Wednesday, June 27, 2012

News from the ISTE 2012 Conference Exhibit Hall, a technology mecca!

Dexteria of BinaryLabs  generously invited some folks to join them at the ISTE conference Exhibit Hall this year, and I was lucky enough to get coveted tickets to the event (Thank you!!).  Having been spoiled by the CSUN International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference held here in San Diego annually, I wasn't sure what to expect from the ISTE conference.  It pretty much blew us away- and mind you this is just the Exhibit Hall, not the numerous workshops that were held.  I could have spent all open hours browsing the Exhibit Halls, but unfortunately my job at two year-round school sites foiled this plan somewhat.  However I did spend several hours on Monday and Tuesday taking it all in.

My first stop was to the BinaryLabs booth to check out their new apps for fine motor and visual skills!  Super Duper Publications and The Social Express were on the agenda as well, along with a bunch of iPad cases including Gumdrop, Otterbox, Trident Kraken, M-Edge Super Shell.  I wanted to see them all first hand and the conclusion is I may need a combination of all of the iPad cases to make my perfect one, although the new Otterbox (there's a brand new design out with gorgeous colors too!) and the Gumdrop were my favorites of the bunch- perhaps a blog focusing on Otterbox versus Gumdrop is in order?  I've heard Griffin may have a good competitive case for the special needs community as well, but if Griffin was there at ISTE, I somehow missed them. There were quite a few apps being showcased as well, some of my favorites are featured below.  At the last moment I spied BrainPop, one of my son's favorite apps, but sadly did not have a chance to stop by to see what is in the works.  There were also some good surprises not on the schedule. Google handed out atleast a half a dozen Google Chrome laptops, and free iPad and Kindle Fire contests were uber popular.  No dice there, though, but there was plenty to keep me happy:
Here are my finds and news from the ISTE 2012 Exhibit Hall:

Assistive Technology:

Two best finds at the #ISTE12 Exhibit Hall today: the Forte and the Matrix One S android tablet

The Forte from Advanced Keyboard Technologies, Inc. is a keyboarding device that would be awesome for students who struggle with handwriting or dyslexia, spelling etc. It could be also used as an AAC device- it has text to speech and even allows the user to enter custom shortcut ...key strokes such as ty for "thank you" or gb for "I need to go to the bathroom". It also has word prediction, ability to import documents into the device for completing classroom assignments and much more... seriously in love with this !  *It looks like I will have a trial Forte coming my way that I will be testing out and will have available for demos in the San Diego area, so stay tuned... I'm sure the Forte will be featured in a blog post in the future.
Another great find is the Matrix One S android tablet, which is built with students in mind.  I loved its small but not too small size. It is super lightweight, very affordable and has access to the entire Android market, which means you could download communication apps and other special needs Android apps to it... I want to get my hands on one to play with it more and see what it can do.

App News:

BinaryLabs (of Dexteria fame) has several new apps to add to Dexteria and LetterReflex-  a professional version of Dexteria,  a professional version of LetterReflex and a new app for Visual Spatial skills,  P.O.V. Spatial Reasoning Skills . 

Super Duper Publications was showing off their new app coming out soon for WH ?s.  It includes report style data tracking and a fun "revealer device" the child scans over the screen to see the correct answer ;)   They also have another project in the works that I know I am looking forward to!

KidPix Deluxe 3D (currently available as a Mac app) is working on an iPad version, coming soon!  You can take your own images, easily swipe around the image to cut it out and make your own custom "stickers" to add to any even allows voice recording, video recording, and a lot more... Aside from all the fun art projects my kids will be doing, I could see myself using this in the speech room for story retell, or perhaps even for articulation practice. It looks really versatile! 

Inspiration Maps is a neat app I was able to demo that would be wonderful especially for the upper elementary and above classroom. It woud also make a great addition to the speech therapy room! It allows for mapping activities, such as creation of word webs, cause and effect maps and so on. A great plus is the templates it comes with to get you started!

