Monday, July 6, 2015

Using the Briefcase Concept to Organize Your Animated Step-by-Steps

When the need for AAC supporting materials is great within an organization, a master plan is required for cataloguing materials in a way that makes them readily accessible to the team, increases use and minimizes duplicity of effort. As you add more and more Animated Step-by-Step files to your curriculum, you will, no doubt, want to organize them in a way that allows you to …

  • know at a glance what Animated Step-by-Step files reside in your digital library
  • know what files are related and pair well to foster a deeper understanding of various concepts or alternately using them to fill in the ‘down time’ , e.g., while waiting for that water to boil, waiting for the paint to dry. 
  • be able to easily launch/open the Animated Step-by-Step file that you select.
  • keep everyone informed about what AAC materials have already been gathered or created to support that file, thus minimizing duplicity of creative effort within the organization.

If your organization is vested in the use of consistent materials such as the Animated Step-by-Steps (i.e., recipes crafts, poems/songs AND even science projects) there must be a way to make your resources available in a format that promotes frequent and efficient use. The solution  … the Briefcase Approach. This is an approach previously used to organize a broad array of materials reflecting a Theme or Project, e.g., Native American Theme, Bread Theme, Community Garden Theme.  In today’s post we will be talking about how you can use the same concept to organize your Animated Step-by-Steps files.

      Depicted below is the ‘launch component’ for four briefcases designed to organize files that fall in the categories of Animated Step-by-Step Recipes, Crafts, Poems/Songs and Science Projects. As you will see, these Briefcases are designed with lots of ‘room for growth’ allowing you to add content over time.
      Each of these four color-coded files consists of a central ‘briefcase’ icon (labeled according to its content), surrounded by 16 buttons, each labeled with 2 (sometimes 3) letters. If you wish to launch the Cranberry Sauce file, you would select the CD button. Upon opening the ‘CD page’ you would find an array of 8 buttons each displaying a picture of a recipe beginning with either the letter C or the letter D.

      As you can see, Cranberry Sauce appears out of alphabetical order. Initially I was constantly reshuffling buttons whenever I added a new file to the Briefcase. That proved to be too much work for the minor inconvenience of less than perfect alphabetical order. Now I make a goal of  re-alphabetizing the content about every 6 months. 

      You will note on the above image that page ‘CD1’ includes a small arrow at the bottom right of the page. That arrow will navigate you to page ‘CD 2’ (yet to be filled with content). The xxxxxx are mere place holders for the labels. The small arrow on the bottom left of page ‘CD2’ will move you back to page ‘CD1’. The larger blue arrow on the top left of the page will send you back to the initial ‘recipe launch page’.

      When a school adopts a shared responsibility for creating content to support their Animated Step-by-Step files (see previous posts 06-15 & 06-22-15), it is important to know what has already been created to avoid duplicity of effort.

      The blue bar above each button is designed to navigate to a page that provides information on what other Animated Step-by-Step files pair well with that file and also to provide information on what AAC materials have been created thus far to support that file. Again the content created often reflects the ‘classroom devices’ and ‘personal devices’ being used in your school or agency. Remember we are developing materials as a team with the intent of long-term use within the organization.

      Now the big question … what software program will allow you to create Animated Step-by-Step Briefcases?

      There are two main kinds of Briefcases that you could build:

1    Local Launch

      If you are creating a Briefcase that will be used only on your classroom computer, PowerPoint, Smart Notebook or ActivInspire Software are great options to use as they allow you to program the button to navigate to a folder and open the target file. If the Briefcase is shared across several classrooms, it needs to be physically placed on each computer (ideally in the same location within the computer).

      The Local Launch option has the advantage of allowing you to use software that may be already available in your school/agency. The disadvantage, however, is the time-consuming task of updating the Briefcase on a computer-by-computer basis (whenever a new file is added to the Briefcase).   

2    Network/Cloud Launch 

      When using a network/cloud launch, each computer in the school or agency is set up to communicate with a network or cloud version of a program, such as Classroom Suite (AbleNet). Although I have not used the Cloud version of  Classroom Suite, I have had great success with the earlier Network version of Classroom Suite.  The network/cloud version of Classroom Suite will allow the entire team to easily access the files at their leisure from computers anywhere on the network. When a file is updated on the master software it is automatically updated everywhere. Here are a few examples of how the entire team can benefit from using a Network/Cloud based Briefcase.

  • An Occupational Therapist might wish to access the Baggie Butterflies Craft file to better plan how she will address the motor requirements for the proposed lesson at 11 in Mrs. Jennings classroom.

  • A speech-language pathologist might wish to provide a student with some advance exposure to the supplemental symbols that will be used when the class makes Butter, in Mr. Clarke’s Kindergarten.
  • The Vision Specialist might access the Animated Step-by-Step Poems Briefcase to check out the On Top of Spaghetti Poem to better delineate what tangible objects she might need to gather to better support a student with severe visual challenges.
  • The school’s Material Prep Volunteer might access the poem,  Albuquerque Turkey to delineate the rhyming words for which she needs to create Dual=Representation Symbols (symbol on one side=printed word on the flip side).

The bottom line
: the Network/Cloud Launch version allows everyone on the team to better prepare students to participate more fully in the learning experience.
      At the beginning of this post I indicated that the Briefcase approach was originally used to organize a broad range of digital materials (writing files, reading files, math files) under a shared theme. It is important to note, an Animated Step-by-Step file may appear in more than one Briefcase. The Planting file, for example, might appear in both an Animated Step-by-Step Science Project Briefcase AND a Community Garden Briefcase that also focuses on the care of plants.
      Although you can certainly house your files in a digital folder and use the icon view to display them, a format such as the Briefcase Approach is a better way to visually organize your files while simultaneously helping the team remember what files 'pair well' and what supporting AAC materials have been created. If this promotes more frequent use ... chances are we will be richly rewarded with student progress. 

      ...  ’til the next post   (new posts every Monday; consider being a follower!)

© 2015  Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.


What’s in Your AAC Briefcase?

Presented at the 13th Biennial International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Conference held in Montreal, Canada on August 7th, 2008. (with N. Rosalie)

Presented as part of the Tech Fair at JCC in Manhattan on March 22nd , 2009.
Presented as part of the 2009 Edwin Eddy Lecture sponsored by the University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN on May 30th,  2009.

Invited workshop for the Indiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 9th, 2010.

Presented at the 29th Annual Closing the Gap Conference held in Minneapolis, MN on October 12th, 2011.

Workshop presented at the Alabama Speech and Hearing Association Annual Conference in Birmingham, Alabama on March 11th , 2010.