ChromeVis: Free Tool for Chrome Users With Low Vision


ChromeVis is a simple Chrome extension for users with low vision. ChromeVis is simple to use and has many customization options. To use ChromeVis highlight the text you want magnified and then click on the ChromeVis icon in the top right of your Chrome window. To customize the appearance of ChromeVis right click on its icon and select options. To download ChromeVis for free click here.
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TextGrabber: Fast, Cheap, Accurate OCR app for iPhone


TextGrabber is a low cost OCR app for iPhone that quickly and accurately converts printed text into digital text that can be edited or read aloud using text-to-speech. Click here to download TextGrabber. The app is easy to use. Snap a photo of the text you want to read then crop the photo and finally read the text. TextGrabber only takes a few seconds to convert the printed text into a digital format. Once the text has been recognized you can have it read aloud to you using VoiceOver. TextGrabber can also translate captured text into many languages. One negative of TextGrabber is it does not have built in text-to-speech,  or Speak Selection, a new iOS 5 feature, does not work. In day-to-day use I found that TextGrabber and ZoomReader offer similar OCR speed and accuracy. To improve the accuracy turn on the flash while taking the picture. TextGrabber does not feature built in text-to-speech with highlighting while ZoomReader does not offer a cropping tool for removing unwanted text. To read more about ZoomReader click here. Click read more below to see screen shots and examples of TextGrabber in action,including a step- by -step depiction of TextGrabber converting a newspaper article.

Picture of Newspaper Article Taken with iPhone 4S camera.
Crop the Section You Want to Read
Press Read and Let it do its Work
Finish Product Ready to be Read by VoiceOver or Emailed.
Below is the text that was extracted. It is not perfect but is a par or better than most other OCR apps for iPhone.
^ Economic Slide Took A Detour at Capital Hill From Page Al group. Congress has never been place for paupers. From planta" tion owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with"the rich, including scions of families like the Guggenheims, Hearsts. Kennedys and Rockefellers. But rarely has the divide ap- peared so wide, or the public con- trast so stark, between lawmak- ers and those they represent. The wealth gap may go largely unnoticed in good times. "But with the American public feeling all this economic pain, people just resent it more," said Alan J. Zio- browski, a professor at Georgia State who studied lawmakers' stock investments. There is broad debate about just why the wealth gap appears to be growing. For starters, the prohibitive costs of political cam- paigning may discourage the less affluent from even considering a candidacy. Beyond that, loose ethics controls, shrewd stock picks, profitable land deals, fa- vorable tax laws, inheritances and even marriages to wealthy spouses are all cited as possible explanations for the rising for- tunes on Capitol Hill. What is clear is that members of Congress are getting richer compared not only with the aver- age American worker, but also with other very rich Americans. While the median net worth of members of Congress jumped 15 percent from 2004 to 2010, the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans remained essentially Hat. For all Americans, median net worth dropped 8 percent, based on jnflation-adjusted data from Moody's Analytics. Going back further, the median wealth of House members grew some two and a half times be. tween 1984 and 2009 in inflation- adjusted dollars, while the wealth of'the average American family has actuaily declined slightly in that same time period, according Emmarie Huetteman and Derek Willts contributed rfmrtiw SJata cited by The Washington _'"an article published Mon- with millionaire status now the norm, the rarefied air in'the Capi- days is $100 million. lofty level appears to have surpassed by at least 10 members, led by Representative Issa, a California Repub- and former auto alarm mag- nate who is worth somewhere be- tween $195 million and $700 mil- lion. (Because federal law re- quires lawmakers to disclose their assets only in broad dollar ranges, more precise estimates are impossible.) Their wealth has created occa- sional political problems for Con- gress's richest. Mr. Issa, for instance, has faced outside scrutiny because of the overlap of his Congressional work and outside interests, in- eluding extensive investments with Wall Street firms like Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, as well as land holdings in his San Diego district. In one case, he ob- tained some $800,000 in federal earmarks for a road-widening project running along his com- mercial property. Senator John Kerry, a Mas- sachusetts Democrat who is mar- ried to Teresa Heinz Kerry, set off an uproar last year when it was disclosed that he had docked his S7 million, 76-foot yacht not in his home state but in neighboring Rhode Island, which has no sales or use tax on pleasure boats. (Mr. Kerry, worth at least $181 million, voluntarily paid $400,000 in Mas- sachusetts taxes after criticism.) Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, was challenged about her wealth, as much as $196 million, by a member of her own party a few weeks ago. Representative Laura Richardson, a California Demo- crat who is among the poorest members of Congress with as much as $464,000 in debt, at- tacked Ms. Pelosi at a closed- door Democratic caucus meeting for endorsing a Congressional pay freeze, according to a report in PoHtico that was confirmed by other members. Ms. Richardson angrily told M, n^i^n: ..i--
Article from New York Times

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Add Quick Text-to-Speech Button to Microsoft Word



Microsoft Word has a hidden text-to-speech button built in. To access add the text-to-speech button to the quick access tool bar click on the down arrow in the top left corner of the screen. Next click on more commands and then click on all commands from the drop down menu. Finally click on speak from the list and then press add. To use the text-to-speech feature select the text you wish to have read and click on the text-to-speech button you just added to the top left corner of the screen. The text will be read allowed instantly. Click the button again to stop the text-to-speech. Watch the video above to learn more. Click read more below for step by step instructions.