The Social Express has plans for a web-based platform that will focus more on reports/data tracking for educators while presenting a variety of social skills lessons. Count me in!

 Umigo is a new kids' app coming soon that looks great for children with special needs. It uses visual and auditory cues along with bright colors and shapes to teach math, science, and technology concepts to 6-11 year olds. So keep your eyes out for it in the app store in a few months.

Symbaloo is a free app that allows you to create boards of active links to websites.  Symbaloo now has a student centered edition that was being demoed at ISTE: SymbalooEDU .  I believe the EDU edition is subscription based.  You could definitely use this to organize links on different academic subjects for students, or for yourself- I plan on making a page for just me with all my favorite links on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Pinterest.

PBS Kids was at ISTE showcasing both paid and FREE apps.  They have started a new program to give apps to low-income users, you can apply here:

StudyPad, which makes the Splash Math series, plans to branch out into other academic topics in the future.  My eyes lit up when I heard "grammar" mentioned...

Educational Web-based Resources and Software:

Sophia was new to me and is a web-based educational resource for educators, students and teachers. It gathers the best info, including free tutorials for a variety of academic areas. The "flipped classroom" is alive and well here.
I snagged a free tshirt at Sophia's booth at ISTE 2012 and got spotted wearing it the next day by @sophia .

iReady is a web-based instructional/assesment tool for schools.  I was happy to get a walk-through of the program and I learned the Santee School district in San Diego County is using this tool in their special education department. 

Super Star by Help Me 2 Learn had software for Language Arts that is right up my alley for speech and language therapy- one of the language units available focuses on segmenting multisyllabic words and actually shows a voice graph of each spoken vocabulary word so the child can see how the word is divided visually.  Love this feature!  The lessons incorporate fun sports games like basketball and karate to get the kids learning too.

 OpenMinds is a web based platform in Beta that I am still exploring, but it looks like you can access existing learning content or customize learning content of your own, and have students access that content through a free account.

I hear the next ISTE conference is in Texas... road trip anyone? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review- Grimm's Frog King by JustKidsApps

  Grimm's Frog King by JustKidsApps - Katrin Draemann Barothy

When I saw a post reaching out to educators wanting to try Grimm's Frog King, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy.  This app looked perfect for my upper elementary students.  I am a speech language pathology assistant, and story retell is a big part of language therapy for many of my students.  We also work on summarizing, answering questions, making connections- tried and true fairy tales are a favorite for all of these skills.  What attracted me to this Grimm's Frog King app is the two variations of the fairy tale that it contains- a traditional version, and a second more modern version.  The second version is appropriately named "The version with a funny twist".   Having two different versions of the same story is perfect for working on compare/contrast skills, which is what I had planned on.  After reading the second version with a narrator adding her own commentary about the characters' feelings and motives, it was clear this would actually be a perfect opportunity to talk about concepts such as humor/sarcasm, and point of view/theory of mind. The kids ended up wanting to make their own commentary just like the second version of the story (We agreed there was no way the frog would want to marry someone as mean as the princess). This led to rewriting our own ending.  

There is also an "Extras" tab has with a page of frog-related jokes (some definitively British), a fine motor activity "catch the frog", a spot the difference activity, a "toad or frog?" comparison (my favorite), a mini quiz requiring the reader to play close attention to details in the illustrations from the second version of the story, a page with information on the illustrator and authors, and one final frog joke for the slightly older crowd (I skipped over this one).

My favorite features:
two versions of Grimm's Frog King (English or German)
rich language
a pause button- great for stopping for discussion
a fun way to introduce concepts of humor/ sarcasm, point of view
charming narration (British English) and sound effects 
watercolor illustrations with pinch to zoom feature
interactive hot spots hidden in the stories
Fun "Extras" activities

Wish List:
page jump for the "Extras" tab
key words highlighted/dictionary feature
option to shut off background noises
 could have done without the wine commentary