Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on technology.

Technology Shortcuts Every Teacher Should Know

With busy schedules, keyboard shortcuts can save a lot of time and frustration.  Committing a few of your favorites to memory is worth the effort, and I have also created an image that you can print so that these tricks can be posted beside your computer – when needed.

Shortcuts often require you to hold down one or more modifier keys while pressing another key. For example, to use the print shortcut, Command-P (print), hold down Command and press P, and then release both keys. Here is a list of the modifier keys:

  • Command ⌘
  • Shift ⇧
  • Option/alt ⌥
  • Control ⌃
  • Caps Lock ⇪
  • Function fn
Here are my favorite shortcuts:  
  • Command  Option  ESC – Force Quit
  • Command  Q – Quit active application
  • Command  W – Close active window
  • Command  H – Hides active window
  • Command  M – Minimizes active window (This is a favorite as I can maximize when needed)
  • Command  N – Opens new doc or Internet page
  • Command  P – Print active screen or doc
  • Command  S – Saves active doc or tab
  • Command  Z – Undo previous command (If you delete something by accident this can be a lifesaver)
  • Command  Y – Redo previous command
  • Command  A – Selects whole document or contents of screen
  • Command  I – Italicizes text in docs
  • Command  U – Underlines text in docs
  • Command  B – Bolds text in docs
  • Command  L – Left justifies text
  • Command  R – Right justifies text
  • Command  E – Centers text
  • Option  Delete – Deletes word left of cursor
  • Command  1 – Single line spacing bt. sentences
  • Command  2 – Double line spacing bt. sentences
  • Command  5 – 1.5 line spacing bt. sentences
  • Command  F – Opens find window to locate words or quote in document or website (This is fabulous when searching for a quote or word in a PDF, Doc or web page)
  • Command  E – Uses the selection for a Find (Great to use with Command F)
  • Command  D –  Bookmark website
  • Command  Tab –  Toggles between open websites
  • Command  T – Opens new tab in web browser
  • Command  + –  Zoom In (Plus sign is above the = sign)
  • Command  – –  Zoom out (Minus sign is next to the number 0)
  • Command  + Shift  + 3 – Capture the screen to a file
  • Command  +  Key + 4 – Capture a selection to a file (Great for copying an image from the computer)
  • Command  X – Cuts selection and stores in Clipboard
  • Command  C – Copies selection or text to Clipboard (Great for copying text from the internet, so it can then be pasted into a document with Command V)
  • Command  V – Pastes contents of Clipboard in location of the cursor
  • Double Click a Word – Highlight a word
  • Triple Click a Word – Highlight a sentence
  • Click on a file Space Bar – Quick look at the file without opening it.
  • Control Eject – Opens a dialog box so you can sleep, shut down, or restart your computer

Shortcuts on Other Devices I Can’t Live Without:

  1. When working on your iPhone a double space at the end of a sentence will provide a period, a space, and will capitalize your next word.
  2. When taking a selfie, your volume button can also be used to take the picture.
  3. Ask Siri to open your apps, so that you don’t have to search for them on your device.
  4. On Google, when you type Define before a word, Google will provide a definition of the word.
  5. On Google, if you type in your flight number, you will get the gate, airline and time.
  6. On your phone’s camera, half press the shutter button to focus.  Once you have done that, if you push down, it will avoid any lag.
  7. Any side button on your phone will stop it from ringing.
  8. With popup menus – to fill in the state, type the first letter multiple times to scroll through the options.

To get a free, crisp copy of this shortcut list, click on the image to download a free PDF

I hope you find these tricks helpful!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Free Text to Speech Software Can Help Students Edit Papers

Text to speech software is a valuable tool that comes for free on all Mac computers, and now a number of free apps make this technology available at no cost for PC users too.  Text to speech has been used as an accommodation for struggling readers, but did you know that it is also an advantageous device for writers too?  In fact, I often teach my students how to use this technology to help them edit their written language.

What is Text to Speech Software?
Text to Speech software is a form of speech synthesis that converts text to a spoken computerized voice.   This technology was originally created to aid those with vision impairments so that they could hear written text.

