Gerry Kennedy: IT Articles and Resources
Gerry Kennedy is an Independent Inclusive Technology Consultant, working in private practice in Australia. He is based in Blackburn, Victoria.
He has specialised in the areas of special needs, rehabilitation and assistive technology support in education and employment for over 26 years. A teacher of 29 years, he currently works at East Burwood SDS school part time, as an ICT Leading Teacher.
Gerry has had experience working in all states in Australia and Territories. He advises from Early Education and Pre-school through to secondary schools, having lectured to TAFE and University to under and post graduates.
He frequently publishes articles and software reviews on numerous web sites and in IT and Education based journals and magazines.
Gerry promotes leading practice in the implementation and deployment of innovative ICT and Inclusive Technology in education and training. He strongly advocates for and promotes Universal Design principles and provision.
Gerry consults, presents, demonstrates, trains and advises parents, therapists, and other education and rehabilitation related professionals how to utilise and harness the features and functions of mainstream and specialised software as well as assistive device implementation.
He presents and demonstrates a wide range of software and conducts training workshops upon request - for individuals, hospitals, schools, University, TAFE, workplace providers and centres of learning.
Universal Access using OCR with Printed Text - February 2009
Category: Scanning devices OCR applications and access to text
Optical Character Recognition (usually referred to simply as OCR) software has been used for many years in education, research and business. It provides access to text in all manner of printed materials. OCR software makes it easy to re-use and access existing printed or online documents with perfect formatting. Converted documents can look exactly like the original – complete with colour, columns, tables, bullets and graphics.
Universal Access to PDF Files - February 2009
Category: PDF applications and web based resources
Portable Document Format (PDF) is the de facto standard for the secure and reliable distribution and exchange of electronic documents and forms around the world. It is ‘….a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout 2-D document (and, with Acrobat 3-D, embedded 3-D documents) that includes the text, fonts, images, and 2-D vector graphics which compose the documents.’
Universal Access using Text-to-Speech - February 2009
Category: Access to text using synthesized speech output
Text-to-Speech (TTS) has been much maligned and misunderstood. This enabling and liberating technology has been available since the advent of personal computers. Numerous TTS programs offer features and have capabilities that provide access to electronic text, scanned text (using OCR), onscreen menus, dialogue boxes (screen reading such as JAWS or Thunder) as well as support in word processing software. Some programs will speak the contents of the clipboard (Cliptalk or Deskbot), others require text to be copied then pasted into a window (ReadPlease 2003, Helpread or DSpeech), whilst others run and function as a floating (e.g. Natural Reader) or in a specific toolbar within an application (e.g. Wordtalk).
Universal Access using Text-to-Audio & Sound Editing Programs - March 2009
Category: Creating voice files using Text-to-Audio Programs
Creating sound files from recordings and from electronic or scanned text allows users to listen to information on a computer or on a more portable device. These include MP3 players, such as iPods, MP3 players, mobile phones, Portable Digital Assistants (e.g. Palm, HP iPaqs) and even digital cameras. Listening to audio, or listening whilst reading the same text, can dramatically improve access to text-based data. The quality of the audio is dependent on the program that records it, the environment in which it is captured, the synthesised voice use, the format in which it is stored and the player and speakers used in playback.
Universal Access using Onscreen Keyboards - February 2009
Category: Access to text using virtual and onscreen keyboard input
The majority of software has been traditionally designed for people who use a standard keyboard, mouse and screen display. A student needs good hand control, vision, hand-eye co-ordination, hearing (some programs provide text-to-speech and other auditory feedback) as well as cognitive abilities in order to access most standard and even some special needs software.
Universal Access using Word Prediction - March 2009
Category: Creating text using Word Prediction Software
Word Prediction (WP) software was developed many years ago and meets a number of different text-entry needs. It provides slow or reluctant writers or students who often misspell words, a means of developing and entering text confidently without spending all their time worrying about which letter comes next, or finding the right keys. Some packages also provide additional cues and supports to help students write more fluently.