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iOS 5 Tips: Use Assistive Touch to Replace and Broken Home Button, Lock Button or Volume Button


Assistive Touch is a new feature in iOS 5 that allows people with physical disabilities to better use their iOS device. To learn more about AssistiveTouch click here. To enable Assistive Touch go to Settings>General> Accessibility>Assistive Touch and then turn on Assistive Touch. A small round white button will then appear on your screen. When you touch the white button a list of commands will appear including a software home button, lock button and volume up and down button. You can now use these software buttons to replace your broken home button or any other broken buttons. You can drag the white button to different places on the screen for your convenience. Watch the video below to learn more.



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iOS 5 Tip: Look Up Any Word


A new feature in iOS 5 allows you to get a definition of any word from any app. To get a definition of a word simply select the word by holding down on it for a couple of seconds and then tap define. A dictionary will appear with that word defined. When you are done tap done to return to your app.
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iOS 5 Tips: Reader Eliminates Distractions



A new feature in iOS 5 called Reader makes reading articles on the web much easier. Many articles on the web are hard to read on the iPhone and iPod Touch's small screen. Reader also works on the iPad. To read the articles you must zoom in and deal with distractions such as advertisements. Reader solves this problem by taking out the advertisements and formatting the text perfectly. To activate Reader simply tap the Reader button in the address field. The address field is where you type the website address. After pressing the Reader button the article will appear perfectly formatted for your screen. To change the size of the text simply press the text size button in the top left of the screen then tap on the little A to make the text smaller and the big A to make the text bigger. When you are done reading the article simply tap done to continue to browse the web. Reader can enlarge the font substantially to assist people that have trouble reading small print. Click read more below to see more screen shots.






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Toon-ing in to Math

Now that we are on winter intersession, I wanted to take a moment to share some of our recent math work!

In an earlier post, I wrote about the amazing app, Toontastic, and how I hoped to use it in my math class. So far it's been going well! Students are creating math stories and problems to share with one another as well as short math instructional videos. The students have loved "toon-ing" in to math in this way. They have begun to link math to real world situations and also have begun to teach each other through video. Here is an example of a student-created review lesson about equivalent fractions.



Additionally, we have continued to use the screencasting whiteboard app, ShowMe, to share our math metacognition and practice problem solving skills. Here are a few newer examples of student work on this app as well. Note that the sound quality is still hit or miss. The students have been recording this without external microphones (i.e., only using the iPad 2's built-in mic). They are in a room of 33 4th/5th graders simultaneously recording ShowMe videos, Toontastic movies, discussing work in math problem solving centers and working in support groups with the teacher. Lots of ambient noise. I'd hoped to win a grant to purchase earbud/mic sets for each student, but unfortunately was not accepted. So for the time being, it looks like we'll have to make do. However, I think that though the quality of sound is not perfect, the student work and thinking comes across - and that's what really counts.

Jordyne's ShowMe: This student is sharing her knowledge of finding fractions of a set. Note her understanding of the relationship between multiplication and division and her use of math vocabulary. This was helpful for me to know as I worked with her.


Mavric's ShowMe: This student is sharing his synthesis of what we did in class last week. After watching his ShowMe, I worked with him on making clear the roles of numerator and denominator and discussed the WHY behind converting fractions-decimals-percents. We also worked on precise math language.


Nathaniel's ShowMe: This student was working on equivalent fractions. During our math meeting, we discussed the importance of math symbols (at one point he uses an addition symbol where he is multiplying).



Update: To see these 4th & 5th grade rockstars screencast and toon their way into science and social studies, check out my grade level partner's great blog! http://mslaidler.blogspot.com/

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Google Dictionary Defines Any Word on the Web




Google Dictionary is a free extension available for Google Chrome. To download the extension click here. Once downloaded simply double click on any word on a web page to view its definition or hear the word read aloud. Google Dictionary is perfect for quickly looking up unfamiliar words. To learn about other Chrome extensions click here.
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Great List of Apps to Support Literacy


Greg O'Connor has put together a great list of apps for literacy support on spectronicsinoz.com. To view the list click here. The list is broken into categories reading support, OCR, writing and notetaking support, mind mapping, organizational and study support and reference. Check out the list here.
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iBooks Update Adds Useful New Features


Apple recently updated its iBooks app to add more add more features and make reading easier. One of features adds a night time reading theme to make reading in the dark easier on you eyes. The new update also add several new fonts and makes highlighting and taking notes easier. Yet another new feature allows you to read your book in full screen mode. iBooks is available here for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. 

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Whetting your APPetite Vol. 10: Virtual Manipulatives

I'm trying out a new app called Virtual Manipulatives (thanks to fellow CPS teacher Kim Darche for the recommendation). It's free and it hits not only equivalent fractions, but comparing/ordering fractions and converting between fractions/decimals/percents. Not bad for $0.00!

