Using Augmented Reality (AR) as Assistive Technology

Apple had released their ARKit upon the world which allows developers to create apps which take advantage of the iOS device’s camera and sensors to help create experiences blending the real world and digital content. These apps will work on devices supported by the A9 chip and running iOS 11. There are some AR experiences, however, that you can build right now using what you have.

Metaverse

Metaverse is an AR experience building platform with a fairly user-friendly studio that can be run from your web browser. You can request access through their main landing page and start building. Pros of using Metaverse include their companion apps for both Andriod and iOS as well as a friendly onramp. They have also recently added blocks of code especially those using Google Vision which attempts to identify objects, text, or emotions in the picture taken by the user. For more advanced users, Metaverse supports 3rd party APIs.

metaverse studio layout
Metaverse Studio Layout

ARIS

ARIS has been around for some time and came out of Wisconsin University and is highly robust. This platform allows you to build entire experiences that can be triggered by QR codes, locations, or alphanumeric codes. They also recently released an AR component. User accounts are free and you can start building right away. ARIS is also well documented with support forums available. Unfortunately, there is currently only an iOS app available for accessing the content you created.

ARIS studio layout
ARIS Studio Layout

Possible Uses

Beyond creating fun scavenger hunts and games, these tools can also be used to help support independent transportation in the community. Support cues and triggers can be embedded along a user’s bus route or walking path. These tools can also help support data tracking and enhance engagement using a badge and token system. The use of QR triggers within the home or school can be used to activate video modeling of directions or sequence of steps.

What About VR?

Virtual reality has also entered the world of rehabilitation and regaining function. Some of its uses have included creating memorable experiences for those with dementia and simulating movement experiences for those with mobility impairments. RAPAEL, which created a hand rehabilitation glove is now blending VR exercises with a sensor based glove to detect finger, wrist, and forearm movements which impact the VR world. Here is research study they cite: Effects of virtual reality- based rehabilitation on distal upper extremity function and health- related quality of life: a single-blinded, randomized controlled trial. 

A chapter on VR and Occupational Therapy is also included as part of the Occupational Therapy – Occupation Focused Holistic Practice in Rehabilitation open textbook.

It’s a brave new world for assistive technology. Time to dive in.

 

Autodraw: Word Prediction for Drawing

autodraw iconGoogle has recently released the Autodraw AI for some fun and games for the casual artist. This tool, however, can serve as power assistive technology for students with disabilities who struggle with drawing and expressing, themselves especially in the early pre-writing days. For those who haven’t tried it out, Autodraw lets the user start to draw some basic shapes or lines and the AI will attempt to guess what the user is trying to draw providing options of icons. The user can then tap on the desired icon to insert it into their drawing.

For young learners, especially those with visual- motor, perceptual or motor planning difficulties drawing can be quite a frustrating challenge. Most early grade writing standards have some requirement of drawing and labeling the drawing based on a classroom topic or reading. The Autodraw tool can be a great support. Just check out the results:

drawing attempt of a banana
Original drawing
icon drawing of a banana
Icon selection based on the drawing.

Your Library Card = Goldmine!

library-cardAn often over looked resource is your local library. Be sure to check out your local library’s resources page for subscriptions to online databases that often charge a subscription fee. Entrance to these sites is through your local library’s website using your library card credentials.

The following is a list of student related resources available through the Brooklyn Public Library Website (a complete list of available resources can be found HERE):

Fiction

  • BookFlix– (Requires card)- Video based books for young readers with read along text. Site uses Flash for content and may not be accessible on iOS devices unless using Flash friendly browser apps.
  • Flipster– (Requires card)- Provides access to popular magazines either through a web browser, Android, Kindle and iOS apps. Kids resources include Ask (teacher companion), Ranger Rick Jr, Discovery Girls, and Highlights.
  • Tumblebooks– (Requires card)- Early readers video based books with a variety of topics. Books are also available in multiple languages with human narration and sentence highlighting.

