Category Archives: Apple

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

Commander Ben Talks About Invasive Species with Highland Lakes Master Naturalists

Thanks to my friend, Miss Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, I recently had the honor of speaking to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.

Commander Ben & Sheryl Smith-Rogers, Texas Master Naturalist, Highland Lakes Chapter

I had such a fun time giving my invasive species presentation to their group! Everyone was so nice to me, and they were passionate about protecting native plants. Plus, after my talk, they gave me a great goodie bag with some things to help me during my adventures fighting invasives.

Top three invasives for conversation starters

To start the day, the master naturalists group treated my Mom and me to a delicious lunch at an Italian restaurant in Marble Falls. It was a lot of fun chatting with everyone over a great meal (I had a salad) and luckily there were no invasives in sight there.

I had a good time talking with people over lunch about three invasives that they really dislike:

  • Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) – One lady talked with me about how her property is being over run by Bastard Cabbage, and how she is going to put it down Indian Blanket seeds to try and stop it.
  • Malta star-thistle (Centaurea melitensis) – Another person talked with me about how one day his property was great, but then invasives struck! His property was overrun by Malta star-thistle, KR Bluestem, and Johnson grass with a touch of Salt cedar…and don’t forget that insidious cursing plant…Bastard Cabbage.
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Another lady talked about how Japanese honeysuckle is overrunning her property and how she and her husband just can’t stop it. It grows along their fence line so rapidly.

In my interview with biologist Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, “Austin Invasive Species Corps Aid Golden-Cheeked Warbler“, he talked with me about the web of interdependence in nature. I shared his insight with the group, and they found this analogy very interesting.

Next, I shared some information from my interview with with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Interview series with Dr. Jay Famiglietti“, how he explained to me about the water, energy, and food nexus. They also found this really cool.

Presenting with my trusty iPad

After lunch we headed over to the group’s meeting area where we started to set up. I was amazed by how many naturalists were there! It looked like about 75 people, maybe more! I was really excited.

I had my iPad with me where I had prepared my presentation using the Keynote app. The group provided me with a great projector so that I could show my Keynote slides and videos on the screen behind me.

When it was time to start, everyone quieted down and Miss Sheryl gave me a great introduction.

Miss Sheryl Smith-Rogers introduces Commander Ben to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

During my presentation, I talked about:

  • How I got started as Commander Ben – the Invasive Hunter
  • What invasive species are
  • Some examples of common invasive plants in Central Texas
  • How I fight invasives, and
  • Why I started the Invasive Hunter Academy.

Then I showed the group three videos from my “Battles with Invasive Species” series:

All the videos got a great reception, but I think everyone especially enjoyed seeing the grumpy scientist in the Amazing Invasive Hunter Man.

I ended my presentation by sharing with the group some of my experiences with dyslexia, and the technologies that I use to write my blog and make my videos. Plus, I gave them a glimpse into what’s next for Commander Ben: Working more with invasives, dyslexia, and high school!

Everyone loves stickers

When I finished, everyone applauded and then Miss Linda O’Nan, vice president of the group, presented me with a goodie bag including a great Texas Master Naturalist hat! I also got to meet Miss Fredi Franki, president of the group.

Great goodie bag! Thank you!

Love the hat! 🙂

Commander Ben and Linda O’Nan, Vice President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

Commander Ben and Fredi Franki, President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

After my presentation, I chatted with all the master naturalists as they came and looked at the Invasive Hunter Academy stuff I had brought along with me. I noticed even the adults loved the stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers!

Thanks to Miss Sheryl for the great blog post of the event, Commander Ben Enlightens Us.  Be sure to check it out.  Miss Sheryl has a fantastic nature blog!

Many thanks to all the Highland Lakes Chapter Texas Master Naturalists! I had a great day and look forward to seeing you all again…maybe out in the field!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Apple, Bastard Cabbage, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Dyslexia, Highland Lakes Chapter, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, iPad, Japanese honeysuckle, Keynote, Malta star-thistle, Marble Falls, Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, Texas Master Naturalists

If You Have Dyslexia, Make The iPad or the iPhone Speak

“Speak Selection” Function on the iPad

Many thanks to my fantastic readers for the outpouring of support about my dyslexia posts!

Over the last few days, I’ve received some emails with technology questions so I wanted to take the chance to answer them here on my blog.

Today, I want to share a short tutorial about how to make the iPad or the iPhone “speak”. This function is called “Speak Selection” and is a great text reader function for anyone who has dyslexia.

“Speak Selection” can be easily accessed by clicking on the “Settings” App icon.

The “Settings” App Icon on the iPad Screen

For me, as someone who does have dyslexia, being able to have a good text reader is essential.  I use a text reader tool on my laptop (I’ll talk about that another day), the iPad and the iPhone.

It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Turn on Speak Selection for the iPad

First, tap on the Accessibility bar.

Tap on the “Accessibility” Bar within “Settings” on the iPad

Second, tap on the “Speak Selection” bar.

Tap on the “Speech Selection” Bar on the iPad Screen

Third, after tapping on the “Speak Selection” bar, tap on the “OFF” icon to turn Speak Selection “ON”. Next, adjust the “Speaking Rate” at which you want the voice to speak – slow is to the left (the turtle icon) and fast is to the right (the hare icon).

I like to have my iPad read a bit on the faster side.  I can’t really say why, except for the fact that my brain seems to be able to process it easily.  Maybe it’s  just had lots of practice processing the spoken word from listening to so many wonderful books all these years.   Thanks Learning Ally!

Tap on the “OFF” icon to turn Speak Selection “ON”. Next, adjust the “Speaking Rate” on the iPad screen.

And now you’re done.  You’re iPad should be able to speak to you anytime you want. 😉

When you want to have your iPad speak to you, just highlight the text you want to read and when the screen instruction appears to “copy” or “speak” just tap on “speak”. That’s it!

Just highlight the text you want to read and then tap on “Speak”.

Turn on Speak Selection for the iPhone

When it comes to activating the “Speak Selection” function on the iPhone, it’s as equally easy as it is on the iPad.  Again, it’s just 1, 2, 3.

First, tap on the “Settings” icon app on the iPhone screen and then tap on the “Accessibility” bar within the Settings app.

Tap on the “Accessibility” bar on the iPhone screen within the “Settings” App.

Second, tap on the “Speak Selection” bar.

Tap on the “Speak Selection” Bar on the iPhone screen.

Third, after tapping on the “Speak Selection” bar, tap on the “OFF” icon to turn Speak Selection “ON”. Next, adjust the “Speaking Rate” at which you want the voice to speak.  As with the iPad, it’s the same on the iPhone – slow is to the left (the turtle icon) and fast is to the right (the hare icon).

Tap on OFF Button to turn “Speak Selection” ON, then adjust the reading speed.

Highlight the text you want to read on the iPhone, then tap on “Speak”.

And 0nce again, now you’re done.  You’re iPhone will speak to you anytime you want. 😉  All you have to do is highlight the text you want to read and when the screen instruction appears to “copy” or “speak” just tap on “speak”. You’re all set!

Be sure to visit the Dyslexia page of my blog to read my other posts including:

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, iPad, iPad Speak Selection, iPad Tutorials, iPhone Speak Selection

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