Monday, October 29, 2012

Communication Corner: VideoBrix Personal Communicator by AbleNet

VideoBrix Personal Communicator is a simple and quick solution to communication messages and reminders wherever they are needed. Use VideoBrix to record a daily reminder in the classroom or a friendly message to your child at home.  Within minutes a parent or educator can record a single message with the device's onboard camera and microphone. The screen will help show which button to press to play (or record) a message. VideoBrix features include: quick and easy single message communicator, built in full-color LCD screen, camera and microphone, built in magnet to attach anywhere, power on/off switch, rechargeable with included USB cable, and up to 90 seconds of recording time.  Check out this YouTube Video on how to program a message on the VideoBrix. VideoBrix cost $59 and can be purchased from Ablenet, Inc.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tech Tip: Troubleshooting a "Frozen" Computer Program

Computer software is great, when it works. Sometime even my favorite program will get stuck from time to time, and not matter what I click, nothing happens. It's really annoying when a program freezes, but it's even worse if you don't know what to do about it. Luckily both Mac and PCs have a way to deal with a stuck program.

Fair warning: If a program freezes and won't let you leave, the following solution will get you out but you will lose any work that hasn't been saved. For example if you were in writing a document in Word and the software freezes, then all that work is likely gone. That's why it is a good idea to save your work and back up your computer consistently and frequently. Sometimes a program will "unstick" if you give it some time. A "force quit" is a last resort type of tip.

To Force Quit a Program on a Mac
To force quit a program on a Mac you need to open the Force Quit window one of two ways. If your mouse pointer is working, you can go to the top right corner of the screen, click on the Apple logo and choose "Force Quit" from the menu. If you can't use the mouse, then press the key combination Command-Option-Escape on your keyboard. The Force Quit Applications window will appear with a list of the programs that are running. Select the program that is frozen and then click the button marked "Force Quit."

To Force Quit a Program on a PC
To force quit a program on a PC you get to use the most famous keyboard shortcut: Control + Alt + Delete. If you are using Windows XP, the Task Manager window will appear. If you are using Vista or Windows 7, Task Manager will be among the options that appear. Click on Task Manager. In the Task Manager view you have a variety of tabs to choose from. Click on the tab marked Applications. You will now see a list of all the applications that are running and their status.  To force a program to close, click on it in the list and click the button marked "End Task." You can now close this box and return to your desktop.  You can restart the program that was giving you trouble and if you have developed the habit of frequently saving and backing up your work you can pick up where you left off.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pinning Assistive Technology Resources and Links

Social media can be a great tool for sharing news and resources.  In addition to Facebook and Twitter the Simon Technology Center has recently started to use Pinterest.  Pinterest is a rapidly growing social networking site.  It acts somewhat like a corkboard where users can "pin" things they are interested in to their boards for later reference.  People are even having Pinterest Parties featuring food and decorating ideas from Pinterest.  The Simon Technology Center is using Pinterest to "pin" technology ideas, apps, sites, resources, therapy ideas, articles, videos and more.  Check it out at

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Staff Pick: Chester Mouse

For young children with small hands, using a regular computer mouse can be a difficult task. A two button mouse can be confusing. The Chester Mouse by Chester Creek solves both of these dilemmas. The Chester Mouse is small, has one-button, and is easy to control. The Simon Technology Center Library has a Chester Mouse available for check-out. For more information about the Chester Mouse or other computer access methods for your child, please contact the Simon Technology Center at 952-838-9000 or at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tech Tip: Making Software Compatible With Your Computer's Operating System

For some, the thought of installing software on a computer may seem like a daunting task. We are here to assist you! Library members are welcome to stop into the library or call with questions regarding installation of software borrowed from the lending library. We have tested all of our software on the XP and Vista operating systems. Software that has been tested and deemed as not compatible with XP has been removed from our shelves. Very soon we will be starting the next phase of testing on the Windows 7 operating system. It is possible to install older software on newer operating systems by changing the system settings. Again, this may sound like an intimidating task, but we would be happy to show our library members how this can be done. For additional assistance, we have simple one-page installation instruction guides available for operating systems XP, Vista, and 7. If you are a “show me” kind of learner and you have a Windows 7 computer, you may find the video on the following website helpful. Windows 7 Compatibility Video:  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Early Childhood Corner: KidSmart

KidSmart is an innitiative by IBM to help leverage technology in helping prepare young learners for a 21st Century world. is a website containing information about technology for both parents and educators.  When visitors arrive at the site you are greeted with images of happy children interacting with the Little Tikes Young Explorer computer.  Choose from 9 different languages to enter the site.  The site titled KidSmart Guide to Early Learning and Technology for Home and School contains two entry points - one for parents and one for educators.  The information is similar but customized for each audience.
Information is available in the categories of Learning and Playing Together, Integrating Technology and Access for All are introduced using videos, cartoons and information segments.
For parents the information is designed to help  understand what's possible when it comes to young children and computer time. The site contains: KidSmart Comics - comic strips featuring parents discussing learning, computers, and kids; Things You Can Do - a list of useful ideas and suggestions to help you get the most out of the family's PC; and School Link - concrete teacher tips, overviews of classroom issues and other tools that a child's teacher may use. The text and audio features of this site will help you discover that the computer is just one of many rich, varied materials found in a good learning environment.
For many educators, computers are already one among many of the rich, varied materials found in a good learning environment. For others, technology is new territory and you may need to become comfortable with the equipment and familiar with software activities. The site contains: Overviews - introductions to important issues about teaching and learning with technology; Conversations - practical discussions that teachers have about these issues; Teacher Tips - concrete tips on evaluating software and useful aids for classroom management; Promising Practices - real lesson plan ideas submitted by teachers; and Home Link - suggestions for what parents can do to use computers to support early learning at home.