SwitchIt Maker: A tool for very young learners and technophobes!

switchit screen shotThis tool (Spectronics, 2015) was designed to create resources for students with significant disabilities which made using a traditional mouse too difficult. SwitchIt presentations can be accessed via touchscreen, mouse or keyboard as well as special needs technologies such as switches, Intellikeys, trackball, and joystick.  Lack of technical skills can inhibit learning (Pellerin, 2014; Sadler & Dooly, 2013; Stockwell, 2013; White, 2014), this resource has one of the most user-friendly, low text interfaces; the students are lead through the steps of making a multimodal presentation with simple graphics and yes/no choices (accompanied by a thumbs up or ok hand signal symbol).  This simple interface ensures that even the most technophobic person can create presentations (speaking from experience!).  The finished presentation can be played using a free download of a SwitchIt playback program, and can be played back automatically or enabled by the technologies mentioned above.  Students can share their presentations with peers, family and friends.  Sharing options include being able to export the presentation to other computers, or creating a CD-ROM or the presentation can also be printed as a book.  The SwitchIt maker allows users to select a format for the page, then insert a picture or video from a file, from the internet, or use one the 1,500 pictures, symbols and rebuses included with the program. The provided images include a vast array of PCS symbols which pair words with pictures, which is an excellent resource for ELL (English language learners) who are still developing their vocabulary.  At each step in the process, a preview is provided for the user to accept or reject before moving to the next step. When adding text, the touchscreen keyboard switches from capital to lower case letters to simplify letter recognition for emergent readers (text can also be added via the computer keyboard).  To add audio, the choices range from inserting music included in the program, or other accessible audio files.  One can opt to record directly onto the presentation – the user interface once again is all picture symbols, with clear indication of when it is recording, and an opportunity to playback and decide whether to rerecord or use the existing audio file.  Incidentally if the video had audio, the two audio recordings play back simultaneously.  Finally the user selects the transition animation to the next page.  As each page is completed the program allows the user to select making another page or finishing the project.  In editing mode you can also easily change the sequence of pages or duplicate pages or the entire presentation.  To simplify the creation process even more I recommend creating the first page, this ensures that the appropriate file for pictures/video and audio insertion come up automatically for successive pages to avoid the student being lost in all the files that usually are on a computer, it also prepares the presentation to be saved in the appropriate location. My main criticism of this tool is that if an error occurs when typing text, the only way to correct it is to backspace all the way to the error to retype the text again. It is also an expensive program to purchase.  This program could be used to create bilingual resources, using video and audio created in class, and adding accompanying text. The user friendly interface allows students to create resources independently, that can be viewed and shared with peers, family and friends.  There is an older learners version available.