Archive for General IT Related

iPhones — New Help for Special Needs Kids

Here is an interesting article I came across while researching iPhones for the kids of the Broward Children’s Center….

iphoneDisclaimer — I do not now nor have I ever worked for Apple, and they haven’t paid me in goods or dollars for this post (although I’m open to negotiation).

Last month, my twins turned 18. I’m still in deep denial over what is clearly a blip in the time-space continuum. I know for a fact that it was just a few days ago when we were huddled around their isolettes in the NICU, watching in awe as their tiny 24-week bodies struggled to survive. And now … well, I just can’t go there yet.
We have been so blessed, so lucky. Their delays, while significant, were just that — delays. They are both fully-functioning, healthy, happy (adult?) human beings, enjoying their senior year in high school and starting to think about the future. My daughter has taken the wheel on her road to life and is well on her way to independence. Her brother, who has had more physical and learning issues, still has a way to go.
For their 18th birthday, we got them each iPhones. During such difficult economic times, it’s reasonable to ask why would we spring for such a hot, trendy, extravagant gift as an iPhone. That, I can tell you in two words — assistive technology.
The lingering issues that continue to affect my son as a result of his extreme prematurity are:
  • low tone/graphomotor issues — he explains it like this: “It’s really hard for me to think and write at the same time.”
  • short-term memory deficit — he would explain it to you, if only he could remember. Seriously, one of his teachers once told me: “He seemed to understand. He repeated it back to me exactly.” He does understand — he understands everything, he just can’t remember once the cue is gone.
  • sequencing disorder — trouble breaking down tasks into reasonable chunks and completing them in the right order in a reasonable amount of time.
I have long believed that my son was lucky to be born when he was — that technology would be his friend. I still believe that, but there have been some bumps along the way: an addiction to video games and losing three (count them, three) cell phones his freshman year. During the few days he managed to hold on to his cell phone, he never remembered to turn it on, so I couldn’t reach him any way.
Then, last year, he used his birthday money to buy himself an iPod Nano. Miracle of miracles, he did not lose it. He kept it turned off during school, but remembered to turn it on after school so he could listen on his way home. About a month ago, we had a meeting with his assistive technology specialist at school. A long-time PC person, she recently got an iPhone and is tremendously excited about the potential it holds for many of her students.
Assistive technology runs the gamut from wheelchairs to customized computers that allow quadriplegics to communicate with eye blinks. The field is exploding, but much of it is hugely expensive. While the initial outlay for the iPhone (about $200 for the middle-range iPhone) isn’t too bad, the $30 monthly bite per phone for the data package adds up fast. We learned, however, that unlike computer programs, iPhone apps are pretty inexpensive (often free), and there are new ones every day. While there are many PDAs out there, the iPhone offered some distinct advantages, first and foremost the fact that it would be my son’s new iPod, so we were pretty sure he would hold on to it.
It’s fairly obvious how the calendar and organizational apps could help someone with short-term memory problems, but the iPhone apps offer much more than simple datebook functionality. For example, there’s an app called VoCal that allows my son to record a voice message on his phone, which then translates into a written calendar reminder.
And it works! Our first iPhone success came after a missed orthodontist appointment one Friday. That night, he added the orthodontist’s phone number to his contacts and entered a voice reminder into his phone. That entry sent him an alert after school on Monday to call the orthodontist for a new appointment. My son gets out of school at 3:35. By the time I called him at 3:45, he had already made the new appointment and entered it onto the calendar, which automatically sent an email to me so I could put it on the family calendar. That may sound like a small thing, but it was one giant leap toward independence for him and peace of mind for me.
That ability to recognize voice commands is a huge advantage for a kid with graphomotor issues. The sensitive microphone allows him to use his voice in a variety of ways, bypassing the need to write (and even draw). For example, there is an app called Omni Note. Say his horticulture teacher draws a picture of a plant cell on the board and tells the class to copy it for a quiz on Monday. This would be extremely difficult for my son to do, and the end result would not look anything like the original.
With the Omni Note app on the iPhone, my son could take a picture of the diagram, draw directly on that picture, add a typed and/or voice message to the picture and send it immediately to his computer at home so he could study it over the weekend. How cool is that?
His teachers are also on board, allowing him to keep his iPhone out and on throughout the day. He doesn’t text and we haven’t given out his phone number, so there is no risk of interruption during class. As part of his sequencing disorder, he has trouble organizing his thoughts into a coherent structure in school papers. One of his English teachers had the brilliant idea of having him research new apps and, as an assignment for class, write out the directions on how to use it (a great sequencing and organizational exercise), and include a paragraph or two about how he, personally, is using the app (a good way to practice his analytical skills).
Right now, our district would have provided him with an iPod Touch, which has some, but not nearly all the functions of the iPhone. The integrated microphone of the iPhone is a big part of the functionality my son needs to make this tool work for him, so we opted to make a family investment.
I understand that this is new technology, which is often scary and expensive for schools to contemplate, but I urge educators to jump on this bandwagon early. The potential of the iPhone for special needs students is vast and untapped, and this generation of students is already immersed in technology. This seems to me to represent the best that technology has to offer — a chance for students to overcome (even bypass) their disabilities and get right to the good stuff — the learning.
How did we justify making the same investment for our daughter? We told her it was because it would be a good tool for her at college next year, and it will be, but really, this is just one of those times when she should be darn grateful for her twin brother.

via Chicago Moms Blog: iPhones — New Help for Special Needs Kids.

