appeal factor for the assignment as well! Why not try some popular theme ideas to get your students to learn support tools that will strengthen their writing and literacy - maybe you will make self-accommodators out of them in the process!

All the best to you,


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Perfect Pairings of Assistive Technology Tools" February 2009 Edition of AT Blog Carnival

Welcome to The AT Blog Carnival for February is "Perfect Pairings", highlighting combinations of assistive technology that work together. There are some great tools shared this month that blend to do some great things. I hope you enjoy them!

Ricky Buchanan of ATMac shares:
"Two things that go together well are laptops and beds! If you need or want to use your computer in bed, using a laptop is often the easiest way to do it. I have a brand new website Bedbound/Unlimited which I'll be developing over the coming months, and one of the first articles is "Using a Laptop in Bed" , talking about some technology that can make this easier for you. I hope you all come and say hello to the new blog, too!

Back on"ATMAC, I've written about two things which often don't go together but should: You Must Have Backups. It was prompted by the main hard drive in my computer failing completely and needing replacement - luckily in this case I did have a backup so disaster was averted. Please make sure all your computers are backed up, especially if they're used with assistive technology - for those of us that can't use just any computer this is twice as important."

Thanks Ricky!

Patrick Black of Teaching All Students shares some reasons why you should look at Special Education and SMART Boards. He shares some great ideas too.

Ron Graham of Access Ability shares about his cool HP Netbook and some great software for working with the visually impaired/blind.

Tim O'Brien, a blind photographer, shares from his blog, tim o'brien photos, "Access the Web!" with a trio of tools for web access for the visually impaired.

I (Lon Thornburg) share from my blog No Limits to Learning about a free AAC tool that can be created using 2 free software downloads on Windows.

Here are a few other links this edition to explore for some other great reading:

Accessible Twitter: Why Twitter can and should be accessible:

Handwriting Fonts:
An interesting way to capture handwriting:
Wii Remote Whiteboard:
Build Your Own Interactive Whiteboard with a Wii Remote?

More Explorations this month...

Thank you to all that submitted...and all that read.

All the best to you!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Call for Submissions, February AT Blog Carnival: "Perfect Pairings"

The AT Blog Carnival theme for February is "Perfect Pairings", highlighting combinations of assistive technology that work together. Do you have a software switch combo? How about a device and switch you have used together, a website that provides resources or software you have used with a piece of equipment or strategies for using various keyboards or scanners with text to speech?
We have lots of AT we pair with things and find useful but don't think about sharing. What we take for granted and use all the time might be the solution that someone else has been looking for and hasn't found.
There are all kinds of Readers for ebooks and files, all kinds of sites to find e-texts, free music and clip art sites that can be integrated with AAC buttons, communication softwares, etc. Share what you use or experiment with a new combo and see what you come up with. We want to hear from you!

Deadline: Friday, February 20.
We will post the carnival on Monday, February 23.
Write up your post and send in the link via email:

All the best to you!