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AutiPlan: App of the Week

November 20, 2017

Keeping all of your plans straight can be very stressful, so having some structure and predictability in your life can be extremely helpful! Visual scheduling with pictograms is proven to be helpful for many students by reducing stress and anxiety. Using the free Android app AutiPlan, you can enter your day-to-day activities and you can either print out the schedule or have a notification appear on your phone when it’s time for the next task!

Not only does this work on an Android or Tablet, but you can also access it on your computer! Easily and quickly putting together a schedule using the schedule editor, schedule templates, and automatic repetitions.

Also, if you have an iphone or ipad, check out the app “Visual Schedule Planner”. This is also a completely costomizable visual schedule. The app is actually designed to reduce your anxiety with transitioning from tast to task and provides a simple way to visually represent your day.

The “Visual Schedule Planner” app does cost $14.99 but can be an extremely helpful tool if you have trouble managing your schedule. We all have those occasional late nights and early mornings where you wake up groggy and have trouble getting started with the day. Having a visual aid to to tell you exactly what to do is the perfect solution. So if you’re in need of an app that can help you plan out your day visually, check out “AutiPlan” or “Visual Schedule Planner”.

 

orbiTouch – A keyless keyboard

November 13, 2017

The world of computers is pretty exciting: sitting at a desk, pushing down keys, moving a piece of plastic and pressing a plastic pad while blue light from your monitor illuminates your desk. Who wouldn’t want to do that all day?

Some individuals can’t use a mouse and a keyboard because of mental or physical impairments. But there’s a piece of assistive technology that was designed for people with these impairments to an alternate way to use a computer! It’s called the orbiTouch.

 

Wow! Look at those domes!

 

The orbiTouch is a keyboard that does not rely on clicking small keys packed together on a QWERTY keyboard, but rather a combination of hand gestures to input letters and commands.

This keyboard removes the pain induced by using the fingers and wrists to type, and reduces the impact of typing related strains and injuries. The orbiTouch also empowers people to use a computer in a more accommodating manner. By replacing the act of typing using fine-motor skills with typing using a wider range of arm movements, the keyboard allows individuals with fine motor impairments and/or hand related disabilities to communicate.

 

How does it work?

  • Instead of having its own individual keys, letter and characters are grouped in distinct sets around the edge of the left dome. Each letter or command in a set has a different color. The right dome has different colors around the edge.
  • You slide one dome to select a grouping and the other dome to select a color.
  • The keyboard will then input the letter that matches the color and grouping to the computer.
  • To input the next character, you only have to re-center one of the two domes. This allows the user to input multiple letters while only changing one dome position.

 

If, for example, you wanted to spell the word “yo-yo”, you would select the grouping with “Y” in it, and the color purple. The next letter is “O”, which is also in purple, so only the grouping/left dome needs to be re-centered. While holding the right dome that has the color purple selected, slide the left dome to the “O” grouping to insert the letter “O”. To finish the word, you must change both dome positions to input a dash, in blue, and repeat the previous combinations. By grouping the letters and numbers in a manner that is logical and easy to distinguish, people with autism/autistic people have an easier time learning and typing with the orbiTouch than on a typical keyboard.

Studies had shown that the extent of the learning curve was dependent on the amount of time spent practicing with the keyboard. In this study, the learning curve was minimal for users with autism/autistic users, who were able to type faster on the orbiTouch keyboard in 15 hours than on a QWERTY keyboard in 200 hours.

 

The study shows that orbiTouch enables people with autism to type faster than they would on a QWERTY keyboard.

Twilight: App of the Week

November 6, 2017

The Twilight App Logo

Twilight is a health and wellness app for Android products.

Reading on Screens in Dim Lighting

Twilight allows your screen backlight to be lowered far beyond the ability of the backlight controls on your device. As a result, your eyes won’t have to strain as much when trying to read in poorly lit settings!

Have trouble falling asleep?

Some studies have suggested that exposure to blue light before going to bed may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Twilight can help prevent this by changing the screen lighting based on the time of day. This way, by the time it’s night, the screen will have adjusted to have a red filter and a dimmer screen!

