Tuesday, 27 December 2011


We were recently generously donated some iPad Motion Mounts from a company called iCymbal. They are a hard plastic grip style backing that secures to a flexible arm mount that can be attached to any surface. They come in a variety of colours and with 2 sizes of clamping arms.With the shorter arm you can remove the clamp from the arm and use it as a tripod on any flat surface.

We have them in a few of our classrooms and have found that they really can be mounted just about anywhere.  The mount is very secure and when tightened the tablet does not move. It can however be rotated and positioned to however you need it to be.

I have been using one at snack time with a young student. The Motion Mount is clamped with the short arm to the table and the tablet is positioned just right for his reach, off to the side where it isn't not getting in the way of his snack. I have also been able to adjust the angle of the tablet to reduce glare and have the images presented clearly and in his line of sight.We have also used it as you see in this picture while working with some of our other apps. 

I found with the shorter arm length that it was a bit more difficult to position on a stander or wheelchair and have the same range of tilt and positioning options. It worked great for an app that students were watching or listening to. With the longer arm you would be able to have more positioning options  for students with restricted mobility or limited vision.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Top 10 Canadian EdTech Newsmakers

We are so honoured to be named MindShare Learning's #1 pick for Top 10 Canadian EdTech Newsmakers of 2011. The people and organizations who make up the top 10 are an impressive group, each with amazing achievements and contributions to education and technology.

We have been working hard at our school with our students to integrate tablet technology into the curriculum and to use apps for communication.

We have seen some amazing things with our students, hearing some of them communicate their thoughts and feelings for the first time, watching them be able to attend for longer periods of time, seeing them reach out to make music independently.

Thank you for acknowledging the hard we have done and helping us to celebrate our achievements.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


*For sale in the app store for $14.99 (29/12/11)*

A new app has just been released and is currently free (was $19.99). It is called Choiceworks.

The app description on iTunes describes it as offering:

■ Three boards: Schedule, Waiting, and Feelings
■ Three Companion Books supporting each board
■ Image Library preloaded with over 165 images and audio
■ Add your own images and record your own audio for limitless customizability
■ Save an unlimited number of schedules for multiple children or different routines
■ Speaks boards out loud with professionally recorded audio
■ Time saving essentials like search and auto-save

iPhone Screenshot 1 I was easily able to create a visual schedule for each school day, as well as choice boards to offer students who are waiting with pictures of appropriate choices form the classroom. The voice recording feature was simple to use and the display is easy to navigate.

iPhone Screenshot 2
I like that in the schedule boards when an activity is completed the student has to move that picture to the right and it is checked off. It looks a lot like the paper schedules we are using in the classroom and is a copy of the . I also like that there is a timer feature built into the waiting board so that the time periods are clear and finite. 

It is the app version of the Choiceworks Visual Support System sold by Communication Crossroads.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Online Resource

I have a favourite online resource that I use for picture communication symbols. It comes from
SET-BC (Special Education Technology - British Columbia). This is a Ministry of Education Provincial Resource Program designed to support students with developmental disabilities. As part of their site they have a Learning Centre that includes a link to their PictureSET.

"PictureSET is a collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students for both receptive and expressive communication in the classroom, at home, and in the community. This searchable database allows you to find a wide range of useful visual supports for different curriculum areas, activities, and events. PictureSET resources are created and updated by dedicated professionals working with students in British Columbia."

There is a wealth of visual supports in both Boardmaker and PDF formats covering a wide range of topics and ages.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Free Apps for Black Friday

I am sure there are many places listing apps that are available for a reduced cost or for free, but this one seems to have a very good selection of education apps and some that are geared for special education. 


Friday, 18 November 2011

We Rest Our Case!

After working with our iPad2s in the classroom for 7 months and trying out a few different cases, we have finally found one that works for us.

