By Muncie Kardos, ConnSense Bulletin Correspondent
This year’s conference presented a range of offerings including something old and something new, something’s revised and resources too! After roaming the exhibit hall and stalking the vendors, here’s my two cents on the hottest picks.
Best new software: Ginger Software www.gingersoftware.com. Ginger is unique automatic text correction program. It has the ability to “decode” the most significant spelling and grammar errors, offering full sentence correction, making it far superior to even the most sophisticated phonetic spell check programs. This is a must have for students with learning disabilities.
Best current software made even better: Write Online www.cricksoft.com. Write Online has two major changes to report. First, it now comes with an installable version that can be used with no Internet connection, The unique feature here is that it can be installed on a school computer, used by students and then accessed from home via the web. The second feature is a soon-to-be-released graphic organizer feature called WorkSpace. What makes WorkSpace stand apart from other graphic organizer programs is its ease of use in creating a writing web and the ability to transform the completed web into a Wordbar with the click of a mouse. The categories developed in the writing web are transformed into Wordbar tabs with the main ideas appearing as the tab headings. The finished writing web can also be converted to outline format as well. Can’t wait for this one! Have a look: http://www.cricksoft.com/us/products/WriteOnline/workspace.htm
Best new switch software: This honor has to be split between two vendors and three programs. Click to Read Life Skills, and Potato Face by Marblesoft www.marblesoft.com and Animated Toys II by Judy Lynn www.judylynn.com . Click to Read Life Skills is a collection of four stories that the can be read by or read to the student. The program uses symbols and has an interactive mode where students can enjoy activities to support early literacy skills. It is appropriate for students from pre-reading to early reading level. Potato Face is a fun game that lets kids play and work with faces including facial expressions and various appearance. Activities range from simple cause/effect to matching and making selections. Both programs work with a number of interfaces including the keyboard, mouse and switches. These programs are great fun! Animated Toys II from Judy Lynn lets the user play with a range of toys by activating a switch. There are over 20 games including a Jack-in-the-Box, a Spin and Say, a bulldozer that pushes really cool stuff, and a pinball machine. One great feature of the program is the cue to activate the switch, A visual representation of the switch appears on the periphery of the screen coupled with an auditory cue that changes with each presentation. The cues include phrases like “press; your turn; you do it, etc.” that serve to build receptive language associated with switch use. Also worth mentioning is another new program from Judy Lynn, Virtual Motor Skills-check it out and see for yourself. www.judylynn.com .
Best new add-ons: Crick Software for Clicker Tales and New To English. These programs interface with Clicker 5 and offer a range of reading and writing activities. “Tales” includes three favorite fairy tales to choose from, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack In the Beanstalk. As fun as these were to see on the desktop monitor, they are destined for greatness on the big screen of an interactive whiteboard. The possibilities are endless with these fun tales. New To English is designed for English language learners, however, I could not help but note how the activities in the series could be used with children who were working to develop language skills. Check these out for sure! www.cricksoft.com .
Best new hardware: Intel Reader. This is a mobile hand-held reader designed to increase independence in people with print disabilities. I had an opportunity to try this out and it was great. No need for a scanner with this device around. Portable, lightweight and easy to use. Files can be saved and downloaded to various players including DAISY and MP3. Available from Don Johnston at www.donjohnston.com
Disclaimer of Endorsement: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the ConnSENSE Bulliten. The views and opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the ConnSENSE Bulliten.