Category Archives: iPhone

The 1 in 5 Initiative: Learning Ally Creates a Site for Dyslexics by Dyslexics

As I have shared with you in the past, I have very severe dyslexia, but luckily, I also have Learning Ally. For years now, I have used Learning Ally’s audiobooks, which has made it so much easier for me to keep up with my textbooks for school, as well as being able to listen to all sorts of books just for fun.

Learning Ally has a great website with lots of audiobooks and resources, so if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to soon. (The have a great iPhone and iPad app that I use to listen to my textbooks.) But now Learning Ally has even more to offer. They’ve started a new site called The 1 in 5 Initiative.

Their site is all about dyslexia. But it’s even more than that. It’s an interactive site where you can do all sorts of things like create blog posts as well as videos about yourself and your experiences with dyslexia. My “Commander Ben’s Dyslexia Story” video is also featured on their Being the one stories page.

Oh! I almost forgot…you may be wondering…Why do they call the site “1 in 5”? That’s because it is believed that 1 out every 5 people has some form of dyslexia.

So be sure to check out the 1 in 5 site soon. I think you’ll really like it.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, iPad, iPhone, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, The 1 in 5 Initiative

Invasive Species vs Texas Invaders iPhone App

For too long, invasive species have crowded out native plants and chased away citizen scientists seeking to report them with pen and paper. Now, the Texas Invaders mobile app brings new technologies to help invasive hunters protect their ecosystems in the Lone Star state and beyond.

Download the Texas Invaders app featured in the video, attend an Invaders of Texas Workshop, and get started reporting invasive species:

Other invasive species app blog posts:

Become a citizen scientist at an Invaders of Texas Workshop

If you’re in Central Texas, learn more about the City of Austin’s volunteer training for invasive species monitoring and the City of Austin Invaders satellite group, and sign up for an upcoming Invaders of Texas Workshop at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

  • March 23, 2013
  • May 11, 2013
  • May 18, 2013

Hope to see you at one of the workshops soon! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Android, Apple, Austin Invasive Species Corps, Battles with Invasive Species, Citizen Scientist, City of Austin, City of Austin Invaders, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, iPhone, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Mobile app, Texas Invaders, Wildflower Center

iPhone and Android Apps to Learn About and Report Invasive Species

Invasive species apps on the iPhone

Invasive species apps on the iPhone

There are a lot of great mobile apps to learn about and report invasive species. Mr. Chuck Bargeron, technology directory for the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health (also known on the web as Bugwood), has created many apps about invasive species.

I had a chance to talk with Mr. Bargeron at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference:

In my How to Succeed in Hunting Invasive Species Without Really Trying blog post, I created a video about a fictional mobile app, but there are lots of great real invasive species apps for your mobile phone.

Here are some of the apps that Mr. Bargeron and the University of Georgia helped to create for citizen scientists on the hunt for invasive species. In the following listing, I’ve include links for you to download the iPhone (iPhone and iPad) and Android app versions and a brief description of the apps from their web pages:

  • EDDMapS West
    iPhone | Android
    EDDMapS is a national web-based mapping system for documenting invasive species distribution.
  • Forest Insect Pests
    iPhone | Android
    The photos present in this app are intended to help foresters, urban landscaping employees, or others working with trees recognize some of the common pest insects affecting trees in North America and understand their life cycles and how they damage trees.
  • IveGot1
    iPhone | Android
    Submit invasive species observations directly with your mobile device from the field. These reports are uploaded to EDDMapS and emailed directly to local and state verifiers for review.
  • Outsmart Invasive Species
    iPhone | Android
    The Outsmart Invasive Species project is a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR), and the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
  • What’s Invasive
    iPhone | Android
    One of the greatest dangers to natural areas is the spread of invasive species. This app accesses local lists created by National Park Service rangers and other professionals to show you top invasives species in your area.

These are some of the apps that I’ve tried out on my iPhone, but there are more out there too, including:

  • Texas Invaders (TX Invaders)
    iPhone | Android
    The Invaders of Texas Citizen Science program collects species observations from volunteer citizen scientists trained to use a specially developed Invasive Species Early Detection and Reporting Kit.

I’ll have a special blog post on this app for citizen scientists to report Texas Invasives soon. 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Android, Apple, Bugwood, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Chuck Bargeron, Citizen Scientist, EDDMapS West, Forest Insect Pests, Invasive Species, iPad, iPhone, IveGot1, Mobile app, Outsmart Invasive Species, Texas Invaders, University of Georgia, What's Invasive

How to Succeed in Hunting Invasive Species Without Really Trying

The video concerns a young, ambitious native plant defender who, with the help of the smartphone app, “How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying”, rises from a budding environmentalist to a fighting naturalist.

Commander Ben goes to high school

I have great news to share with you! I’ve been accepted into St. Michael’s Catholic Academy for high school in the fall. I’m very excited, since I’ve been studying hard and took the ISEE exam to get in.