Convenience

If you’re in a hurry to adjust the Twilight settings, just swipe down to view your device’s notifications. Clicking on the Twilight notification will allow you to quickly pause or change your current settings without having to open up the full app.

Profiles

The paid version of Twilight allows you to create profiles! In other words, you can set up a profile for simply reading on your phone in the living room, another profile for reading before bed, and yet another for being out late. Once the profiles are created, you can quickly switch between them instead of having to adjust each setting manually!

 

If you want to learn more, check out the free Twilight by Urbanandroid Team here.For even more features, check out the $2.99 app Twilight Pro Unlock here. If you’re looking for something similar on your iOS device, check out Apple’s own Night Shift mode here. Windows users will want to check out the f.lux app here, and maybe even read a previous post on the app here!

World Usability Day New England at UConn

October 30, 2017

By Meghan Palumbo

 

On November 9th, countries across the world will join in celebrating World Usability Day. World Usability Day is a worldwide recognition of how technology affects people’s lives and how it can be used to make the world more efficient.

World Usability Day Logo

World Usability Day (WUD) has been celebrated every year on the second thursday of November since its beginnings in 2005. WUD gathers people of all different backgrounds, including professionals, citizens, students, and educators, to collaborate and share ideas surrounding technology. The goal of WUD is to celebrate the progress that has been made in using technology to make life easier and to educate people about how usability influences their everyday lives.

 

World Usability Day is working towards a world in which technology assists people in all parts of their lives as effectively as possible, including education, health, government, communications, privacy, and entertainment. Technology should not be a source of frustration for people; it should instead be used as a helpful tool to make their lives easier. World Usability Day aims to share how technology can benefit people’s lives and create a better world for everyone.

 

This year, over 36 events in 18 countries across the world will be recognizing World Usability Day! Each year has a different theme. World Usability Day 2017 will focus on inclusion through user experience. Past topics have included healthcare, sustainability, communication, and innovation.

World Usability Day New England image

Every year, New England celebrates World Usability Day with a large conference called World Usability Day New England (WUDNE), which hosts many different speakers giving exciting and informative presentations.

 

This year, WUDNE is being held at UConn’s Storrs campus! Join us on November 9th in the Student Union for a day of compelling presentations and exhibitors. Attend presentations on innovative topics ranging from how augmented reality can benefit the blind to how assistive technology can be used in preschools to strategies for accommodating mental health disabilities. Exhibitors at the event will include Texthelp, Kurzweil Education, Blackboard Inc., and more.

An aerial view of the UConn Storrs campus
An aerial view of the UConn Storrs campus

Register for WUNDE 2017 at UConn here and read more about World Usability Day across the world here!

 

Speech-To-Text

October 24, 2017

Have you ever recorded your class lecture and then spent countless hours listening to the playback? Have you desperately wished that you could just skim a transcription of the audio?

Speech-To-Text software—a program that will transcribe pre-recorded audio to text—is a request we at the CSDTech Team get a lot! Many of you are familiar with our Text-To-Speech programs from some of our blog posts such as Read&Write, Kurzweil, and built in Mac and Windows readers. However, a holy grail of notetaking still waits to be surmounted—Speech-To-Text. Unfortunately, accurate voice-to-text transcribing is a huge and unsolved engineering problem. In fact, in professional settings, such as a court hearing where every word must be kept in accurate text records, human transcribers are still used!

However, we shall not give up hope! The CSDTech team sat down together to brainstorm free solutions for CSD students to try out for the most accurate notetaking transcription we can provide!

Software the CSD Offers Free

1) Google Voice Typing

If you play your phone into your computer mic, Google Voice Typing can recognize the audio and type the recording. This program is not perfect. When we tested this solution, we found we had to slow down the audio to half the tempo before Google Voice Typing could keep up. However, we still had to double check everything to make sure Google transcribed correctly.

 

Here is how to use Google to transcribe your Echo Smartpen audio files.

