Tag Archives: iPad

Talking about Invasive Species and Dyslexia at Rawson Saunders

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking to the 8th grade and 7th grade science classes at the Rawson Saunders School here in Austin, Texas.  What is so neat about Rawson Saunders is that it is a school for kids who have dyslexia like me. Founded in 1997, Rawson Saunders is the only full-curriculum school in Central Texas exclusively for students with dyslexia.

I was invited to speak about my experiences with invasive species and dyslexia, and I had a wonderful time visiting with some great kids who are like me.

The day started at around 7:45AM when I arrived at the school and met Dr. Nadia Cone, who is the Academic Technology Coordinator for the school.

Commander Ben and Dr. Nadia Cone

Commander Ben and Dr. Nadia Cone

Dr. Cone brought me over to the science lab and introduced me to Mr. Jacob Hendrickson, the science teacher. I set up my iPad and hooked it up to a projector for my Keynote presentation. Then around 8AM, the 8th graders started piling into the classroom. I was so nervous! This was the first time I would be giving a presentation to kids my own age. I have given presentations to elementary school kids and high school kids but never middle-schoolers.

Commander Ben and Rawson Saunders Science Teacher, Mr. Jacob Hendrickson

Commander Ben and Rawson Saunders Science Teacher, Mr. Jacob Hendrickson

I was worried that middle school kids might be really hard on me. But I had no need to worry. The kids were great – both the 8th grade class and the 7th grade class. I made lots of new friends!

Commander Ben presenting to the Rawson Saunders 8th grade science class

Commander Ben presenting to the Rawson Saunders 8th grade science class

My presentation was all about invasive species, blogging, movie-making…and of course…having dyslexia. It went great. The kids had some interesting questions and also shared some of their own stories with me about things they like to do. It was a lot of fun.

Commander Ben answers some great questions from the students in the 7th grade Rawson Saunders science class

Commander Ben answers some great questions from the students in the 7th grade Rawson Saunders science class

Many thanks to Dr. Cone and the great folks at Rawson Saunders for inviting me to speak to your students. I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Invasive Hunter Academy at the Milam County Nature Festival

I’m excited about giving more talks to school kids about invasive species and dyslexia, including my upcoming talk to 350 upper elementary students in Milam County this Friday!

Plus, I’ll be bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to the 4th Annual Milam County Nature Festival at the Rockdale Fair Park this Saturday, April 13, 2013. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Apple, Dyslexia, Invasive Species, iPad, Jacob Hendrickson, Keynote, Middle school, Milam County Nature Festival, Nadia Cone, Rawson Saunders School, Rockdale Fair Park, Science class

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

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

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