In The News: Part One – Top Tech Channels

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In The News:
Part One – Top Tech Channels 

As a tech enthusiast, I’m continually keeping updated on the tech news that not only interest me but improves my quality of life. Most mornings and late nights, I can be found searching for new videos and scrolling through apps to find the latest content. Today I want to share with you the YouTube channels that help me stay up to date with the latest news from the tech world.

My Top 5 Favorite YouTube Channels

  1. CNET– CNET is one of the most well-known technology media outlet, as it’s owned by CBS. This tops my list because of their “3:59 Podcast”, which they stream live on YouTube at 12 pm EST / 8 am PST Monday through Thursday.
  2. EverythingApplePro– As an Apple fan, I enjoy hearing the latest rumors and seeing concept renders. EverythingApplePro provides us with easy to understand reviews, rumors, and incredible renders.
  3. ZONEofTECH– ZONEofTECH is one of the largest tech influencers and channels in the UK. Daniel’s passion and knowledge of tech make this channel both entertaining and informative.
  4. Linus Tech Tips– Linus Tech Tips offers a wide variety of hardware, software and service tips, and reviews. Linus is my go to when I’m doing in-depth research on a non-Apple device or services, such as VPNs.
  5. Brian Tong– I have been following Brian Tong since his career as a reporter for CNET. Recently, he launched his own Youtube channel, keeping much of the same format from his former shows and podcasts. I appreciate his thoughts and insights into the world of Apple, and I find his Apple rating system very amusing.

Honorable Mentions – Tailosive Tech, Zollotechand iJustine

As I prepare to launch the Breaking Chains Tech Youtube channel, what channels do you follow and what qualities do you look for in one? Let me know in the comments below!

Redefining Assistive Technology: A Retrospective

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What does accessibility mean to you as it relates to technology? As I reflect on this question, I become increasingly convinced that the technological advancements, as well as the companies behind them, are not only redefining accessibility but bringing it into the mainstream. I’d like to take you on a journey through my extensive experience with adaptive technology and accessibility features to better express my reasoning behind this bold statement.

As we approach the 7th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 17th and as I prepare to speak at an Assistive Technology Professionals Learning Community meeting on May 18th, I want to take time to document for you my journey with assistive tech and how recent innovations have made it possible for me to replace adaptive equipment with consumer products, as well as how these consumer electronics have surpassed my previous equipment in terms of creating an accessible environment for living and working.

My Journey Towards an Accessible Life.

In order to understand my journey, we must start at the beginning. Due to complications at birth, I was born with a disability called Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP affects my muscle movement, which made activities of daily living extremely difficult. As I entered elementary school, my parents and therapists recognized that my greatest chance of success was for them to help me become proficient with a computer. Some of my earliest memories was getting my first Macintosh at my school desk and then a few months later, my dad bringing home a Power Macintosh 7100. In addition to the second school desk needed to hold such a massive desktop computer, I required specialized equipment and software to operate it. My interface of choice was a joystick with button guard and an onscreen keyboard with Co:Writer, a predictive text software. After a year of using the onscreen keyboard, I graduated to the Intellikeys keyboard with a keyguard. The Intellikeys was a large surface that had keyboard overlays with a number of layouts. My preference was the standard qwerty layout.

Although this became my setup until my high graduation, I was always a willing ginny pig for my therapists when it came to new technology. I tried devices ranging from Apple Newton to early versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking to feeding machines and Dynavox, a communication device. I settled on the Dynavox for a while but found that it was faster for me to say what I wanted to say, as most people find my speech intelligible. During college, I ditched all the adaptive equipment for a standard mouse and keyboard, paired with text prediction, when I could find a free trial. Did that make the thousands of dollars my family, state and school spent on adaptive technology a waste? Absolutely not! With every new desktop, laptop, pre iPad era tablet, and assistive device that I tried, it not only built my competency with a device that aided in helping me become a productive member of society, but it also improved my motor skills so that I could progress to a more normalized setup.

Redefining Accessibility and Adopting Consumer Electronics

Until a year ago, I had a very narrow view of what accessibility was and a love-hate relationship with the product developers. My idea of accessible technology was hardware and software created specifically to help individuals with disabilities but often made unavailable to them due to ridiculously high prices. This ideology began to fade away when I saw Apple host a week devoted to accessibility at their headquarters in Cupertino last May. During this week, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, remarked in interviews with Youtube Creators with disabilities that accessibility is essentially democratizing technology, so it’s easily used by everyone. Cook went on to talk about how he views Apple Watch and Homekit with home automation as accessibility features. This idea not only peaked my interest but set me on a course of redefining what accessibility means to me.