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10 Web trends to watch in 2010

By · December 4, 2009 · Filed in General IT Related · No Comments »

Here is a great article that came across the CNN news wire today…

As 2009 draws to a close, the Web's attention turns to the year ahead. What can we expect of the online realm in 2010?While Web innovation is unpredictable, some clear trends are becoming apparent. Expect the following 10 themes to define the Web next year:

Real-time ramps up

Sparked by Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, the real-time trend has been to the latter part of 2009 what “Web 2.0″ was to 2007. The term represents the growing demand for immediacy in our interactions. Immediacy is compelling, engaging, highly addictive … it’s a sense of living in the now.

But real-time is more than just a horde of new Twitter-like services hitting the Web in 2010 (although that’s inevitable — cargo cults abound). It’s a combination of factors, from the always-connected nature of modern smartphones to the instant gratification provided by a Google search.

Why wait until you get home to post a restaurant review, asks consumer trends tracker Trendwatching, when scores of iPhone apps let you post feedback as soon as you finish dessert? Why wonder about the name of that song, when humming into your phone handset will garner an instant answer from Midomi?

Look out, too, for real-time collaboration: Google Wave launched earlier this year, resulting in both excitement and confusion. A crossover between instant messaging, e-mail and a wiki, Wave is a platform for getting things done together. Web users, however, remain baffled. In 2010, Wave’s utility will become more apparent.

Location, location, location

Fueled by the ubiquity of GPS in modern smartphones, location-sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Google Latitude are suddenly in vogue.

As I ruminated in this column two weeks ago, Foursquare and its ilk may become the breakout services of the year … provided they’re not crushed by the addition of location-based features to Twitter and Facebook.

What’s clear is that location is not about any singular service; rather, it’s a new layer of the Web. Soon, our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post.

Augmented reality

It’s yet to become part of the consumer consciousness, but augmented reality has attracted early-adopter buzz in the latter part of 2009.

Enabled by GPS, mapping data from the likes of Google and the accelerometer technology in modern phones, AR involves overlaying data on your environment; imagine walking around a city and seeing it come to life with reviews of the restaurants you walk past and Wikipedia entries about the sights you see.

When using Layar, for instance, the picture from your phone’s video camera is overlaid with bubbles of information from Yelp, Wikipedia, Google Search and Twitter. The challenge for such services is to prove their utility: They have the “cool factor,” but can they be truly useful?

Content ‘curation’

The Web’s biggest challenge of recent years is that content creation is outpacing our ability to consume it: “Information overload” has become an increasingly common complaint.

In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource? One solution has been algorithmic: Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but fall short when it comes to personalization.

In 2008, the answer revealed itself: Your friends are your filter. With the launch of its Facebook Connect program, Facebook allowed sites to offer content personalization based on the preferences of your network.

Meanwhile, Google’s Social Search experiment is investigating whether Web searching is improved by using information gleaned from your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Digg and the rest. Increasingly, your friends are becoming the curators of your consumption, from Web links to movies, books and TV shows.

Professional “curation” has its place, too: Who better to direct our scarce attention than experts in their fields? I explored this possibility in a CNN article last month titled “Twitter lists and real-time journalism” .

Cloud computing

Cloud computing was very much a buzzword of 2009, but there’s no doubt this transition will continue. The trend, in which data and applications cease to reside on our desktops and instead exist on servers elsewhere (“the cloud”), makes our data accessible from anywhere and enables collaboration with distributed teams.

The cloud movement will see a major leap forward in the first half of 2010 with the launch of “Office Web Apps,” free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote released in tandem with Microsoft Office 2010.

Next year will also see the launch of Google’s Chrome OS, a free, Web-centric operating system that forces us to ask: How many desktop applications do we really need?

Internet TV and movies

Is 2010 the year the majority of our television starts coming to us via the Internet? There’s certainly more activity here than at any other time: Among the early-adopter set, Hulu, Boxee, Apple TV and Netflix’s Roku box lead the field.

Hulu in particular has sustained remarkable growth this year, while the movie studios are getting on board with the launch of Epix, a Hulu for films.