How can Text to Speech Help Students Edit Their Writing?
Many students struggle to edit their own work, because when they go back to refine their text, they often glide over mishaps and read it as they meant to write it.  Furthermore, there are many errors that are easy to make but difficult to see.  For example, for many learners simple letter and word reversals are difficult to detect.  If you type the word “from” as “form,” you probably won’t catch this reversal when scanning your document visually.  In addition, many young learners get confused by words that look similar but are pronounced differently such as loose and lose.   Text to Speech allows students to hear the mistakes that they may not see!

How Can I Access Text to Speech on a Mac Computer?

  1. Select the Apple icon on the top left of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click Dictation and Speech.
  4. Click Text to Speech.
  5. Select “speak selected text when the key is pressed” checkbox.
  6. The default for enabling Text to Speech is Option-Esc – or to select a different key, click Change Key, press one or more of the following keys (Command, Shift, Option or Control) together with another key and click OK.
  7. To have your Mac read text aloud, press the specified keys.  To have it stop speaking press the same keys again.  If you want it to read specific text, highlight the text before you select the specified keys.

What Free Text to Speech Apps are available for PCs and Surface Computers?
There are a number of free apps, but my favorites are Read and Write and Natural Readers.

I hope you found this blog post informative.  If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below this post.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Two Best Apps for Dyslexics: Words from Designer Winston Chen

Voice Dream Reader and now the new Voice Dream Writer are what I believe to be the best apps out there for dyslexics as well as struggling readers and writers.  I am so pleased to feature an interview with Winston Chen: the creator these Voice Dream apps.  We focused our discussion on his recent release, Voice Dream Writer

__________________

                           

Erica: If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is at the heart of Voice Dream Writer?

Winston: It helps everyone write better.

Erica: Why did you create Voice Dream Writer?


Winston: Over the 3-year period during which I worked on Voice Dream Reader, my reading app, I became aware that reading and learning isn’t the only challenge facing students with dyslexia. Writing is as just as problematic. This was obvious from the emails that I receive from users. Beyond education, in the workplace, poor writing puts people with dyslexia at a severe disadvantage. I started to think about ways in which technology can help them improve the quality of their writing beyond dictation and word prediction.

Erica: How does Voice Dream Writer help people write better?


Winston: Three core capabilities. One, it incorporates speech throughout the entire writing process from typing to proofreading to help writers make fewer errors. Two, it has a sophisticated search engine for words that help improve spelling and word usage. Three, it has a synchronized outline that helps writers better structure and organize compositions. The goal is to help people write better, not fancy graphics and snazzy technical wizardry. It gets down to the basics: this magical but intimidating process of creating words and sentences on an empty screen.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Voice Dream Writer


Winston: Many people gave me ideas. But I want to point out especially Landmark College, who encouraged me to develop this app, and Dr. Matthew Schnepps, one of the most respected researchers in the field and a dyslexic himself, who explained to me many of the problems that dyslexics face when writing.

Erica: Who is your audience?


Winston: The audience is precisely the same group of people who find my reading app helpful: adults and students with dyslexia, low vision, or blindness. These three groups have one thing in common: they do not process text the same way as the majority of the population does, and in particular they all value speech.

Erica: What other apps have you created?  



Winston: This is only my second app. My first app is Voice Dream Reader, which lets people read with their ears. 

Erica: Are you intending on creating more apps?  If so, what are some of your ideas?


Winston: I always have a bunch of ideas floating in my head. For the foreseeable future, however, I want to focus on making the Reader and the Writer available on more platforms, such as Android and Mac. Two babies will keep me busy for quite a while.

Erica: Can people learn more about your new app?



WinstonYes. The best way to learn more about this app is to watch the demo I narrated on my website: http://www.voicedream.com/writer

_________________

I want to thank Winston Chen for taking the time to speak to us!  I hope you learn more about the Voice Dream apps and discover the benefits these valuable technology gems.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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OSMO Develops Verbal Reasoning, Sequential, Spatial, and Critical Thinking Skills

Being a personal trainer for the brain, I am always looking for multisensory tools that can develop the different cognitive processing areas.  A few months back, a saw a video promotion for OSMO and I was hooked.  I preordered OSMO and recently received my materials.  I’m happy to say that it has exceeded my expectations!


What Exactly is OSMO?
OSMO is a wonderful tool that brings iPad activities into the real world.  This new technology utilizes the space in front of the iPad to take games off the screen.  The use of a base and a reflective camera, allows players to interact with three game-like apps.  Drawings and physical objects are captured by the device and transported back onto the screen.  The product also provides actual tangram shapes as well as letter tiles that can be used in the activities.  Once the apps are downloaded, there is no need for the internet to play the activities.

