Reflections on the Webinar

It was really exciting to be able to offer a free webinar on the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. I decided about three weeks ago with all of the clamor of this stimulus package to share my ideas on how school districts can begin to dialog on how best to plan for purchases and professional development. First off I would like to thank Glance for providing me with use of their incredibly easy to use screensharing and teleconferencing service. It went off almost without a hitch- slight error on my part of giving my participants my old Glance address. Once I rectified that, we were on our way to having a smooth and successful webinar.

The stimulus package is an ideal was to really build and shore up your school's assistive technology program. While there is a lot to think about, the stimulus dollars will only be here for a two year period of time. One of the top priorities is for schools to purchase state of the art assistive technologies along with intensive professional development for regular and special education teachers. While there will be challenge- never has there been such a great opportunity for those of us in the field of assistive technology to demonstrate just how important these tools can be for the students to reach their goals. For those of you who were not able to make the webinar here is a copy of my presentation.

Using the Vernier GPS Sensor with the LabQuest

I first want to thank Vernier Software & Technology for sending me their latest GPS Sensor to review that can be used with LoggerPro 3.7 and the LabQuest. I have always had a keen interest in both science and technology and would have loved to have access to a LabQuest in my science classes when I was in school. In this day in age of technology, the LabQuest foots the bill for an easy to use handheld data collection tool. The LabQuest continues to grow as an educational tool as more and more sensors get added to the product line. I was very glad to hear that Vernier was going to release a GPS Sensor this spring that could be used with the LabQuest and when it arrived at my doors steps, I couldn't wait to give it a try. Vernier shipped me the GPS Sensor along with LoggerPro 3.7 software which incorprates some new features that can take advantage of the GPS sensor. My first reaction was "wow," when I first saw the GPS Sensor, no bigger than a USB thumbdrive that I carry with me. My first order of business was to update the system software on my LabQuest which went off without a hitch. Once the LabQuest was updated, I plugged in the GPS Sensor and watched as my LabQuest honed in on the satellities. Within seconds my LabQuest was displaying a readout of the latitude and longitude.

I decided to give the GPS Sensor a try and walked around the periphery of my home located in the Northwest part of New Jersey. I plugged the GPS Sensor into the LabQuest and pressed the Start collection button. As I walked around the property line, I watched as the LabQuest updated my position on the screen. After walking around the property line, I came back into my office and launched LoggerPro 3.7 and plugged the LabQuest into my computer. Within seconds, LoggerPro 3.7 prompted me to download the data that I had just collected. You will find LoggerPro and LabQuest easy to use and the helpful prompts will ensure that you are able to offload your data correctly to your computer. Once the data had been downloaded to LoggerPro you can take a look at your Speed, Altitude, Time and Latitude (Direction) from within the software.

One of the really exciting features of bringing your GPS data into LoggerPro 3.7 is the ability to map it. Right now there a two options for mapping your data: exporting the data in a GIS format or exporting it to Google Maps. In my instance, since I was connected to the web, I decided to export the data directly to Google Maps which was really exciting. Within seconds my route around the periphery of my home was plotted within Google Maps, which you can see in the screenshot.

The GPS Sesnor from Vernier worked really well and should give you some reason to think how you can integrate this location based technology in your science and math programs. It should be noted that you can connect other sensors to your LabQuest while the GPS Sensor is connected which makes this an ideal tool for doing field work where there is a need to have your position automatically recorded. Think about the type of environmental projects that would benefit from using the LabQuest and the GPS Sensor in the field. Certainly water quality studies are a prime candidate for using this type of technology. If you can think of some other ideas please leave a comment. The GPS Sensor is an excellent addition to the full line of Vernier sensors that can be used with the LabQuest and begs teachers to think about innovative ways to use location based data collection tools in their classrooms'.

Project Planning in MindView 3

In a previous post, I had asked my readers to share their thoughts and ideas about project planning and management and mind mapping software. I had created a short 10 question poll about the issues and features that you are looking for in your mind mapping software and just how important and integral is project management to the tool. Not surprising a large percentage of the respondents felt that using mind mapping software for project planning was a very important reason for using the tool.

