Box is a Good Option for Storing, Sharing and Embedding Files!

The ether is getting a little crowded with the rapidly increasing number of clouds where you can keep your digital stuff. I’ve used three of the biggest players, and I’ve been more than satisfied with DropBox, Google Drive and Box. Lately, while creating my new website, UDL Resource, I’ve been more inclined to use Box. That’s because it works so well for embedding files on my web pages, and for allowing visitors to my site to download files and folders.

My free Box account gives me 50 GB of storage in the cloud, and I have access to it on my iPad and Android tablets, as well as on my computer. Not only do I have access to my files, sharing those files for any reason at all is extremely convenient.

Perhaps best of all, I can embed PowerPoint presentations, or almost any other kind of file, wherever I wish to. I used to be a big fan of embedit.in, and I used it quite often to embed files on blogs and wikis. Since Box has taken over embedit.in, I get the same service, only better. You can check out three files I’ve embedded on this page at UDL Resource–the graphic image of the UDL guidelines and the two PowerPoint presentations at the bottom of the page.

Another way I find Box useful, is for sharing large files and folders. I’ve just included a 50 MB folder on my new website, and this resource can be downloaded by anyone who visits the site–on this page at UDL Resource, under ‘PowerTalk’.

Now if someone could only help Apple to get over its hangup with displaying content embedded with flash…

Guided Access: iOS 6 Accessibility Feature Can Support Learning

I support some non-speaking children who are learning to use the iPad as a communication device. Sometimes, these learners are inclined to ignore their communication apps because they much prefer other apps. These preferred apps may be worthwhile, but they can get in the way of learning to use the device for its primary purpose. In iOS 6, Apple has introduced an accessibility feature that can help.

Guided Access makes it possible to keep the iPad in a single app, and to control which features of an app are available to a user. In the case above, the iPad might be configured as a dedicated communication device until the user has learned to use it for effective communication. This is only one of many potential situations where Guided Access might be helpful. Of course, Guided Access is also available on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

As is the case with all accessibility features on Apple’s iOS devices, it must be turned on in the device ‘Settings’

Settings — General — Accessibility — Guided Access

The image below shows Guided Access in settings. Below that is a short video demo of Guided Access.

Text to Speech with Speak Selection Even Better in iOS 6 – Highlights Words as they are Spoken

Speak Selection may have been the most widely appreciated accessibility feature in iOS 5. I wrote about it in November of 2011. Speak Selection reads aloud any selected text on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Now there is the option of having each word highlighted as it is spoken. This can make it easier for the reader to track what he or she is reading.

As is the case with all accessibility features in iOS, the highlighting must be turned on. To turn it on, the user must go to:

 Settings – General — Accessibility — Speak  Selection

Scan Text and Read it Aloud with ScanThing on Android Tablet or Phone

Text that can be read aloud is invaluable for many learners who face challenges with reading. So, it’s helpful to be able to turn hard copy into digital text. Here’s an Android app that not only “scans” hard copy, it also reads the scanned text aloud. At $5.11 (Canadian), this app is what I consider a “low cost” solution for anyone who needs it.

scanthing is an Android app that uses the built in camera on an Android phone or tablet to “scan” pages of text. The scanned image is uploaded to scanthing‘s OCR server, which creates digital text. scanthing also provides text-to-speech for anyone who needs  it.  It’s worth noting that scanthing can import an image scanned elsewhere.

I tested scanthing with the Asus Transformer Prime and its 8 megapixel camera. The result was perfect digital text that could be read aloud without any problem. The only potential frustration might be the lag between scanning an image and obtaining the digital text. The delay is understandable because the OCR happens online “in the cloud”, but no one should expect instant results. It is also important to know that the original formatting of the scanned page is not retained.

Here’s a video demonstration of scanthing on a phone.

Find Copyright-Friendly Media with SpinXpress

Learners need options for sharing what they learn and for showing what they know, think and feel. This is a fundamental principle of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). So, the range of possibilities for creating multimedia presentations in our digital era is invaluable. It helps that there is also an immense wealth of media available online that learners can use in their presentations.

It’s important, however, that children learn to treat intellectual property with respect. I believe ethical use of intellectual property must be taught and modeled consistently. Much of the media that’s online is not available for learners to use in their  multimedia projects because the copyright holders, the owners of the material, have not given permission. It is protected by copyright.

Fortunately, there is more than enough media that learners are free to use, because the authors want to share their work. All educators owe it to themselves, and to the learners they support, to become familiar with Creative Commons licensing, and the vast range of Creative Commons media that’s available.

SpinXpress offers a helpful online resource for locating “copyright friendly” media. The SpinXpress search tool finds images, audio, and video for embedding on websites or for use in multimedia projects.

The SpinXpress user interface is straightforward, and makes it convenient to customize searching–by media, by type of license for re-use, or by where online you wish to search. Another helpful feature is a preview option for checking out search results.

The ‘Get Media’ feature is part of a larger platform for creating and publishing work by SpinXprSess. Their search tool is available to anyone, and it is exceptional.

Note: SpinXpress offers a simple version of its search bar that can be embedded on your own site. Search results yield all types of Creative Commons media. These search results show up on the SpinXpress site, where you can customize the search. I’ve embedded the simple search bar below, so you can give it a try if you wish.