History & Culture

  • American History– (Requires Card)- Comprehensive resource library and research tools related to American history broken up by periods. Detailed summaries are available for each period with text to speech and translation support.
  • CultureGrams– (Requires Card)- Learn about the culture and day to day life of people across the word. There are US states, the world, and kids editions available. Content is readily broken down by category (places, history, people, cultural notes, and fun facts).  Text to speech enabled.
  • FreedomFlix– (Requires card)- Video and text companion on topics related to US history and civics. The available text has human narration with word highlighting as it reads and two available speeds.
  • Global Voices– Curates and translates current events news from around the world.
  • Mango Languages– (Requires card)- Learn a new language with video and activity cards.
  • Opposing Viewpoints– Collection of articles, media, images, and statistics based on topic. Text to speech and translation supports available.

Science

General Research

  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online for Kids– (Requires card)
  • Kids InfoBits– (Requires card)- Easy to navigate picture based research for early grades. Text to speech and translation support.
  • Scholastic Go
  • SIRS Discover– (Requires card)- Materials have text to speech and translation supports. Content can also be filtered by Lexile reading level.
  • TrueFlix– (Requires card)- Video and accompanying text around a variety of topics (picture based category search). The text has human narration with word highlighting supports.

Instructional Resources

New Found Tools for OCR with Auditory Feedback and Phonetic Word Prediction (FREE)

Microsoft OCR with Immersed Reading

office-lens-iconIn a bid to continue supporting struggling student, Microsoft has introduced OCR functionality with the added benefit of Text to Speech (TTS) to its document scanning app, Office Lens . Office Lens works in tandem with your other Microsoft apps and requires an account. At this time, users do not need a Microsoft 365 subscription and can use a free outlook.com account.

The scanning app is straightforward to use and provides options to scan a business card, photo, document, or whiteboard.  Automatic page detection is available however the user still needs to press the camera button to capture the image.  The next step is to select the “Immersive Reader” option. The app will then OCR (Object Character Recognize) the image and produce a screen with the text extracted from the image.

Some standout features of this app include its simple user interface and the option for “Wide Text Spacing” which increases the line spacing for easier reading.  TTS is easily activated through the play button and reading speed is adjusted through a slider in the toolbar.  While reading, the screen is grayed out while the word being read is highlighted. This allows for easier scanning and reading. On tried scanning, the OCR accuracy proved significantly accurate.

Drawbacks of the app include limited ability to modify the font style and color options. Additionally, navigating through the text is a bit cumbersome. Original formatting of the document is removed from the scan which might be disorienting to readers.

See the video below for a quick walkthrough:

Phonetic Word Prediction Using Google Input Tool

Word prediction has become a commonly available tool on current mobile devices used to increase typing speed using the onscreen keyboard. This functionally, however, has been used by students with dyslexia for many years especially using flexible spelling or phonetic spelling predictors. Most operating system and mass market word prediction rely on the context of the writing versus phonetic spelling patterns and often do not support students with significant dyslexia.

Google’s  Input Tool is both a setting and a Chrome extension that helps support this spelling pattern. The traditional use of this tool is for keyboarding in multiple languages with transliteration available for some languages. This support, for example, allows a Hebrew writer to keyboard “shalom” using the roman keyboard while the Input Tool will then translate the entry to “שלןם”. This same support can be used while writing in English within Google Drive apps.

To activate this support:

  • Visit: My Account- Input Tools
  • Click “Select Languages”
  • Select English from the checkbox menu and save the settings
  • To test: open a Google Doc, upon loading you should see “En” icon at the end of the toolbar to the right of the “Tx” icon. Select the suggestion icon.
  • When typing, you should begin to see a suggested word list that follows the cursor and adapts to the letters being written.
  • To enter the desired word, either click on the word or enter the corresponding number.

The accuracy of this support for phonetic spelling has been  fairly accurate for longer words.  It falters however for homophones or shorter words. These, however, can often be corrected by Google Doc’s built-in spelling and grammar checker.

There is a bit of a lag between when the tool is enabled and the time it shows up within the Google Apps. An additional workaround to try is adding an additional language and then removing it once the tool is available.

See the video below for a quick walkthrough:

Chrome as Assistive Tech Infographic

The variety of web apps and Chrome extensions has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Many of these tools are available to students either for free or offer lower cost alternatives to what traditionally was considered cost prohibitive support. I complied a Coggle infographic to organize  some of the apps, extensions, and add-ons I use most frequently to support my students. Know of a good tool that’s not on the list? Be sure to comment.

