Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Old Stuff

End of the year is when I have more time in my hands and this year, I am rather happy with what I have been able to learn. These are my current preoccupations.... and they left me rather exhausted, mentally on most days, but the time was well spent.

What started as a goal to teach my gal Science in Mandarin developed into quite an interesting journey of discovery... and it's still evolving. I still can't read very well but with the right tools, I have been able to plod on. And so, it was with much amusement to myself when I decided that I would try to do mind maps to help me teach her concepts and ideas. Another search in earnest and I came across this after trying out a few other mind mapping apps. IThoughts HD....
Making the maps was the easy part! LOL! I used to make such notes when teaching my boy, but they were done on desktops; with Visio and then later Smart Draw in a language I was totally familiar with. I moved on to Concept Draw when I switched over to Mac. So, it wasn't something new, the mind mapping. Trying to remember and read the Mandarin characters were the tasks which gave me lots of headaches! But this app is cool because I can expand and collapse the callouts. And to make it even more PPSMI friendly, I did it in 2 languages! ... all on one single page. 8)
When Other Half showed me his discovery what the iPad was able to do for the blind, another door opened to me; the half blind in Mandarin. I can always depend on support and new discovery from Other Half... 8) And it was also then I understood why Stevie Wonder thanked Steve Jobs for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. And it met my needs too. The beauty was in the Voice Assist function. For the visually impaired, the Voice Assist together with the Assistive Touch functions enable them to navigate the seemingly impossible tablet screen and empower them greatly.

Having volunteered my time for a visually impaired friend during my varsity years makes me appreciate these functions even more because as I worked with him, I understand the limitations posed by their lack of sight. But it also made me aware I of the technology involved and how it has evolved over the years. For the visually impaired, they depended a lot on the sighted to read for them. But the computer age changed all that. By the time I graduated, I remember seeing scanners and computers at the library for the use of the visually impaired. Scan and OCR and there were softwares that could read for them. It freed them of the need for us, the readers.

When I helped to set up a computer lab for the visually impaired students some years back, equipment had to be procured from the States. They had been some improvements but they were still cumbersome to use. The iPad is liberating.... and I think Apple did good in making sure that this technology works so well for them, even though the visually impaired group is a small one. Apple deserves one up for this effort.... Kudos to Jobs! I tried navigating without the help of my sight and found that I could.... Amazing!

With Voice Assist, I can make the iPad read for me as many time as I want the words in the mind maps too! That's as good as any teacher I'll get for sure. The iPad has enabled me, with a half-baked command of Mandarin to do the mind maps! Awesome!!! I would not have dreamt of this 5 years ago!
The next project that I embarked on was database, for next school year. I wanted a database for class management, so that I can manipulate and call up the information that I want at my whims.... 8) I used HanDbase many years ago on my Palm. But what greeted me this time was more exciting. Through trial and error I discovered that I could do many things with it. Me, who knows very little about database building could get it to work.... LOL! Of course, I was feeling rather pleased. I thought with age, our learning slows down. These days, I am beginning to realize that it's our attitude that counts more than anything...
And so, I plodded, tried and retried... until I managed to get it going. I am now able to get forms out... will try it out next year! And improve on it.
I capture this screen weeks ago... found it amusing that it is so polite in apologizing to me about the slow speed, which wasn't even the app's fault to begin with! And that's one of the thing I like about Apple... they pay attention to the small details, which sometimes don't seem important but is able to bring out a smile from you in a moment of utter frustration when a page doesn't load.


Thomas C B Chua said...

AJ7 "MERDEKA" for you for 7 weeks. You deserve the break !!! Lengthen your list of things to complete before you go back to the mill again in 2012, 9 hour day.

AJ7 said...

9 hour fortunately is not on test run here..... 8)

But yes! Am super glad for the end of the year break... Looking forward to some lazy mornings .....

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