19 November 2008

Christmas Shopping

Yes, we're in the middle of a "global financial meltdown." Yes, things look grim. But Christmas is coming (or your Solstice-related holiday of choice), and you do want something under the tree, in the stocking, by the menorah.

So let's keep it inexpensive, but, let's make it meaningful.

Have a friend with special access needs for information and communication? Why not give them an AccessApps drive. For less than $10/₤5/€6 you can buy a 2gb Flash Drive and load it with this brilliant software suite from Scotland's RSC. The download and install is as simple as it gets, and the drive offers a full suite of programs - including the full OpenOffice suite - that will run on any Windows computer. (full list of included programs)

Is there a teacher on your list? There might be a book that will change their thoughts on "disability." You could do worse (I would of course say) than The Drool Room (by Ira David Socol)- $16/₤13/€14 - It's also available as an accessible pdf from lulu.com. (Audiobook in progress) The Drool Room tracks a dylexic, adhd student through school and beyond, and looks closely at the dynamics of the classroom from this "outsider" perspective.

Or, Peter Høeg’s Borderliners ($12/₤10/€11). Borderliners is a stunning look at good intentions in education, and at how those intentions are received by children "on the borderline."

Or Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. ($12/₤10/€11) Haddon's book is a must read, a fascinating portrait of life on the Autism Spectrum.

If they'd prefer a film (we don't all like to read, after all), there's Taare Zameen Par, a wonderful Indian film about a dyslexic boy (pricey, at $35 the only place I found with it in stock).

If that teacher would rather have a book about classroom practice, Liz Kolb's Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education ($35) is a great choice.

You could also spend almost nothing, and give your teacher a CD with the pdfs of great reading from FutureLab, like Learner Engagement, or Designing for Social Justice: people, technology, learning, or Perspectives on early years and digital technologies, or What if...? Re-imagining learning spaces, or any of their other wonderful reports.

Or simply re-construct a friend or family member's browser as a gift. Install Firefox with Click-Speak or FireVox. Add dictionaries, dictionary switchers, translators, mappers. Set up their bookmark bar for fabulous sites like Ghotit and Google Maps, Gutenberg and the UVA ebook library and the Literature Network, SpokenText and VozMe. Or make it bigger, move on to setting up Skype for them, or installing the free Natural Reader, WordTalk, PowerTalk, Microsoft Reader.

And don't forget those school kids - Google Earth, GraphCalc, Firefox Dictionaries to support language learning, Google Notebook, Google Calendar (which will text their phones when appointments or due dates are coming), Google Docs, Lotus Symphony for those kids sitting with Microsoft Works on their home computers.

Or give the gift of setting up a mobile phone to take advantage of Jott or Dial2Do, AbbyMe, ChaCha or 4info.

There are surely a thousand other choices, but you get the idea. Don't spend a fortune this holiday season - make it an "Access Christmas" instead. Contribute to making the world a more open place, where we all the right to reach for the communications and information we need.

- Ira Socol


Liz Kolb, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for posting about my book! Always enjoy your blog.

Keep up the great work!

Tim Lacy said...

It's funny that Liz Kolb commented because I came here to ask for more info. about her book.

Ira, have you read it? - TL

irasocol said...

Tim, honestly? not yet. Been way to insane a semester, but I've been reading the component parts for a long time now, and I know the value of her ideas, so I'm recommending it "blind."

Come Christmas break. I'll be diving in.