The Big Grips case is a form fitted squishy case. It is non-toxic, lead, latex, phthalate and PVC free. It works with the screen protectors we are using . It has also been easy to keep clean. As well, they have been standing up to whatever the students do to them. I have even had my iPad thrown over a student's head and land safely.

bite and scratch marks

We have tried other cases and they have worked in some classrooms and not in others. This case seems to be working in all the rooms that have it.There is nothing on the case that distracts the students from the images on the screen. The case is thick enough that little fingers find it difficult to access the volume and power button. It has also worked well with the BubCap

It has a stand that can be purchased separately from the frame or as a combo. We are very happy with our cases. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011

As Seen On TV App List

Here are the apps that were shown in the story on 60 Minutes and on CBC The National.

ABA Receptive Identification, Kindergarten.com, $0.99              
ABA Receptive Identification- FCC Combined, Kindergarten.com, $0.99              
Alphabet Zoo, Third Rail, LLC, Free
Animal Stickers, Mind Juice Media, $1.99
Answers:YesNo, Simplified Touch, $3.99
AutismXpress, StudioEmotion Pty Ltd. Inc., Free
Count to 100, Midnightsoft, $0.99
Count TV, Sesame Street, $2.99
Look In My Eyes 1 Restaurant, FizzBrain, $2.99
Peekaboo Barn, Night & Day Studios, Inc., $1.99
Piano Pals, BigStack Studios, Free
Proloquo2Go, AssistiveWare, $189.99
Thomas Game Pack, HiT Entertainment, $2.99

This is a list of the apps that were seen on these broadcasts, it does not imply a recommendation of any particular app. Please research apps before you purchase them. If possible, try a 'lite' version if one is available, or test them out on someone's device who already owns it.

In the News

It has been a fantastic fall, but very busy!

Our school was featured on CBS 60 Minutes in a story that explored how iPads and some apps are facilitating communication and social skill development in people who have autism and other developmental disabilities. You can see the story here.

That story was followed up by the CBC with both a radio interview and a story on The National.

Using an iPad might not be for everyone. Not every student who gets their hands on a device is going to be able to communicate using apps like Proloquo2Go

From our research, one of the things we do know is that most students find the device engaging. They will pay attention to what they see or hear on the screen. For some students it is the first time they have been able to attend for longer periods of time on anything. 

That is big. Really big. 

Success can be measured in broader terms then just expressive language. Success can be an app that entertains a child at a restaurant so that the whole family can be out together enjoying a meal. Success can be an app that allows a child to be redirected from a tantrum. Success can be an app that allows children to play together with a sibling for the first time.

I am very proud of everyone at Beverley School. The students, researchers, staff, families and community.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Phase 3

We are entering phase 3 of our study with the University of Toronto. This phase will be examining how students access touch devices (gesture mapping) and social skills.

All of our classrooms are participating in this phase with data collection. We are excited about the preliminary results.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


my r/c helicopter crashing...I was recently given 2 sets of iBallz to test out on iPad2. We were also given a Lid and a Satchel.
iBallz are a unique device protection system. 4 firm balls are connected by a cord with a notch in each ball. You fit the iPad into the notches and pull the cord tight. The tension of the cord holds the balls in place. Once in place the iPad is protected from drops, spills on the table, and bumps.

One of the balls is specially marked and notched differently to accommodate the power button, but it does cover the camera. I got used to rocking the ball to turn my iPad off, but it was more difficult to coordinate the action when I wanted to take a screen shot. You have to completely remove the ball in order to use the camera. I was given this information from the company before receiving the product.

my r/c helicopter crashing...We tried the iBallz in a few classes with a variety of students and they seemed to work very well with most students. Some students found the balls to be very distracting and were unable to concentrate on what was happening on the screen. A couple of the students liked to play with the cord, and one student used it to hold onto in order to fling the iPad. To the credit of the iBallz, the iPad was just fine!!

I did find that wrapping the Lid around the cord and securing it to the back of the iPad not only held the balls on even more securely, but the students were less distracted by the cord. However, when using it this way it was very difficult to get to the camera.

