Nov. 28 - Assistive Technologies
Today I had a great day training session with Roy Cooper, who came to tutor me and my student, J, on his Special Equipment laptop, scanner and printer. With the laptop comes Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS), as well as Co-Writer, etc.. It is a wonderful opportunity to integrate e-learning, incorporating state of the art technology.
While I firmly believe that we should be making the best use of technology,I was skeptical. My Principal went out and bought me a new powerbar. I had to clear the room at the back to squeeze it in. But - this laptop will likely help inspire this student as he participates in text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology activities. My mind is percolating with ideas for its use- so many ideas so little time. We sent the student to his science teacher to retrieve work and determine how he could best accommodate his needs and LD.
Mr. Cooper spent the morning with the two of us. We worked at the voice recognition software (DNS) and trained the computer in J’s voice. I think this software has lots of possibilities. We made a great deal of progress. J and I worked with the various programs. We triained the computer in voice recognition. I was most excited about it. J read some text, while the software learned to understand his inflection. J, for example, says aunt as /AWNT/, as some folks do. The key is in helping the software match text to whichever pronunciations the user has adopted, accents and phrasing included..
J, in fact, has a slightly British accent, and with time and regular use, the recognition dictionary will more reliably predict, and therefore match, J’s speech to particular words. The text J read explained some of the process in which he was participating. Quite clever! It was such a leap into cyberspace for the both of us. As we worked, you could feel the energy as we became increasingly eager. My head was spinning for more and better applications of this software trick. J would not take a break, though we offered him some! I have never seen such dedication as this. I had to send him on an errand to get him up and going. I can remember having to limit my children’s computer time when they were kids. I have three children and we would give each a half hour of computer time. This, I believe, is important. It can’t be good to sit at this machine for too, too long!
It’s funny that my Ontario Ministry of Education publishes documents on helping encourage boys to read. “ Me Read? No Way! I have never had the problem. I ask them to pre-write, I give them manageable task and often have them working at home, writing work down to e-mail to me at school. We love to take turns typing out work, creative or expository, I often I bribe them with spending time on the computer! It is highly motivational for all learners.
At lunch we shut down the computer. Roy and I had an animated discussion of further applications of this software. We spoke of current research in spelling, typing speeds, the lack of need for such applications as typing tutors. We spoke of the research, new software, SmartBoards, and other electronic devices. I was most excited at the prospects. When we returned, we connected the laptop to the ethernet, in order to access the Kurzweil resources. A very exciting venture.
We spent the afternoon training *MY* voice, in order for me to give help to Jomario, and figure out how to make this software work for other students. My principal, a three-story intellect, kindly gave me a release day for this purpose. I had to. There was so much to learn. My class worked merrily behind us, in the room for most of the time. My poor supply teacher managed well. I guess it is like student teaching – after awhile he didn’t even notice us.
Much to my dismay, I hope you realize how calm I am....those who know me know I am not known for this, even now, a day later. After our animated lunch discussions, when Roy sat on the computer with me, to train me as the teacher, the computer could not find any of J's files. In fact, all of the work we had done in the 3 1/2 hours was lost, as were MY voice recognition files. Something had gone horribly wrong.
My files had similarly disappeared. The issue arises in that all of our classroom and YoT computers are imaged generically through the Board's server. The Board's server, in fact, re-imaged the computer and took all of the data away, connected the laptop up to the "G:" Drive, rather than the C: drive, that we had used in the morning. The hard drive is bare of his specially purchased software. It was beginning to be somewhat worrisome.
I am not sure how to solve this problem. This is a laptop which, according to his IPRC & IEP, can and will be used. “assistive devices” The Ministry of Ed. has sunk a great deal of money into this venture I was challenged by making the process and the products work. I wanted J to save his files to the school's server, where we save all of his data on a regular basis.
I am now going to have to retrain his laptop, after reinstalling the software, which was wiped off his hard drive when it was reimaged. It automatically looked for the server files, not the hard drive files.
My dismay is palpable. I was able to run off to choir practice, to find some stress release. What an intense day it was. The good news is the next day J had all sorts of ideas of how to help his friends with his new laptop and software. He has such a good heart. He wants to share. I know he will spend some more time with me retraining the laptop, once we figure out a firewall or something. Geeks ‘R us!