Universal Access using Spell Checker & Thesaurus/Dictionary Supports - March 2009
Category: Checking text using Spell Checker and Thesaurus/Dictionary Supports
People use computers for a number of different writing tasks. Students type assignment, reports, notes, poetry, class projects, creative prose, poetry, argumentative essays and all manner of curriculum documents. Users rely on spell checkers for a variety of reasons. Typing errors are the obvious mistakes users make whilst entering text due to speed, poor typing skills or missed keystrokes
Universal Access using Mind Mapping & Flow Charting Software - March 2009
Category: Creating text with Mind Mapping, Planning Organisation and Flow Charting Software Supports
Mind mapping (or creating a brainstorming diagram) involves writing down a central idea and generating new and related ideas which radiate out from the centre. By focusing on key ideas written down in the student’s own words, and then looking for branches out and connections between the ideas, he or she is mapping knowledge in a manner which will help in better understanding and remembering new information. Icons and graphics can be used in some software programs, with linking arrows and tools to clearly show connections and relationships. Use of colour, text-to-speech, hyper linking, spell checkers and word guides also assist in the creation of maps and webs.
Universal Access using Note Taking Software - March 2009
Category: Creating Notes with Software and Web Resources
Students and people of all ages when on their computer often want to record information quickly. They also want to remember where it is and locate it in order to start, complete or check a task. Other users want to set an alarm so as to be on time, complete an assignment, contact a colleague or remind themselves of a critical event in the day.
Universal Access using Daisy Reader Software - March 2009
Category: Reading Books using Daisy Readers
Digital Accessible Information System, or DAISY, is a standard based on XML, which is a simple subset of W3C defined SGML. Using this framework, ‘a talking book format is presented with enabled navigation within a sequential and hierarchical structure consisting of (marked-up) text synchronized with audio. DAISY assists people who for different reasons have problems using regular printed media’.
Universal Access using Word Processors - March 2009
Category: Creating and accessing text in Word Processing and Text Editing Programs
“Word processing is the creation of documents using a word processor program. It can also refer to advanced shorthand techniques, sometimes used in specialized contexts with a specially modified typewriter.”
Universal Access to Text Using Speech Recognition - March 2009
Category: Creating text using voice in Speech Recognition Programs
One of the most sought after inclusive technology products for students is actually a technology that was primarily designed for other purposes. “One of the most notable domains for the commercial application of speech recognition in the United States has been health care and in particular the work of the medical transcriptionist. According to industry experts, at its inception, speech recognition (SR) was sold as a way to completely eliminate transcription rather than make the transcription process more efficient, hence it was not accepted. It was also the case that SR at that time was often technically deficient. Additionally, to be used effectively, it required changes to the ways physicians worked and documented clinical encounters, which many if not all were reluctant to do.
Universal Access to Text - Literacy Support For ESL students - February 2010
Category: Using a range of technologies to support ESL students
Software: Text to Speech, Text Translation and Online Literacy Resources
Some students living or studying in Australia who are blind or are vision impaired may also be enrolled in ESL classes. They might learn English more quickly, confidently and efficiently if their preferred or more proficient language of their parents or careers is also gainfully employed and utilised. Other ESL students may require or need to have access to a range of technologies to assist them in accessing and learning English.
Universal Access using Graphics & Drawing Software - March 2011
Category: Using Graphics, Paint and Drawing Software to Create Text.
Software: Graphics and Drawing programs
Some students dislike or struggle with writing or typing text. A number of reasons or factors may be involved. They may have previously failed in creating text, have poor spelling, writing or typing skills or they are slow to create text. Some find planning and organising their thoughts challenging.
Universal Access using eBooks, Readers and Devices - March 2011
Software: eBook Formats, Electronic Publishing Software and Portable Readers & Devices
Category: Inclusive Technology text and media supports
An electronic book (also e-book, E-book, EBook, eBook, digital book) is a text and image-based publication in digital form produced on, published by, and readable on computers or other digital devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as "an electronic version of a printed book," but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known as e-Readers or e-book devices. Personal computers and some mobile phones can also be used to read e-books.
- Universal Access using Keyboards and Typing Tutors April 2011
Software: Typing Tutors and Keyboarding software
Category: Text creation using keyboards and virtual/onscreen keyboards
‘Typing is the process of inputting text into a device, such as a typewriter, cell phone, computer, or a calculator, by pressing keys on a keyboard. It can be distinguished from other means of input, such as the use of pointing devices like the computer mouse, and text input via speech recognition.
