Posted in Assistive Technology, Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Cost Effective School-Based Assistive Technology Programs

By now, almost every school district has an Assistive Technology Program. Many students have access to graphic organizer, text to speech and word prediction software within their classrooms or at least in a computer lab. But, that is a BIG BUT, does the district have to provide computers for home use?  Not in my opinion!

School districts are switching over to Google and Google Apps for students to use while at school.  This allows the student to have a school-based e-mail with access to Google Drive.  Documents created in school with Google Apps can then be opened and worked on at home.

Companies, licensing assistive technology software to districts, provide a number of options for sharing this programming for the students to use at home.  This may come in the form of a web based version or an actual disc or thumb drive that a parent can use to load the software onto their home computer.

If students can access work from school at home and then have the assistive technology software available on their home computers, there is no reason for students to have a device to carry back and forth from home to school.

It is my belief that students should have two e-mail addresses to access between home and school.  One, of course, should be their g-mail account through Google and the other should be an Outlook account through Outlook.com.  One might think that a g-mail account would suffice.  It might if the student has no executive function issues and is very well organized. However, that Microsoft Office Suite that we know and have grown to love, has the best digital notebook program EVER!  Yes I mean, EVER!  Microsoft OneNote comes with every version of the Microsoft Office Suite.  If you have the Microsoft Office Suite, you have OneNote. School districts have had this programming forever and never knew it!

If you create an Outlook account, you have OneNote!  There is a modified version within your Outlook account, along with Word, PowerPoint and Excel. What is not to like?  Then the absolute best thing is to download the the free OneNote App.  Yes, that’s right, I said free!  With this app, a student can have access to his or her notes anywhere there is an internet connection!

The absolute best case scenario is to have the Microsoft Office Suite on your home computer.  Create your notebooks at home and store them within your Outlook account.  When you create your notebook, choose the web option as the location to store your notebook.  Under web location, log in with your Outlook log on and password.  You will use the same log on and password to open your notebook within the app on your iPad or Android device.

Setting up your notebooks from your home computer through the Microsoft Office Suite provides many more options, with my favorite option being the template feature.  This saves oodles of time.  Just add the template to your notebooks from your home computer and their will magically appear on your other devices. You can scan handouts and homework assignments into the notebook at home or photograph them with your tablet or phone when in school or in the community.  The best part about this program is IT IS AN AUTOSAVE PROGRAM!  If you forget to save something, no big deal, once you put it in a notebook, it is there until you take it out.

Microsoft OneNote is a life saver.

  • Parents never again will have to run to school with a forgotten assignment, as long as, the student put the assignment in their OneNote Notebook.
  • Is it time for a notebook review by your teacher?  Share the notebook with your teacher!
  • Left your notes in school and you have a test tomorrow?  Access your notes anywhere there is an internet connection.
  • Organize your OneNote Notebooks just like you would your paper notebooks or binders.  You can easily add tabs for sections and add new pages to each section.

I like my OneNote notebooks better than Evernote. There are organizational features in OneNote that Evernote cannot match. OneNote is easy to use. Open your notebook to where you need to add a new assignment then either use a scanner (if your at home) or take a photo of the assignment. It will go right to the place that you have open. Nothing could be easier.

So going back to the original topic of cost effective assistive technology, with the availability of a number of free options that work across platforms (PC or Mac), there is really no reason to provide each student with a device to take home. Students are entitled to a free and appropriate education but not necessarily a free computer.  If assistive technology is needed, then absolutely provide it. Send home the software but not a device.

Of course we all worry about where our tax dollars are being spent and in my opinion, sending home devices with students can be a huge waste of our tax dollars. There is an easy solution and we should take advantage of it. Yes, there are homes without internet or even a computer. Recently, many local libraries have begun distributing free wireless devices for internet access to families in need. Netbooks are a reasonable option, for those students requiring assistive technology, and who are without computers in the home. The netbook can be left at home and returned to the district at the end of the school year.  While there may be some normal wear and tear on the netbooks, there should not be damaged from transporting the devices repeatedly to and from school.

In my opinion, internet should be free and accessible to everyone.  If you need something faster than what is a free connection, then go ahead and pay for the faster service.

With the onset of a new technological age, where technology is the norm rather than the exception, we need to be just as careful about our money as we are about educating our students.

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

-Using OneNote for Daily Tasks in an Alternately Assessed Classroom

Image

One of the daily tasks that a student in an alternately assessed class can do is to take attendance.  Many students can recognize classmates names, even though he or she is unable to read.  By using OneNote, the daily attendance can become an activity that is easily mastered in a short period of time.

