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Apr
21

Did You Want to Talk About the Weather?


daffodils in foreground surrounded by snow on the ground. Farm house in the background
It’s mid April, so I put away my husband’s heavy Carhart coats, my winter boots and all of the hats and gloves clogging up the entryway and the mudroom. It felt amazing saying “so long!” to fleece and wool. Did I mention that it’s mid April in Indiana? Right on cue, the day after my ceremonious dumping of the hats into the back of the closet, Indiana came back with an inch of snow overnight–on a Monday morning no less. 

The snow melted gradually throughout the day–gone by evening, but it left a little frostbite on my psyche. As a Hoosier, I have trust issues with the natural universe. My weather app predicts 80’s by Saturday, but I’m thinking this wild swing into sweatiness will also mess with my head. 

To quote one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, in one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day: "Did you want to talk about the weather, or did you just want to chit chat?"



For Hoosiers, maybe it’s less chit chat, and more talk therapy. 

Predictability, in general, helps us all to flourish mentally. At PATINS, our staff has a brief weekly meeting where we report progress on our professional goals and ask for anything we might need to move forward. It has become an important ritual for me, and a way to connect with my coworkers as we work remotely all over the state. You educators reading this likely have daily/weekly rituals in your classrooms that make your students feel secure. Would love to have you share some of these in the comments!

rear car window covered in snow with the word
Indiana educators have missed out on a well-loved summer ritual in the past two years as Summer of E Learning events were canceled. For summer 2022 these are being revived as Summer of Learning Conferences. Our PATINS staff will be presenting at many of these events and excited to reconnect with you in person. 

It will probably be a warm day that we’ll gather. Or hot. A storm might blow up unexpectedly. Not ruling out an F5 tornado. I predict 100% we’ll gain some new knowledge or add to our professional network.  But dress in layers.


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Apr
15

A Good Novel

A long while back, prior to becoming the ICAM Technology Specialist, I dabbled in getting eBooks on the iPad, Android, Nook, Kindle, Palm, Symbian, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Blackberry, Franklin, Casio, Psion, Clie, Garmin, etc. I must admit, it was quite a challenge, because most had to be sideloaded. Sideloading is the installation of an application on a mobile device without using the device's official application-distribution method.

The process was trial and error. What worked for one device, wouldn’t work for another in quite the same way if it worked at all. Once they were “loaded,” it would become a game of hide and seek. I knew I had loaded it, but where did it end up? Once found, would it open on the devices app?

I enjoy a good challenge, and at that time, that is exactly what it was. Today, the process is much simpler. The devices and apps are much more forgiving. However, back to the beginning, if there was just an easier way to get content on a device, it would make the process so much easier.

I stumbled on a website that did just that. The website is freekindlebooks.org, but don’t let the URL fool you. The website is straight forward text and hyperlinks to thousands of the classics that are in public domain. The website itself dates back to 2008!

I am sure the question can be raised as to who would want digital content that is that old? Well, considering that the authors are famous for their literature, hence classic, their content is timeless. What Free Kindle Books appealed to me, however, was twofold.

Firstly, these are novels that have tested time. Read and enjoyed by millions. For many a window into our past, and for some a prediction of the future. Secondly, the unbelievable ease of getting the content on devices.

There is not a lot of content at the Free Kindle Books website, but a thing to note is the content are file format conversions of Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg has an enormous amount of content in a wider variety of formats than Free Kindle Books, but the one feature that drew me to Free Kindle Books was the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books. If that is the only thing you take away from this blog, this is it.

Once you have clicked on Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books has two links to consider. One link is for MOBI (Kindle) Edition to the catalog and the other is the EPUB Edition. Both are hyperlinks with the MOBI format for Kindle devices and the EPUB format for all other devices.

Clicking on the EPUB Edition will download the catalog file as MagicCatalogE.epub. This file will probably be found in the users Download directory. Import this file into any app that supports EPUBs, and it will create the eBook in the device library.

Upon opening the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg E-Books, the user has access to thousands of authors with titled novels which has a direct hyperlink that once selected will automatically download the file and place it in your device library. They can also be opened in a browser once downloaded.

In the screenshot below, this page is one of 629 pages of authors/titles.

Screenshot of page one of the magic catalog of Project Gutenberg with a brief introduction and one and half columns of hyperlinked authors with titles.

The ease of adding classic digital content from the Magic Catalog of Project Gutenberg is simply amazing.

Does it have today’s popular best sellers? No, but it offers access to novels that can fit anyone’s taste that enjoys reading. It is never too late to pick up, I mean download a good novel.


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Apr
07

Who's Afraid of AAC?

Who's Afraid of AAC? When someone says “AAC is not my thing,” what they're really sharing is that they are scared.

Somehow being an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialist with PATINS has put me in the position of listening to the confessions of school staff:

“I’m not good with technology.”

“They didn’t teach any of this when I was in school.”

“AAC is not my thing.”

It’s usually said in a hushed tone when they think no one else is listening.

“I have nothing but good news,” I’ll often say. “90% of what we’re talking about is just good instruction for all students that you already know, we’re just framing it in a new way to support non-speaking students. The rest I’ll put on a cheat sheet, and I find cheat sheets helpful too.”

But what I want to say is “AAC wasn’t my thing either and look at me now!” At one time, out of the things that SLPs had to learn, I would have ranked AAC dead last. Even below the paperwork.

I had “The AAC Class.” In one semester I was to learn everything I needed to know about AAC and I would be set for the rest of my career (haha!). However, there was one little snag: the professor who taught the AAC class took a sabbatical and another staff member was wrangled into covering it so we could graduate on time. This is what I learned that semester:

Nothing.

At least, nothing which was practical or helpful in the real world. I was given my first “real job” caseload with several non-speaking students, a binder for PECS, a Boardmaker CD, and released into the wilderness. My class notes were worthless.

I was in trouble and these students needed something I didn’t have: the knowledge of how to “do the AAC.”

Of course, AAC was definitely not my thing. But it had to be because there was no one else. I adopted a simple plan that has kept me afloat to this day: just keep saying “yes” to every opportunity. Every training and app I could find to practice with, every opportunity to attend or present at conferences and network. None of this came naturally or from a book or college course. Yes, I will pilot it. Yes, I will learn it. Yes, I can teach it. It was just years of chasing ideas and tools for students that made them light up inside when they found their voice. I made mistakes, forgave myself, and tried to learn and do better. Yes, yes, yes.

Exactly none of us started life as “technologically gifted” or imbued with the knowledge of AAC or any technique or educational principles. We all had to start at zero and learn.

When someone says “AAC is not my thing,” I think what they're really sharing is that they are scared.

They are scared of failing. They are embarrassed by the idea of not being enough for the task. They are traumatized and work-worn from so many evaluations and tasks, and worried that their work won’t be enough. 

And you know what every scared person wants?

A friend, a light in the darkness, and some tools.

At PATINS we have lots of those. Did you know that if you are an Indiana public PreK-12 staff member and one of our events on our training calendar isn’t at a time that works for you or your team, you can request it at another time? If you were hoping to talk about that topic but wanted 1:1 personalization or a deep dive into a special topic, we can set up that consultation at no cost to you or your district.

In particular, for those who are ready to say “yes” to trying out AAC tools and techniques, we have a process just for that. For a no-cost PATINS AAC Consultation, please fill out this referral for each student. This 2 minute video is a brief overview of our process.

The scariest thing that could happen is doing nothing.

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