What Do I Get When I Purchase OSMO?
OSMO comes with three, neat and well-designed boxes that magnetically snap together.  One box holds the base and reflective device that slips onto the iPad.  The other two boxes hold manipulatives for two of the games. Otherwise, directions guide the buyer on how to set up your own iPad by going to a web address and then downloading three free apps. The set up was quick and simple. 


Tell Me More About the Three Activities?
There are three games offered by the company:  Newton, Tangrams, and Words:

  • Newton: This game develops spatial reasoning skills, visual-spatial abilities, and executive functioning.  The object of this game is to divert a falling ball to one or more targets. Players can do this by first placing a piece of paper or a dry erase board in front of the OSMO and either drawing or placing objects onto this surface.  These drawing or objects then appear on the iPad screen, diverting the ball to the target. 

  • Tangram: This game develops visual spatial abilities, nonverbal reasoning, fine motor skills, and executive functioning. Wooden puzzle pieces can be arranged in the playing field, challenging players to match images projected on the iPad.  The game guides players through the process and slowly reveals a map of more difficult puzzles.

  • Words: This game develops verbal reasoning skills, sequential processing and decoding abilities.  Images are projected on the iPad to serve as word clues.  Players can then place letter tiles in the playing field to guess the possible word. Players can play individually or they can compete against another player. The game gets progressively more difficult as play continues. Best of all you can upload your own words and images to make this game applicable to current academics.  What a wonderful way to practice spelling or vocabulary words!

What About the Future of OSMO?

  • The designers claim that they have plans to create more interactive games if the company grows.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
  • OSMO has even caught the eye of Apple.  Apple will be featuring it on their website.  
  • I contacted the company to ask whether I could create separate student profiles.  It is not possible at present, but they said that they are already working on this feature and hope to release it soon. 
Where Can I View a Video of OSMO? 



How Can I Purchase  OSMO?

Click Here or on the following link:

I would love to hear your thoughts about OSMO and learn about your experiences with this new, awesome device.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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BeeLine Reader: Dyslexia and ADHD Technology Improves Word Tracking Abilities

When reading, do you ever find it difficult to track from one line to the next?  This can be tricky for anyone when reading small text, but for many struggling readers, it remains to be a pervasive problem.

A Better Solution
In the past, students have used a finger, highlighter or bookmark to keep place.  In addition, some Apps, such as Dream Reader, will even highlight a line of text or even individual words when text is read aloud.  But wouldn’t it be nice to drop some of those tools and be able to visually scan text with ease? BeeLine Reader, offers a new, ingenious concept that can morph text on the internet and your electronic devices with the use of color.

I was recently contacted by Nick Lum, the founder of BeeLine Reader, and once I saw his

Nick Lum

innovative concept, I asked if I could interview him for this blogpost:

1) What is the history of BeeLine Reader and why was it created?

The idea behind BeeLine Reader is to adapt reading—which has historically been done on printed paper—for the digital era. Digitization has changed so many things about how we interact with written material: emails can be sent much faster than snail-mail, and you can fit a thousand ebooks on a handheld device. But despite these advances in the way we transmit and store written material, the way in which we ingest it is basically the same as it was on paper. Why is this? We never used to read in color on paper because printing in color is expensive. But on smartphones and tablets, color is costless. So the question becomes: is there anything you can do with color to make reading more efficient? The answer is yes, and this is precisely what our technology does. Our eye-guiding color gradients are designed to take advantage of the way your visual processing system works when you’re reading. This wasn’t possible—or at least practical—on paper, but on digital devices its a snap. We’ve created several tools that make this concept a reality, and in the last year readers all over the world have read millions of pages using BeeLine Reader.
2) Do you have your own personal interest in BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine Reader started as an idea for making digital reading more efficient, but we quickly learned that it is much more than that. The reaction from the accessibility community—which we did not set out to target—has been tremendous, and it has changed the way we approach the technology. We have heard so many stories from people young and old who have struggled to read for their entire lives, and it is has been an incredible experience to work with them on products that have such a deep impact on their ability to read, learn, and work.

3) What populations are served by using BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine’s technology is designed to help all readers, but it is particularly helpful for readers with vision impairments, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Vision therapists and dyslexia researchers are doing studies to better understand how BeeLine is interacting with various cognitive and visual differences to generate extraordinary gains for certain populations of readers. 

