Make Math Accessible and FUN with EquatIO!

7 04 2017

One of the best parts of my work is to try new tools to see if they will help our students and staff. Well, I have just finished playing around with a great new tool called EquatIO.

From TextHelper John McGowan  (@jmacattak), EquatIO is super cool. Unlike its Google Docs add-on cousin g(Math), EquatIO works with Google Docs and Google Forms to give a more accessible math experience. Having a touchscreen Chromebook makes for even more fun!

EquatIO is more than just an equation editor. The main features of EquatIO are handwriting recognition, prediction, and dictation. It allows the user a different mode of access in creating mathematical expressions, solving mathematical equations, and creating accessible math opportunities for students with unique learning challenges. Equations seem less daunting. To have the ability to handwrite and convert an equation or mathematical expression to text is pretty cool, but to be able to dictate or have EquatIO predict the expression helps to reduce or eliminate barriers to math that often exist due to disability, impairment, or mismatch of curriculum to learning style.

Don’t just take my word for it- see how EquatIO can work in Google Docs:

Or Google Forms:

Check out how handwriting recognition works:

EquatIO is currently available on the Chrome Web Store. Try it to see how EquatIO can be used in creating accessible tests and quizzes, assignments, and how it can be used with students who present with unique learning challenges!




The New iPad- Is It For You?

19 04 2012

Recently I have reached a milestone. Last month, I celebrated turning 40. What better way to celebrate than buying oneself the new iPad. Of course I have my son, husband, in-laws and grandmother to thank for contributing to the cause.

Happy birthday to me....

Initially, I was not going to buy it. I was perfectly happy with the district-issued iPad 2 I was using for evaluations and testing apps. I loved the size, the camera was okay -though not as great as my iPhone 4’s camera. It did what I needed it to do, and can do what I need it to do for the students that I work with. I could customize work easily, record video, use apps and existing content. With  the addition of PaperPort Notes, dictation was all set.

However, after seeing the new iPad in person, I wanted one. I opted for a white 32 GB wi-fi model. I don’t need 3 or 4 G as I’m not planning on using it in my car, or in a jungle somewhere. Why did I want a new iPad over the iPad 2?  Here are a few reasons:

1. The display

2. The camera

3. Built-in dictation

4. The design

I ordered my new iPad and anxiously awaited its arrival. Of course, setup and configuration was a snap as usual with any iOS device. The same Accessibility features that I love on the iPad2 are the same on the new iPad. Once I had it set, I had to play.

What I first noticed was the display. It almost looks 3D to me. It’s vibrant, crisp, and super sharp even at close range. There is not as much pixelation as there is in older iPads. To illustrate, I’ve taken a couple of pictures.

The picture on the left hand side is of the Messaging app on the iPad 2. I got as close as possible with my iPhone camera without blurring the image, however, it does. It doesn’t look too bad, right?

That is until you look at the same icon on the new iPad. Note that the app icon is more vibrant all around. There isn’t as much blurring as there is in the ipad2 image with the same distance.

Apple touts the new iPad as having 4 times as more pixels than the iPad2. The retina display is amazing.

This may not matter to the average user, but from an Assistive Technology standpoint, it’s huge. This better display affords me to assess students with low vision or scanning issues and compare with better accuracy. Content can be even closer than before without as much of a chance of it blurring. Exciting!

The next task was to test the camera. I love to take pictures. I’m an Instagram-a-holic when it comes to my phone. I like using the iPad2 camera for taking pictures of existing content for a student and using it in a different way. So, I had to test the new iPad camera out.

The first image was taken with an iPad2. The image on the right was taken with the new iPad with its 5 megapixel iSight camera.

There is a discernable difference when taking pictures with the new iPad. The image is more stable. It’s crisper, and focuses quicker on the things I need it to.

In terms of using the camera to document student work, students, and transforming existing content, this tool will help to ensure that what is being delivered to students is not blurry and can be seen well.

With Dropbox, taking existing content and loading it onto other students ipads will be super easy. I think this camera may rival my iPhone’s. I probably should test that theory another time.

What has me the most jazzed is the built-in dictation. This means that ANY app that has a built in keyboard will allow users to dictate. Wow. I had to try this out in several ways. Dictating an e-mail was a snap, as was dictating in the notes app.  I tried dictating in Evernote. Amazing. I also tried Splashtop Remote Desktop to remote into my computer, open a blank Pages document, and used the dictation feature of the new iPad. Imagine my sheer delight when the words appeared on the document.