As a side bar… most of these tools require a working internet connection. This on its own is prohibitive for many families. Everyone On (everyoneon.org)  is an organization that works in low income communities and schools to provide a router and affordable internet connection for household that qualify.
https://embed.coggle.it/diagram/56aeb2334f77943445e639df/44a4c419ece1f77b3e76a86fe3e5c7102ae75e859bcc15d3c720a0d5aa68e81e

Speech to Text and Word Bank Writing: Google Doc Add-Ons



Add- ons are a great feature of Google Doc. They provide additional functionality through a side bar beside the document. To find and install add ons, navigate to the Add- ons dropdown menu and select Get add ons… On a recent look around I ran into two new add- ons to help support writing.

Speech Recognition

After installing the add-ons be sure to provide permissions to the microphone and press start. You can select which language to dictate in. Speech recognition works similarly to other dictation supports in accepting voice commands for periods, commas, etc. Giving it a test run, I must say I was impressed by the accuracy of the dictation. I also gave it a try in Spanish with some good results.
Check it out in action:

Keywords

This add on allows a teacher to create a word bank with definitions which can be viewed to the side of the document. Using word clouds or word banks are a great way to guide reluctant writers and provide visual and memory supports for what should be included in the document.
Here is a short demo video of how Keyword works:

Two Great Timeline Web Apps

Timelines are a great and easy way to visually represent information in bite size chunks. As an example, timelines can help support struggling readers in understanding the sequence of events in a book.

Ginko App is a note taking app that uses markup for writing but can also be used to construct timelines and off shoots to the timeline. Its clean user interface makes it easy to understand and navigate through cards. As an example, here is a gingko I had started to scroll and navigate through the Common Core State Standards for ELA elementary schools.

Gingko layout for ELA CCSS

Gingko’s can either be private or public. There is a limit to how many you create for free with additional files created with a monthly membership fee (currently $4.99/ month).

Hstry is a great free tool that allows teachers to create interactive timelines. They have a user friendly tutorial that guides teachers through adding content. Timelines created are public and can be shared with others. A teacher can embed images, videos, and audio throughout the timeline. Interactive features include quizzes and feedback. Teacher accounts can create classes and add students as well as assign timelines for students.

In short, check out these tools in helping support student understanding of complex topics using a visual and interactive perspective.

iOS Add-on Keyboard with Word Prediction AND Auditory Feedback

I just ran into this new add-on keyboard and am very excited to share. Add-on keyboards are a new feature available when updating your iOS to 8. The general process of getting a keyboard involves purchasing it through the App Store. Once downloaded, you can customize settings within the app and then a user needs to activate the keyboard in the iOS system preferences (General>Keyboard). Almost all the keyboard apps I’ve seen provide very detailed information on how to go about doing this. Once everything is set up, no matter what app you are on you can call on the keyboard of your choice by tapping, holding and selecting your desired keyboard.

Now, onto the keyboard… this one is made by AssistiveWare who has been making some great accessibility software for Mac for quite some time. Their keyboard, Keeble is a pricy $14.99 as far as apps go but in my opinion is well worth it. This keyboard allows students to have the support of word prediction and auditory feedback (letter, word, and sentence) across all apps. They no longer need to stay tied to one app for writing which is huge!

In addition, to these writing supports for struggling writers, Keeble also offers a variety of touch modification options for those with fine motor delays that have a difficult time with on-screen keyboards. Options such as customizing hold duration, backspace repeat rates and select on release.

Visual supports, allow for extensive customization of colors and provides some basic keyboard layouts for the young learner. Vowels are also highlighted to help support literacy.

So far, it has been a great asset in allowing my students to produce writing on their iPads on Google Docs with the needed supports. The only con I have ran into so far is that their predictive spelling engine is not as robust as other providers of word prediction supports but does a pretty good job for most.