Earlier this week I posted a review of MindView 3 from Matchware, Inc. which focused on the mind mapping environment and thought that you would be interested in some of the unique project management features that are built into MindView 3 BE. With this in mind, I had a chance to take a look at MindView 3 Business Edition (BE) to see how it handles project planning. MindView 3 BE has project planning tools integrated into the mind mapping application and it is easy to go from mind mapping to the Gantt View with a single click. Once you are in the Gantt View you have a full range of tools at your disposal which you would come to expect from a project planning application. Once you go from the mind mapping view to the Gantt View MindView 3 now will treat your Main Topics as Summary Tasks and all your subtopics as your working tasks. In the Gantt View it is easy to set the Start Dates and the Duration for the task and watch the End Date automatically recalculate. MindView 3 BE lets you select the dates from the standard calendar picker which makes it easy to enter the data. You can link your Tasks as well as your Summary Tasks with the Linking tool that is provided in the Toolbar and watch as your Gantt chart is recalculated when changes are made. MindView 3 BE supports a number of common dependencies such as Start to Start, Start to Finish, Finish to Start, and Finish to Finish. To make changes to the type of dependency, simply double click on the link between the tasks and select the dependency type from the drop down menu. Entering task completion is easily accomplished by placing your cursor in the task bar and dragging the completion bar to the right. You could just as easily extend how long a task will take by clicking on the outer edge of the task and dragging to the right. MindView 3 is very responsive and changes are automatically updated. MindView 3 has several overall styles that you can apply to your Gantt chart as well as allowing you to fully customize individual tasks with your own color schemes if you so desire.

Setting up your resources for the project can be accomplished in several different ways. For small projects it is easy to just type in the name of your resource. For larger projects you can import your resources from you Address Book or from your Active Directory. There is also the option of importing your Resources from OpenMind, MindView, Microsoft Project and from MindManager. Once you have entered your Resources into your project you can allocate the Resource by selecting the resource from the Assign Resources dialog box. I would have liked to been able to select the Resource right within Resource area without the need to bring up another dialog box to do so.

Setting up the Project Calendar for the Project is quick and intuitive and allows you to define the standard work day as well as set days off for the project. Setting up non-default days was accomplished very quickly. It is important to understand the each Project Calendar is set up for each project that you are working on. It is not possible for MindView 3 to be able to share Resources among multiple projects you are tracking and so Resource leveling is not an option in this application. To view the Critical Path you simply click on the Critical Path button which is prominently located on the toolbar.

Setting up project costs within MindView 3 BE is accomplished by using the Calculation Panel. As you see in this Gantt Chart, I have set up three different branch values for each task; Labor Costs, Materials, and Total Costs. Once these values have been set up I can then click on any task and enter a dollar value. Using the formula tools within MindView 3 BE, I can also sum up the Total Costs which are based on adding the values of Labor Costs and Materials for each task. Creating the formula to do this was straight forward and intuitive. MindView 3 BE has a very powerful SUM tool that can be utilized to roll up all of the values in your project and provide you with and overall cost for your project. To get a sense of the power of the Calculations-simply use the Export to Excel Advanced feature to generate a fully formatted project cost analysis spreadsheet with all of the data in one place. You can also use the Project Reports tool that is found within the Gantt View to give you a number of key reports that you can generate on the fly. The Project Reports generates html files and opens your reports within the browser. You will find the reporting to be be very quick and easy to use.

When it comes time for sharing your Gantt chart you can easily print it out using the various formatting features found in MindView 3 BE or export your project to Microsoft Project if you like. You can easily export your Gantt view to a Picture file in a number of formats. I would have liked to see the ability to export to PDF within MindView 3 BE,, which is I believe the standard for file exchange.