Dictating on my computer using Splashtop and the new iPad

Why is this a big deal? It was just cool that it could be done. If a user has more than one tool – say, a laptop, or has limited mobility, Splashtop can now be used in a different way besides just controlling a computer for display.

Lastly, the contour of the new iPad is more comfortable in my hands. I am a voracious reader. I’ve been recently reading on the iPad2. Finding a comfortable way to hold the device while reading has been a challenge. With the new iPad, the devices fits comfortably in my hand – particularly in landscape mode, which is how I like to read. It feels as close to reading a real book as it can get. While it’s just as comfortable in portrait mode, it’s not my preferred method of reading on the iPad.

So, is the new iPad right for you? If you’re looking for a sharper camera, built-in dictation, comfort in use, and brilliant display, then this is the device for you. I’m amazed at how Apple can continue to make an already great product even better, and I’m looking forward to using this to create and share content with students and teachers.

PaperPort Notes Uses Dragon Dictate Power – Amazing – And Free

16 03 2012

There is another weapon to add to the arsenal for Struggling Writers.  It’s an app for the iPad and it’s called PaperPort Notes. 

This app works quite beautifully. What’s great is the ability to dictate right into a note. This is ideal for students that can get their thoughts down verbally, but can stop dictating at the sentence or paragraph level. Keep in mind that the dictation engine is powered by Dragon, which in mobile applications, requires wi-fi to connect to their speech recognition server.

However, the recognition accuracy is astounding, and there is no voice training that’s required. Dictate short sentences, or slightly longer ones and see what happens. Like magic, the words appear within the document.

PaperPort Notes also works with Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote, PaperPort Anywhere, and more. Import exsisting documents seamlessly into PaperPort Notes and have the functionality to annotate, highlight, dictate, and record audio right on the document.

The app also works well with both finger and stylus as gestures and zooming within the document are crisp and clear. Resolution is preserved throughout the document.

In short, PaperPort notes is free, which is cool, but what it can do is even more impressive, and how it seamlessly integrates with my favorite applications such as Dropbox and Evernote is even better. So, for a struggling older writer, this may be a cool option to try without spending money on dictation software before deciding that dictation is the way to go.

Dragon Express For Mac – Speech To Text At An Affordable Price for OSX Lion Users

9 12 2011

Dragon Express for Mac is available at the Mac App Store for users that are currently running the Lion OS on their Mac.  Currently, it’s being offered at the introductory price of $49.99. While it not as comprehensive as the current version of Dragon for Mac, it is a fantastic alternative.

One of the great features of Dragon Express is that it does not need an external microphone to work. Users can simply use the computer’s built in microphone to dictate. The functionality of using an external microphone is there, but for those users (thinking of the tween set) that don’t want to wear a headset to dictate, this is great.

Setup takes only a couple of minutes. The welcome screen verifies the microphone type. From there, users are taken through a short walk through to calibrate the internal microphone. Once that is complete, users then start voice training.

Voice training is just what you’d expect from any dictation product. What is so amazing is how easily Dragon Express picks up the voice during training. The flow is smooth, and there isn’t much of a lag at all from picking up the voice to going on to the next part.

Once voice training is complete, the dragon express window launches. Users simply dictate into the window. Options to send the dictation to a document, e-mail, internet search engine, facebook, and twitter are all there.

What’s important to note about dictating within an application is that the application itself should be open. For example, for a user that was dictating an essay, they would want to make sure Pages or Word was running before dictating. Dragon Express will show the user if that program is open by displaying it in the lower left hand corner of the dictation window.

While it is not as comprehensive as the full version of Dragon for Mac, for a user that is looking for a simple, easy-to -use dictation solution for their Mac computer, Dragon Express for Mac is the way to go. It is intended for one user, so having multiple users is not an option with Dragon Express.

For students that are struggling with writing this is a great way to introduce dictation. While students must still be able to know how to edit properly, getting one’s ideas out is easy with Dragon Express.

I’ve used this with myself and a 4th grade user and was impressed with the recognition accuracy for both of us. The user was impressed with not having to use an external microphone as well.

Dragon Express, in essence, is a marriage of the iOS version of Dragon Dictate and Dragon Dictate for Mac. It truly is the best of both worlds.