Co:Writer Now Supports Writing in the Cloud

As more schools are turning to cloud and subscription based solutions, another assistive technology company has developed their text prediction software to meet this model. Quotes are available for school site licenses and are an extremely affordable option to provide all students not just those with IEP’s or 504’s technology supports. This is a great tool to add to a school’s Universal Design for Learning toolbox.

Don Johnston recently released Co:Writer Universal and it offers some lovely features. When a school signs up for a site license students and teachers can create individual accounts. This account can then be used to log into the Co:Writer Universal web app , download the Chrome extension, download a PC or Mac version of Co:Writer and just announced today use Co:Writer as an iOS device.

Web App

The web app also opens as a separate window in a browser and has a very similar interface to the iOS app. Previous documents are autosaved in the home menu and can be further edited. Functions such as inserting images, text formatting, customizing the word list, and speech feedback setting are available. Another helpful feature is the topic dictionary support. If the writing is related to a book for example, you can search for a topic dictionary related to the book title and the word prediction will start including character names and other book related vocabulary. Written work can then be sent to Google Drive or Dropbox accounts.

Chrome Extension

Co:Writer extension in a Google Doc

An added benefit to this tool is that it can also be downloaded as a Chrome extension and work
directly within Google Docs or websites with text boxes to complete. I had tried using it within Slides but the performance in this app was varied. This is a great feature that is not available on other cloud based programs (see previous post here).

PC/Mac Application

Co:Writer universal can also be downloaded as a stand alone program on a Mac or PC. Many of the features discussed above are available in the program with the addition of the word cloud window. A word cloud is also available to help guide writers with recommended words to include in their writing. The words appear in a separate window but coordinate with the word prediction to have words listed.

iOS App

Just announced today, Co:Writer is also available as a free download from the app store. There is a stand alone version of Co:Writer for $20 however this does not link to the Universal account. It is important to download the Universal version of the app which works in tandem with the student’s account.

What is and why use word prediction and auditory feedback anyway?


Word prediction is often used for students who struggle with spelling and may be reluctant writers because of this difficulty. There are varying qualities of word prediction algorithms and use of “flexible spelling”. If the student types “tdy”, can the program predict “today”?


Auditory feedback can be used for students who struggle with grammar and produce writing sampled devoid of punctuation marks or omit words without noticing even if attempting to edit your work. Hearing back one’s writing helps students catch these errors. Some option for this feedback include hearing each letter typed (emergent writers), each word typed (assisting with sustained attention), or each sentenced typed. These are personal choices that a teacher and student can make to see what best benefits the writing.

Reading Vision Supports Using Chrome Extensions

The benefits to using Chrome as a browser are all the add-ons and extensions that are easy to download from the Chrome Webstore.

Color Supports

Beeline Reader is an extension that converts the text into flowing colors to increase the speed of eye tracking while reading. This also helps decrease the frequency of skipped lines which affects overall reading fluency and comprehension.

Speed Readers

These tool are used to increased reading speed but having one word presented on the screen at a time also limits the need for eye movements called saccades when reading. Some students struggle with the mechanics of moving their eyes across a page and tend to skip words or lines that affect overall comprehension.

Sprint Reader is an extension that allows a student to select text from an article or webpage and present each word individually on the screen. There are many font, sizing, and color modifications to customize the presentation. Also keyboard shortcuts can quickly stop, rewind, or modify speed as you are reading.

Spreed is another speed reading extension with similar features that allow customization of font, sizing, and speed. The benefit to this extension is that these customization options are available on the same screen as the words presented.

Text to Speech

Speak It is an extension that once installed allows the student to select text and have this text read back. The voice is a bit synthesized and does depend on the internet speed connection to function smoothly.
Select and Speak is another extension that provides text to speech supports. 

Font Modification

Clearly is one of my favorite extensions from the makers of Evernote. The extension clears away the ads and presents the text from the article in a clear and simple presentation. Users can customize the fonts spacing, sizing, and color scheme as well as highlight salient details. The article can then be clipped directly into your Evernote account. Premium subscribers can also have the text read back to them with word highlighting!

OpenDyslexic is an extension that converts most fonts presented on a webpage to the Open Dyslexic font. This font was created with attention to each letter to limit “b” and “d” confusion and draw the eye to the bottom of the line.