  • Open up a new Google Doc from your UConn Gmail account.
  • On the top toolbar, navigate Tools>>Voice Typing…
  • Take your Smartpen and play the audio from it into your computer. We found that normal-speed audio is too fast for Google Voice Typing to keep up, so we need to slow the playback speed down. On either the bottom of your notebook, or on a separate bookmark, look for an option to reduce playback speed. Put it on the lowest setting.

Bookmark with Echo smarpen controls

  • Monitor the speech recognition. As the audio plays from the Smartpen into your computer, be sure to listen to the recording and follow along with what is being typed. Pause the recording frequently to allow Google Voice Typing to keep up, and allow yourself to edit as you go.

 

2) Sonocent Audio Recorder

Sonocent is a software that listens to audio and puts it into smaller, more manageable chunks, which you can play back and listen to as much as you need! The software listens to natural pauses in the speech and chunks the audio. People pause longer when they are changing topics. By using Sonocent, you can write about a one idea at a time and work at a pace you’re comfortable with.

Sonocent interface screen. The audio is organized on the left.

3) Dragon Voice Recognition

Dragon is a software that you train to recognize your voice. The training allows Dragon to be about as accurate as speech to text can possibly get with today’s technology. You can play your audio recording into Dragon software and have it try to type your file. This software is only on CSD computers, so you will have to visit the Storrs office to use it.

 

4) Notetaking Express

This service hires professional note-takers to create an outline of any audio recording uploaded to the site. Since professional note-takers (not artificial intelligence) are listening to the recording, the content is more accurate. However, this is not a word-for-word transcription. Notetaking Express is only for lecture outlines.

Technology offered Outside of CSD

This audio recorder works with Dragon software. Whatever the device records, it transcribes. This is not perfect, and works best for voices that the software was trained on

  • Alternate Speech-To-Text

There is a multitude of audio transcribers on the market. Dragon is the leading brand name for transcribers, but there may be cheaper alternatives available that you can find. No accurate speech-to-text transcribers are free.

10 Studying and Tech Hacks for Finals Week

April 26, 2017

We have finally reached the last week of classes, which means final exams are right around the corner. On top of exams, there may still be projects and homework due (how can they be so cruel?). To help ease your worries, here are 10 studying hacks and tech tips for surviving the upcoming workload!

  1. Make a “cheat sheet” for every exam (even if you aren’t allowed to bring it in)
    • Putting everything you know on a single piece of paper makes the class content a lot less intimidating
    • Rewriting your notes and organizing it in a way that makes sense to you will help you remember the content better–want proof this is true? Have you ever walked into an exam, cheat sheet in hand and didn’t look at the cheat sheet once? 
  2. Prepare for finals before finals week! 
    • Start now! Organize your papers from the semester, pinpoint those homeworks you did poorly on and redo them, prepare a barrage of healthy snacks to get you through long nights of studying, and make time to talk to your professors to get last minute help
  3. Enter into the world of podcasts
    • Meditation Oasis has a great podcast called “Mini Break for Work or Study” (scroll down to episode 36).
    • Try some Yoga! After a long day of studying, head up to Horsebarn Hill and gracefully stretch to your yoga podcast while gazing into the sunset! (You may think we are kidding but we are not. Trust us, it doesn’t get more relaxing than this!)
      Meditation Oasis
  4. Don’t forget to exercise! 
    • Exercising actually pumps more blood to your brain to deliver oxygen and nutrients. It can improve your memory and boost your mood.
    • Even for those who’s workout includes chewing and napping, taking a walk around campus or on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes is a great way to destress and stay motivated!
    • A great App to use would be “Zombies, Run!” (check out this fun health and wellness app here)
      Zombies Run Screens
  5. Do you get distracted online? Try using a browser app to whitelist pages!
    • Cold Turkey is one of many apps that can block distracting websites for a set amount of time. The basic version is available for free on Mac and Windows here
    • If you get stuck on your phone or tablet, there are apps that you can install that block apps. Or, you could put your device on silent, flip it over so the LED light is no longer visible, and put the device out of sight!
    • Remember, it isn’t social networking, its social not workingCold Turkey
  6. Try “spaced repetition” when studying
    • Spaced repetition is when you break information into smaller, manageable chunks and reviewing them over a long period of time
    • Not only will this help you avoid the stress that cramming causes, but it’s been proven to work!
    • Additionally, it helps reinforce what you’ve already reviewed. When you start your next study session, briefly review the prior material to ensure understanding
    • Using apps like Quizlet, studying in this manner can be quick and easy. You can use Quizlet to make decks of flashcards, and make each deck a “small, manageable chunk”!