Some students used the balls to rest their hands when looking at the screen. This was beneficial because it kept their hands off of the screen reduced the frequency of accidental touches.

The case was also used with students who have physical disabilities. The case was very stable on the wheelchair tray as the balls didn't allow the device to slide around. The iPad did not move when they moved their hands and arms and allowed the students to target the screen without having to worry about holding the device stable. As well, when the iPad was knocked off of the tray or table it merely bounced slightly before settling safely on the ground.

I will admit that this was not a product that I was interested in before trying it out. I did not feel that it would offer the level of protection that I needed. After using the product I have changed my mind. It protected both the iPad1 and 2 from falls, offered students a place to rest their hands off the screen, and held the device stable on a wheelchair tray without slipping around. It didn't work for everyone, some students were too distracted by the balls and cord, but it did work well for many. We will continue to use this product.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

App for Students with Physical Disabilities

There are many apps that we use with students who have a physical disability, this is just a small selection. We would love to hear what apps work with your child/student. Please let us know!

 Developed by ambient pioneer Brian Eno and musician / software designer Peter Chilvers, Bloom explores uncharted territory in the realm of applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. Part instrument, part composition and part artwork, Bloom's innovative controls allow anyone to create elaborate patterns and unique melodies by simply tapping the screen. A generative music player takes over when Bloom is left idle, creating an infinite selection of compositions and their accompanying visualizations.

From concert pianists to curious cats, Magic Piano has captured the imagination of the world. Experience the #1 music app in over 80 countries and add your songs to the 5 million already played. Create your own music or enjoy the app’s 45 free classic and popular tunes. No practice or patience required!

TouchyBooks is an innovative children’s interactive bookstore app for smartphones and tablets. It gathers a wonderful collection of stories to entertain children, stimulate imagination, clarify thinking, and to teach reading in multi languages, but above all to cultivate healthy influences. 

Answers:YesNo was designed with one purpose in mind. Provide an easy to use, affordable way for a nonverbal young man with autism and motor planning issues to communicate with those around him.   The application is straightforward.   It has two, large, color-coordinated buttons...one for yes, and one for no.   Press either, and you will hear a voice read your selection.

This highly intuitive musical app is also incredibly amusing. It lets children create and play with chime, whistle, drum, barnyard animal and mystery sounds by simply tapping and tilting. Repeated taps generate new sounds, while longer taps grow sounds and trigger surprise animations. Tilting makes sounds spin and collide in whimsical combinations. 

Alexicom AAC for iPhone/iPad lets you use your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch as an augmentative communication device. We offer over 300 pre-made pages and over 2,000 images in our public libraries, which include nine pre-made page sets: Child1, Child2, Child Intermediate, Adult1, Adult2, ChildPre, Healthcare, and Spanish Child1. You can easily import these pages into your own online library, customize them, and/or create your own pages. AT&T Natural Voices offer text-to-speech output in 20 voices and five languages.

★When touching existing stars, these are turned into shooting stars which fly away in a 3D-like animation and eventually exit the drawing!
★Draw with Stars ! is also full of sound effects : musical chimes when stars are created, background summer night sounds, "fly away" sounds... 
★Check the video demo on our Web site http://lescapadou.com to see shooting spinning effects, stars 3D animation, glowing stars animation and hear the sound effects! 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Super Tech Classroom

I am having a Promethean Board installed in my classroom this week. I am very excited! I have been working away at researching and creating flipcharts and learning about how to integrate this new system into my classroom teaching.

One of the things I am really interested in trying is connecting my iPad to the board. I know that the students will not be able to control the iPad through the whiteboard (maybe someone at Apple is working on this?) but I am very curious to see how they react to a much, much larger screen image.

I think that the larger size and higher visual contrast will be beneficial to my students. I think that the hands-on kinesthetic interaction will be beneficial. I have seem them respond to the iPad positively for these reasons and am very interested in watching them learn to use the Promethean Board.

These are exciting times to be a learner, and a teacher!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Bla Bla Bla: App Review

I recently found an app that has been very motivating getting some of my non-verbal students to vocalize.

