Teaching Strategies Using a Handheld Device
Ten Reasons to Checkout a Handheld Device
Handheld devices have changed quite a bit in the past 2 years. If you haven’t checked them out, now is the time. There are different types of handheld devices; however, the distinct difference is the operating system. Palm handheld devices use the Palm Operating System. The more recent Palm devices include Tungsten, TX, LifeDrive, and the Treo 650 which is a phone/handheld combination. Other types of devices are referred to as “Pocket PC” and they use the Operating System, Windows CE, now referred to as Windows Mobile. There are pros and cons to each device and Operating System. Some have cameras, others have voice recorders, Bluetooth, and wireless Internet access. The key is to find out what you need the device to do, and then look for the device that will do it.
Handheld devices can be a great source for providing visual supports to individuals with autism, ADHD, and others who have difficulty with time, communication, short term memory and organizational skills. Here are ten reasons to use a handheld device:
A timer with visual symbols developed specifically for children with autism is also available for Pocket PCs and some mobile phones. To download go to: https://dl.infonet.cs.ehime-u.ac.jp/download/welfare_index_e.aspx
2. Graphics for Receptive Language – Some of the handheld devices have a graphics viewer included. If you don’t have one, you can view graphics using a free software program, JPGview which you can download from Palm Gear.
For the Pocket PC, you can use XnView Pocket 1.35 to view images. It is free and available at PocketGear.
3. Graphics for Expressive Language – Using graphics and photographs on a handheld device to communicate to a person with autism is an important modeling technique. It may eventually enable the individual with autism to reciprocate the use of graphics and photographs to communicate to others. When setting up communication pictures on a handheld, try thinking outside the box. For example, many of the newer devices allow the user to add a picture in the Contact List/Address Book. For easy access, use the Contact List/Address Book as the list of items to use. Type the item name in place of a person's name, and then add a graphic.
4. Visual Schedules – Date book and calendar software programs can be integrated with icon programs to develop a visual schedule. Most software programs for handhelds have demo trial periods. Try a few until you find one that works for you.
5. Calendar – Individuals who are able to read can use the Calendar on the handheld device to structure their day. Most of the devices also have an alarm that can be attached to an event. Because of the variety of alarm sounds, you can attach different alarms to corresponding events.
6. Dictionaries: Individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and Higher Functioning Autism (HFA) may benefit from a dictionary of idioms. There are several programs available that will allow the user to look up the meaning to idioms, keep a running list of most often heard and practice matching idioms and meanings with a drill and practice component. A free dictionary of idioms is available at Palm Gear. You can also download a free reference dictionary with over 7,000 words.
An inexpensive program for the Pocket PC is available at PocketLingo.
7. Mini Schedules for Task Sequencing – Some students need visual assistance to follow individual steps of a task. For example, to complete the activity of washing their hands, seeing a picture of each step (turn on the water, get soap, rub hands together, etc.) can promote independence. There are several ways to accomplish this on a handheld device. You can purchase a pricey software program from AbleLink Technologies or develop one using MS PowerPoint. Documents to Go, for Palm devices, will allow you to view PowerPoint presentations, but not edit.
8. Organizational Tools for School – There are many free and inexpensive programs that will help keep track of schoolwork and homework. Here are some bookmarked programs available for the Palm and the Pocket PC.
9. Tools to Assist in Writing – Programs for concept mapping are available for Palm and Pocket PC from Inspiration. For a free software program for the Palm, try Idea Pad. PiCoMap is also available for both devices from GoKnow (Free 45 day trial, but the price is elusive).
Word Prediction: An inexpensive software program for Palm called TextComplete can be downloaded as a trial. Another inexpensive program is Ender. A free version based on the input used for text messaging on cell phones is available – PKWrite Rapid Text Entry. TextPlus is an expensive word prediction program for both the Palm or PocketPC.
Writing: EdgeWrite, a unistroke text entry method for handheld devices, is designed to provide high accuracy and physical stability for people with motor impairments, people "on the go", and other who just don’t like handwriting.
10. Vocabulary Development – Literacy – Math - Dictionaries – ASL and ESL Tools. For thousands of choices for Palm Software go to the site and type in a keyword. For PocketPC and Windows Mobile, go to PocketGear.
More Handheld Device Ideas for the Brave and/or Advanced User:
1. Movies: The newer devices have great sound and graphics and have a multimedia player integrated into the operating system. The Palm TX that I use will play Quicktime movies. If you're an educator and familiar with United Streaming, you can upload the Quicktime movies available and load them onto your handheld device for viewing. Of course with the additional memory challenges, it is good to use SD Cards. A SD card (Secure Digital Memory Card - http://www.sdcard.org) is a tiny, easy-to-use card that stores digital media.
2. EBooks: There are thousands of books available free. The free books are usually older books or classics with an expired copyright. The free ereader software that will allow you to read books on your Palm or Pocket PC is available at eReader. For access to thousands of books, go to etext library. You can write and design books using eBook Studio available from EReader. If you're familiar with HTML, you will quickly learn to use this program. Try the demo before spending the money.
3. Design Your Own: I have found using iSilo and iSiloX easier than eBook Studio. The program to view files is iSilo and is available free for 30 days. iSiloX is a software program that will allow you to "write" programs for your handheld device. Here are a few that were written to use as visual supports with children who have autism and others who have auditory perceptual difficulties.
These programs are for Palm OS only and you will need iSilo installed.