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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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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.

2013-05-26_12.06.03

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Bring your own technology to school. Is it really a bad idea?

The Courier Mail yesterday ran an article about the scrapping of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) funding. The article stated that an outcome of this change might be that students would have to bring their own laptops to school. The Education Minister, John-Paul Langbroek, called it a return to the “digital dark age”.

But is it the terrible idea the article makes it out to be?

Schools currently spend huge amounts of money on technology devices and infrastructure in addition to the DER money received. Ongoing maintenance of networks and devices is required.

In recent years some schools have voluntarily adopted a BYOT (Bring your own technology) policy. It’s also sometimes referred to as BYOD (Bring your own device).

Teenagers are big users of technology and many parents already willingly invest in technology which will help their children’s learning. Many students already own a portable device.

Advantages of BYOT are:
• being able to choose a device that suits the needs of the individual child
• greater parent involvement in the choice of the device and their child’s learning
• removal of maintenance and updating costs from school budgets
• easy access to learning materials when students are not on the school campus

There are certainly issues that need to be addressed:
• While some laptops currently cost as little as $500 and some tablet devices less than $200, this is still out of reach for some families
• Security of data and devices needs to be carefully thought out and planned for
• Quality infrastructure needs to be provided as well as technical support for students and teachers
• Schools’ fears of losing control over students’ technology use

Most importantly, schools need to think through the implications for teaching and learning and work on developing a culture of trust within their community.Some commentators believe that BYOT is inevitable, so why not embrace it, plan for it and reap the advantages it can offer?

© Jacqui Kirkman 2013

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If my child’s a digital native, what am I?

Well, if you’re born before 1977 or if you didn’t grow up with technology, then you’re a “Digital Immigrant”.  Digital immigrants do things like:

  • print out emails
  • call computers “machines”
  • have trouble switching between two or more computer screens which are open at the same time
  • read or want to read a manual before using a device, rather than just diving in and working it out

According to Marc Prensky, if you do that type of thing, you are speaking with an accent.  You are an immigrant to the digital world and will never entirely lose your “accent”.

Remember “The Beverley Hillbillies”?  It was a sitcom which ran from 1962 to 1971 about a poor, hillbilly family who suddenly become millionaires when oil is found on their farm and so they move to the big city (Los Angeles).  Much of the humour comes from the fact that they bring their hillbilly ways with them and continue to do things the way they were done “back home”.  In an early episode, Granny washes the clothes in the “cement pond” which is in fact a grand, roman-style swimming pool.

People who didn’t grow up with technology can be a bit like Granny.  They use technology but it doesn’t always feel like the most comfortable or the easiest way to do things.  I admit that I sometimes battle with technology.  I’ve bought a 900 page book to help me use this website!

When Parents Text is a very funny website about older people struggling to master texting.

In the weeks to come, we’ll think about whether it’s true that older people speak with a digital immigrant’s accent and if they do,  is it something they need to try to hide or is it actually a good thing to keep.

© Jacqui Kirkman  2013