Google Drive for Students!

Text "google" with hearts

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

In my last blog post, Google Calendar for Students!, I mentioned that one of my first professional roles after I graduated from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was supporting young adults who had disabilities and were transitioning out of high school to whatever came next for them.  I shared about the necessity of creating and using a schedule and talked about how Google Calendar was a great tool for students with various support needs.  Today I’m writing about my experiences using Google Drive to support students with various needs; specifically those related to organization, cognition, communication/social interactions, memory, and planning.  “Google Drive is a free service from Google that gives you access to free web based applications for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. Because files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection, Drive eliminates the need to email or save a file to a USB drive. And because Drive allows you to share files, working with others becomes much easier.” From All about Google Drive.  

Students using Google Chromebooks to access Google Drive

Students use Google Drive to

  • Collaborate on group projects
    • Students can begin a presentation (Google’s version of PowerPoint is very similar), share it with their classmates, and give them access to edit and add to it. The creator of the presentation/document does not need to be online for their classmates to access it; it’s stored in the cloud and can be accessed anytime via wifi/mobile data.
    • For someone who may have support needs related to communication/social interactions, group work may be really challenging.  In a group setting, he or she may have a difficult time understanding why or how their part of the assignment may have been changed by a group member.  Using the “See Revision History” feature, students are empowered to understand when something has been changed and by whom.  Then, using the built in chat feature, students can follow up with their group members about changes.
  • Access work all in one place
    • Abraham Lincoln graphicAnything created in Drive is stored in the Drive account (connected to the student’s Gmail account). Work won’t be lost if a computer dies or a new/different device is used. Drive auto saves everything that was created using Drive via connection with the internet.
    • For students who have support needs that center around organization, this feature is especially useful.  They don’t need to keep track of multiple emails being sent back and forth with the most recent revision because it’s already auto saved in Drive.
    • Also, for students who need supports geared around memory, if she or he forgets what they named a document, they can search in Drive using a keyword to find their work (for example, “Lincoln” could be used to find their report on American presidents).
  • Share work with their teacher during the process
    • For students who have needs centered around general cognition, knowing if they are completing an assignment in the way the teacher envisioned might be a challenge.  Keeping the teacher in the loop from the beginning of the project can be very helpful.  Depending on the teacher, students can get helpful feedback/guidance from their teacher before they officially “turn it in” by inviting them to the project created on Google Drive.  Teachers can then comment/make changes/etc. in real time to support their students.
  • Get support remotely
    • Laptop computer with hand raisedSometimes the supports a student needs can’t always in-person.  When a student invites their Personal Assistant, parent, etc. to their document/presentation/etc., that designated support person can view, double check it, etc. remotely from their own computer or mobile device. This feature can be changed/people can be uninvited whenever needed (for when there is a staffing change for example). Access to “view only” can also be given when limiting access is needed/chosen.

Do you use Google Drive?  How has it been helpful to you? Share in a comment 🙂

Google Calendar for Students!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

One of my first professional roles after I graduated from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) was supporting young adults who had disabilities and were transitioning out of high school to whatever comes next.  At the time, I was only a few years older than the people I met with and I think it was as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me.  We focused on completing daily life tasks (meal prep, laundry, shopping, bill paying, etc.), finding housing options, researching job postings & prepping for interviews, learning to use public transportation, pursuing continuing education, and meeting & connecting with other young adults in our shared community.  Graphic of a calendarIn order to work on the areas mentioned, a scheduling system or calendar was essential.  Many of the young adults that I worked with had never used a calendar/been responsible for planning their day/week/month before we started working together.

When I think back to my own high school transition (summer & fall of 2003), I remember that I didn’t use a calendar before my freshman year of college and it was a little difficult getting used to it.  In 2003, electronic calendars may have existed, but they were not well used by me or my peers.  To put this period of time into perspective: laptops were still very new & expensive and I only knew perhaps 1 or 2 people who had them (many of us had non portable, desktop computers or just went to the library on campus when we wanted to get online/type up homework).  And at the time, there were no smart phones!  My first calendar/planner was the one EMU handed out at student orientation; spiral bound with a small space for each day to write my appointments in.  Hands writing in a paper calendarDo you remember your first planner/calendar?  Comment what it was in the comments section of this post! 🙂  Flash forward to 2017 and I can’t imagine having to go back to the paper planner system.  I know some people are still very attached to their paper planners (much respect), but I am a convert and an epic fan of Google Calendar!