Shortly after I encountered that short series of interviews on Youtube, I began to move into a home office, which allowed me to design my ideal set up. As I began researching and planning my new workstation, my priorities were performance and ease of access. Due to the revelation in the video, I started to look at what consumer products would positively impact my workflow and activities of daily living. Let’s begin the heart of my current set up, the 2017 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Although the internet trolls love to dismiss the Touch Bar as half-baked or entirely unnecessary, I knew it would be a game changer for me! The Touch Bar had finally made text prediction a native feature and put it right at my fingertips, as they had done on my iPhone. I no longer need to search for a free trial or pay another $300 for text prediction software that covers a portion of my desktop. This feature also allowed me to use some of my state services to pay for a new work computer.

In addition to my laptop and desk setup, I also have three devices that I keep close to me at all times. The first two I will talk about in conjunction, as they run same system software. I use an iPhone Plus model as well as a 12.9 inch iPad Pro. In 2015 when Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus, I was thrilled as up to that point my options for phones were a flip phone or a Galaxy Note. Due to my lack of fine motor skills, I can’t effectively use a touchscreen that is less than 5.5 inches. I often use my iPhone and iPad to communicate when I am on the go. The iPad Pro has been great for responding to emails, taking notes during meetings, reading Kindle and iBooks, and displaying my speech outline when speaking to companies. The other device is a wearable device. Although I had a lot of skepticism when the Apple Watch was first released, I adopted the series 2 because of a Groupon special a year ago. My interest was sparked by meeting other people with cerebral palsy who were able to use the watch. I am now on the series 3 watch, and I love it. If I don’t have it on, I almost feel naked. The ability to look at my wrist and accept or deny calls, screen text messages, and decide if I need to pull my phone out of my pocket has been an enormous help. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to take the phone of my pocket.

Next, let’s explore my implementation of smart home devices, and home entertainment, as these systems have impacted multiple aspects of my life. Currently, the core products in my smart home set up are Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot, Logitech’s Harmony Hub, Phillips Hue, and an August Lock. Although Alexa can only understand my speech about 20 percent of the time, the routines available in the app are worth the investment. I’ve also used a text-to-speech app on my iPhone 8 Plus to communicate with Alexa, which would be very useful for people who are non-verbal. By using routines in the Alexa app, I am able to schedule my Phillips Hue lights to turn off and on automatically at certain times of the day or when I leave the house. The implementation of Phillips Hue has allowed me to use all kinds of lamps and switches that were not accessible to me before. Because of my limited hand function, I could not turn or grasp most switches on standard lamps.

My Logitech Harmony Hub has also integrated with lighting throughout my house, particularly in my bedroom. With the recent addition of the smart light and plug button on the Harmony remote, I can control all my lights in my room with a touch of a button. Prior to the ability to do this, I often would knock over my bedside lamp when I would turn it on or off, due to my often jerky movement. In addition to controlling lights, the Harmony Hub has also allows me to control all of my entertainment devices on a remote with decent size buttons.

While we are talking about home entertainment, one product that I consider to be a big player in my ability to be independent is Plex. Plex is a media server software that allows you to store and stream your media from a dedicated server on your network. Plex has allowed me to have all of my movies and TV shows, that I have collected over the years on Blu-ray and DVD, at a touch of a button via a streaming device, in my case an Apple TV. Before Plex, I destroyed many discs just by attempting to insert them into a player. Moreover, if I didn’t break the disc, it would be a workout to insert them, to say the least. With my Plex setup, I am able to have my family or my assistant insert the disc for me one time so that I can transfer the file to my media server.

The last device in my home setup, as well as the newest,  is the August lock. I have never been able to put a key in a door. In fact, during college, the university had to change all of the doorknobs to my on-campus housing to allow my house to be unlocked. It definitely wasn’t the safest solution; however, it was the only solution available six years ago. The ability to unlock my door with my phone has been not only convenient for myself and my family but also safer as we can now lock the door when I am out by myself.

In conclusion, my experience with assistive technology has been vast and has served me well over the years. Although my prior thought process about technology was accurate ten years ago, I am thrilled with my new view of consumer electronics being accessibility products as well. I applaud companies such as Apple and Google who are being intentionally mindful of people with different needs and abilities. I have always been a tech geek, but I can honestly say that I am excited to see what these companies will release in the next several years to improve the quality of life for myself and other individuals with disabilities.

