Bridges News — Tablets & SmartPhones

Apple vs. Win in the Classroom -- and the winner is.... Chrome?

This is the second of three posts about trends we see effecting AT in the coming months written by Bogdan Pospielovsky  Business Development Manager at Bridges. Coming up: Chromebooks and iPads, the Internet of things, eye-gaze in the classroom, the return of Word Prediction, AT legacy and the new platforms. What trends have we missed?  Comment, rant, rave or write directly to Bogdan,

The rise of Chrome

One possible replacement option for a generation of Windows desktops, those school IT departments are probably looking at is Chrome. Do you remember when Apple dominated education?
apple 2GS
Relic from an empire of a past century — an Apple 2GS in a Halton DSB classroom with an Adaptive Firmware card. Wiki says these were built between 1986-92. That makes this one between 22 and 26 years old! (Sorry about blur. It was caused by poor lighting not by time travel)
Well into the late 80’s, Apple dominated many school systems.  Apple, with their Adaptive Firmware card, was a must-have for every special needs classroom or resource room.  (The one pictured above was recently found in a classroom by one of our trainers, reliably running some favourite single switch games.)
For the most part, Apple as a company were pushed out of mainstream education for several decades (apart from a few notable exceptions here and there across North America) by the Windows ecosystem.
That is until the arrival of the iPad.  While iPad’s are popular with educators and students, school IT professionals tend to dismiss or quarantine them as unmanageable as a general ed. productivity tool.  So despite the iPad onslaught, Microsoft’s position seemed secure.
Samsung is one of several manufacturers rolling out Chromebooks, including ACER and big education player,HP,
Samsung is one of several manufacturers rolling out Chromebooks, including ACER and big education player,HP
Then Google stealthily pushed in. Leveraging its search dominance, Google went from Cloud based storage (Google Drive, which a lot of teachers discovered as an easy way to move documents from Windows desktops to iPads), to free  productivity tools (Google Drive, nee Google Docs) running on desktops and laptops to now a hardware designed for the above.  
Not surprisingly trialling Chromebooks are an easy sell to school IT departments. While the verdict on Google’s Chromebook laptop is still out as a consumer and business product, its appeal to school IT departments is obvious – the hardware and environment are cheap and secure in a way that only a ground-up fringe system that is rather unrewarding to hack, can be. 
Look for Google’s push into education to continue to gain momentum in 2014.  And subsequently AT players like, Kurzweil, Don Johnston, Widgit, Crick, etc., having to decide whether to put scarce development dollars into the Chrome environment.

The Levelling of iPad Euphoria

ipad euphoria
Line up at Toronto’s Eaton Centre for iPads.
As with any new technology, early adopters are coming to terms with the limitations of the iPad.  A consumer device is not easy to transfer to the security and management demands of enterprises as large and complicated as school districts.
But that maturity in the platform means that AT professionals have a much more sophisticated and nuanced sense of how to get the most out of their iPads and what are the best cases for deployment.  Will that mean a slowing of iPad adoption in schools or by special needs students? Not necessarily.
I think we’ll see a continued growth of their use in school districts and a corresponding increased need for new support products (ie. covers, storage devices, accessories etc.). But we’ll also see a levelling off of the euphoria that has surrounded iPads for the past few years.  
Much as we saw a realizing of the limits of laptops and before them, the desktop PC a couple of decades ago.
–Bogdan Pospielovsky

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iOS 7 Switch Access -- First Impressions

To much fanfare, iOS7 has added switch settings to its many other accessibility features.  Recently I had a chance to play around with the switch settings in iOS 7. 

[to see the latest in accessories to help you with iPad switch users  -- mounting, cases, storage, charging, and training -- visit the Bridges' iPad page]

In general, I found they are really good for accessing all the menus and desktop icons.  If a program already has scanning built in- it runs great. If the program does not have scanning built in, it will look for the hot spots and scan groups or single items, depending on the settings you choose.

One nice feature in the new iOS 7 is that there is an available on screen scanning menu. While using switch control, when a user selects an item they will encounter a pop-up menu that contains a variety of advanced functions. If a user selects Scroll, Gestures, Device, or Settings from the pop-up menu, they will be presented with a second menu of options that have more advanced actions and settings for Switch Control. Those popup menus have all the feature options that a touch user would have.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="287"]Image cover of iO7 switch control book For a great resource download iOS 7 Switch Control The Missing User Guide by Ablenet[/caption]

Some of the features you can customize for scanners are:

  • Auto Scanning
  • Auto Scanning Time
  • Pause on First Item
  • Loops
  • Auto Tap
  • Move Repeat
  • Hold Duration
  • Ignore Repeat
  • Group on
  • Group off

I have not played with all the features and I am sure there are some additional good ones. Overall it is pretty good. Sometimes when it is looking for hot spots to scan, I did not understand the logic of how it grouped items but I think that would just need some playing with to figure out.

Overall a nice addition to iOS 7. In my testing, I used an Applicator switch interface and the new Piko extra durable switches from Finland.  In previous iOS's, switch interfaces piggy-backed on top of the Voice Over features designed for visually impaired users. With the new iOS 7 it looks like any Bluetooth switch interface for the iPad (including the coming soon Blue2™ switch shown in the video above) will be able to deliver a rich array of switch scanning features.

--Claire MacLaren

Alberta Sales Consultant, Accessibility Specialist, Bridges

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Co: Writer 7 and Co:Writer iPad App now here!

Co:Writer has a 20-year history of helping students write even after nothing else worked.    Now, for 2013 Co:Writer is even better with the new iPad App and Co:Writer 7. cwa_devicesThe Co:Writer iPad App uses the same word prediction engine as Co:Writer desktop with many of the most important features students rely on like FlexSpell and Topic Dictionaries. Some of Co:Writer 7 new features include: Over 4 million Instant Topic Dictionaries through unique “web scraping” technology.  No searching, pasting, saving – just get writing on practically anything from “Canadian Confederation” to “Wonders of the World,” in seconds. Testing Accommodation Supports:  Quickly restrict features (predict ahead, grammar, Topic Dictionaries, etc.) during the big test. Data Reporting  that tracks time spent writing and vocabulary usage of individual students and groups. USB Flash Drive Support  On-screen Keyboards built into your Mac and Windows operating systems Read the DJ article “Word Prediction—What’s Good Enough?“ to learn the difference between Co:Writer and other word prediction programs.
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Zinguis Get New Operating System

All new Zingui devices will be running version of Mind Express as their operating system. This version of Mind Express is now almost identical (including add-ons such as Agenda) to the version running on the Mind Express 4 for PC used in the Tellus 4.   The few minor differences are listed below. The Zingui is a popular small tablet communication aid, that is fully bilingual (English and French).  Durable, purpose built, with long battery life and powerful sound, the Zingui has proven particularly popular with children in schools. You can now use a regular Mind Express 4 to import/export communication boards onto the Zingui (see File > Import from Zingui and File > Export to Zingui). A full version Mind Express 4 will now be delivered  with each Zingui. As well as a  Mind Express 4 user manual, users will also receive an updated Zingui user manual (with specific Zingui related information). A few differences between Mind Express 4 for PC and for Zingui:
  • There is no media library on the Zingui. All images and sounds are transferred using the PC version.
  • No support for multiple users.
  • No Windows control functions (as the Zingui is a dedicated Mind Express device).
  • No video support (MP3 is supported though).
  • No Camera support.
  • No E-mail support (this may be added in a future version).
  • The Agenda editor is a little different.
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