4) What are your long-term goals for BeeLine Reader? 

Ultimately, we want to see BeeLine adopted as part of universal design and accessibility. Although BeeLine has potent benefits for the accessibility community, it is helpful for the vast majority (over 85%) of readers. Interestingly, it works in every language we’ve tried it in, and we have users reading in 100 languages. Given this broad appeal, the long-term goal is to have BeeLine integrated with many devices and platforms so that it can be used by anyone to read anything.

5) Do you have a testimonial that you would like to share?

We’ve received many emails, tweets, and posts from users who find BeeLine to be helpful for them. Some of our users have reading difficulties, and others are unimpaired readers who simply enjoy being able to read a bit easier and faster:
  • “Wow, It feels like the first time I tried glasses. It completely removes any chances of me missing a line. I have a low dyslexia and this just works. Thank you!!”
  • “Do you have any idea how helpful this is for dyslexia? OMG I can follow this text! The words and lines are not blurring together! I can READ!”
  • “I don’t think you understand just how awesome this is, as someone with ADD, I have a lot of trouble reading. This was the first time I have ever read a paragraph uninterrupted.” 
  • “As someone with sight difficulties, this is amazing. I wish all books were like this, I may read a lot more.”
  • “Having tried BeeLine Reader and found that it makes reading both easier and faster, I really wish I could use it with all of my readings [as a PhD student at Berkeley]. Honestly, it might be the best improvement since I started wearing glasses.”
6) Do you have any links that you would like me to use?

Our website is www.BeeLineReader.com. Our free browser plugins are at www.BeeLineReader.com/install, and our PDF converter is at www.BeeLineReader/pdf. It might be worth mentioning that we’ll have an iPhone/iPad app released within a few weeks. People can sign up for our mailing list (on our website) to get updates on new product releases, scientific studies, etc.

Being dyslexic myself, I have already been using the technology, and I couldn’t be more excited about spreading the word to my followers and associates.  I want to personally thank Nick for reaching out to me and for creating this truly outstanding product. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Audiobooks for Students with Disabilities: Comparing BookShare and Learning Ally

Audiobooks are wonderful learning options that make reading accessible to students with a variety of learning preferences as well as disabilities.  For some time, they have been available at a cost on sites like Audible.com where books are read by actors or authors.  However, they are often a costly choice that many can not afford.   Luckily, free options on sites like Project Gutenberg and others are wonderful, but sadly they only offer audiobooks that are in the public domain.  What about individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities and learning disabilities that impact reading? Are there any options for this population of learners?  

Audiobooks for Individuals with Disabilities that Impact Reading:
Both BookShare and Learning Ally are two online sites that offer audiobooks for individuals with print-based disabilities.  They conduct business under the exception
to U.S. copyright law
 which
permits the availability of copyrighted text to people with qualifying
disabilities.  BookShare and Learning Ally safeguards that
only qualified individuals can use this service by requiring applicants to register as members and provide proof of disability.

Who Can Certify a Disability for Membership?

School
Affiliated:
  • Special education teacher
  • Learning
    disability specialist
  • Teacher of the visually impaired
  • School
    psychologist
  • Resource
    specialist

Medical
Professionals:
  • Family doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical
    psychologist

Other
Certification:
  • Prior Certification
    with Learning Ally or BookShare



How Do BookShare and Learning Ally Compare?
BookShare and Learning Ally are constantly upgrading their systems and adding new materials. So the following table is up to date as of October 2014:

Where Can I Learn More?
Besides the websites of BookShare and Learning Ally, you can also check out their brochures:

BookShare Brochures:

Learning Ally Brochures: 

Each person will have their own preference when choosing a audiobook provider, however, to assure people with print disabilities have access to all the resources
they need, consider joining both BookShare
and Learning Ally.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Audiobooks Can Improve Word Recognition, Pronunciation and Visualization Abilities

Did you know that audiobooks or books on tape can improve word recognition, the proper pronunciation of words and also develop visualization abilities?  Passive learners may not obtain these perks, but with guided instruction on active and mindful reading, these benefits can be easily attainable.

How Can Students Reap The Benefits of Audiobooks?
For young learners to get the most out of audiobooks, they must learn to be active participants in the reading process.  They can take one of two roles.