Last year, the drama team at St. Michael’s put on a play, “How to succeed in business without really trying“. It was a musical comedy with lots of great student actors, and this got me thinking about making a fun video with invasive species that’s similar to the opening of the play.

I hope you enjoy this latest addition to my Battles with Invasive Species video series!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Android, Apple, Battles with Invasive Species, High School, How to succeed in business without even trying, How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying, iPad, iPhone, ISEE, St. Michael's Academy, St. Michael's Catholic Academy

Vine and Twitter in Action at UT Austin

Using Vine and Twitter at UT Austin during Explore UT

Using Vine and Twitter at UT Austin during Explore UT

I didn’t think I’d get a chance to attend Explore UT this year, but I was able to visit UT Austin yesterday to listen to a few talks, enjoy a few exhibits, and be part of the event that they call the “biggest open house in Texas!”

I wanted to try out the new Vine iPhone app for creating short six-second videos for posting on my Twitter account, @InvasiveHunter.

Here’s how I used Vine to make short, looping videos with my tweets:

  1. Opened the Vine app on my iPhone.
  2. Aimed my iPhone camera at what I wanted to film.
  3. Held my finger on the touchscreen to create the video.
  4. When done, created a tweet with the video.
  5. Uploaded the video to both Vine and Twitter. (There’s also an option to upload it to Facebook.)

Tips on using Vine

  • Unless someone is filming talking about something, try to film different video segments on the same topic instead of just one continuous video. The different shots are more interesting and will keep people entertained.
  • Make sure to remember to take your finger off your phone when you’re done shooting the video, both off the touchscreen and definitely off your camera lens. (Not that it happened to me. 🙂 )
  • Remember that you can’t edit your video. Make sure that you get what you want when you film. If not, you can always start over.
  • One downside is that if you get a really great shot and a not so good one, and you need to start over, you lose your entire video, but that’s a minor thing.

This app is definitely very easy to use. With all the complicated mobile apps these days, it’s wonderful to have something so simple to use with Twitter.

I liked adding video to my tweets. You can use videos to convey more information than just a tweet or picture. It’s fun to create videos and watch videos from others too!

Here are a few of my tweets and Vine videos from yesterday:

Using Vine and Twitter at the UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences

Using Vine and Twitter at the UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences

Using Vine and Twitter at the UT Austin Texas Memorial Museum

Using Vine and Twitter at the UT Austin Texas Memorial Museum

Thanks @UTAustin for replying to one of my tweets during the Explore UT event:

UTAustin replies to InvasiveHunter tweet during Explore UT

UTAustin replies to InvasiveHunter Tweet during Explore UT

Videos from last year’s Explore UT event

Here are the blog posts and YouTube videos that I created from the 2012 Explore UT event:

Special Edition: Hot Science – Cool Talk this week

Don’t miss another fun event at UT Austin on Wednesday, March 6, at the next Hot Science – Cool Talks with Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Kalirai: Telescopes as Time Machines: The Legacy of Hubble & the Future through the James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s a special edition of the fun and educational presentations from the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute. Hope to see you there!

Tweet me your Vine videos

I also hope you have fun using Vine on your iPhone or iPod touch. Tweet me with your Vine videos @InvasiveHunter!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Brackenridge Field Lab, Environmental Science Institute, Explore UT, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Hubble Space Telescope, Insecta Fiesta, iPhone, iPhone, Jackson School of Geosciences, James Webb Space Telescope, Jason Kalirai, Texas Memorial Museum, Tweet, Twitter, University of Texas, UT Austin, Vine

What is Dyslexia?…And What Does It Mean To Me?

“You should prefer a good scientist without literary abilities
than a literate one without scientific skills.”
Leonardo da Vinci, Dyslexic

Listening to my 8th grade science textbook using my Victor Reader Stream.

Today, I’m expanding my blog beyond my usual invasive species and scientific posts (but don’t worry, invasive species and science will still be my primary focus!…and in a way, this is a bit scientific too), to share a story with you about a topic that is near and dear to my heart…dyslexia.  Why dyslexia?  Well, because I have dyslexia.

So What Exactly is Dyslexia?

First, what is dyslexia?  To put it quite simply, all it means in Latin is “trouble with words”.  Sounds so simple but it really isn’t.  Just ask anyone with dyslexia who has tried to learn how to read!

From the Wikipedia definition, dyslexia is a very broad term defining a learning difference that impairs a person’s reading fluency,  accuracy, or comprehension.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Some of us with dyslexia can also have problems with handwriting – dysgraphia, and still others can also have challenges with math – dyscalculia.  I have struggles with both.

So how many of us have dyslexia?  Well, there really isn’t any definitive number but the National Institutes of Health estimate that about 15% of the world’s population has dyslexia.  That’s about 1 billion people!  But the good news is that people with dyslexia often have above average intelligence and are great at “thinking outside the box”.  So maybe I should say “that’s about 1 billion smart people!”

