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August 2011

A friend told me about DigiMemo–a new tool that has jumped into the technology scene. She uses it for her low vision students. When the teacher is writing notes on the board, a sighted student can copy the notes on this computerized pad, because the low vision student rarely can see the board. After class, the DigiMemo can be hooked into a computer and uploaded as an image for the low vision student to read.
Well, I have taken this tool and added a very important component: The ability to read handwriting and transfer that handwriting into text.
When I first tried the DigiMemo, I could only get an image which talking software does NOT read, I was incredibly disappointed. So, I thought surely we have come far enough that software can read handwriting. Well, we have. Just a bit more sleuthing and I found what I was looking for. I loaded the handwriting software and did another copy of notes on my DigiMemo, transferred the information to my computer–did a couple simple tricks and viola…text that Jaws talking software could read.
What a powerful tool. The sighted student is not doing much more than they typically do. They write their notes, which are stored in the DigiMemo, then transfer the information into text, which requires using a mouse. I believe, in time, the DigiMemo software will be accessible to blind students who know their hotkeys.
The downfall is DigiMemo cannot do graphics…well of course. AND the person taking the notes needs to have legible print so the computer can read it easily. I tried cursive, but it only caught some of the letters. I tried really sloppy writing and I was still very pleasantly surprised at how much it picked up but you would need to be a detective to figure it all out. You need good printing skills…period.
For about $140, I think it is a great investment. Teachers and students are excited when I tell them about DigiMemo. A great tool for school this year and another lesson for me to prepare–hey, that is what I like!!

I added this tool to my toolbox of instruction awhile ago as it always takes time to work out the bugs. I have a very excited diligent student that always wants to help with the new ways of technology. We started with Skype as she really wanted to use the mouse, so we enlarged everything on her screen and gave her an enormous mouse to find where she needed to go, but it took her a long time to read the text compared to her JAWS reading it to her.
We tried other video chat options. But one lesson changed everything, as I sat on my mountain and she in her house, I told her to use FireFox, Jaws talking software and GMail to do video chat. When I texted her and JAWS read it back, her elation was felt through the text box, as she texted several dozen !!!!!! Being low vision, her response time was still not quick enough when she tried to use her eyes and she knew it. After a lesson, I told her I needed to go back to Skype to figure out all the hotkeys for her. She texted back very quickly that she wanted to keep using the mouse in Skype. So I said that was fine and I would just do the hotkeys for the other kids. A minute later (I could tell she was thinking) a text came back and said, "Well, I am moving so much faster using Jaws maybe I should use the hotkeys too." I smiled–if you give a child permission to want what they want, they usually turn your direction fairly quickly. I texted her back and said that was fine. I would give her the hotkeys to Skype too and she could decide what method she would use.
The huge advantage of this is when the student is in class and they run into a problem, they can immediately text for an answer without bothering anyone in the class. How powerful is that! A teacher of the blind can instruct so many more kids at a constant given time no matter how far apart the students are in the country. It is virtually bringing all the kids to the teacher's door–or rather computer. 🙂 -smile
 

Lessons that help teach

google.com, pub-3447701155434117, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

 

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

 

Technology has certainly taken us a long way. In the last year, I have been working on and perfecting the use of teaching long distance with students. As in, I am hundreds of miles away form my students, but with a phone call and a computer, I can pull up their machines, give instruction and watch everything they are doing, just as if I was sitting right next to them: Correcting, inputting and watching their skills grow.
If you would like a free lesson on this, contact me offlist at deniserob@gmail.com and I will set up a time to demonstrate this powerful tool. You too can be a teacher sitting in one place and teaching far more students than you ever believed possible. No car or gas needed.

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