For those situations when a Timeline will do to communicate the project, MindView 3 BE provides you with an alternative to the Gantt Chart. The Timeline environment is just a click away and is packed with features to help communicate your project tasks and goals. There are several ways to format your Timeline within MindView 3 to take advantage of both timelines and Gantt charts. This is a really handy tool to have access and gives you multiple ways to represent your project tasks. You will notice in the screenshot that you can also show the costs associated with each task.

MindView 3 BE gives you some easy yet powerful tools which lets you go from mind mapping to project planning with the click of the mouse. MindView 3 BE provides an intuitive and easy to use interface within the Gantt View to get your project planning done and on time. While the calculation feature provides some powerful reporting features it doesn't go far enough to help link the duration of the task with costs. I would have liked to been able to have my costs for the project keyed into the duration of the task and the cost as related to the resource being accessed so that MindView 3 could automatically calculate the current cost for the project. I believe that this is an area for improvement but it does not mar the effectiveness of the tool or the ability to work with calculations and the Excel Export to generate your project costing reports. All told, MindView 3 is a formidable mind mapping tool with strong timeline and project planning features.

Proloquo2Go Webinar

With the marvels of the Internet I was able to connect with David Neimeijer, from Assistiveware via Skype and began chatting with him about the impending release of Proloquo2Go. Proloquo2Go is a portable augmentative communication device that runs on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. Proloquo2Go is a very innovative, programmable and cost effective device that can be used with students to give them a "voice". As we were chatting, I asked David if he would mind giving my Assistive Technology Class and introduction to Proloquo2Go-but considering the time difference he thought that his partner Samuel Senott might be available to do it. Within minutes David, Samuel, and I were talking over Skype and setting up the impromptu webinar.

Using Skype, Samuel came into the classroom and introduced himself before we went into a GotoMeeting session. My students appreciated the chance to see Samuel and get a feel for the device before we went into our webinar session. Once in the webinar Samuel was able to show us the iPhone emulator and demonstrate to us first hand how Proloquo2Go will work. My students were really excited to see Proloquo2Go in action and could not believe just how easy it was to use and the quality of the speech. Some of my students were glad to find out the cost and really thought that the size and weight of the device were two very important features. Everyone really enjoyed just how flexible a tool Proloquo2Go is and are looking forward to its imment release on the Apple Store. I personally want to thank Samuel and David for making this happen and wish them the best on their new product launch.

Using the Pulse Smartpen with the Flip Notebook Paper

I received my Livescribe Flip Notebook Paper today via FedEx and was anxious to give it a try. Having a small flip notebook to use with the Pulse Smartpen will come in handy for taking notes and is light and small enough to carry around with me wherever I go. I tried out the new sized paper and when I tried to download it to the Livescribe Desktop software there was a little glitch. Just last week I had updated my pen with the latest firmware as well as updating the Livescribe Desktop software so I was surprised that I had a problem. The first sheet on the Flip Notebook paper reminds you to download the latest version of the software which I did in fact have. I called Livescribe Tech Support and got through to them very quickly and resolved the issue. By holding down the Control key and reinstalling the firmware update I was able to resolve the problem that I had. You can see the results of my handy work using the Flip Notebook at this link. Enjoy!

MindView 3 from Matchware-Part 1

I had a chance this past week to take a look at MindView 3 Business Edition, which is the latest offering from Matchware, Inc. MindView 3 is a full featured mind mapping application that is a significant upgrade from what used to be known as OpenMind 2. MindView 3, takes full advantage of Microsoft's Fluid Ribbon Interface and makes navigating, formatting, and working with your mind maps easy to jump into. MindView 3 is unique in that it offers the user a full featured mind mapping application as well as including project planning (GANTT charts) and Timeline views that are integrated into the application. I will speak more about these features in part 2 of my review.