“Google Calendar is a powerful, free service you can use to organize your schedule and coordinate events with others. It has many useful features, including the ability to share calendars with others and easily switch what is currently being displayed. You can access your calendar from any computer or mobile device as long as you are signed in to your Google account.” Learn more info from Google Calendar Tips.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar became an integrated Assistive Technology support for (some of) the young adults I worked with once they and their support networks leaned how to use it.  From my experiences, Google Calendar is fairly intuitive; use the link listed in the paragraph above to access a free, online tutorial of how to get started with Google Calendar.

Students can use Google Calendar to:

Hand holding a phone with Google Calendar open on it

  • Input their class schedule: Google Calendar can be accessed on both smart devices and desk/laptop computers. If a student uses the app on their smart phone, they have access to their schedule whenever they have their phone on them.  Details such as directions to which building & room the class is located in can also be added.
  • Create reoccurring appointments: Students can create a daily/weekly schedule once and it will appear in their calendar each week.
  • Schedule additional appointments for: Study time, time after class to review notes, time to meet with a tutor/Personal Assistant, etc. Sometimes having their built in time/visual reminder can be helpful instead of having to “just remember”.

Group of people

  • Find a time for groups to meet to work on projects: The “Find a Time” feature allows you to compare schedules of guests, whether you are scheduling a meeting or inviting friends to lunch, to pick a time that is free for everyone. Learn more about the Find a Time feature.
  • Get scheduling support remotely: When a student invites their Personal Assistant, parent, etc. to their calendar, that designated support person can help schedule appointments, review schedules, double check, etc. remotely from their own computer or mobile device. This feature can be changed/people can be uninvited from calendars whenever needed (for when there is a staffing change for example).

Do you use Google Calendar?  What are your favorite features? Comment below!

If you liked this post, check out my next, Google Drive for Students!

 

 

 

Book Scents and E-Reader Sense (Part 2)

Drawing of an e-reader and an open book. Text states, "there are two kinds of people: e-readers and people who need to be able to smell printed pages."

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Have you ever tried to read something (book, flyer, art print, etc.), but found the font or script was difficult to make out? Sometimes efforts to market in unique and eye-catching ways can obscure the original message.

After a recent update on my Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, I noticed something new: I had the option to choose to read my e-books with the entire font of the book changed to “OpenDyslexic”.
E-reader displaying a menu used to change the font of an e-book

Upon first glance, this font reminded me of the groovy 1970’s era.  After a little research, I learned why OpenDyslexic looked so much different from other fonts.  “OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavy weighted bottoms to indicate direction. Letters in the Open Dyslexic fontYou are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down which aids in recognizing the correct letter, and sometimes helps to keep your brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping.  OpenDyslexic also has other features, like wider letter spacing and a unique italic style.”

In doing a little more research, I found that OpenDyslexic is not the only font out there created to specific support those with Dyslexia.  “The Lexie Readable font was designed with accessibility and legibility in mind.  Features like the non-symmetrical b and d, and the handwritten forms of a and g may help dyslexic readers.”  And Sylexiad fonts are “a collection of researched fonts for adult dyslexic readers.  Developed by Dr. Robert Hillier, a Senior Lecturer at Norwich University of the Arts. The research involved the design and testing of a new font family developed and informed from a dyslexic perspective against other fonts recommended by dyslexia organizations. For the majority of those adult dyslexic readers tested, the evidence indicated a clear preference for the Sylexiad fonts.”
Text "Sylexiad, a collection of researched fonts for adult dyslexic readers"

You may now be thinking, ‘interesting, but do these fonts really help?’ Emoji thinking face The answer, like many things in life, is debatable.  I shared my topic for this post with a fellow MDRC AT team member and she forwarded me an article that stated, “there is no evidence that dyslexia fonts help people with dyslexia to read faster and more accurately.”  The fonts mentioned in this blog post “supposedly make it easier for people with dyslexia to recognize the differences between letters. The fonts can be downloaded and used for free. But keep in mind that more rigorous research still needs to be done to find out whether these fonts really help with reading.  Specifically, these fonts still need to be studied using what researchers call controlled, randomized studies. The studies also need to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. ‘Peer-reviewed’ means that the work has been examined and deemed worthy of publishing by independent experts in the field.”