Convergence conundrum

The outlook for devices in 2010 appears somewhat contradictory: While the convergence trend continues apace and many of our gadgets are folded into the smartphones we carry around every day, we’re seeing a converse trend in which task-specific devices gain popularity.

GPS device maker TomTom recently introduced a $100 iPhone app that removes the need to buy a TomTom hardware device. Google then one-upped the company by releasing free turn-by-turn directions on devices running its Android operating system. Garmin and TomTom beware: Standalone GPS devices may meet their demise in 2010.

Also on the endangered gadgets list: Flip video cameras, which PC World declared dead upon the launch of the iPhone 3G S. Meanwhile, Apple executives say the iPhone is cannibalizing the iPod: Why carry two devices when you only need one?

Paradoxically, the e-book reader is seeing traction as a single-use device. With hard-to-read, power-hungry laptop screens proving impractical for reading, and smartphone screens proving too small, the Kindle and its competitors are gaining buzz.

However, I’d argue that the e-book reader is a fad: Carrying an extra device is never desirable, and the major factor preventing convergence is the lack of superior screen technology. Flexible, expanding low-power screens on cell phones might tip the balance.

The real power of Amazon’s Kindle is its ease of use: a virtual bookstore so simple that it does for books what Apple’s iTunes did for music. The devices will converge, but the “app store” model for books will persist across all devices. The technology won’t be with us in 2010, however.

Social gaming

There’s little risk of social gaming proving a bad bet in 2010 — Zynga’s FarmVille game on Facebook now counts more active users than Twitter, claims a Facebook executive. Meanwhile, rival Playfish was recently acquired by Electronic Arts in a deal valued at up to $400 million.

Of growing interest in 2010, however, will be the virtual currencies these games have spawned: In the allegedly unmonetizable world of social media, virtual buying and selling may be the route to riches for some social media sites — a concept I outlined in this column under the title “Is Facebook the future of micropayments?

Mobile payments

I’d wager that 2010 will be the breakthrough year of the much-anticipated mobile payments market. While much of Asia has embraced the technology, the U.S., in particular, has lagged. There’s reason for optimism in 2010, however: From PayPalX to Amazon’s mobile payments platform for developers, the big players are seizing the mobile payments opportunity.

Meanwhile, newcomer Square, founded by the creator of Twitter, began its rollout this week to much early-adopter excitement: The company enables merchants to accept payments via Apple’s iPhone.

Fame abundance, privacy scarcity

Warhol was right: Fame is now abundant. Social media has birthed a galaxy of stars in thousands of niches: We’re all reality stars now, on Facebook, Twitter and all the myriad online outlets where we hone our personal brands.

We’re seeing the ongoing voluntary erosion of privacy through public sharing on Facebook and Twitter, the rise of location-based services and the inclusion of video cameras in a growing array of devices.

The incredible efficiency of Web-based communication and our Google-fueled appetite to know everything about everything (or everyone) right now are combining to make Tiger Woods the canary in the privacy coal mine. Expect personal privacy — or rather its continued erosion — to be a hot media topic of 2010.

via 10 Web trends to watch in 2010 – CNN.com.

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Lowe’s Heroes

By · November 25, 2009 · Filed in General IT Related · No Comments »

TEXT HERE

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Tongue-Powered Technology For The Disabled

Technology Assisting the Disabled

Technology Assisting the Disabled

Join us tomorrow, November 19th 2009 from 1:30pm to 3:30pm EST at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce conference room for a FREE presentation on this awesome technology.

Georgia Tech researchers believe a magnetic, tongue-powered system could transform a disabled person’s mouth into a virtual computer, teeth into a keyboard – and tongue into the key that manipulates it all!

Presented by Maysam Ghovanloo of the Georgia Institute of Technology in coordination with ARC Broward, Broward Children’s Center, The Wasie Foundation and the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

Remember, this event is FREE and open to the public.  If you do plan on attending the event at the Chamber office, please RSVP to mleachman@arcbroward.com or by calling 954-746-9400.

The Ft. Lauderdale Chamber office is located at 512 NE 3rd Ave, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33301

Hope to see you there or online!

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BananAlbum – Flash gallery for your website

By · November 11, 2009 · Filed in General IT Related, Marketing, Non-Profit · No Comments »

Here is an interesting product I found being used by the Ann Storck Center It is a Flash based slide show gallery.  The Ann Storck Center is using it to display newspaper clippings.  The bad part of this is that these articles can not be indexed by the search engines this way.  However, it is a great, inexpensive little tool for your website if you are on a budget.

The product is called BananAlbum and the current fee for a license is $39.00

Worth checking out if you are looking for a photo gallery component for your website!

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Welcome to my blog!

By · November 10, 2009 · Filed in General IT Related · No Comments »

I look forward to keeping you informed about technology I run across for non-profits, medical facilities and general information for IT professionals.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions or suggest items of related interest!

Enjoy the read!

SKIP KIMPEL

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