Tag Archive for AssistiveTech

Back in the game

Things have been crazy busy since I retired last May from teaching at Mesa Community College!   I sailed in the Virgin Islands for 3 weeks, then had several projects waiting for me when I returned.   Life has been very good.  But I have not had time to do any more research on technologies for the classroom.

I am working steadily from home (and the sailboat) now, and love having the time to do more research on technology in education.  If you have a product or application you would like me to review, please email me at tech4mathed.sg@gmail.com and I will do some research and write a blog post about my findings.

For many years I have had companies wanting to sponsor me and have me, in turn, place a link to their website on my blog.   I resisted in the past since I had a full time teaching position and wanted to do the research for my own students.  Now that I no longer have students, I have decided to accept sponsors to help fund my research on the best technology for teaching math.  If you are a company, or know someone who would like to sponsor my blog, please reach out at tech4mathed.sg@gmail.com.



New Tech to Try!

I apologize for not writing more posts this semester, but I have been swamped with work and play 🙂

I just received the new wi-fi Livescribe smartpen called SKY today and I promise to write a blog post soon about the features and how I plan on using it.  Wi-fi opens the potential of the smartpen to be even smarter!! I can’t wait!

I have been using Doceri 2.0 along with the Mobi 360 w/ clickers in my math classes and plan on updating all of you on how well that is going (it is going REALLY well, by the way)  and how I have used them with my students.

Stay tuned….


An Intelligent iPad Stylus

I recently wrote about Doceri 2.0,  which comes out today ( July 24, 2012) at noon PST in iTunes stores!  The old version is called Doceri Remote, which was version 1.2.2 but the new version will just be called Doceri and will be version 2.0.

I thought I would follow up with a review of their “goodPoint” Intelligent stylus.  The stylus has a chord which plugs into the headphone jack; this allows it to be controlled in Doceri 2.0.

I normally use the Wacom Bamboo stylus, which I love, but I thought I would give this “Intelligent” stylus a try.

Doceri vs Bamboo

I tried both with Doceri 2.0, and I have to admit the extra features in the goodPoint stylus were really nice to have when creating animations!   The main features I appreciated were the fact that  you can get a very fine point that is consistent, and that it allows you to rest your hand on the screen while writing with it.    The back of the goodPoint is also an eraser.   I would have used it more, but I kept forgetting it was there, since I have never had a stylus with an eraser before.

To get a better feel for how it compared with my Wacom Bamboo stylus, I compared them with 4 of my favorite iPad apps.

Here are some screen shots comparing the two different stylus brands (2 screencasting apps, and  2 note taking apps).  You decide which has the better handwriting – some are close and some are not.  Sorry my handwriting is not great, but some apps do help it along more than others!

From within the Doceri application on my iPad:

Doceri comparison

Doceri goodPoint stylus wins here!

On the top of the screen, I tried to use the Wacom Bamboo stylus with my hand on the screen, but I could not.  Having to write with my hand not on the screen definitely made my hand writing worse (OK, it is not great anyway, but it was harder to write that way, and not as clear).  With the Doceri “goodPoint” stylus, I was able to rest my hand on the screen while I wrote, which was much more comfortable!  The writing was smoother as well.

Before I found Doceri 2.0, I was using ScreenChomp as one of my favorite screencasting apps on the iPad.  Here is a comparison of Bamboo stylus and the Doceri stylus using ScreenChomp:

Screen Chomp comparison

Close, but since I can’t rest my hand on the screen with either, I would prefer to use the Bamboo stylus here (only because it does not have a chord).

As you can see the writing is similar using both (maybe a little better with the Doceri stylus?), but in both cases I was not able to rest my hand on the screen and still have the application let me write.   For me, that is a huge deal, as I am much more comfortable writing like I do on paper, with my hand on the surface while I write.

Next I thought I would compare my 2 favorite note-taking applications on the iPad (that allow me to hand write).

First I tried Bamboo Paper by Wacom:

Bamboo Paper comparison

Handwriting is close, but Doceri wins since I don’t want stray marks on my screen.

The good news was that the application allowed me to rest my hand on the screen while writing with both the Bamboo and the Doceri stylus, but as you can see in the screen shot above, the Wacom Bamboo stylus created extra marks when I did this, while the Doceri “goodPoint” stylus created no extra marks.  The hand writing seemed fairly similar to me, but it was nice not having to worry about marks when I set my hand on the screen with the Doceri stylus.

Finally, another note-taking app for the iPad I really like is called PenUltimate.  I thought I would compare with that app as well:

Pen Ultimate comparison

This app allowed me to rest my hand on the screen with both the Bamboo and the Doceri stylus.  However, Doceri stylus wins again, since I don’t want stray marks on my screen.

If you don’t mind the stray marks and some apps not allowing you to rest your hand on the screen, then the Wacom Bamboo stylus is a great choice.   However, given that I definitely prefer to place my hand on the screen and I don’t want any stray marks, then I prefer the Doceri goodPoint Intelligent stylus over the Wacom Bamboo stylus.