Gavel and a stack of booksNow for my own, personal verdict: As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog post, I believe I have dyslexia (though I have not been tested for it).  I tried out the OpenDyslexic font on my Paperwhite for a few days to see if I could tell a difference.  After the novelty of the new font wore off, I felt that I was more distracted by the groovy-looking letters and ended up switching back to my original font (Helvetica).  Final thought: I think the fonts mentioned in this post could be helpful to individuals with Dyslexia; it just depends on how the person using it feels.  

 

 

 

Book Scents and E-Reader Sense (Part 1)

Woman holding a book to her face. Text in picture says: Happiness is the smell of a new book.

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

I am a person who loves the smell of new books and bookstores.  I am not, however, one who loves reading from paper books.  They can be cumbersome, sometimes older books can be smelly in an unpleasant way, and physically distracting to hold and use.  And there isn’t really any Assistive Technology built into the features of paper books.  I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite last year I’ve been hooked on my e-reader ever since; it has made such a difference to me and how I absorb information via text.

I was speaking with my mom recently and commented that I wished e-readers would have been available when I was in K-12 school.  Reading didn’t come easy to me growing up; it took me significantly longer than my peers to understand how letters came together to form the words I heard and said.  I was distracOld book, open with pages face upted by font, size, placement, etc. of text, sometimes the musty book smells, and the cumbersome way some books had to be physically held in order to read their contents.   All of these factors seems to pile on top of my difficulty processing what I read and did not offer me an incentive to enjoy reading.  Though not diagnosed, I think that I had dyslexia as a child and still do as an adult.  “Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to something in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes wriLetters on a page, some letters are arranged to spell "dyslexia", but it is not spelled correctly.tten material and is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding.  People with dyslexia have challenges with reading comprehension.” –Definition: part of an article by Medical News Today.

On my e-reader, I can add and set up the supports that I need to process text and really understand the meaning of what I am reading.  I can adjust the contrast of the screen and text, the spacing in between words, the margins, size of the text, and the fonts.  I can also choose to have the screen be horizontally oriented so that pages are wider (versus taller as most books are “portrait”).  The experience of reading horizontally-oriented text makes a difference to me because I seem to loose my place less if more words are on less lines.
E-reader with the screen in landscape mode E-reader with the screen in portrait mode

I love the built-in dictionary feature that allows me to press on a word I am not familiar with and view the definition of it!  Also, my e-reader weighs 5.7 ounces/161 grams (which amazon says is “lighter than a paperback”) and it is easier for me to hold than a paper book; taking away another distraction/barrier.

Before getting my Paperwhite, I was worried about reading on a screen because of the glare and light that might give Outline of a human head with 2 band aids on it.  Text reads: headache no moreme a headache while reading on it.  I selected the Paperwhite over all of the other e-readers out there because I can read for hours on it and not get a headache.  “Kindle Paperwhite guides light toward the surface of the display with its built-in front light—unlike back-lit tablets that shine in your eyes—so you can read comfortably for hours without eyestrain.”
Do you use an e-reader?  Which one?  What do you love about it and is there anything challenging about it?   Do you miss paper books?

The words: to be continued
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I’ll share information about various types of fonts; specifically one called OpenDyslexic!

No Please, Don’t Drop that Mic!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Standing, human shape dropping a microphoneRecently I attended a professional conference in a facility which was equipped with newer technology.  On my registration form, in the accommodations space, I requested in advance that presenters use microphones so that I could hear what they shared.  At the conference, no microphones were used.  Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience which I or others have had.  Microphones have not typically been used at many of the conferences/events I’ve attended.  Years ago, a colleague explained that even when a presenter thinks they are “being loud”, the sound of their voice is coming out of only one source and is not at a constant, even volume.  When a typical microphone & sound system is used, the volume of the speaker’s voice is constant/level, and the sound is evenly spread out around the room; making sound more accessible to more people.

Microphone in an auditorium of peopleEven if someone has not specifically requested that the presenter use a microphone, I usually use one when I am in the presenter role.  Hearing loss is much more prevalent than many realize.  The Better Hearing Institute provides these statistics regarding hearing loss:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
  • It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

In an article by by Gilda Bonanno, 5 Reasons Why Presenters Won’t Use a Microphone, Bonanno states, “Used well, a microphone can demonstrate that you’re a smart and respectful presenter who cares enough about your audience to use every tool at your disposal to ensure they can hear and understand your presentation.”  To me, it just make sense to use a mic!  When in a presenter role, I want to know that more people can hear me, rather than question if the information I’ve spent hours putting together is really being received as I intended it to.
Presenter using a handheld mic in front of a group of people during a presentation

A Piece of Candy or a Fish Cake? Up for Interpretation!

