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Friday, October 31, 2014

OSMO Develops Verbal Reasoning, Sequential, Spatial, and Critical Thinking Skills


Being a personal trainer for the brain, I am always looking for multisensory tools that can develop the different cognitive processing areas.  A few months back, a saw a video promotion for OSMO and I was hooked.  I preordered OSMO and recently received my materials.  I'm happy to say that it has exceeded my expectations!


What Exactly is OSMO?
OSMO is a wonderful tool that brings iPad activities into the real world.  This new technology utilizes the space in front of the iPad to take games off the screen.  The use of a base and a reflective camera, allows players to interact with three game-like apps.  Drawings and physical objects are captured by the device and transported back onto the screen.  The product also provides actual tangram shapes as well as letter tiles that can be used in the activities.  Once the apps are downloaded, there is no need for the internet to play the activities.

What Do I Get When I Purchase OSMO?
OSMO comes with three, neat and well-designed boxes that magnetically snap together.  One box holds the base and reflective device that slips onto the iPad.  The other two boxes hold manipulatives for two of the games. Otherwise, directions guide the buyer on how to set up your own iPad by going to a web address and then downloading three free apps. The set up was quick and simple. 

Tell Me More About the Three Activities?
There are three games offered by the company:  Newton, Tangrams, and Words:


  • Newton: This game develops spatial reasoning skills, visual-spatial abilities, and executive functioning.  The object of this game is to divert a falling ball to one or more targets. Players can do this by first placing a piece of paper or a dry erase board in front of the OSMO and either drawing or placing objects onto this surface.  These drawing or objects then appear on the iPad screen, diverting the ball to the target. 
  • Tangram: This game develops visual spatial abilities, nonverbal reasoning, fine motor skills, and executive functioning. Wooden puzzle pieces can be arranged in the playing field, challenging players to match images projected on the iPad.  The game guides players through the process and slowly reveals a map of more difficult puzzles.
  • Words: This game develops verbal reasoning skills, sequential processing and decoding abilities.  Images are projected on the iPad to serve as word clues.  Players can then place letter tiles in the playing field to guess the possible word. Players can play individually or they can compete against another player. The game gets progressively more difficult as play continues. Best of all you can upload your own words and images to make this game applicable to current academics.  What a wonderful way to practice spelling or vocabulary words!

What About the Future of OSMO?
  • The designers claim that they have plans to create more interactive games if the company grows.  I can't wait to see what they come up with next!
  • OSMO has even caught the eye of Apple.  Apple will be featuring it on their website.  
  • I contacted the company to ask whether I could create separate student profiles.  It is not possible at present, but they said that they are already working on this feature and hope to release it soon. 
Where Can I View a Video of OSMO? 


How Can I Purchase  OSMO?
Click Here or on the following link:
I would love to hear your thoughts about OSMO and learn about your experiences with this new, awesome device.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Problems Using Academic Assignments or Homework as a Punishment


In the heat of the moment, it is not uncommon for both teachers and parents to assign academic work as a consequence to inappropriate behaviors.  In addition, pleasurable breaks such as recess are often withheld when students are being unruly or they don't complete classwork.  A punishment might involve a writing assignment, extra math problems or additional homework.

Why is This a Problem?
The issue with this method is that children associate negative consequences and punishments with academics.  So, for example, if Patty was told to write an essay because she exhibited inappropriate behaviors, the next time she has to write for a school assignment, she will likely associate the negativity she was feeling to writing in general.  In another instance, if Nick had to stay in from recess because he didn't get his assignment done, he will learn to dread future assignments.

What are Some Better Ways to Handle Unruly Behaviors?
  1. Ignore bad behaviors and reward positive behaviors.  Surprisingly, many kids learn negative behaviors. For example, a child can learn that complaining and whining can get them what they want if someone at sometime gave into their demands.  In addition, if a child only gets attention when misbehaving, they may choose that negative attention is better than no attention at all.  So make a conscious effort to change this cycle and praise all positive behaviors with rewards, verbal appraisals and benevolent attention. 
  2. Use the Opportunity to Lead a Discussion and Lesson on Social Skills.  Interrupt the unruly behaviors and have a calming heart to heart discussion with your child or children.  If necessary, give a "timeout" where all involved spend 3-5 minutes sitting quietly to calm nerves. If it is a classroom, have the class sit in a circle.  Take some deep breaths and encourage the participants to let their bodies relax. Next, see if the students can identify the problem and then ask them to suggest solutions.  If they are a part of creating the solution, they are more likely to make the right decision the next time the situation repeats.
  3. Allow Kids to Earn the Things They Want.  Many children are given all the things they desire without having to work for it.  If however, children earn their belongings, they will value these items more and take pride in their accomplishments.
Let's Flip the Coin and Associate Pleasantries with Learning
Clearly, we need to help students feel positive about learning.  Therefore, making an effort to associate academics with joy and fun is best.  What can we do to nurture this positive association?
  1. Integrate games into the learning process.
  2. Come up with fun and enticing names for lessons.
  3. Go multisensory and teach to all of the 12 Ways of Learning.
  4. Be excited about the material you are teaching.  Enthusiasm is contagious.
I think you will find the more you associate pleasantries with learning the more you and your children will enjoy the learning process.  I hope you have found this blogpost to be helpful.   If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section below.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, October 17, 2014

