Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Staying in Touch

One of the questions I often get is, "What is the deal with baking cakes in jars?" Well, it's just something neat I thought I would do for my daughter for her birthday. Truth is, I got the idea from a food blog I subscribe to. I showed my daughter and her face lit up. How could I not do it for her birthday? She loved the sand art effect. The sprinkles were her "signature touch." Her friends loved it to so win-win.

Another question I get involves how I stay current with assistive technology and the many developments in the AT world. It's not easy, but it's not impossibly complicated. Conferences are very handy for getting to actually see and play with everything. Conferences can serve as intensive training sessions. You can learn about something new, learn more about something you already knew a little about, or get a refresher on something you know but haven't dealt with in a while. They also give you a chance to meet like-minded sailors on the seas of AT! Some noteworthy AT conferences include Closing the Gap, CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, RESNA International Conference, and ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) conferences in Orlando and Chicago.

The bad thing about conferences is that they can be costly to attend. Between airfare, hotel, and conference fees, a conference can be a very expensive proposition. So another way I like to stay in touch with the developing world of assistive technology is by using blogs and podcasts. Blogs and podcasts allow you to get a wealth of information without attending costly conferences. My favorite AT blog and podcast, besides the Bargain Basement, is the A.T. TIPScast by Chris Bugaj. "A.T. TIPS" stands for Assistive Technology Tools In Public Schools so it focuses on AT for the educational setting. However, many of the tips are useful in other environments. Chris does a great job with both the blog and the podcast, keeping them very informative and even, dare I say it, FUN! The podcast episodes are nice and small "bite sized" information packets, giving you a quick AT info snack that's guaranteed to make you think and wanting to come back for more! The blog provides great support to the podcast, providing links to sites and information mentioned in the podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast from iTunes or using your favorite podcast manager. You can also listen to the episodes directly from the blog site http://attipscast.wordpress.com/. If you're trying to broaden your AT horizons, you can't go wrong with the A.T. TIPScast.

So you need some other options for keeping current on what's new in AT Land? Well, you can always check out the Assistive Technology Blog put together by the Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. It's got a lot of valuable information regarding different pieces of AT as well and issues brewing in the AT community, like the currently burning iPad debates

A great resource for information and Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Service (QIAT) website and e-mail list serve. I"m also a member of this list serve, and it's one of the only ones I have the patience to go through thoroughly. The discussions are always very informative and wide-ranging on topics from alternative access to print in schools to the use of auditory prompt devices for adults in the community. It's also a great place to ask AT-related questions and actually get them answered. The group is made up of a veritable who's who in assistive technology. Plus, they're just a great group of folks. I had the pleasure of meeting up with a bunch of members at the CSUN Conference in 2010. I had a great time and look forward to hanging out with them again. 

Numerous AT groups on Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Linkedin also provide a good means of staying current and of participating in discussions of practices and products. If you use Twitter, you can follow most of the major AT manufacturers as well as different people in the field to see what they're talking about, finding, trying, loving. You can also follow Charlie Sheen if you want to see who's "winning." You can also follow me on Twitter @mwilliamsAT if you are so inclined. 

The options are numerous and the sea of information is quite vast. the key is to hang on to the good information sources once you find them, tell the creators that you like the information, and share that resource with everyone. It's one of the best ways to keep the community strong, vibrant, and growing. 

What are some of your info sources? 

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