Sep 8, 2011

Update, plus iGaze app by Dunedin Multimedia for use during social skills group activities

So what am I up to now?  


I'd like to share with my readers that I've decided to continue in my present position as a school psychologist, while still devoting a portion of my free time to technology. From time-to-time I think deep thoughts about usability, accessibility,  and UX/Interaction related to off-the-desktop interactive multimedia applications running on screens of all sizes.  I'm hoping to create a few multimedia experiments using HTML5 and JavaScript, and explore jQuery if and when I can find the time!  


For the present school year, my main school is a program for students with more significant disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.  My second school is a magnet high school for technology and the arts,  located on the same campus.  I also consult throughout the district on cases involving students who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, as well as students who have multiple disabilities.  I am thankful that I have a job in a school district that values 21st Century technology.  


I'm looking forward to another technology-rich school year.  I've spent some of the time I usually devote to blogging devoted exploring iPad apps instead.  Since I'm new to the world of iPads, I'm still in discovery mode.  What an adventure!   


There are plenty of educational apps out there, and many of them are suitable for students with special needs.  On the other hand, there is much room for improvement - across all iPad app categories.  Since there is very little research about what makes up a killer app- or suite of apps- for students with special needs, experimenting with  iPad apps is uncharted territory. 



I made the decision to bring my personal iPad2 to work after I discovered a number of apps that I thought would be useful in my work as a school psychologist with students who have special needs, including autism spectrum disorders.  

One of my intervention themes this year focuses on social skills.   This is especially important for students who participate in our schools community-based job training program.  I'm using some content from Unique Learning's transition materials,  as well as on-line activities from Do2Learn's JobTips website, because my aim is to facilitate social skills that will be useful in a variety of job and community settings.   


Although my main technology tool for working with groups is the SMARTBoard,  I've found that using a combination of interactive whiteboard and iPad activities to be especially effective.  I'm paving the way for more role-play activities in the future, and attempting to use technology to my advantage.


This past week, I used the iGaze app, created by Dunedin Multimedia, to help a group of high-school level students practice establishing and maintaining eye gaze, something that is difficult for most of them to demonstrate "in-person".  I was amazed.  Each student was excited to take his or her turn.  Even more amazing?  When each student took a turn, the other students looked at their eyes and faces.  No one rocked or "stimmed".  No one made noises.  I observed several instances of joint attention, much to my delight.   


Below is a video from Dunedin Multimedia's YouTube channel that is similar to what the students viewed during their group activity:
Here is some information from Dunedin Multimedia about the iGaze app:
"Eye contact is important to communication and social development, and yet the impaired ability to make and maintain eye contact is one of the most striking aspects of autism. iGaze is an eye contact simulator that can help to build confidence in using this important means of nonverbal social communication.  The app also contains information on eye contact and eye gaze, with links to relevant research."

During the social skills activity involving the iGaze app,  I used the SMART Board to display a large picture of a boss and a worker standing face to face, making eye contact, engaged in conversation.  The picture served as an anchor to remind the students of pictures and videos they'd previously viewed that illustrated the concept of face-to-face interaction and the importance of establishing eye-contact with others from time-to-time.


I'm hoping I will be able to access the YouTube videos from Dunedin so I can use them on the SMART Board. It will be interesting to see how this plays out!   I'm also planning to take a closer look at Dunedin Multimedia's emotion x app for the iPad.


RELATED 
Screen-shot of iGaze for the iPad Dunedin:
iPad Screenshot 1
SOMEWHAT RELATED
The SMART Table at my school was updated today - I'm looking forward to using it for some group activities, now that it is back in working order and has new applications loaded up and ready to go!


If you are interested in learning more about technology related to students with special needs, be sure to check out Kate Ahern's blog, Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs

Kate's post about the features of Unique Learning Systems.


Upcoming:  more about tablets, interview with folks from Stantum, social-skills game-in-progress.....large displays in public spaces update....

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