BeeLine Reader: Dyslexia and ADHD Technology Improves Word Tracking Abilities


When reading, do you ever find it difficult to track from one line to the next?  This can be tricky for anyone when reading small text, but for many struggling readers, it remains to be a pervasive problem.

A Better Solution
In the past, students have used a finger, highlighter or bookmark to keep place.  In addition, some Apps, such as Dream Reader, will even highlight a line of text or even individual words when text is read aloud.  But wouldn't it be nice to drop some of those tools and be able to visually scan text with ease? BeeLine Reader, offers a new, ingenious concept that can morph text on the internet and your electronic devices with the use of color.

I was recently contacted by Nick Lum, the founder of BeeLine Reader, and once I saw his

Nick Lum
innovative concept, I asked if I could interview him for this blogpost:

1) What is the history of BeeLine Reader and why was it created?

The idea behind BeeLine Reader is to adapt reading—which has historically been done on printed paper—for the digital era. Digitization has changed so many things about how we interact with written material: emails can be sent much faster than snail-mail, and you can fit a thousand ebooks on a handheld device. But despite these advances in the way we transmit and store written material, the way in which we ingest it is basically the same as it was on paper. Why is this? We never used to read in color on paper because printing in color is expensive. But on smartphones and tablets, color is costless. So the question becomes: is there anything you can do with color to make reading more efficient? The answer is yes, and this is precisely what our technology does. Our eye-guiding color gradients are designed to take advantage of the way your visual processing system works when you're reading. This wasn't possible—or at least practical—on paper, but on digital devices its a snap. We've created several tools that make this concept a reality, and in the last year readers all over the world have read millions of pages using BeeLine Reader.

2) Do you have your own personal interest in BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine Reader started as an idea for making digital reading more efficient, but we quickly learned that it is much more than that. The reaction from the accessibility community—which we did not set out to target—has been tremendous, and it has changed the way we approach the technology. We have heard so many stories from people young and old who have struggled to read for their entire lives, and it is has been an incredible experience to work with them on products that have such a deep impact on their ability to read, learn, and work.

3) What populations are served by using BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine's technology is designed to help all readers, but it is particularly helpful for readers with vision impairments, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Vision therapists and dyslexia researchers are doing studies to better understand how BeeLine is interacting with various cognitive and visual differences to generate extraordinary gains for certain populations of readers. 

4) What are your long-term goals for BeeLine Reader? 

Ultimately, we want to see BeeLine adopted as part of universal design and accessibility. Although BeeLine has potent benefits for the accessibility community, it is helpful for the vast majority (over 85%) of readers. Interestingly, it works in every language we've tried it in, and we have users reading in 100 languages. Given this broad appeal, the long-term goal is to have BeeLine integrated with many devices and platforms so that it can be used by anyone to read anything.

5) Do you have a testimonial that you would like to share?

We’ve received many emails, tweets, and posts from users who find BeeLine to be helpful for them. Some of our users have reading difficulties, and others are unimpaired readers who simply enjoy being able to read a bit easier and faster:
  • "Wow, It feels like the first time I tried glasses. It completely removes any chances of me missing a line. I have a low dyslexia and this just works. Thank you!!"
  • "Do you have any idea how helpful this is for dyslexia? OMG I can follow this text! The words and lines are not blurring together! I can READ!"
  • "I don’t think you understand just how awesome this is, as someone with ADD, I have a lot of trouble reading. This was the first time I have ever read a paragraph uninterrupted." 
  • "As someone with sight difficulties, this is amazing. I wish all books were like this, I may read a lot more."
  • "Having tried BeeLine Reader and found that it makes reading both easier and faster, I really wish I could use it with all of my readings [as a PhD student at Berkeley]. Honestly, it might be the best improvement since I started wearing glasses.”
6) Do you have any links that you would like me to use?