A grouping of various, different EmojisBy Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Let’s set the record straight, is it “Emoji” or “Emojis”? Merriam-Webster tweeted that it’s both and defines Emoji or Emojis as, “small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.” I really enjoy using Emoji and Emojis! I use them daily in text messages, facebook posts & comments, and sometimes in emails. I feel I’m able to express a little more of my own meaning when I text a sarcastic message to a friend and include a winky face with it.A classic winky emoji; winking and smiling.

I know how I interpret Emojis, but (as with many things) how others interpret them can be very different. National Public Radio’s (NPR) article, Lost In Translation: Study Finds Interpretation Of Emojis Can Vary Widely, states, “Emojis were supposed to be the great equalizer: a language all its own capable of transcending borders and cultural differences. Not so fast, say a group of researchers who found that different people had vastly different interpretations of some popular emojis. For example, the researchers found that when people receive the ‘face with tears of joy’ Emoji face smiling while crying tears of joy emoji some interpret it positively, while others will interpret it negatively.”

Emojis can be a visual representation of something, and by use of screen readers/VoiceOver, they can also be something we digest audibly. Screen readers/VoiceOver may interpret an Emojis differently than we do. For example, the Emoji of an index finger touching thumb to make an open circleemoji represents something that means “excellent” to me, but when I use voice over, my iPhone calls it the “okay hand”. Though ‘excellent’ and ‘okay’ are two, typically positive responses, they can always be interpreted differently based on the sender, receiver, situation, etc.  Side note: many of us type a word and then insert an Emoji that represents that word right after it.  When a screen reader/VoiceOver reads this, it’s read as double.  For example “french friesEmoji for french fries” is read as “french fries french fries”.

When in doubt about what a particular Emoji means, I’ve found that the Emojipedia site can be helpful. Once on the site, users can type in what we’re wondering about. For example, I’ve been using what I thought was an Emoji that represented a piece of candy for a while now. It has a pink swirl on it so I searched for “pink swirl”. The result that was returned informed me that the Emoji I had in mindEmoji fish cake actually represents a “Fish Cake with Swirl: A fishcake (or fish cake) that is used in some Asian meals, known as Narutomaki in Japanese. Each slice includes a spiral design for visual flair.”  A fish cake is definitely different than a piece of candy and its Emoji symbol is still very much up for interpretation!

Can You Hear Me Now? What about now? … Good!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Sound waves projecting into an earHearing loss is something that’s common in my family.  Since my late 20’s, I’ve noticed a decline in my hearing.  A concern in the back of my mind is that I will grow older and have to wear large, ill-fitting, analog hearing aids that don’t seem to work how I need them to; that was my Grama Ann’s experience and frustration with her own hearing aids.  As a child I remember many crowded family gatherings where I could hear Grama Ann’s hearing aids whistling shrilly until she manually turned them down or off all together.

Technology is ever evolving and I feel heartened that assistive tech for better/amplified/more intuitive hearing devices has improved over the years; namely by way of digital (DSP, or digital signal processor) hearing aids (versus the analog hearing aids my Grandmother used).

Ear surrounded by a variety of hearing aids
Both analog and digital hearing aids are used today, though analog are becoming a little less common, and digital hearing aids are becoming a more popular choice.  Analog and digital hearing aids both have similar components. Both types pick up sound using a microphone and use circuitry to amplify sound.  Analog hearing aids work by making continuous sound waves louder, amplify all sounds (speech and noise).  [DSP hearing aids] convert sound waves to digital signals, producing an exact duplication of each sound, instead of just amplifying it. Computer chips are used to analyze speech and other sounds, allowing for more complex processing of sounds during amplification.”  This text is from the HUH?!? Help U Hear Center.  

Woman wearing a futuristic-looking hearing aid

With the ways that Google Glass and Bluetooth technology work today, I can’t even imagine the possibilities of hearing aids of the future!  By learning about what’s out there today and thinking about what’s in store for the near future, I feel more comfortable planning for my own hearing supports.

Thanks for reading!