- Universal Access to Reading Software October 2011
Software: Reading software technologies systems and devices
Students live in a world of symbols, icons and words. Every day they process printed text online and in printed newspapers, journals and magazines, in school worksheets and handouts, in sports reports, recipes, product information, accounts, social web sites, text messages, online chat and/or emails. As emerging readers, they rely on their reading skills, comprehension and experience to understand and interpret the wealth of information crossing their paths at home and at school...
- Universal Access to Data Collection and Storage November 2011
Software: Applications and web services to collect, save, organise and store data
Category: Data systems and storage
Data systems have been important to computer users since the advent of personal computers. My first experience with a computer was the MONECS system whereby IBM Port-a-Punch 80 column punch cards were used. Each line of programming code was made up of cards where a hole was punched to represent the character (e.g. a-z or 1-0) on each card. It was tedious, painstaking and prone to error and mishap. The program was fed into a card reader (which was never revealed to the student faculty – just referred to by lecturers and tutors as the ‘black box’)) and a printout of a successful (or failed) attempt was provided. Any errors had to be traced back to a card or cards. While studying economics and accountancy at the time, I felt that computers would never make much of an impact on my career!
Review of Read & Write V9 Gold and USB Mobile - May 2009
Category: Literacy Support
Some software programs lead the market in their respective genres. Read & Write has been one of the innovators over a long period of time and has just been improved with some excellent new features in Version 9. The software has always offered high quality text-to-speech (TTS) options. It now voices ANY text that appears on the computer display, as highlighted or selected text in MS Word, emails and on web sites, as menus items and content of dialogue boxes (using screen reading), in open or even locked PDF files and even from graphics or formerly inaccessible text! The new Screenshot Reader will speak text that is ‘captured’. It is a total solution! The male and female voices, Karen and Lee are very close to human quality sound. Users can select other voices as well (e.g. Tim or Tina) to read their own work, or third party text from other sources.
Review of MyStudyBar Version 2 - April 2010
MyStudyBar has been developed by the JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland North & East. It was released on 17th March 2010 and is available in two versions. One will work within MS Windows XP Home and XP Professional versions. The other operates with MS Windows Vista and MS Windows 7 operating system versions. The latter offers quite reasonable voice recognition under the heading – Voice. This is not available in the XP version.
Review of MyVisBar - May 2010
This new initiative from the RSC team in Edinburgh, Scotland caters to partially sighted computer users of MS Windows desktops and notebooks. It was recently released in early May 2010. MyVisBar is similar in design and function to MyStudyBar (www.eduapps.org) and can be launched from external drives as well as from computers and servers.
Review of the Wacom Bamboo Fun - May 2010
‘A graphics tablet (or digitizing tablet, graphics pad, drawing tablet) is a computer input device that allows a user to hand-draw images and graphics, similar to the way a person draws images with a pencil and paper. These tablets may also be used to capture data or handwritten signatures. It can also be used to trace an image from a piece of paper, which is taped or otherwise secured to the surface. Capturing data in this way, either by tracing or entering the corners of linear poly-lines or shapes, is called digitizing.
Review of TextHelp Read & Write V4 for MAC OS - December 2010
Read & Write V4 Gold for MAC OS is designed to provide literacy support for all Apple MAC Users. It is appropriate for students and adult users who are struggling with literacy or who need help with their reading and writing. The various tools can be used by anyone who is typing, creating or gathering text for study, research or data collection. The software appears as a floating toolbar and is now very similar in appearance and has similar functionality as the MS Windows version.
Review of Create & Convert – from RSC Scotland - December 2010
Yet another powerful and very timely resource has been released on the very popular Inclusive Technology RSC Scotland website at www.eduapps.org. It is another free resource and can be downloaded and used by anyone for converting existing documents or creating new ones from scratch. Two versions are available for the same resource – MS Word™ and Writer users.
