03 December 2008

Christmas Shopping Part 3 - Big Gifts

Perhaps you are doing "better than most" this holiday season... there's a bit of money in the bank - and if you invest it now you'll just lose it, so you think you might splurge...

If not we've had cheap and cheapest lists, but if yes...

(1) The Pulse SmartPen ($149/₤130 for 1gb, $199/₤155 for 2gb, plus $20/₤15 for a pack of special paper). The Smartpen does many things, "the Pulse captures what you write and what you hear simultaneously and synchronizes the writing and audio, so when you tap a particular word, you can hear what was being said when you wrote it. " It has it's limitations, but as an organizational tool for those who struggle with that, but prefer the pen to any keyboard, this is a great tool.

(2) WYNN from Freedom Scientific or Read-and-Write from Text-Help. Pricey solutions, but a friend of mine recently purchased WYNN for their son and they are reporting dramatic changes in school. Whether to purchase WYNN ($375 or $995/₤253 or ₤671 depending on whether you include the scanning function or not - and the scanning function is essential if your school is not supporting this) or Read-and-Write ($475 or $520/₤320 or ₤350 depending on whether Windows or Mac versions or the more expensive but fully portable mobile USB key version) is a choice best left to individual circumstances. I love both. WYNN is a simpler to use full literacy suite which is highly supportive of literacy needs at every age level. It is a sophisticated text-to-speech system with full interactiveness, writing supports (including predictive spelling) and easy conversions to Word, mp3, etc. Read-and-Write works as a desktop add in, building similar (and more) supports into other software you are using. But both are life changers for people who struggle with reading, and so maybe they are not very expensive after all.

(3) A Tablet PC. Maybe HP's TouchSmart with the multi-touch I wish my older one had. Tablets really allow a wide range of input possibilities, from keyboards to speech recognition, tapping on the screen or writing, sound or video recording, and, with options like an inexpensive USB keyboard, they'd allow multiple students to use differing input systems while working together. It's their own Interactive White Board linked to their own computer. Costly, yes ($1200 to $1600/₤1000 or ₤1300), but if you can afford it, liberating.

(4) A Blackberry. Or, all right, an iPhone - though I still can't understand a phone without voice dialing. Or, yes, another web-enabled "smart" phone. These are not just cool, they organize your life and help you skate past issues. They keep you connected and on task. They allow you to convert speech to text and text to speech. They allow you write with effective predictive spelling (QWERTY keyboards, or QWERTY-light, no more than 2 letters to a key, are important, it speeds up prediction dramatically). I won't even try to deal in prices here, you can, in the US, get the phones cheaply with expensive plans, in Europe you'll pay more for the phones, maybe less for the plans. Whatever. These devices are models of media flexibility and the possibilities of personalized information access.

(5) The Flip. Barely over the $100 mark these days (under $130/₤80 in this holiday shopping season) the Flip offers a fabulously easy way to record the world, and recording the world is a great way to discover it, and to learn about framing and knowledge assembly. Combine it with a portable hard drive like the MyBook (typically $170/₤130 for 1tb) to store all this video learning.

One more idea - how about a used computer and a year's worth of broadband access for a neighborhood (or community) family which has neither. Just a thought.

So, those are my Christmas Gift ideas. You can spend not a thing, or you can pick up that Tablet PC and load WYNN on it. But either way (or in between), you can give access this holiday, making it an Accessible Christmas, a Universal Hannukah, a Barrier Free Kwanza, an Equality Solstice, or whatever it is you and yours celebrate.

This doesn't seem like a holiday season to waste money on junk, but it does seem like a time to invest in opportunity.

Don't let this season pressure you - it is supposed to be a time of joy and light and sharing when we see too little of the sun and otherwise might hide inside. When it becomes something else, it means we're losing our balance. Think of small gifts which meet important needs, of shared meals where everyone helps, of time with your children, your parents, your neighbors, of works of charity big or small. I have, of course, childhood gift memories, but more powerful - after all these years - is the memory of sitting on the floor before the tree on Christmas Eve with my siblings fixing and extending the paper chain which always wrapped around it. A simple act everyone could participate in, no matter age or ability. You can not do better than giving that kind of memory to your kids.

- Ira Socol

Lon Thornburg is presenting another range of Assistive Technology Christmas gifts, and you should take a look. So far, Silicone Keyboard. Talking Photo Frame. MP3 Player Jump Drive. Lon will also be collecting other ideas at his AT Blog Carnival for a December 15th post.

My previous lists are Free or Very Inexpensive, and Under $100.

1 comment:

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