So today I was reminded of the power of Twitter. Let me set the stage a little. On Wednesday, the Open eBooks app was released and promised to bring digital materials to Title 1 schools and Special Education teachers through the #GoOpen initiative focusing on Open Educational Resources (OER). (Want to read the article from Edsurge -here it is. The White House and Michelle Obama Release $250 million “Open eBooks” App for Title 1 and Special Education Teachers)
So working in AT and interacting with students with print disabilities daily – I was pretty excited for this announcement. Now we would have another option for providing engaging digital content to our students. And with the app, the hope was to be able to use all the mobile device built in accessibility features to provide AEM to our students. I have been following this new initiative for months now – Open Education Resources and the promise of access to open, readily available digital materials. Several times on-line, I have commented that #GoOpen must include accessibility supports for all learners.
Well today I took some time to install the Open eBooks app and installed several books to explore the available features. Let’s review: app installed – check. Books requested – check. Codes installed in iOS app and books downloaded – check. All seemed to be moving in the right direction until I tried to use the Speak Selection built in accessibility setting in iOS. And……it didn’t work. OK – maybe I missed something. Went through the settings, did some adjustments and…..I was able to get Speak Screen to work! Well, it kinda worked. It was reading but not highlighting.
Not quite what I was hoping for and I took to Twitter to chat with my PLN about this. I was instantly messaged by Chris Bugaj and Marvin Williams. What followed was an on line conversation that spanned several hours where Marvin and I worked to troubleshoot this problem. 20 Direct messages later – we had tried several ideas. Thought of ways to crack this app and make it work on a PC (it involved the use of Blue Stacks to run the Android app on a PC. Then we thought to use either Snap and Read or Text Help Read Write to read the text. Wish I could report good news on this front – but as of this writing Blue Stacks crashed my PC and I haven’t gotten it back yet!!)
It is important to point out – Marvin and I live on the two coasts of the US. I am in NJ and Marvin is in California. We haven’t spent any time face to face but through social media we managed to have a deep, technical conversation where we generated powerful ideas to solve problems.
Anyone who tells you Twitter is a waste of time is missing the big picture. Without Twitter, I don’t meet Marvin. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have been able to brainstorm solutions that could benefit my students. Without Twitter – I wouldn’t be the AT professional I am today.
Thanks to Marvin! Make sure to follow him on Twitter (@mwilliamsAT) to make him part of your PLN too.
While you are at it – make sure to join us on Twitter every Wednesday night at 8PM Eastern for #ATchat Share your insights – we can all make each other better!