Our website is www.BeeLineReader.com. Our free browser plugins are at www.BeeLineReader.com/install, and our PDF converter is at www.BeeLineReader/pdf. It might be worth mentioning that we'll have an iPhone/iPad app released within a few weeks. People can sign up for our mailing list (on our website) to get updates on new product releases, scientific studies, etc.

Being dyslexic myself, I have already been using the technology, and I couldn't be more excited about spreading the word to my followers and associates.  I want to personally thank Nick for reaching out to me and for creating this truly outstanding product. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Audiobooks for Students with Disabilities: Comparing BookShare and Learning Ally


Audiobooks are wonderful learning options that make reading accessible to students with a variety of learning preferences as well as disabilities.  For some time, they have been available at a cost on sites like Audible.com where books are read by actors or authors.  However, they are often a costly choice that many can not afford.   Luckily, free options on sites like Project Gutenberg and others are wonderful, but sadly they only offer audiobooks that are in the public domain.  What about individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities and learning disabilities that impact reading? Are there any options for this population of learners?  

Audiobooks for Individuals with Disabilities that Impact Reading:
Both BookShare and Learning Ally are two online sites that offer audiobooks for individuals with print-based disabilities.  They conduct business under the exception to U.S. copyright law which permits the availability of copyrighted text to people with qualifying disabilities.  BookShare and Learning Ally safeguards that only qualified individuals can use this service by requiring applicants to register as members and provide proof of disability.

Who Can Certify a Disability for Membership?
School Affiliated:
  • Special education teacher
  • Learning disability specialist
  • Teacher of the visually impaired
  • School psychologist
  • Resource specialist

Medical Professionals:
  • Family doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical psychologist

Other Certification:
  • Prior Certification with Learning Ally or BookShare

How Do BookShare and Learning Ally Compare?
BookShare and Learning Ally are constantly upgrading their systems and adding new materials. So the following table is up to date as of October 2014:


Where Can I Learn More?
Besides the websites of BookShare and Learning Ally, you can also check out their brochures:

BookShare Brochures:


Learning Ally Brochures: 


Each person will have their own preference when choosing a audiobook provider, however, to assure people with print disabilities have access to all the resources they need, consider joining both BookShare and Learning Ally.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Teaching Grammar: Games Reinforce the Parts of Speech


Many high school graduates report weak grammar skills, and they claim that they had little instruction in this area of academics. In fact, poor grammar deters many from communicating in writing, but when they do put pen to paper, mistakes can leave a negative impression. What's more, although many are cognizant of this gap of knowledge, most never find the time to master this skill. Even today, very few students experience comprehensive instruction in this area.  Clearly, this is a curriculum oversight that needs to be addressed.

Why Should Students Learn Grammar?
  1. It offers a deep understanding and appreciation for our language.
  2. Excellent grammar on important documents such as a college entrance essays or job applications can reflect favorably on your candidacy. 
  3. It gives individuals the tools to be mindful, confident writers.
  4. It teaches the logic behind written language.
  5. It will improve grades in virtually all subject areas.
  6. It will improve scores on college entrance exams.
Grammar Can Be Tough to Learn:

I'm the first to admit that grammar is not easy.  This is true for a number of reasons:

  1. There are a lot of rules to learn and exceptions to master.
  2. The English language generated from a number of diverse languages such as Old English, Norman French and Latin.  This creates complexities in the learning process as well as exceptions to rules.
  3. The English language changes as our society accepts new shifts in linguistic rules.  American English is constantly morphing with the influence of modern twists grown from new ideas, concepts and informal words and phrases that become commonplace.  For example, ending a sentence in a preposition was once considered poor grammar, however, now it is generally accepted. 
  4. Our culture often takes shortcuts such as the use of contractions and our pronunciations change with the insertion or deletion of sounds.  For example, in Britain, they spell the word color, colour.
  5. The American English language does not have a designated authority to clarify the "rules" behind our language, and you will find that teacher expectations are diverse and disagreement upon rules is common. 
What Can We Do to Make Grammar More Appealing to Learn?

  1. Focus on the basics of grammar that we all agree upon.
  2. Use engaging activities.
  3. Reinforce knowledge with grammar games.
If you would like to learn more about my most recent publication, Grammar Games Galore, just click on the prior link or the image to your right.


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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