Sam Sennott of All Together We Can posted today about a nifty little thing called Siftables (look here too). Let's talk SMART boards on speed that fit in your pocket! Awesome! I love the section of the TED video (which you should check out because they are always interesting) where the little boy is playing with them and creating his own story. I immediately thought of the possibilities for several of my students.
One student has yet to "find her voice" using voice output and is just barely grasping the concept of requesting wants/needs with symbol cards; she'd pick it up in a snap with these (pun intended). She loves to fiddle with things and often uses fiddling to make her selections (desired selections are held onto and fiddled more intensely; undesired are fiddled briefly then dropped). Imagine what she would do if her choice spoke when she picked it up or fiddled it for a preset period of time.
Another student would be far more motivated to work on academic tasks if he got to play with such cool "toys." And interfacing with a computer screen or the Smart board or whatever would just add to the allure, not to mention provide him with very interesting access. Sorting, matching, vocabulary, sight words, counting,...
What about having a series of "menu" Siftables (eat--bathroom--toys--say something--need help); when one is selected the others immediately switch to related vocabulary (eat would result in food choices, etc.).
What about eye gaze selectors or those using head tracking? Could they be configured to respond to an infrared or other input so they could be mounted to an eye gaze board? Much more adaptable for some kids than a simple computer screen.
How about building sentences by stacking the words? Or putting together a sequence that the Siftables then "perform" in a cartoon, either messing up or stalling if the sequence is incorrect so the student can try again?
Teaching emotions and interactions, especially for kids who tend to be disengaged from typical social cues. What happens when you pinch someone? What should you do when someone says "hello?"
And think about the possibilities in multisensory spaces: build your own mood light (aka "blinky lights" in my room), make your own music, a combination of both, set them to activate various sensory items (fan, scents, CDs, disco ball, etc.), and so on.
Now, I don't know how these would be accessible to switch users or those with vision impairments. But, since they have wireless technology I'm sure the switch access could be worked out. And maybe tactile cues could be added to the cases for those with vision issues. Or maybe vibration or ??? And for those with fine motor issues, I'm betting they could be made larger, although the current size seems pretty manageable to me. I'd bet the Siftables creators could come up with all kinds of solutions.
And these ideas are relatively simple "inside the box" applications thanks to my currently overloaded brain which is fighting creativity. Now I want to know cost and availability and where I can get my hands on some! You know I don't buy all these "toys" for the students, don't you? That's just my excuse! In any case, I look back at what we had available for instructional and assistive technology even just 20 years ago (can you believe I went to college WITHOUT the internet?!!!) and am amazed at how far we've come. Where will we be next year? In five? In 20? Wow!