What’s in My Desk Setup?

Not Pictured

Breaking Chains – Episode 04 – Allan Wich

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Breaking Chains Podcast – Episode #3 – Allan Wich on Vimeo.

Blake interviews Allan Wich who is an author, coach, and co-host of the Think Bold, Be Bold podcast. Please join Blake and Allan as they discuss challenges that they’ve overcome and how they are using those experiences to be relatable in their personal and professional relationships.

Allan is the founder of the Prospecting Mastery Institute, Meridian Coaching, co-author of the book ‘The Change’, author of the book ’10 Pillars of Recruiting Mastery’ and author of the book ‘Leaving An Impression’. Though best known for my team and business development expertise coupled with personal coaching within architecture, real-estate development, dot.com start-up and the SOHO communities, he strives to continually be a needle mover within the industry of network marketing because of my desire to help elevate the entire industry and its reputation upon the mindset of the general public as well as traditional business sectors.

Allan assists Entrepreneurs (including MLM Distributors & Direct Sellers) and start-ups to create and position their relevance and relate-ability on the top of their industry. Allan also mentors business owners, ‘needle movers’ and those with a student mindset.

You can contact Allan through these mediums:

facebook.com/AllanWichFan
twitter.com/allan_wich
clarity.fm/allanwich
allanwich.com

Email: allan@allanwich.com
Phone: (503) 849-4615

Follow the “Think Bold, Be Bold” podcast on iTunes:
itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/think-bold-be-bold/id1065247346?mt=2

Breaking Chains: Episode 03 – Building Self-Esteem – Part 2

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A quick note from Blake

My apologies for taking so long to post the next topic in our series on inclusive environments. During the month of September, I was traveling and focusing on the nonprofit ministry that I direct, Young Life Capernaum – Portland East. That being said, I am excited to continue our conversations with this post about social development.

Are we fostering healthy self-esteem in children and adolescents today?

In the last post, we talked about the effect inclusive environments have on a child’s academic development. Today, I want to look at the impact that an inclusive classroom has on their social development with their peers and their self-esteem.

A study in 1999 by Hughes found that teacher-student relationships can have a significant effect on peer perceptions of other students. Therefore, by having kids with disabilities working alongside mainstream kids, having teachers treat them and include them just as they do their peers, has a huge impact on their social development and how their social interaction takes place.

I have seen this play out during my consulting with Portland Public Schools. In the last post, I talked about my friend, who is a 4thand 5th-grade teacher, and how she, as well as her colleagues, adapt assignments to provide opportunities for kids with disabilities to succeed. In addition, her interaction with the kids with disabilities has changed the perception of their mainstream friends. As a point of reference, kids with disabilities have often been associated with labels, such as “Special Ed” or “Life Skills.” However, in my friend’s classroom, because mainstream kids are able to work alongside kids with disabilities, they started referring to them as friends. I find it fascinating that although kids have dropped those labels for their peers, they still apply them to specialized teachers. I believe this is attributed to the sense of (or lack of) connectedness they feel with an individual.

Social inclusion, as it relates to development, is so important to our success. In most cases, adults say that social interaction in school had a greater impact on who they’ve become than academia. It is in school that we really learn to work with people and how to treat people. This prepares us to enter the professional world. An inclusive academic environment can have a lifelong impact on kids with disabilities by providing them with the social skills required to hold a job. In addition to setting people with disabilities up for success, it teaches the broader community how to work with and appropriately communicate with them.

As I stated at the beginning, it starts with adults. Adults need to model how to interact with different types of people in an inclusive environment. It is not enough just to talk about it, we have to live it out. Let’s commit to building an attitude of perseverance and inclusion with our coworkers, friends, and students.

If you are practicing inclusion in your classroom or in your life, please email me at feedback@blakeshelley.com and let me know how you’re modeling this concept of social inclusion.

Next, we are going to be talking about the role of sports and other extracurricular activities in promoting self-esteem and inclusion. Until then, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. Most importantly sign up for my newsletter at blakeshelley.com

Thank you again for coming on this journey of encouraging an attitude of perseverance.

Breaking Chains: Episode 02 – Building Self-Esteem – Part 1

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Watch on PodOmatic

Are we fostering healthy self-esteem in children and adolescents today?