In the screen shot above, I have added a number of fictitious names with a check box next to each name.  I have enlarged the font making the requisite eye hand coordination a bit easier.  The student in charge of attendance merely needs to either click on the box, or if using a tablet, tap it to check the box to indicate that the student was in attendance.  You can make the template a bit more challenging by adding additional responses, such, absent, and even add related services, i.e., OT, PT, Speech, etc.

The Attendance form is saved as a template so that there is no need to recreate the form each time.  The form is easily modified to add or subtract additional students.  A space for a student to sign can also be added and completed with with a pen tablet on a PC or with a stylus on the iPad or tablet.

Attendance 2

This is another, more advanced version of taking attendance.  The template saved on OneNote can be modified as your students abilities improve.  The student responsible for taking attendance will need to interact with each student in the room to obtain his or her initials on the form.  This can be accomplished using a pen tablet with a PC or a stylus using an iPad.  Learning how to write initials is another skill that will become useful in vocational training.

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

-Can I Save and use Rubrics in MicroSoft OneNote?

As an occupational therapist, working as an independent contractor, I have been asked quite frequently, what programming do I use for notes. Well, I use Microsoft OneNote.  I love the versatility of this program and the auto-save feature.  If I need run to my next appointment, I never have to worry if I have saved the notes that I have just written.  Notes are always legible and you can make templates for note forms that you use regularly.

One thing that I really like about OneNote is that I can create my assessment rubrics [you know that I am a big fan of rubrics] and save each one as a template.

Image
Screen Capture of a rubric in OneNote

Do you see those little green boxes?  Just one click [if on a computer] or tap [if on a tablet] and OneNote will check the box for you. Once you set up your rubrics and save them as templates [you must save templates only once], they will be available to you forever. You then have accurate and transparent data collection for each session.  I recommend using one page per session.  You can also make templates in Excel to graph your data.

I recommend making a notebook for each individual patient.  Templates are available across all notebooks that you create [another cool feature].  When you discharge the patient, import the Excel file into OneNote and you will have complete and accurate data of the patient’s progress [with a graphic] over the course of your treatment.  You will have to enter the data separately into the Excel file but it is faster and more accurate.

My book, Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy, explains how to develop and modify a rubric and the importance of accountability and transparency in our documentation.  Adapting to the new regulations can only support and teach others about what we do so that we do not get swallowed up by professions waiting to do so.  While this may be initially time consuming, once you have your assessment rubrics in place, documentation will be easy.  Remember, you can e-mail a page using a HIPPA Compliant e-mail system [like hushmail.com] or print it for your records.

Posted in Assistive Technology

-Using OneNote to take Notes in Secondary Schools and College

Another of my favorite therapy areas is teaching students how to take notes.  Taking notes is not easy.  Students must be able to respond to auditory cues with a pen/pencil or a keyboard.  Some students feel the need to take down every word, while others can take down the highlights.  Since I am an occupational therapist, my job is to teach students how to respond to environmental cues with movement.  So I would like to talk about taking notes in my favorite note-taking program, OneNote.

There are a number of reasons to set up note – taking templates or forms in OneNote.  For example, this T-Chart can be used for a number of different classes and discussions within a class.  Prompts that may indicate that a T-Chart should be used are:  Compare/Contrast; Conversely; Vocabulary Words/Definitions; Pros/Cons, etc.  This note-taking template can also be used for pre-algebra/algebra or anywhere where there is a rule and a sample.  The Cornell style of note-taking also uses a asymmetrical T-Chart for cues and notes.

Simple T-Chart created from a table and saved as a template
Simple T-Chart created from a table and saved as a template

Much of the job is already done for the student.  The page is already formatted for the student.  I find that formatting is often part of the delay and disorganization in taking notes.  If you click on the date, a little calendar appears and the date can be easily changed (calendar will indicate the correct date).  The same can be done for the time. Rows can easily be added to the table by clicking on the appropriate icon in the ribbon at the top of the screen or by right-click and then click on Table.  The color of the page and print can also be changed to address any visual concerns.

The real trick is learning the verbal prompts so that the appropriate form can be identified and opened.  The great part of this system is that this is an auto-save program!  If the student closes the program before saving, the work will still be there.  Another factor to consider is keyboarding speed and accuracy.  Figure out if the student can take dictation on the keyboard accurately before recommending this method to any student.