Thursday, December 3, 2009

FCTD Collaborates with SEAT Center to Understand Family Technology Use Patterns

The FCTD has collaborated with the Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center at Illinois State University to create an online survey to identify family preferences and needs for computer-based technologies. We are asking all interested family members to participate in the survey at:

Professionals who work with family members are encouraged to share the survey link with interested family members with whom they work. The findings will be presented on the FCTD Web site late in January. Thanks!

Did You Know? Alternatives to Fingers on the iPhone

If you or someone you know has trouble using the iPhone’s touch keyboard, there are some workarounds that might just do the trick.

One option is the Pogo iPhone Stylus, a specially designed stylus for the iPhone. Even though the iPhone touch screen is designed to respond to the touch of your fingertip, the Pogo stylus somehow fools the iPhone into thinking it is really a finger. The stylus can give the user greater precision with the selection of on-screen items. The Pogo iPhone Stylus retails for around $15.

For those who would prefer to use a regular computer keyboard instead of the iPhone’s touch keyboard, there are several options. Since there isn’t a way to directly connect a USB keyboard to the iPhone, you will need an adaptor to make the connection, such as the iPod’s Camera connector accessory that costs about $25. If you want something more integrated, take a look at keyboards with integrated iPhone docking stations, like the iConnect Media Keyboard which retails for around $130 (

Tech Tip: Capturing an Image on Your Computer Screen

How to take a screen shot

Taking a screen shot (also known as a screen capture) is essentially having the computer take a picture of what is on the screen. There are countless times when it is easier to show someone what is on your computer screen than to explain it in words over the phone or in an email. For example, if you are trying to teach someone how to use a new program through email, or you are having technical problems and need to show your IT person what is going on, or you are writing an article/report on a software program and want to show examples of what it can do, sharing a screen shot will help!


Taking a full screen shot is easy. Simply press the Print Screen button on your keyboard (on laptops it may be abbreviated i.e. PrtSc). This puts a picture of your screen in the computer’s clipboard, which is exactly the same as when you copy text or an image. Then you can open a program like Word, Notepad, Paint, or Outlook and paste it with either Control – V or right click – Paste. If you just want a screen shot of the current program you are using, hold down Alt when you press Print Screen.

If you want to edit the screen shot, use a paint or image editing program. In paint you can do things like draw arrows or circles to point something out, or you can crop the screen shot to include only the details you want.


On the Mac there are two ways to take screen shots. First, there is a program that comes on every Mac called Grab. You can find it in the folder Applications – Utilities. With grab you can capture pictures of the whole screen, the front-most window, a selected area, or you can even do a timed countdown capture.

Second, you can use these shortcuts:

*Hold down the command key(or apple key on older computers) and the shift key, then press the number 3 to take a picture of the entire screen and save it on the desktop.


*Hold down the command key and shift key, then press the number 4 which turns your cursor into crosshairs which you can click and drag to select an area of the screen to capture. You will hear a shutter sound when an image is captured using either shortcut.

If you want to edit the picture just double click on the picture to open it in Preview, a program that opens image and pdf files. It comes pre-loaded on a Mac. With Preview you can crop the photo or use the annotation tools to make circles and arrows on the picture.

iPhone/iPod Touch

You can even take screen shots on your iPhone or iPod Touch too. Simply press both the home button and the sleep button at the same time. The screen should flash white and you will find the screen shot with the rest of your pictures

Early Childhood Corner: My Turn, Your Turn

Practice Guides are easy to use guides developed for parents and practioners for implementing early literacy learning practices. The CELL parent practice guide for December focuses on taking turns with your toddler to improve his/her social skills. Most toddlers are starting to develop the ability to take part in real interactions with the people around them. But before children can take part in meaningful interactions, they need to learn skills such as how to take turns. Involve your child in taking turns with games, conversations, finger play, and sharing toys. Play with your toddler by taking turns with a toy, talking about what you are doing, and encouraging her to do the same. These activities will help develop the skills she needs to interact well with others.

Access more information about this practice guide My Turn, Your Turn

Web Spotlight: Wall Wisher

If you like sticky notes (post-it notes) you will like this month’s featured Web Spotlight,Wall Wisher. Wall Wisher is a sticky-note/notice board for communicating on the Web. Wall Wisher lets users easily communicate on a common topic. This month the Simon Technology Center is using Wall Wisher to ask Tech Note’s Readers: “What would YOU like to see in Tech Notes?” This is an opportunity to let your voice be heard. Users can register for their own wall or simply post a sticky note (comment) as anonymous. So what are you waiting for? Check out the STC Wall Wisher and let us know what you think.

Top Ten STC Staff Picks from ATIA Chicago

1. Project MY VOICE is three-year project between Northern Illinois University and Indian Prairie School District 204. The purpose of the project is to help students with cognitive disabilities learn how to advocate for themselves during the IEP transition process. Using technology such as video cameras and power point, project participants build a presentation using a template with built-in supports such as teach prompts and leading questions. Contact project coordinators for information on these templates.

2. Living the Smart Life is a 15 minute DVD that highlights using technology to make a difference in independence for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. This 15 minute story will delight and inspire. The DVD is available for check out in the Simon Technology Center Lending Library. Some of the tools highlighted in the video, including the Pocket Endeavor (software) and the Pharos Traveler GPS 535x (Pocket PC) will also be available for demonstration.

3. DSpeech is a free open source program that combines Text To Speech TTS with Automatic Speech Recognition. It reads aloud the written word and chooses sentences based on the vocal answers of the user. There are several steps so be sure to read through all of the directions for downloading and using.

4. Dr. Linda Mechling presented information on the use of video modeling in a session titled “Use of Video Prompting, Via a Portable DVD Player, Laptop Computer, or PDA as Self-Prompting Devices for Persons with Moderate Intellectual Disabilities.” She presented great examples and referenced several research studies on the use of video modeling.

5. Click and Go Wayfinding Maps produces maps for persons who are blind or deaf/blind. Modeled after the directions feature in Google Maps, Click and Go provides users with customized mobility friendly walking directions.

6. Mega Bee is an electronic eye gaze board that gives voice to previously low tech eye gaze systems with no voice out put. Called a simple-to-use assisted writing tablet, users indicate choices with eye gaze and eye blinks that are added to a message window by a facilitator. When the message is complete, the facilitator activates the message.

7. Information was presented on creating DAISY files using Microsoft Word/Open Office (Creating DAISY Text in Word/Open Office). The Word to DAISY translator or plug in allows users on Word (XP, 2007 and 2003), who are working with Open XML, to easily convert Word documents to DAISY - also called the talking book format. For more information check out this Microsoft article.

8. Literactive - is a free Web based tool for literacy. The site contains free handouts, tips for guided reading, and over one hundred reading activities. Materials and access to the site is free but registration is required. Literactive was developed by educators and technical professionals.

9. Balabolka is a free Text-To-Speech (TTS) program that works with Windows operating system (2000/XP/2003/Vista/7). It does not come with its own voices, but rather uses voices on your computer. You need at least one voice to operate the program. Balabolka is a Russian word that can be translated “ chatterer”. For more detailed information on this program, visit

10. VizZle is a Web-based subscription software that allows users to create individualized interactive teaching materials. Anywhere there is access to the internet, a user can create, share and use. Materials can be printed for table top activities. VizZle also works well with interactive tools such as touch screens and white boards. For more detailed information and to try a free demo, go to