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Freebee Friday: A Handful of Special Apps

Ipad assistive techOf the 80,000 educational apps for the iPad, the most gratifying ones are likely those aimed at special ed teachers and students. There are ones that focus on motor skill development, hearing, vision and literacy, each of which can get a child out of his or her shell. The latest ones use Apple’s Voice Over and Siri technology to describe what’s on the screen and respond to spoken questions.

Screen322x572While you’re there, I suggest you load a copy of the Autism & Beyond app. Developed with Apple’s ResearchKit, the software is the result of work by the Duke Medical Center and the Office of Naval Research to detect the early signs of autism in children. The pad’s camera watches a child’s face and looks for the telltale signs of emotions and behavior. It’s still in development and the subject needs to be between one and six years old for the app to work, but this tool could end up be a valuable resource in the classroom to help struggling students get the special classes they need.

Freebee Friday: Who’s that Monster

Name the monsterMatific’s online educational games now include Name the Monster, a fun activity for kids to explore and practice their math skills. Four cute monsters appear in sequence from behind a theatrical curtain with a window below to type in a name in 11 characters or less. When the game is completed, the company will announce the most popular names. Personally, I rooting for “Pink Eye.”

Freebee Friday: Scaling the Heights

MacBook-ElCapitan-SafariNotes-PRINTThe latest version of Apple’s OS X software for Macs is out and it’s a free download to upgrade. Called El Capitan, the system software works with all models that were introduced in 2009 and some older ones, provides a modest performance boost and lets you show two apps at once on a split screen. The list of new features include new Notes program that can accept phots, documents and other files as well as an improved Spotlight search engine that can check for things like weather, news and stock prices. You can now pin sites from the Safari browser and – happily for the noisy classroom – you can now instantly mute the audio.

Get that Key Code

Magic jellybeansWhat’s generally missing when inventorying or upgrading computers? For me, it’s the Windows Key Code that is required to finish the installation. Magical Jelly Bean’s Key Finder can not only lift it out of a system, but find the codes for roughly 300 common apps. It takes a few seconds to extract the code and you can print it with the free software, but if you shell out $30 for the Recover Keys version, it can be fed into a spreadsheet. What if you have a school full of Macs? You can use One Up’s Mac Product Key Finder, which – thankfully – is also free.

Freebee Friday: Windows Central

Ms edNeed info on how to upgrade to Windows 10, some ideas on creatively using OneNote or the latest on Office 365’s Class Dashboard and School Information Sync? Your first stop should be the Microsoft in Education Blog. Although it’s not updated every day, it has a lot of good information, ideas and model transformation schools to see how others are changing the way we teach and learn.

Freebee Friday: Programing Lessons for Free

Cs firstThe future of technology rests on a new generation of programmers and Google is trying to train an army of creative coders for free. The company’s Computer Science First program uses the free Scratch programming language to get kids to start exploring how to program by writing their own apps. All you need to create a CSF club or class is to have enough computers available as well as an adult to supervise. It can be done as an after-school activity, during lunchtime recess or as a class during the school day and all the resources you’ll need, including projects, code samples and videos, are on the CS First site. 

Freebee Friday: Get Smart

Teacher listsWant some cash to help fill the inevitable holes in next year’s school budget? TeacherLists’ “Schools Work Smarter” contest can help with a check for $5,000 that one institution will win. To qualify, you need to update or upload your lists of student-supplied materials on the TeacherList site by the end of August.   

Freebee Friday: Innovator Honors

Ieee medalsTomorrow, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, better known as IEEE, will be honoring a group of innovators that can provide no shortage of inspiration for a class of kids. It will be Webcast live from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC, starting at about 4PM on Saturday, but you can watch the proceedings and speeches at any time after that. Two of the honorees include Dr. James Gosling, who will receive the John Von Neumann Medal for the invention of the universal JavaScript programming language as well as carbon nanotube pioneer Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus, who will get the IEEE Medal of Honor. 

Freebee Friday: Points of the Compass

Project Summer LogoCompass Learning’s Go Quest software is one the way and the company is going to let educators try out and use the program for free over the summer months. Just register and you can download the app.  In the meantime, Compass will also be giving away prize packages work about $10,000 each for schools that submit summaries of class projects. Called Project Summer, the contest closes at the end of July.

 

A Window on Android

DuosWhy decide if you want to get Windows or Android tablets when you can get both at once. American MegaTrends has come out with a great Android software emulator that lets any recent Windows system run Android apps. Called AMIDuOS, the software can run on just about any Windows 7 or 8 system and works with Android 4.4 or earlier programs. It not only includes touch support for those systems with a touch-screen, but you can even move files from Android to Windows apps and back again. The program can be had directly from AMI on a 30-day trial or pay $10 for full use of this unique app.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.