Bla Bla Bla is a sound reactive app. The students make even the slightest sound and the image on the screen changes. Most of the images are faces and when you make a sound the face changes, grows or expands. The louder or more intense the sound the greater the change.

Some of my students are working on vocalizing for a turn in response to a question. They can see right away when they have made a sound by looking at the reaction on the screen. The feedback is immediate and a powerful reinforcer.

The description in iTunes says "This App is a little selection of an exercise called “Parametric Mask”. The exercise is a part of a one-day workshop held in December 2010 at the design department of IUAV of Venice and in February 2011 at the ISIA of Urbino"

For what ever reason it was created I am glad they did because the students (and staff!) have been having a great time with this app. It is sensitive enough to register and react to even the softest of sounds ensuring that every student can be successful, and you should see their faces when they make it work!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Finger Count

Teaching early numeracy is can be challenging; one to one correspondence, base 10, addition.
Finger Count - Multi-TouchAn app was just released that allows students to count on their fingers. Finger Count - Mulit-Touch by Joe Scrivens asks students to count objects shown and then place that many fingers on the screen. It allows for any combination that equal the number shown.

iPhone Screenshot 1

This app makes unique use of the iDevice's ability to process multi-touch input. The iPad can handle 10 touch input points while the iPhone and iPod Touch can handle 5.

It has the option for students to count each object individually by tapping on them in any order while it counts out loud.

iPhone Screenshot 3

This offers teachers a new and unique way to transfer mathmatics learning from object manipulatives to the iDevice.

There is a great introduction video on youtube that explains how it all works.

Happy counting!

Free Apps for Autism Month

This is a direct quote from an email that I received. If I find more apps with reduced/free for April I will add them to this post.

"The Apple apps store has all the ABA flashcards from kindergarten.com   and they are free for the month of April in honor of autism awareness month. They regularly are .99 each but are now free!  These work for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Good news! At least two application vendors have decided to celebrate the World Autism Awareness Day by offering their apps for free. And some other vendors offer their apps with a discount reaching 50%. In some cases, discount will be effective for a month. Our thanks to all of them.

UPDATE: Special offers for Expressive, First Then Visual Schedule, I Get… Easter Egg Hunts, My Choice Board and Scene Speak are still valid. (I think that they will be for the rest of this month)."

I haven't checked to see if this is still valid information, but I will make any changes needed to this post as I find out.

Monday, 11 April 2011

So busy!

Things have been busy around here lately. There have been meetings, planning sessions, interviews, oh, and classroom teaching!

At the end of last week three of us went to London, Ontario for the annual OADE Conference. We were there presenting on using iPads in classrooms for students with developmental disabilities.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Derrick MacFabe from the University of Western Ontario. He was speaking about some of the research that his group is involved in.

There were two representatives from L'Arche Canada talking about their philosophy and communities. They showed a wonderful video called "I Am ..." prepared by people in L'Arche Cape Breton.

It was a great experience and we hope that those who attended our workshop were able to take something away with them back to their schools and back to their students.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Everyone from Apple and other retailers that I talked to about the mirroring accessory assured me that it worked with iPad1.

It turns out it doesn't.

Careful reading of the package label says that the mirroring is only available with iPad2. It will work with other devices to show video and photos.

We are lucky enough to have been able to purchase an iPad2 and one of the first things I did was plug in the digital AV adapter.

It works like a charm!

Now I just have to figure out how to connect it to non HDMI equipment!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Communication Matrix Language Options

After reading the post about the Communication Matrix Dr. Rowland wrote to me to make sure that I (and you) were aware of the language options available when using the Matrix. They have made a translation available in Spanish and Chinese and are working on soon be available options in Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese. She writes:

"The hope is to reach out to parents who speak those languages and to encourage them to participate in the assessment of their children. You access other languages using the button at the top left of the home page."

Yet another reason to love this assessment tool!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Communication Matrix

As a teacher I take the assessment and evaluation of my students very seriously. It forms the basis of my IEP goals which form the basis of my program. In order to ensure that student goals are appropriate, attainable, realistic, and with just the right amount of challenge you have to have solid assessments.

I use my cobbled together checklists and rubrics that over the better part of a decade have come to cover much of the curriculum. A little piece of this and a part of that fused together in an attempt to capture the learning paths of my students.

And then I found the Communication Matrix. This free online assessment tool has become my go-to for all things communication.

It resembles a periodic table that spans 7 levels of expressive and receptive language development from pre-intentional communication through to speech across 4 domains; refuse, obtain, social, and information. Dr. Charity Rowland, Ph.D. created this assessment tool for children with developmental disabilities and understands that communication doesn't look the same for any two children. She accounts for tactile cues, photographic and picture symbols, sign, gestures, eye gaze, etc.

When you begin a new assessment there are a series of questions about the student and how they communicate. You read a page of instructions ensuring that everyone completing the matrix is using the same defenitions. There is also a section on communication devices including concrete objects and picture symbols.

Each section of the assessment asks a specific question about how the child communicates. There is also the option to see a picture or a short video example.

Once the assessment is complete you are presented with the matrix. It shows you where the student has mastered a skill and where a skill is emerging or not yet used. It is easy to see where the gaps in learning are and what a student's next step should be.

There are amazing things you can do with the matrix once it is complete. One view allows you to see your answers, another shows you a bar graph with percentage of skill mastered at each level, you can even create reports and charts.

This is a brief overview of all that this site offers. I hope you take the time visit the site and try an assessment.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Draw Race Review

There is a lot being written about how the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch are being used for communication and direct teaching, but that isn't all we use it for.  A big part of the reason that my students are so engaged with touch technology is that it is fun! There are some really fun apps out there that are also educational.

Draw Race by Red Lynx is one of these apps. It is a racing game that works on fine motor skills.

Using an index finger players draw their way around the track. Once each player has had their turn the race starts. The cars follow along the lines that the players drew, racing around the track to the finish.

I like this app because the students aren't aware of the learning that is going on. They are racing cars and having a great time! They learn quickly to draw accurate lines for their cars to follow. They also learn that the cars will follow any line they draw around the track, and sometimes that is much more fun!

This game can by played with up to 3 players, the social interaction is built right in. Students are encouraged to cheer each other on while they draw their laps and during the race.

There is also a lot of math involved in playing this game. Each car is a different colour and the track lines match the car colour providing students an opportunity to work on colour recognition. Students can graph the race winners by colour or by time. They can try to beat their times and work out the math to find the difference in times, or the differences in time from first place to third.

This app can be extended into the classroom by asking students to map their own race tracks. They can then drive toy cars on their tracks further developing their pincer grip and fine motor skills.

What are your favourite games? Why do you like them? Please share in the comment section!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Study

My school is involved in a study with the University of Toronto. The study is examining the effect of using touch technology in classrooms with students who have a developmental disability.

The study is not only examining the effect that using these devices has on students' communication skills, but as well the effect that they have on their social peer relations.

In the fall of 2009 some of the teachers had been excitedly talking about the new iPod Touch and some of the apps we had been hearing about for students who use AAC. When the parents saw what one of teachers was doing in class with her own personal device a dialog was started about using them in more classrooms and collecting data for research. We partnered with the University of Toronto's iSchool (Faculty of Information) and Dr. Rhonda McEwen.

In the winter of 2010 we bought some iPod Touch devices. Using the data collection framework set up by Dr. McEwen the study began. It is the first academic study to look at both quantitative and qualitative data on children with developmental disabilities in a school based setting.

In the fall of 2010 we expanded the study to include the iPad and began data collection on more students. All of our teachers are very committed to the study and the work that goes into supporting it. Our students benefit from being on the cutting edge of education research investigating touch technologies.

I encourage you to watch this video where Dr. McEwen talks about her research and some of her preliminary results.