And So My Story Begins…

Young Commander Ben – Invasive Hunter!

My story starts way back when I was in kindergarten.  My teacher noticed how well I spoke and what a great vocabulary I had (traits not uncommon in people who have dyslexia), but at the same time how I struggled to recognizing the letters of the alphabet.  My school contacted my Mom, who had me tested, and sure enough…I had dyslexia.  Right away, my parents made arrangements for me to be taught how to read by a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT).

Why right away?  Because according to dyslexia experts, such as Dr. Sally Shaywitz, M.D. at Yale University’s Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, early intervention is so important for helping kids with dyslexia learn how to read.

I spent 8 years working with a CALT and am now able to read…slowly.  Over the years, my reading teachers used a variety of Orton-Gillingham based multi-sensory approaches to teach me how to read.   “Multi-sensory” basically means  teaching visual, auditory, and tactile elements all together to help improve memory and learning.

For example, when I was little, my teacher would have me put plastic alphabet letters in order, then have me say each letter’s name and make its sound, then trace the letters with my finger.  These multi-sensory types of programs have been proven successful for about 70 years when teaching people with dyslexia how to read.

But With Reading Slowly, How Did I Keep Up With My Schoolwork?

Victor Reader Stream and Audio SD Cards

So how did I manage with my studies all these years?  And how did I keep up with my grade level reading?  That’s where Learning Ally comes in.  (Formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.)  This is such a great organization of wonderful people who volunteer their time to read and record text books so that kids…and adults too…can have all the reading materials they need to stay informed.

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s as simple as picking out the book I need from the Learning Ally online catalog at their website, and then downloading it to an SD card.  Then I insert the card into my external reader, which is about the size of a small handheld tape player, called a “Victor Reader Stream” made by the HumanWare company.

This is the Learning Ally app for the iPhone.

There are also other ways I can listen to books, as with the Learning Ally app for mobile devices such as the iPhone, or on my laptop, but I really like the Stream because it can take a lot of battle damage which comes in handy on my invasive hunts! 😉

But What About Other Kinds Of Reading…And How About Writing?

iPad Dictation Mode

But what if I want to read something on the Internet?  And what about all the typing I have to do?  Not just for school but for my blog too!  Well, I’m so happy that I live in the 21st century!  Thanks to text readers and voice-to-text software, life is a lot easier for me now than before these inventions.  They’re not perfect, but they get better and better every year.

Here I am using the iPad Text to Speech function.

The latest Apple iPad has a text reader that sounds quite good.  All I have to do is highlight what I want to read, as you can see in the picture above, and then tap on the “speak” icon. The voice is a bit computerized sounding but it is very clear and easy to understand.

The iPad also has a small microphone icon – dictation mode –  that is a very reliable voice-to-text tool.  This is great because typing can be a bit of a challenge for me. (And don’t getting me started talking about how hard handwriting can be…)   Oh! And Siri on the iPhone is amazing!

Here I am using the iPad Diction Mode.

I Wouldn’t Change A Thing

It’s been a hard road for me but I wouldn’t change a thing because having dyslexia is part of who I am.  And I like to think that it has made me both tenacious when it comes to life in general, and empathetic to understanding the various struggles others have in their own lives.

But most important, I learned early on that the key to working with my dyslexia was to always persevere and never give up…and be eternally grateful for spell check! 😉  I think that’s something many of us can agree upon regardless of how well we read and spell.

But even more than spell check, it’s my parents to whom I’m really eternally grateful.  I can’t begin to thank them for all they have done for me.  They are so supportive and always there for me, making any sacrifices necessary when it comes to helping me get the help I need.  And they are always there to encourage me and reassure me that I can do anything I put my  mind to.

So, What’s Next?

Over the next few days, here on my blog, I’ll be sharing some stories and videos about my adventures with dyslexia.  I’m a very positive person 🙂 , and I think that I have always tried to maintain a good sense of humor about having dyslexia, so hopefully you’ll find my stories and videos, not only educational, but fun and entertaining too!

I really hope this information I’m sharing will help people with dyslexia stay informed about all the technology available to make our lives easier.  (And I hope that even folks without dyslexia, or teachers who work with kids who have dyslexia, will find this information useful!)  But most important, I hope that I can inspire other kids who have dyslexia to know that anything is possible and to never become discouraged.   We can achieve whatever we set our minds to!

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Thomas Edison, Dyslexic

Be sure to visit the Dyslexia page of my blog to read all my posts on this subject.

See you soon.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Academic Language Therapy Association, Apple, Certified Academic Language Reading Therapist, Certified Academic Language Therapist, Dictation, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Famous Dyslexics, HumanWare, iPad, iPhone, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, Leonardo da Vinci, multi-sensory learning, National Institutes of Health, Orton Gillingham, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Siri, Thomas Edison, Victor Reader Stream, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity