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Is a C-Pen right for my child?

What is a C-Pen Reader?

The C-Pen Reader pen scanner is a major technological breakthrough for anyone learning English or Spanish and is a life-saver for those who suffer from reading difficulties such as dyslexia. The C-Pen Reader is a totally portable, pocket-sized device that reads text out aloud with an English or Spanish human-like digital voice.

It’s a small, handheld device a similar size to a highlighter pen which:

  • runs on a rechargeable battery
  • doesn’t need internet to work
  • needs headphones to be used effectively
  • is unobtrusive in most settings
  • scans and reads text aloud immediately
  • can store scanned text
  • can give definitions of scanned words
  • can record voice notes
  • plugs into your computer with a USB connection to download scans and recordings

Who could a C-Pen be useful for?

The C-Pen reader is not much bigger than a highlighter
  • Children over about 8 years old and adults with a reading difficulty such as dyslexia who need to read printed material
  • People with low vision who need to read printed material
  • People with a cognitive disability who need to read printed material

Who is a C-Pen not recommended for?

C-Pen is not suitable for individuals who are not able to smoothly highlight a line of text because of vision or motor issues or because they have not yet reached that level of fine motor skill development.

Will my child be allowed to take a C-Pen reader to school?

It depends on the school’s attitude to the use of assistive technology but many children do take them to school and find that they are a useful, unobtrusive support which doesn’t disturb the rest of the class and doesn’t require the teacher to assist the child with reading information and instructions as much as may be the case without the C-Pen.

Will my child be allowed to use a C-Pen in an exam?

Almost certainly not but you may have a case for your child to be allowed to use an Exam Reader which looks similar to a C-Pen but has only one function: to scan and read text aloud. This provides support in understanding the questions in an exam without the possibility of accusations of cheating.

The only function of the Exam Reader is to scan text and read it aloud

Where can I get a C-Pen?

C-Pen Readers and Exam Readers are available in our online store.  The $390 cost includes postage and it will be shipped to you.  Sets of 10 are also available for schools or tutoring centres to purchase. Please email education@macandpcdoctors.com.au for more details.

Can I get a C-Pen using NDIS funds?

It depends on what has been approved in your plan.  The NDIS does not cover anything education related but may cover items which support daily living and independence.  A C-Pen could fall into the category of low cost and low risk assistive technology items (Level 1).  Items of this nature do not need a form to be sent into the NDIS. Participants with AT funded supports in their plan can seek advice and buy it themselves.

The Daily Adaptive Equipment (03_131_0103_1_1) line item under a participant’s CORE budget (Consumables support category) would be where you would claim these expenses. (Information from https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/assistive-technology-faqs.html)

If you would like to purchase a C-Pen reader from us using NDIS funds, please make a request via the NDIS portal or email accessibility@macandpcdoctors.com.au to discuss first.

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Apps for early literacy and fine motor control

I was recently asked for the names of some apps to support literacy and letter awareness. Of course there are many ways to help children develop these skills and the iPad is just one method but it is an engaging tool in the toolbox for literacy learning. Prices are in Australian dollars and are correct as of September 2016. 256px-child_with_apple_ipad-212x300
My criteria in choosing the list below were:
  • evidence based theory behind the methods
  • engaging but not over-stimulating

Apps for early phonics

  • Hairy Letters (Nessy Learning Ltd) –  $5.99  (Anything by Nessy is great!)
  • Phonics Under the Big Top (Celeste Musgrave ) – $2.99

Apps for learning sight words

  • Phonics Read CVC (Joe Scrivens) – $2.99 or in a bundle with other apps for $5.99
  • Hairy Words (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99

App bundles

There are two bundles of phonics and sight word apps which are excellent.
  • Tools for Teaching Reading (Reading Doctor) – $129.99 for the bundle of 6, $24.99 each
  • OzPhonics (DSP Learning Pty Ltd) – $7.99 for the bundle, $1.99 or $2.99 each.

Apps for tracing letters

  • School Writing (demografix pty ltd) – $7.99 (Uses Australian states’ handwriting fonts)
  • iWriteWords (gdiplus) – lite or $4.49
  • Little Writer Pro (Innovative) – $2.99
  • Ready to Print (Essare LLC) – $14.99
Most of these have an Australian or English voice which is probably less confusing for Australian children than an American voice
© Jacqui Kirkman, 2016
MEd, Grad Dip Teaching (Primary), BA
Specialist Literacy Teacher
Apple Professional Learning Specialist
Photo credit: By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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The Mac As Assistive Technology

The Mac As Assistive Technology

The value of the Mac as assistive technology.

The Mac has a range of in-built features to make it easier for people with a disability to use technology. This assistive technology isn’t just for people with a disability however. These tools can assist much of the general population as well.

These tools come free with the Mac’s operating system OS X. There are similar tools that are adapted for the iPad and iPhone and form part of the iOS operating system.

People often claim that Mac’s are an expensive option when it comes to computers. Those who have purchased assistive technology programs and apps know that these aren’t cheap either. There is an argument that the Mac as an assistive technology tool can meet the needs of many individuals without the need for costly additions.

