Thursday, 13 December 2012

Communicating Under Water

Working with our aquatics instructor we have purchased a LifeProof case and LifeJacket for an iPad.

This case claims to be water proof, shock-proof, dust-proof, and snow-proof. Our aquatics team is really interested in how to integrate communication apps into their program. When a student uses an app to communicate in class, they feel that they should have the same voice in the water. And we agree.

We haven't yet tossed one into the pool, but when we do I'll let you know how it goes!!

Monday, 22 October 2012

iPad Research with Rhonda McEwen

Congratulations to Sabrina Morey and Stacie Carroll – teachers at Beverley School, research leads on the Touch Technology in the Classroom project, and now recipients of the recipients of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Certificate of Achievement for Teaching Excellence.  It is with great pleasure that I write these few words about my involvement with the Beverley School community as a new media researcher.  Way back in 2009 (yes, before the iPad was released in Canada!) a hallway conversation with one of the school’s teachers, Sabrina Morey, sparked the idea for taking her experiences with trying out her personal iPod touch with her students and expanding it into a research project that would eventually involve every classroom at the school.  The awards and honours that have followed are correctly aimed at Alana Grossman as principal of the school, her team of superb teachers and support staff, and most of all the praise is directed to the students who demonstrated in private moments and under the glare of the studio lights that they are exceptional.

In many of the presentations that I have made regarding the study results I reiterate a few things that I can share with you here as well.  

First, the use of touch technologies in classrooms requires planning, funding, and dedication. Even with the slick interface and modest learning curves the integration of these types of technologies into teaching and learning environments calls for innovative thinking and time. It is yet another ask of teachers who are already adapting to the joys and challenges of the special education classroom. In a paper that I recently published on the use of iOS (i.e. devices that use Apple’s operating system) in special education classrooms my co-authors and I describe the care required when attempting to integrate these technologies into curricula laden with many other things. See Campigotto, R., McEwen, R., & Demmans Epp, C. (2013). Especially social: exploring the use of an iOS application in special needs classrooms, Computers and Education, Vol 60 (1), p. 74-86, This integration or lack thereof can make or break student experiences – so the tough news is that iPads and iPods cannot be sprinkled like fairy dust onto classrooms. But on the other hand, the work at Beverley School proves that with committed school leadership and teachers, extraordinary results are possible.

Second, it takes time. For students with sensory disorders and their parents this is not a popular statement. Miracles, while possible if you look at progress within a particular lens, are slower in their evolution.  In the study we were privileged to have a few years of data to consider and we noted that it often took a few months before students were able to demonstrate statistically significant gains in expressive communication and attentions span variables. Well before that time, however, we began to see changes in student’s motivation to connect with peers and teachers expressed several anecdotes to support this every week.

Finally, while touch devices are not the answer for every child, they appear to have salience for many. At the Semaphore Lab at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, I am working with Dr. Adam Dubé on a series of experimental projects to investigate this further.
Rhonda N. McEwen, PhD.
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
| Institute of Communication, Culture and Information Technology (UTM)
| Faculty of Information (UofT)
| Fellow St Michael's College (UofT)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Your Guide to Guided Access

Here is a step by step guide to setting up Guided Access on your iPad for you class.

1. In the 'Settings' option select 'General'.

Scroll down to the 'Accessibility' option and select it.

2. In the 'Accessibility' menu scroll down to the 'Guided Access' option and select it.

3. Make sure that 'Guided Access' is turned 'on' and then touch the 'Set Passcode' option.

4. Enter a 4 digit passcode that is easy for you to remember, but difficult for your students to figure out.

5. Return back to the main 'Accessibility' menu page and select the 'Triple-click Home' option.

6. Make sure that this menu is set to 'Guided Access' and you are ready to go!!

7. Open the app you want to use with your student. Click on the home button 3 times. The 'Guided Access' app menu will appear. From there you can set it up however you want. It will automatically lock the hardware buttons (Home, Sleep, and Volume). You can turn of the off the touch screen function for the entire screen or circle with your finger to turn it off in specific place. Finally you have the option to turn off the motion sensor (the screen image will not rotate when the device is turned).

After you have set the Guided Access options the way you want them press the blue 'Start' button in the top right corner of the screen. The app will then fill the screen as normal, with the Guided Access features enabled.

If your student does press the hardware buttons, first a message will appear at the top of the screen that says "Guided Access is enabled. Triple-click the home button to exit.". If the home button is clicked 3 times the 'Enter Passcode' window will appear. If you are ready to exit the app then simply enter the passcode that you saved in step 4.