*Just a point of clarification: I was told by Doceri that the goodPoint stylus should really not do ANY better or worse than the Wacom (or any other stylus) for stray marks in apps other than Doceri.  The fact that it did for me is probably just a coincidence.  They agreed, though, that when using it in Doceri, the palm rejection is a major difference when using the Doceri stylus!



Learning to Write His Name!

My Autistic Great Nephew: Update #2:

I heard back from my niece last week about how her autistic son is doing with the Livescribe smartpen and his iPad.

If you have not seen the earlier part of the story, click here.

The story left off where my niece was going to her son’s school for the IEP meeting…

She told me about how much he loves the sound dots and that every time they get a new book he gets so excited to “dot” it!  He brings her everything he owns with writing on it so they can put a sound dot on it.
Then she shared the sad news with me that they did have her son’s IEP meeting, but it was very frustrating.  “They don’t want to use any technology. They also don’t think it is a good use of time to attempt to teach him the alphabet. So we’re just going to keep working on it ourselves”

Lucky for her son, she did not give up!  I got this update from her last week:

“Exciting News!
Last week (her son) started writing his name on the iPad!
This week I got a letter home from the school saying they are willing to try to incorporate using his iPad into his academics at school. My hope is the next step will be for the instructors to start using the (smart)pen so that they can give him lessons that can translate into home use.”

Pretty amazing stuff!!  I am so glad he has her to advocate for him.  What a great thing for him to be able to write his name!

The Livescribe smartpen and his iPad have made a huge difference in my great-nephew’s ability to learn the alphabet and start to learn to read.





Creating a Text Embedded Interactive Worksheet with a Livescribe Smartpen


Recently I learned how to embed text behind a Livescribe pencast and it has changed everything!

I created a short interactive worksheet to show what can be created with this process.   The following is a screenshot of the text embedded pencast because I cannot embed a PDF file (yet) into a website.   A link to the actual pencast PDF is below the screenshot.

Pencast PDF with text in the background
(you must have Adobe Reader 10.0 or higher to view this interactive PDF)

If that does not work, I put a link on my website for you to click on OUTSIDE of WordPress
(I have some issues with opening PDFs inside WordPress – if anyone can help me to embed
a PDF in WordPress or a website I would really appreciate it!)

As listed in the pencast, the steps to embed the text in the pencast PDF are as follows:

1.  Print off the text file onto Livescribe dot paper (I used college-ruled dot paper in my printer)

2.  Record a pencast on top of dot paper that has the text printed on it (the text shows you where to write!)

(sorry about the poor photo quality)

3.  Connect your smartpen and upload your pencast as a PDF (use the “Computer” connector)

As you can see in this screen shot, the pencast looks pretty strange without the text behind it!

4.  Save the original text document as a .jpg (image file) – to do this you must first save it as a PDF and then you can use Adobe Acrobat Pro or the free online utility Zamzar (www.zamzar.com) to save your PDF as a .jpg file

5.  Open the pencast PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro or PDF Pro (http://epapyrus.com/en/)  so that you can add a watermark to the PDF file

6.  Add your .jpg text file as a watermark to your pencast PDF and re-save the PDF

7.  The new pencast PDF can be viewed by anyone with Adobe Reader 10.0 or higher


Please add comments on this blog if you know of other free ways to save a text document as an image file and also if you know of other (especially FREE) programs that allow the user to edit a PDF.

Please send me the projects you make – I would love to see them!



Help For My Autistic Great-Nephew

 Helping Children and Adults with Autism

Link to the video I’m Here (if it does not show up above)

“This short film, based on an original story and art by Peter H. Reynolds and produced by FableVision, movingly conveys the loneliness a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder often experiences, and the life-changing effect each of us can have in breaking through that solitude.FableVision created the film for SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center).

FableVision CEO Peter H. Reynolds, NY Times best-selling children’s author/illustrator, illustrated the film. The film includes a powerful musical score by Ruth Mendelson. “I’m Here” is the precursor to the film and book “Wings of EPOH.” Both products are co-published by FableVision and SARRC.

Information: http://www.fablevision.com/wingsofepoh/index.php  ”
*Taken from the You-Tube video information about “I’m Here”

Personal Experience With Autism

I just got back from spending a great week with my mother, and my siblings and their families, in the beautiful Outer Banks!   My niece was there with her autistic son.   I showed my niece my Livescribe smartpen and what I thought it could do to help her son not only learn his letters and numbers, but also to speak.

I quickly put together a couple of demonstrations for her:

brought to you by Livescribe
brought to you by Livescribe

My great-nephew is pretty hard on paper, so  he mostly uses his iPad.    I then showed my niece how her son will be able to view the pencasts on his iPad using the Pencast Player app!   She was very excited to try it out!    We talked about creating pages with just a single word on them with her voice.   This would allow her son to “say” the word when he touched it on his iPad.   Her mind started buzzing with ideas on how to help her son.   She couldn’t wait to show his teachers the smartpen, in hopes it could help other children in his class as well.

