My sister told me this story: Years ago, during a "new mother break" from teaching, she was working in a lawyer's office and received a phone call that began with a computer voice saying, "Please do not hang up - this is not a joke - I am communicating with a speech synthesizer..." Ah, yes, the absolute frustration of not being understood, not having your thoughts and emotions taken seriously, a disaster across the full range of cognitive capabilities...
This year the CSUN conference had many wonderful Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices, especially excellent Pocket PC-based systems that I will get to in a few days, but one device just stood out - especially for elementary/primary educators - the new Tango from Ablenet.
Tango is a beautifully designed device that even those with significant dexterity issues could easily carry with them everywhere. It has brought the simple connectivity of contemporary handhelds (auto-detecting switch ports, USB-ports, memory-card slots, built in camera) to this type of device. It has a wonderfully brilliant interface that allows users to get to the communications they need quickly and easily. And best of all, it features "voice-morphing," which, among many other capabilities, allows the user to speak in "their regular voice," or to whisper, shout, or even whine.
Yes, your ten-year-old can now complain, "I'm soooo bored," in the appropriate voice.
Tango appears to be truly liberating technology. The range of capabilities will really enhance the user's communication - and learning. The simplicity of how it works, how new content gets loaded, the ability to record, say, a female voice and morph it into a male one (or vise-versa, for appropriateness), the simplicity of taking pictures and installing them ("No, I want the Arsenal away shirt."), and the connectivity systems will make life much easier for educators.
Check this one out. They promise that starting sometime today, 27 March 2006, they will have a simulator up on their web site.
back in cold Michigan - Ira Socol