When MindView 3 opens you can quickly start creating a new mind map, Outline, Timeline or Gantt chart from the template provided. There is also a complete library of mind map templates that are more specialized that you could start your map from. Once you select your mind map you are ready to get started to map your ideas. From within MindView 3 you can designate the style of the map that you would like to create and you have the option of creating a tradional map with your ideas radiating from the center and going out as well as selecting top-down and left/right maps. To get started you simply type you main idea and press the Enter key to have you ideas radiate from your central point at the same level. To create a sub-branch you can click on the Sub-branch icon on the ribbon or simply Press the Insert key on your keyboard. Generating your ideas moves quickly using the keyboard and within minutes you should be able to flesh out your mind map. Moving ideas on your mind map is easy and intuitive as the program gives you visual feedback along the way. With MindView 3 you can quickly add icons to your branches and sub-branches by selecting the branch and accessing the Icons from the Insert ribbon. This is a fair number of icons that when inserted will appear to the left of your idea in the branch or sub-branch. The icons cover prioritization, arrows, task completion, stars, and library of commonly used icons. You can also access a large library of clip art which can be searched from within MindView 3. Once you find the picture you are looking for you can drag it to the branch. Unless you are using a Floating Picture as it is referred to in MindView 3 the graphic will sit above the branch. While you can select the graphic and make it larger or smaller you can not place it as an inline graphic within the branch. You do have the option of bringing in any graphic of your choice as a Floating Picture which allows you to move the graphic anywhere on your map. Attaching multiple files and hyperlinks to your branches is straight forward and easily accomplisehd using the Ribbon interface. MindView 3 makes it easy to add text notes to your map and opens a large text window at the bottom of the screen to accomplish this. Using the text editor you have the freedom to format to your heart's content, as well as giving you the opportunity of inserting pictures, tables, and hyperlinks.

Formatting your mind map is very intuitive and easy within MindView 3 using the Design ribbon. Using the Design Ribbon you can quickly select from Layouts, Styles and Effects which can quickly let you format your map just the way you want to. To format the branches and sub-branches you will need to access the Properties menu from the View Ribbon to bring up the options. You can also add boundaries around your sub-branches and format them with a range of colors, gradients and fills to highlight certain areas of your map. When using MindView 3 for presentations you will find the Focus Mode and the Apply Branch Focus to be two very helpful features. If you have designed very large maps these two features help to bring your ideas into focus on the screen. The Focus Mode zooms in on your map and what you have selected and brings into focus the branch or sub-branch. Using the Apply Branch Focus will hide all of the other branches except the one you are focused on allowing you to zero in on your topic. Navigating through the two features is fast and intuitive. MindView 3 also has powerful filtering features which lets you set up rules for showing certain branches that meet the criteria. You can use Boolean logic to only show those items in your map that meet the criteria. If you have a designed a large map this feature will come in handy.

When it comes time share and distribute your map MindView 3 gives you lots of options to output your map. You can export your maps very quickly to the Microsoft Office Suite of tools including: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Project. I found the exporting to be very fast and clean with lots of options for tailoring the output. Each export gives you the option of doing a Quick or Advanced export depending on your need. MindView 3 supplies you with lots of Export templates to choose from to make your documents, presentations and projects come to life.

There is a lot to like about MindView 3- in no time you will be developing your mind maps complete with pictures, icons, and links. I found MindView 3, with the Fluid Ribbon Interface very easy to use and quick and responsive. With robust exporting to the Microsoft Office Suite, MindView 3 makes sharing and distributing your maps a cinch. In my next post, I will highlight the GANTT and Timeline feature that is built right into MindView 3 which really makes this a unique software application. Mindview 3 is a formidable mind mapping software application with a sweet spot for those who want built-in project planning tools. Look for Part 2 of this review that delves into the project planning, using calculations and the timeline features found within MindView 3.

Mind2Chart 1.5 for MindManager is released

We are glad to announce the release of an updated version of our project management add-in for MindManager, with new great features:

  • "always ON" mode: You no longer need to open the Gantt pane to have your plan updated while you edit. Mind2Chart recalculates its topics continuously to make sure that you always have correct information.