You should now be back in the Guided Access options window. You have two options at this point, either to selected the grey 'End' button at the top left, or the blue 'Resume' button at the top right. You can also edit the Guided Access features from this screen; change the areas that are touch disabled, turn on the motion sensor.

If you select 'Resume' you will be taken back the app with Guided Access still on. If you select 'End' you will be taken back to the app with Guided Access off. You can then press the home button to exit the app and have full function of the hardware buttons again.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

iOS6 In My Classroom

I just updated my iPad with iOS6 and so far I am happy with the changes. The clock is nice, the map looks good. But what I am really excited about is Guided Access.

Apple says on it's website, "iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. "

In Settings,  General, Accessibility, Guided Access you can set the device while in an app so that when you triple click the home button it shows you a screen that allows you to control the access points that a student has when using an app.

For example, I can disable all of the hardware buttons. That means that when using an app a student is no longer able to press out of the app using the home button, they can no longer turn off the device using the sleep button, and they can no longer change the volume.

This will eliminate one of the most frustrating parts of working with an iPad in my classroom.

As well, you can circle a part of the screen image and disable the touch function for that area. That is important when, for example, using an app that was designed for the iPhone on an iPad. I can circle the small 1x button and the student will no longer be able to toggle the size of the app during use. I can also disable areas of the screen where there is a return button or an edit feature.

What do you think? How is it working in your classroom or home?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


I have been reading about the new iOS system that Apple is releasing in the fall. It comes with some exciting additions for students with developmental disabilities under the Guided Access feature.

With the new iOS you will be able to disable the home button. That will allow teachers to set up an app for a student and not have to worry about them getting out of it. It will also ensure that when a student is making a choice of apps that they won't be able to just pop in and out of different apps without spending time first.

The other exciting change that is coming with the new operating system is the ability to restrict where the screen is touch sensitive. In my classroom that means that I will be able to isolate the small area where an iPhone app has been magnified for the iPad screen so that when they touch that space nothing will happen. It will also make it possible to restrict some areas on a screen that would allow a student to go back to a menu or an additional feature.

I am looking forward to starting the school year off with these new enhanced features!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Free Apps

There are many apps that are free right now in recognition of Autism Awareness. I was happy to see one of my favorite set of apps were also free right now. All of the apps by are free. They make flash cards and receptive language assessments. What makes these apps special is the quality of the images they use and the customization options for assessment.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The New iPad

I listened to the Apple Event yesterday for news of the iPad3. I was pleased to hear about the improved graphics, faster processor, and higher resolution camera. The upgrades are impressive, but I am not sure it is something we need to invest in right now. The changes between the original iPad and the iPad2 were game-changing. The camera and mirroring capability were reason enough for us to purchase some. I think that for how we are using our devices right now in the classroom we can hold off on investing in the newest version for a while. 

The App store also released a new app for the Mac called Apple Configurator. It is a free app that allows schools and businesses to manage multiple devices from a single account. It creates a way for a person to manage up to 30 devices. It even allows for this management to happen remotely. 

I can see many benefits to using this app with our devices. I wonder how it will impact the personalization and customization that each of our tablets have in the classroom. Each teacher has taken the time to format their device to the needs of their students and classroom environment. We have chosen not to have a single charging/synching station for this reason. 

I am also curious about the line in the description that refers to the Volume Purchase Plan restrictions on apps when using the Apple Configurator. I believe it might have been designed to work together with the Volume Purchasing Plan, making it a much better option for system wide management rather then what we are doing at our school. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Proloquo2Go Donation Program

Proloquo2Go has started a Proloquo2Go app donation program in the US which is intended to help those with limited funds get access to their communication application. So if have been struggling to get this app for a person, follow this link for more info.  -

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Playboard Review

symbols clustered for a student with
limited range of motion

Playboard is an app created by Aardustry LLC. It is an easy to use display board that includes images and voice recordings. There are 6 pages that each have 12 cells.

What I really like about this app is how simple it is to customize each page for individual student needs. The images don't have to be side by side, or even in a line.  Some of the other communication apps that are available don't allow for blank spaces between cells or for the choice of where to place an image. With Playboard you are free to set your images in any combination of the 12 cells that makes sense for the person you are designing the board for.

Each symbol or picture from your library can be paired with a voice recording. You can change the settings for the display in the Settings. You can lock page scrolling, access to editing, and if you can see the outline of the empty cells or not.

Snack choice board with
empty cells showing

Aardustry also makes afree app called Playbutton. This app allows you to record a single message with a large playback button for the student to press. Easy to record and re-record as needed.