Tuesday, December 17, 2013

That Mac Can Do What?!!!

Last week, I had the great privilege to attend Accessibility training for Mac users.  I learned about a host of great options offered on the Mac that can improve usability for our special needs students, but I also learned a lot of great tips that can by used by all.  Most of the accessibility features are accessed through System Preferences > General > Accessibility.
Accessibility Features
By accessing the Display options, you can invert the colors, use grayscale, or adjust the cursor size.  These are fantastic options that may assist visually impaired students.  I have found the larger cursor size to be a feature that anyone might like.  It took me a few days to adjust, but I like that when I'm displaying my screen for others to see, it provides a larger cursor which makes the view easier for those trying to follow along.  This could be a valuable tool for any teacher.
There are a variety of adjustments that can be made to the zoom, voiceover, audio, keyboard, etc. For a bit more detailed descriptions, check out my notes from the session. 
Dictation and Text-to-Speech
Another feature that might prove useful is the dictation option.  Dictation software can be incredibly expensive, so I love that the Mac has a built-in dictation option.  This can be a great feature for anyone with limited hand control, but it's also great for efficiency for anyone.  The dictation option does require Wifi access, but once enabled allows you to speak in any application where you could type.  Typing is, of course, always still an option.
To enable, access through System Preferences > Dictation and Speech.
Select to turn the Dictation On.  The default shortcut will be to press the Function (fn) key twice.
Text to Speech can also be enabled in these same settings. 
Safari Reader and Summarize Features
We also learned about a few options that are part of the Safari browser, including the Reader and Summarize features.
The Reader option opens articles in a new page that is advertisement and junk free!  Note that this option is only available if you are actually in a text-based article.
Select the Reader on the right of your browser bar to get a clean article free of ads.  
If applicable, select Print and Open PDF in Preview to use annotation tools.
The Summarize feature allows you to access a summary of any text-based article. Because one of the Common Core standards is that students can objectively summarize texts, this feature could have some interesting classroom applications.  Students could read and summarize an article, then compare to the summary provided by Safari.  
You will likely need to enable the Summarize option. To do this, select Safari > Services > Services Preferences. Find the option to Summarize and checkmark.
To use the tool, highlight a section of an article or use Command+A to select the entire article.  
Adjust the summary size to increase or decrease the length of the summary.
I hope some of these options are useful for you and your students.  Feel free to contact any coach for support using any of these tools.



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