Weekly Click: May 8, 2012


Featured Article

My First Week With the iPhone

We have seen lots of technology for the blind, and now we can safely say that the iPhone represents the most revolutionary thing to happen to the visually impaired in a long time. The touchpad offers the familiar next/previous motion, which the blind need. Adding the ability to touch anywhere on the screen and hear it adds a whole other dimension, literally. For the first time, the blind can actually get spatial information about something.

Austin Seraphin is a visually impaired, avid blogger who uses an iPhone to help him with his condition. While skeptical of Apple's claims that the iPhone would be completely accessible to the visually impaired. After taking a trip to the store with his Mother, Austin was impressed and purchased a phone. He says that, "now we can do it with an Apple device that fits in our pocket". The future is here and it's bringing swift changes to the lives of people whose disabilities have for too long gone unserviced. Austin has some critiques, namely that iTunes is cumbersome and difficult for people with visual impairments to navigate, but admits that it is a challenge he is willing to work to overcome for the ability to use the iPhone.

To this day, Austin feels amazed at the iPhone’s capabilities. He can get email, Twitter mentions, and direct messages any time. The iPhone with VoiceOver provides an accessible interface to things which seem annoying at best over the web in a standard browser. Austin can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When he first got an iPhone, he downloaded an app called ColorIdentifier and was blown away! Imagine watching the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened, roamed through a garden and using color cues to find pumpkin plants and flowers.

Maybe it’s true that hearing the color names can help nudge one’s perception, and enhance a visual experience. Amazing!

The Nerd Parent’s Guide: When and How to Introduce Your Kids to Star Wars. What happens when your little one comes home from school one day and starts asking about classics like The Star Wars? Since the general context of the films is pretty complex and some of the aspects are too violent for young kids, how do you know when your child is ready and old enough to grasp the story? One dad had a very thought-out system of introducing his young boys to the Star Wars mythology in a slow and structured way. There's been more talking and playing in the backyard so far than actual movie watching. There's been discussions of movie making and how to make an alien mask. There's been cardboard light sabers and grappling hooks made of straws. There's been hours of discussion about character motivations, why good guys do good stuff, why bad guys do bad stuff and why Han Solo likes money and whether or not we should "mess with Yoda." This system may not work for every young child, but we were inspired by the thoughtful and creative approach this dad took on.

An Apple for the iPad? Technology & Education Start-Ups As textbooks go digital, more testing is conducted on-line and mobile applications democratize education tools. That’s good news for Slader, a New York-based education start-up that is focused on helping teens with math and science homework. The site provides answers and explanations to problems in over 285 textbooks used in American classrooms. Other students supply all answers and explanations making the app seem more like a “study hall on-line”. These educational start-ups are transforming the education space. As students flock to sites like Slader where they can learn at their own time and pace, teaching has shifted from classroom to cyberspace. No longer is the teacher the go-to or ultimate source. Among iPads, smartphones and the Web, they’ve become maestro, working with instruments to school.

Can Your Preschooler Learn Anything From an iPad App? Child development specialists say young children learn best when they are fully engaged and imbued with a feeling of control. They encourage parents to seek out more open-ended games and toys in which children could explore and create at their own pace. Yet at the moment, not many apps are built with this approach in mind. A recent Australian Study showed that only 2 percent of “education” apps in the iTunes Store allow for open-ended discovery and exploration. However, we have seen some recent products that favor creation, including apps like DoodleCastItzaBitza and in-development computer programming software for preschoolers called Scratch Jr. Our final word is that educational apps for very young children are a booming business, but the research hasn't caught up yet.

Comment