The next level of excitement for her came when I showed her the new Livescribe sound dots.   With these dots any sound can be recorded and then the dot can be placed onto any surface.   Her son has several picture books which the dots would be perfect for!   My niece also thought about recording herself reading every page of his favorite books, so he could “read” the book while she was doing her homework.  It would give her son more freedom, but he could still hear her voice!

I sat down that evening and ordered her a Livescribe pen, several sizes of paper and some sticky notes (to use until the sound dots are released).   She is going to allow me to track his progress using the smartpen and report from my blog on it.   My niece will be sending me updates on how he is improving at school and how she is using the pen with him.   I am so excited for her, but especially for her amazing son, who just happens to be Autistic   : )





Making Math More Accessible For ALL Students

Reaching Different Learning Styles Through Technology

As you can probably tell, I have 2 passions that drive my teaching….technology and helping students.

My latest journey has been traveling down a path to find ways to help reach the different learning styles of my students. In turn this will help make my math courses more accessible to students who require either text, speech or visual aids because of physical or learning disabilities.

I started with the Livescribe smartpen to turn student notes into animated text with sound.  Then I tried to transcribe the text from the pencast using Dragon Naturally Speaking ,which works GREAT if I am speaking into my computer, but the student pencasts don’t pick up my speaking as well because I am walking around the room, so I am not near the pen most of the time.

Since Dragon cannot transcribe the text WHILE I am teaching from the Mobi software, then I needed to find a way to record my speaking during class and then download it into my computer so Dragon can create the transcript.  I spent some time today looking for options that would not require me purchasing a hand-held recorder.

I have a Plantronics Discovery 975 bluetooth headset that pairs with both my computer and also with my Droid X cell phone.   I use it with my computer and Dragon to ‘speak text’ into many programs on my computer, including Word and email (I still need to try it with MathType!).

I thought I found the perfect mobile solution…to be able to walk around the room and teach while wearing the bluetooth headset, but have the audio transcribe directly onto my phone!  I purchased the Droid version of Dragon called flexT9 …great idea and it works perfectly…except flexT9 does NOT support bluetooth headsets yet.   I can still use it for transcribing speech to text on my phone, but I have to be close to the phone mic.  It is an amazing app for $4.99!

I started looking for a voice recording app for my Droid that would support bluetooth.

I found Voice2Do (FREE).  It is the ONLY voice recorder I found that supports bluetooth.  I recorded a short message from my bluetooth headset to my Droid X (which was across the room) and then emailed it to my computer (to email the .wav file you must purchase the professional version).    Finally, I had Dragon transcribe the audio file and it worked GREAT!

I plan on playing with it for a couple more days and then trying it out in my classes.   My goal is to have the Livescribe pencast student notes and the Workspace board notes for visual learners, but then take the audio for the lesson and create a written transcript, which can also be read out loud by most computers, for students whose learning styles require reading or hearing the information.

I will post a link when I get it all put together.


Writing Math in Windows 7!

I was so excited to see a new window show up when I upgraded to Windows 7…it is called the Math Input Panel.  With a name like that I had to be excited before even trying it out!


I immediately started playing with it and was surprised and VERY happy to see how easy it was to handwrite math and have it insert the typed version into my Word document!  It does not always pick the correct letter or number, but you can easily edit an individual symbol.


I have tried writing some algebra, and it does a great job with that as well!


I am excited to see more tools for my students to be able to use to ‘write” math on their computers as well.   Although Word comes with Equation Editor, my students do not know how to use it.    Now, students can easily handwrite their math problems and have them typed up!

For students with disabilities – or anyone who wants to have the math read out loud to them, Word can then take the file that has the math equations embedded  and be saved as a MathXL document.   MathPlayer should then be able to read the math out loud….I will try that next and see how it works out!


Training My Dragon!

Dragon Naturally Speaking Web Link


I have started on a quest to make math more accessible!   I recently purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Premium ver 11.0.   It just came today and I have been playing with it to train it to trancribe my voice.     So far it has  done a great job in Word, but then I decided to have it transcribe the audio file from the Livescribe pencast below.

Link to pencast


When the pencast is still on your desktop, you can export the audio separately.  I then imported the audio file directly into Dragon and the original transcipt is shown below (I just cropped a small part of the transcript for you to see).  I still have a lot of “training” on Dragon to do, but it didn’t do a bad job for the first try!  It certainly has potential to help create a transcript for my pencasts for students who need one.

(click on the image to see a larger version of the text)

Livescribe also has transcription software you can purchase called “MyScript”.  Here is a link to the software.   It has some difficulty transcribing the math, but here is the first pass it made:

(click on the image to see a larger version of the text)

My next task it to to learn to use MathType,

together with Dragon, to create equations that can be read aloud for students.   I will post when I make some progress there.  🙂


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