As I previously promised myself, before running with it whole-class, I had a "focus group" of kids try it out first. We did this today and they were all thumbs up; here are their reviews.




Based on their favorable responses, I'm going to load this app up to all devices and begin weaving it into my plans!

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iOS 5 Camera Accessibility



iOS 5 introduced many new accessibility features including Assistive Touch, Siri and Speak Selection. One hidden feature gives blind and visually impaired the ability to take pictures with VoiceOver and the built in camera on the iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone. Your iOS device will tell you how many people are in your picture and if the people are in the center of the screen so you can get the best shot. This is just on feature in a growing list of iOS accessibility features.
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iOS5 & Me

After reading this incredibly helpful guide by fellow Chicago iPadder Erik Unterschuetz, I decided to update my classroom's 32 iPads to iOS5. I already had installed Lion OSX onto my MacBook, so I figured that by using Erik's tips I'd be home free. So I smiled, took a deep breath and began the update. Over three hours later, I wasn't smiling anymore.

What took so long?
It wasn't a lack of support in Erik's guide. In fact, I'm positive that his step-by-step instructions shaved at least an hour off of the update time. So what was it?
- The restore to each iPad: I had over 10 movies to sync back to each device (thanks, flipped classroom). If you don't have that much media, it won't take as long for you.
- I had to manually re-enter credentials to the wireless network on each iPad. I don't know if this is a fun quirk of our wireless network of if this will be the case for everyone.
- I had to manually set up the new iPad's iOS (walking through a menu of prompts to enter the Apple ID, enable location services, etc.). That did take some time....
- I had to name each iPad with a unique 15-character CPS-centric naming convention. Perhaps your district won't expect this from you.
- As I was waiting on back ups, restores, downloads, etc - I tried to multi-task and do other things... and inevitably missed prompts to move on. I think if I had the patience to sit and do nothing else but update, it may have taken a little less time... perhaps a little over 2.5 hours instead of a little over 3.5.

After the update... was it worth it? Decide for yourself.

Features of iOS 5 that have been helpful in the classroom:
- 4 finger swipe multi tasking
Students can swipe with four fingers to change apps instead of double clicking to use more than one app at a time. They love this.

- Tabbed browsing in Safari
No more black box with a number in it to signify the number of windows open. Now there are tabs just like your laptop or desktop internet browser. Also very helpful when they are navigating between instructions on Edmodo and a Study Island assignment, etc.

- Increased Accessibility Features for Special Education & ESL students
There is an entire site on apple.com dedicated to this. Check it out if you haven't already!
http://www.apple.com/education/special-education/

iOS Features I've heard of but have yet to experience:
- Wireless syncing
Hypothetically I am supposed to now be able to sync the iPads wirelessly - no sync cart needed. I've yet to see this... It may be that my iPads aren't all logged in to my Apple ID yet... it took so long to sync them I gave up trying to enter it into each one manually. I'll try to do this over break and see if it works.

- Airplay wireless Mirroring
iOS5 + $99 Apple TV = wireless projection of everything you do on an iPad to a projector or TV screen. Everything. Whereas with the iPad to VGA adapter, not everything happening on your iPad screen appears in the projection (for example in PaperPort Notes, it doesn't show the annotation buttons so when I try to teach my kids what to tap to change font size, I have to use my iPevo or another doc cam), an Apple TV projects everything. I have seen this in action at the Apple office, but our school's wireless network won't play nice with the Apple TV. We're working on getting this fixed, but hopefully I can test this out soon! Imagine: A student is working on a ShowMe and I call on him to share it - with a tap of his finger his iPad is magically appearing on the projector screen. I told the students about this capability and they literally clapped.

For more info, or to see these features in action, check out this video on the Apple site.

So was the update worth it? I think so... eventually it had to happen. Some apps no longer run well on iOS4 and demand the iOS5 update. The Airplay wireless mirroring offers a myriad of opportunities... i.e., you could replace an interactive whiteboard for less than $600 (1 iPad + Apple TV).

The students also seem to notice the difference. I teach the students what I'm doing as I'm doing it. So they know that I spent all that time doing the update. They know what an iOS means and what it stands for. They know the difference between iOS4 and iOS5. I joke that my 4th and 5th graders could probably get summer jobs at the Apple Store's Genius Bar. As my kids continue to use this new operating system, I'm sure more features will come to light and I'll be happy to share them here.

Have you noticed anything amazing about this new iOS in your classroom?
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Android Becomes More Accessible With 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich





Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has improved the accessibility of Android. Ice Cream Sandwich is not available on all Android devices but will become more widespread through out the coming months. Google has added a feature to Android called Explore-By-Touch. The new built in screen reader allows users to navigate on screen items without seeing the screen. The new addition will enable disabled users to use the many thousands of Android devices. While Google is attempting to compete with Apple's iOS software in accessibility the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch still offer more accessibility options for disabled users. To learn more about VoiceOver click here.
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