  7. Cover material from different courses during your study session
    • Studying different material means we are strategizing how to solve different types of problems
    • Along with this, try studying in different locations. When you do this your brain makes new associations with the same material, thus creating stronger memories.
  8. Take frequent, short breaks 
    • Tide is an app that lets you get things done by breaking up individual event among discrete intervals, separated by short breaks (Available for Android and iOS)
    • It helps you stay focused in work and study! With one tap, you can easily start a focus and peaceful time accompanied by sounds of natural environment
    • Combines the most popular time management method Pomodoro Technique with nature sounds

      Tide App
  9. Get the right amount of sleep or make sure you wake up on time
    • As you sleep you go through different phases, ranging from deep sleep to light sleep. The phase you are in when your alarm goes off is critical for how tired you will feel when you wake up.
    • Since you move differently in bed during the different phases, apps can use built-in tech in your phone in your phone to determine which sleep phase you are in, and wake you when you are in your lightest sleep phase

    • If you don’t want to risk the chance of snoozing your alarm, or you want to make sure you get up in time, you can use an alarm app that only turns off if you take a picture of an object!
      • Alarmy is an app that has been cleverly designed to force you to get out of bed (available for Android and iOS).
        Alarmy
  10. Listen to instrumental music
    • Relaxing instrumental soundtracks can help you concentrate on studying. These sounds can help block distracting outside noise, while also helping you stress just a bit less.
    • Additionally, listening to certain song may help you remember what you were working on when you originally heard that song.

App of the Week: Pocket

March 29, 2017

As the name of the app suggests, Pocket is an application that is available on technology that fits in your pocket! Pocket is accessible on your phone, as well as on a tablet or computer. This app is somewhat similar to Pinterest, but rather than being used to save mostly pictures, it is used to save articles. It doesn’t require Wi-Fi to open articles once you’ve saved them and is free!

Pocket has a main feed called ‘My List’ of articles you saved, but you can also create tags to categorize them, and archive the articles you no longer need. My favorite part of Pocket is the lack of need for Wi-Fi, because it allows you to read articles anytime and anywhere! The app is available for both Mac and Windows users, and on both Apple and Android phones. Pocket has the potential to be a valuable research tool because of your ability to categorize articles and read them later without Wi-Fi. For those of you who take trips during the semester, and aren’t always certain if you will have access to Wi-Fi, or if you like to the ability to do your work regardless of where you are, this app is perfect for you! You can find more information or create an account on their website: https://getpocket.com/

Pocket Home Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing Anxiety with Meditation

March 22, 2017

Everyone has their own way of relaxing, and it is important to find what best works for you. A great option is downloading an app!

If you like to play games on your phone, you could try the app Zen Sand. The objective is to get the flowing sand into the vases using bamboo sticks. You use your logic to position the bamboo the right way so you can fill each vase. Therefore, while you are challenging your brain, the sand flowing into the vase is also very relaxing. This would be perfect as a quick study break; it keeps your mind active but also relaxes it!

Breathe would also be a great app to try! Anyone can use this meditation app, whether you have tried meditation before or not. When you first open the app it asks, “How are you?” Then you tap begin, and it asks you how you feel emotionally and physically, and then gives you a chance to add any other emotions you are feeling. At the end of the short questionnaire, it will pick specific meditations tailored to how you are feeling that day. If you need help getting to sleep, grounding yourself in the present, a quick pick me up, or any other meditation, this app has them! It describes the goal of each meditation in the details so you can target whatever it is that is bothering you. This is great for short, daily meditations, and you can even set a reminder to meditate and keep you on a schedule.

Read and Write Fact Folder

March 6, 2017

When you write a research paper, does your bookmark bar in your browser ever look like this?

Bookmark Bar: Ever have a TOO crowded bookmark bar?
Ever have a TOO crowded bookmark bar?

Just a list of links and page titles. Collecting the information, without a doubt is the easiest step. The hardest will be going back through all these pages, rereading, quoting, citing, collecting images, paraphrasing–shall I go on?
However, fear not esteemed colleagues; there is an easier way to organize your information for that paper that will save you both time and headache!

If you are a CSD student, you have access to Read&Write by Texthelp. This is a toolbar that sits on top of your computer screen, and is mainly used for its read aloud feature. Today I will tell you about the “Fact Folder” feature. “Fact Folder” works with your browser and helps you collect and organize data.
For an example, I am writing a research paper on wind turbines. I have two sources that are of particular importance: one I need to quote and one I want to keep a particular image. By using “Fact Folder” in Read&Write, I can save all of these and make a bibliography in the process.
1) Save quote:
Highlight your quote and click “Fact Folder”. A window appears. Automatically populated in the window is the title of the web page, the url link, and your highlighted quote. You can annotate the quote, add the author of the paper, and categorize the fact (such as “generator design” or “wind blade design”).

Fact Folder demonstration: saving facts
Saving Facts

 

2) Save an Image from the Web:
Click the “Fact Folder” dropdown arrow and select “Add Image from Web”. A pop-up will appear in the lower left hand corner of the screen instructing you to hover your mouse over the image. By placing my mouse over the image, the image will appear in this pop up and then the Fact Details pop up will appear. Fill in the name of the picture and annotate it as you wish. The source URL of the picture automatically saves.

Now that I have all my facts together, I can review them in a single word document by clicking “Fact Folder”>>”Review Facts” and clicking on the Word document icon.

Now, you have all your facts, organized clearly by source and category and your bibliography is already written!!

Fact Folder Summary: organized word document of sources and works cited page
Fact Folder Summary Document

(email us at csdtech@uconn.edu if you want it installed on your computer!

Apps+Tips on Time Management

February 27, 2017

Cardinal Rule of Time Management: Always carry around pocket work

Adapted Hopper, Carolyn H. 2016. Practicing College Learning Strategies, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Have you ever felt like there was not enough time in the day to finish your work? One way to get the most out of your day is to make use of the time you may be spending while waiting. For example, time during awkward gaps between classes, waiting in line at Dunkin Donuts in the Student Union, or waiting for a machine to open at the gym. In particular, these times can be spent on completing “pocket work” that you can be carried with you. These include:

  1. Review flashcards of terms or concepts on your upcoming quizzes and exams using apps like Quizlet, Flashcards+ by Chegg, and Study Blue

    Quizlet Flashcards+ by Chegg Studyblue
     Available: 
    https://quizlet.com/ 

    Download from Google Play

    Download from App Store

    Available: 
    Mobile App OnlyDownload from Google PlayDownload from App Store
    Available:
    https://www.studyblue.com/

    Download from Google Play

    Download from App Store

  2. Print a copy of your homework and tackle some questions. If it is homework pertaining to science and mathematics, Wolfram Alpha is a knowledge engine that you can use to search related topics, as well as help you solve those tricky math problems! Wolfram Alpha is both an online resource (visit their website at https://www.wolframalpha.com/) and available for mobile devices in both the Google Play Store and App Store. Wolfram Alpha
  3. If you have an audio recording of your lecture, take this time to go beyond memorizing the content by focusing on understanding the presented material. CSD offers various note-taking assistive technology that allows you to record your lectures while you write or type your notes, such as the Echo Smartpen, Audionote, and Sonocent Audionotaker!
    Echo Smartpen Audionote Sonocent Audio Notetaker
  4. Create sound file of chapter summaries, review questions, or your course notes and store it on your preferred device! This method allows you to study while you are eating at the dining hall, working out at the gym, or waiting for your laundry to finish! CSD offers a software called Read&Write, which has a feature that converts text into an MP3 file.
    Read and Write Speechmaker

Questions?

Students interested in learning more, can either stop by or set up an appointment by contacting the Tech Team at 860-486-2020 or by email at csdtech@uconn.edu.
*Certain technologies may only be available to students with a related approved accommodation.