The Mac OS X operating system in conjunction with iOS can help those who have trouble with vision, hearing, mobility and learning disabilities.

The Mac as assistive technology to help vision.

For those who are vision impaired or have low vision the Mac comes with the VoiceOver feature. VoiceOver tells the user what is on the screen. It does this with the use of the users gestures. It also talks through different actions like opening a menu bar or an app.

Other Mac features for those with a vision impairment include being able to adjust the display contrast, enlarge icons, increase cursor size and slow down the speed of the mouse pointed. The Mac is also compatible with over 40 braille displays.

The Mac as assistive technology to aide hearing.

For people with a hearing impediment or speech difficulty FaceTime is great tool to communicate nonverbally using sign language and facial expressions.

The Mac as assistive technology to assist with physical and motor skills.

Your Mac and other Apple devices are able to assist people who have physical or motor challenges. AssistiveTouch on iOS devices allows  you to perform gestures like a pinch with just one finger. This feature can also come in handy when the home button on your device starts to lose its functionality. Other Mac features to assist in this area include:

  • Slow Keys
  • Sticky Keys
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • The ability to adjust track pad speed
  • The ability to adjust double-click speed

The Mac as assistive technology to help with learning and literacy.

Guided Access is a feature on iOS that limits the device you are using to a single app. It also lets you control which app features are available. This is especially useful for those with attention deficit issues or who have other cognitive disabilities. The dictation feature is another great feature on the Mac to help with learning. Dictation isn’t just for writing text but also automating commands. For example you can tell you Mac to delete a word or save a document.

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Mac Parental Controls

Mac OS X Parental Controls
Mac OS X has had parental controls for a while now. They are similar to parental controls in Windows, if you are familiar with them. The Apple Support page for Parental Controls has the description, “keep your children safe by monitoring the time they spend on the Mac, the websites they visit, and the people they communicate with”.  There is video showing how to set up Parental Controls and walks you through the steps.

Time limits are probably the most useful feature, because the other restrictions only work for the standard Mac OS X applications. Most kids will find a way around those other restrictions by using a browser other than Safari, web mail such gmail or hotmail, and by chatting on facebook or Skype.  The logging feature does provide parents with a useful history of what the kids have been up to.

But, did you know that you can set up parental controls from another Mac on your network? So, you can change the parental control settings without needing physical access to their Mac.  The only catch is that there is some initial setup on the child’s computer. You will need an admin account on their Mac, and it should be an account the kid doesn’t have access to. You will also need to allow remote setup. All the details are available here.

Maybe this all sounds a bit creepy and like you are stalking your children, but if it helps them get enough sleep, by getting them off the computer automatically at a reasonable time of night, its probably worth the complaints you will get. And if you can give them an extra hour to finish that important assignment, without having to venture in to a teenage bedroom, it should make the experience a little more pleasant for everyone

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Can a kid make a Minecraft server?

I did! I’m 11 years old and for a long time I have wanted to create a Minecraft server because I thought it would be fun to play my favourite game with my friends, without any strangers, where we could do whatever we liked.

My friends told me that it was too hard. I listened to them and decided not to make a server.

One day I found a website called Minefold, which is great for video game server hosting if you don’t mind paying. When you create a Minefold account, you get around 50 hours of free time on your server.

When I ran out of free time, I asked my parents if I could pay to keep my server, but since I only get $20 pocket money a month, I wouldn’t have much money left over for other things I wanted.

My dad thought that we might as well give it a try, to see how hard it would be to make one ourselves.
We used this guide to help us create the server: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Personal-Minecraft-Server

1. First you have to download the server software here.

2. Then create a new folder and place the server software (Minecraft_Server.exe) in the folder.

3. If you don’t have a static IP address, you need to set up a dynamic DNS so friends can access your server with a domain that can find your server when the IP address changes. Your router may support services like dyndns.org, tzodns.com or no-ip.com which offer this.

4. Now you have to port forward your router (if you have one).

5. Now open your folder that has Minecraft_Server.exe inside and double click the .exe file.  Once this is opened, it will bring up a window which shows the progress of the server’s construction. The process is automatic. Other program files will also automatically be added to the folder.

6. Now your server is ready! Give your friends your external IP address so they can type it into Minecraft and play on your server. It is possible to set up ‘whitelist’ on your server, which lets only listed players onto your server, so only your friends can play.

My new server was working fine, but we found an even easier way to set up a server which was a website called YAMS (“Yet Another Minecraft Server”). We ended up choosing YAMS because it starts our server automatically and fixes the firewall. It can also set up port forwarding depending on what type of modem you have, but we had to do ours manually. If you use YAMS you still need to do step 3 above.

My friends and I decided that we would make a Minecraft adventure map of “The Hobbit”. An adventure map is a game within Minecraft where you are assigned a task to complete, and go through various challenges to complete this task. We chose “The Hobbit” because all of us are big fans of J.R.R Tolkien’s books, and thought it would be great to use our imaginations to create the next two parts of the story, which have not become films yet.

Now all my friends have figured out how to get onto my server, we talk on Skype together while we play, and we are having lots of fun.  Here’s my Minecraft avatar on my server.

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