MS Word™: Working Smarter with Struggling Students - August 2008
Tricks, Strategies and Inbuilt Functions in MS Word™
Ms Word has numerous built-in features that accommodate learners with different learning styles and needs. With magnification, line spacing, templates and wizards, highlighting tools and a myriad of keyboard shortcuts, the program can be used more efficiently and expertly at school and at home. Skills can be introduced gradually, so that students become more confident in completing school and home-based tasks and learn to use features and functions that meet specific needs. Other strategies and ideas are discussed in this document that I have found invaluable as a teacher, trainer, presenter and educator.
MS PowerPoint™: Working Smarter with Struggling Students - August 2008
Tricks, Strategies and Inbuilt Functions in MS PowerPoint™
Over many years I have discovered some tricks in using programs such as Persuasion, PowerPoint, Impress, and the very old but reliable Harvard Graphics as a teacher, trainer, presenter and educator. MS PowerPoint is not only a presentation tool! It can be used to design and create so many and varied on and off line resources.
The freely downloadable of AccessApps is an initiative developed by the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres. It consists of over 50 open source and freeware assistive technology applications that can be entirely used from a USB stick on an MS Windows computer.
Literacy Learning & Inclusive Support Tools – May 2009
Category: Software to Assist Students
Product: Range of Literacy & Learning Applications and Resources - FREEWARE
EduApps – AccessApps, LearnApps and TeachApps - May 2009
Three portable USB solutions for anytime, anywhere learning!
The freely downloadable copy of AccessApps that I reviewed last year in November 2008 was an initiative developed by the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres in 2008. AccessApps has received numerous accolades!
Visual Effects and Media Players for Students with Different Abilities - February 2010
We have undoubtedly used Windows Media Player on our MS Windows computers for many years. Often we have most likely also used the exciting visual effects with students who require stimulation or to gain their attention.
Creating Accessible Word Documents - June 2010
The RSC NE Scotland advisor for Accessibility and Inclusion, Craig Mill, has developed a ‘Formatting Word Toolbar’. This uses the basic JISC TechDis principles of creating heading styles, adding descriptions to images, using line spacing, left aligning text, using page breaks as separators, use of captions, inserting tables of contents and others such as logical links and hyper linking.
The iPad as an Inclusive Device in Education - October 2010
The emerging touch tablet technologies provide a number of opportunities for students in accessing information as well as in communicating with the world. The iPad from Apple is a 9.7" (24.6 CM) high-resolution LED-backlit display. The high quality and vivid display is perfect for web browsing, reading eBooks, watching movies, playing games or viewing photos as it uses a display technology called IPS (In-Plane Switching), and offers a wide, 178° viewing angle with excellent color and contrast.
Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia & Print Difficulties: Inclusive Technology Overview - February 2011
Computer software and devices provide solutions for students that have difficulty reading or accessing text, either electronic (computer generated) or as hard copy (printed). New and emerging devices including iPod Touch models, iPads, eBook Readers and even Smart Phones and Mobile Phones provide opportunities for capturing and scanning information and converting it to voice and sound file formats as well as to text.
Weally Wonderful Websites – V6.6 - October 2011
Numerous web sites that accommodate students who have different learning styles and needs exist and are used daily in classrooms throughout Australia. It is often difficult to locate and remember the links for useful education based sites, as well as for access, communication, use with Interactive Whiteboards, switches and other devices. Remembering and storing favourites and keeping track of them are also difficult if educators move from one classroom to another or from one location (e.g. home) to school.
MS Word Add-Ins to Engage and Support All Students
Microsoft Word 2003, 2007 and the current version 2010, has many features that cater to students who require additional learning supports. Some features are in the toolbars or ribbons, but are often not apparent or their use or relevance not evident. Others can be accessed via a mouse or preferred pointing device whilst others can be invoked using a variety of keyboard shortcuts. These can be introduced and taught to students who have different learning styles. Remembering where the functions are or mastering the combinations of keyboard shortcuts can often present difficulties and challenges for both teaching staff and students.
Weally Wonderful Apps V1.0
The need for parents, educators and therapists to research, identify, choose and document appropriate resources to cater to students’ needs is time consuming and often frustrating. This resource has been created to help others ascertain the Apps and accessories that can make these new devices more relevant and specifically tailored to accommodate specific needs.
Gerry Kennedy IT Consultancy
Phone: 03 9894 4826
Mob: 0411 569 840
Fax: (03) 9894 4936