The next couple posts are an inside look into a chapter from my upcoming book, “Breaking Chains: Encouraging an Attitude of Perseverance and Inclusion,” which is about building healthy support systems. With the school year just around the corner, I wanted to take the time to thank and encourage all of the educational assistants, teachers, and administrators who pour their lives and knowledge into our young people.

Today, I am writing a post about how an inclusive academic environment helps build self-esteem. Now a couple notes before we begin. This post is meant to be an overview of the topic of academic inclusion. I literally could spend hours talking about academic inclusion, but I am just going to highlight some of the key things that I feel are important.

Although this post is aimed at education professionals, it can be applied to anyone who has children, grandchildren or cares for children.

Now, let’s dive in. If we work with kids, all of us have a responsibility. Our responsibility is to help guide them through their academic and social development. This is extremely important, especially if we are working with kids with disabilities. We have the power to make a huge impact on what they think about themselves and what they can accomplish.

I want us to ask ourselves, “Are we doing our best to cultivate an inclusive environment or are we just skating by?”

In recent years, universities have begun studying the impact of an inclusive environment on children’s success. All of the results have found that there are many benefits to an inclusive based model. However, despite all of the statistics, there is one alarming fact. The fact is in the US we have 56% of our kids with disabilities in segregated classrooms. They are not getting any interaction with mainstream peers or mainstream teachers.

In my opinion, this is a mistake as we may be holding them back from reaching their full potential.

Let’s take a minute and look at what is involved with an inclusive model.

We need to figure out a way to motivate kids with disabilities, as well as mainstream kids. How do we do this?

In a study by Muller, Katz, and Dance, they state that motivation is closely linked to a student’s perceptions of a teacher’s expectations. This means that if the teacher held them to a higher expectation, they were more motivated to achieve. If we have an inclusive model, it will help us hold all kids to a higher standard.

From my experience, I have learned in order to have an effective inclusion model, we need to have collaboration between kids, Special ED teachers, mainstream teachers, and parents. It is like the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” In this case, that is exactly what it takes. We need people working together and discussing how to make kids successful. Through people working together, we can create a plan for them to succeed.

For the past couple years, I have been consulting with a 4th/5th-grade teacher in the Portland Public School District. I believe that she and her colleagues have done a really nice job of including kids and helping them succeed. Last year, she had 4 kids who were life skills students, 3 of which were heavy minute students, in her classroom. She gave them an assignment to create a report about a state in the form of a book. It had to include drawings and information about what the state is known for, such as animals, landmarks, and history. To help the students with disabilities, she and her team printed off a template. (See images below.) She also let them copy a sentence from the resources they read. Those were the only accommodations. After completing this assignment, they presented their State report in front of the class, their Special ED teacher, and the mainstream teacher. This presentation included spelling the name of their state, which is no easy task in some cases. It just shows what kids can do when you hold them to higher standards.

coco2

Another reason for an inclusion model is that it builds self-esteem and academic performance of mainstream kids. In a recent Vanderbilt study, mainstream kids that were in an inclusive classroom environment scored 15 grade points higher than their peers who were not in a class with kids who had disabilities. This shows that mainstream kids also benefit from an inclusive environment, as it increases their academic performance. This is due to the fact that they have a desire to understand the content so that they can help their friends with disabilities grasp the concept.

Adaptive Technology, what is it’s role in the classroom? I just want to go on record, I love adaptive/assistive technology! It has helped me throughout school and into my career. In fact, I still use a version of Co:Writer when I type, just to make it easier. I just want to pose a question for us to think about as it relates to technology. Are we using technology as a tool or are we using is as the primary source of teaching?

There is a fine line between giving a kid an iPad to help them grasp a concept in class and giving a kid an iPad and hoping the iPad will teach them. In my opinion, technology is a great tool, but it can never replace that one-on-one interaction with the teacher and other students. There is a lot of benefits when is comes to technology. However, I will save that for a later post.

In conclusion, I just want to pose the question, “Are we doing the best we can to cultivate an environment where kids are included and being provided the opportunity to learn alongside their mainstream peers?”

In the coming weeks, we will be looking at how this impacts social development and the impact of extracurricular activities on self-esteem.

If you are interested this topic or if you are an inclusive teacher, shoot me an email and tell me what you are doing this year to create an inclusive environment. Email me at feedback@blakeshelley.com

As a reminder, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and go to blakeshelley.comand sign up for my mailing list. As a bonus for signing up, I will send you an excellent Ted Talk related to this subject.
I am excited that you have chosen to come on this journey with me of Encouraging an Attitude of Perseverance and Inclusion.

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