  • Task auto-rollup support: Mind2chart supports disabling editing of task information for group tasks - a new feature in MindManager 8. This allows visualizing group tasks on the map to show that this information is auto-calculated with Mind2Chart.
  • Save gantt as image: This feature gives you more flexibility on visualizing your plans - now you can save Gantt chart as an image and then print it with any scale you like, or put it on a webpage.

Although Mind2Chart is well-known for it's high performance, now it works up to 40% faster on bigger maps with complex dependencies.

Along with some fixes we have added improvements according to requests from our customers. In particular, now Mind2Chart saves the positioning and selection of columns in a Gantt view allowing you to customize Gantt according to your preferences.

A good news for existing Mind2Chart users - this upgrade is free of charge, simply install new version over the old one to get great new features. If you are not the Mind2Chart user yet - it is one more reason to try our add-in. Try now !

Project Management & Mind Mapping

For the past couple of years I have been following the mind mapping space and have watched it to evolve from a brainstorming tool to one that is becoming more closely aligned in the area of project planning and management. Over the years most of the mind mapping applications have either included project planning as an integral part of the application or have relied on third party developers to develop add-ins to the mind mapping software to bring project management features and functionality. Additionally, there are a number of software developers like AEC FastTrack 9 and Experience in Software-Project KickStart 5 who have made it very easy to move tasks and resources from mind mapping software to their standalone applications. I was interested in learning how you are using your mind mapping software for project planning and management and have put together this short poll. My colleague Wallace Tait and I are in the process of lining up some potential interviews for our podcasts and thought that your feedback would be helpful.

Click here to answer the Poll

Livescribe Releases New Paper Products

I thought that you would like to know that Livescribe has released three new paper pad products for the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. Here are the products with descriptions.

A. Flip Notepad, 4-Pack, Black Cover
A pocket-sized (3" x 5") flip notepad with a protective black cover makes it convenient for quick and easy note taking on the spot.

B. Paperblanks® Handtooled Mini Wrap Journal
Specially designed for the Pulse™ smartpen, this small and elegant journal is ideal for your everyday notes and fits easily in your pocket

C. Paperblanks® Black Moroccan Mini Wrap Journal
Specially designed for the Pulse™ smartpen, this small and elegant journal is ideal for your everyday notes and fits easily in your pocket.

Free Assistive Technology Webinar on April 29

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) & IDEA Recovery Funds for Services to Children & Youths with Disabilities will certainly have an unprecedented impact on practice and opportunities in the area of assistive technology in the schools. Will you and your school be ready when these funds hit your school? Four principles will guide the distribution and use of these dollars and include:

· Spend funds quickly to save and create jobs.

· Improve student achievement through school improvement and reform.

· Ensure transparency, reporting and accountability.

· Invest in one-time ARRA fund thoughtfully to minimize the “funding cliff.”

Likewise Congress has earmarked this money with some initiatives that are quite compelling:

· Obtain state-of-the art assistive technology devices and provide training in their use to enhance access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.

· Provide intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular education teachers that focuses on scaling-up, through replication, proven and innovative evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing and science, and positive behavioral supports to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.

· Develop or expand the capacity to collect and use data to improve teaching and learning.

· Expand the availability and range of inclusive placement options for preschoolers with disabilities by developing the capacity of public and private preschool programs to serve these children.

· Hire transition coordinators to work with employers in the community to develop job placements for youths with disabilities.

It is clear from this mandate that schools will need to be in a position to act quickly as they put their programs together for assistive technology and professional development. This is a tremendous opportunity for schools to think systematically about assistive technology and its broad implications for the students you work with. In this free webinar Dr. Friedlander will talk about the The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) & IDEA Recovery Funds for Services to Children & Youths with Disabilities in relation to students with mild to moderate learning disabilities and the role of professional development. So please join Dr. Friedlander on April 29th at 1:00 pm EST.

Please sign up for the webinar using the form that is located on the top of this blog page on the Right hand side. Space is limited for this webinar so sign up now! Once you sign up you will receive information about how to log into the session. Looking forward to your participation! Brian