1) Students should follow along with the text as they listen to the book:

  • If students read the text while listening to the book, they can begin to recognize whole words.  Instead of decoding or sounding out the words, the audiobook does this for them, and they can just focus on tracking the words across the page.  
  • An added plus to scanning the text while listening is students will quickly learn the proper pronunciations of sight words and other tricky words such as “chaos,” and “deoxyribonucleic acid.”  In fact, for many students they experience improvements in spelling too as they pair the proper pronunciation with the visual of the word.  

2) Students should close their eyes while listening to the audiobook and make a conscious effort to visualize the setting, characters and plot.  Learning to create a movie in ones head improves attention and will also make the process more fun and memorable.  Understand that many students that struggle with reading do not fully develop their abilities to visualize, and they may need instruction and practice with this needed skill.  If you would like to help your students to develop this ability consider purchasing Mindful Visualization for Education.

Where Can I Get Affordable Options for Audiobooks?
There are a number of sites online that offer audiobooks.  If I child has a learning disability, they can qualify to receive audiobooks through their school or learning specialist from sites such as Learning Ally and BookShare.  Furthermore, here is a website that offers 224 Places for Free Audio Books.  Below you will see a list of just a few of them:

  1. Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/
  2. Audible: http://www.audible.com/
  3. Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks
  4. Free Classic Audiobooks: http://freeclassicaudiobooks.com/
  5. Books Should be Free: http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/
  6. LibriVox: https://librivox.org/
By helping young learners to actively use audiobooks, they can improve their reading abilities and find more joy in the process.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com
www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Using Free Mac Text to Speech to Edit Student Writing

For many students it is a struggle to edit ones own writing
– if it is even done at all.  We all tend
to read what we have written the way we meant to write it, and it’s easy to
scan over misspelt words, word omissions, improper word choices and more.   Typos like “form” instead of “from,” will
never be detected by a spell check and these types of mishaps can be very
difficult to notice.  However, activating
text to speech on the Mac, can really help with the editing process.
What is Text to Speech?
Text to speech is an assistive technology device that allows
the writer to highlight text and with a simple command, the computer will read
your writing aloud.  It uses computerized speech, but there are a couple voices that are quite realistic.  

 

How Can I Use This Technology on My Mac?

  1. Go to system preferences.
  2. Select “Dictation and Speech” which offers
    a microphone icon.
  3. Select a “System Voice” (my personal favorite is Alex), and pick a speaking rate by sliding the icon between slow-fast.
  4. Select the check box next to “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.”
  5. Select the “Change Key” button and make your
    preferred selection.  Let me suggest using the control key and the letter s).
  6. Now, select the text that you want the computer
    to read and hold down the control key while selecting the letter S.

What Else Can I Use Text to Speech for?

If you find text on the Internet, and you would like your
computer to read it to you, all you have to do is highlight the desired text and hit the
control key while selecting the letter s.  You can also use this to edit your emails.  I do it all the time.
I hope you find  this helpful!

How Can Books on Tape Improve Reading Speed and Reading Comprehension?

Listening to books on tape or to someone reading aloud can
improve reading comprehension because the brain does not have to work on
decoding the words but can simply focus on the content.  But merely laying back and passively
listening is not always the best approach, because it is easy for personal
thoughts to interrupt the text content. 
Therefore, for this mode of learning to be most effective, it is best
for the listener to do one of two things:


 Scan the text:
Scanning the text while listening will not only help maintain attention, but it
will assist with sight word recognition. 
Additionally, students that decode words one letter at a time while
reading will begin to see whole words and phrases.  Before long, these skills will apply when the student reads
independently, and whole words recognition and reading speed will improve.
 
Visualize the content:  Picturing the characters, the setting
and the plot helps to sustain attention, improve comprehension and it also
makes the text more memorable.  With
practice, many students report that they are able to create a mental movie in
their mind and that reading becomes far more enjoyable. 
There are a number of places
online that offer books on tape.
1) Learning Ally:
http://www.learningally.org 
     
2) Audio Books for Free: 
http://www.audiobooksforfree.com/browse/Fiction   
3) LibriVox:
http://librivox.org/
 
If you would like to help students develop their visualization
abilities, I have a free image that
reviews the 10 visualization skills. 
I also offer two PowerPoint presentations that teach the 10 skills
needed to visualize.  If interested
go to:

http://goodsensorylearning.com/teaching-visualization.html