This is another post devoted to some of the assistive technology devices we use at Children’s Care to enhance the learning environment we treasure. Today’s post is about the Boardmaker.
The Boardmaker family consists of three software products designed to meet the individual needs of the user. Boardmaker creates visual supports and materials using Picture Communication Symbols and various pictures that can be imported into the program. This is useful for designing worksheets, schedules, curriculum enhancement, and communication boards.
Boardmaker Plus goes a step further by allowing the user to create truly interactive learning by adding voice, sound, animation and video to the original product. This option expands the capability of the original product to allow for building of fully interactive, on screen learning activities and quizzes.
Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro builds even further on the Boardmaker Plus. While retaining all the features of Boardmaker and Boardmaker Plus, this version adds natural-sounding voices, word prediction and abbreviation expansion to support augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This version is most often used to support AAC users through devices or laptop communication systems.
Over 20 years ago, I went to set up my special education classroom with the Picture Symbol Book in hand. I photocopied each symbol that was needed to label the areas of my classroom and to develop visual schedules. I spent many hours copying and coloring the symbols to allow for increased understanding and comprehension for my students. As Mayer-Johnson developed the Boardmaker Software, I enthusiastically integrated the product in all areas of the educational environment. The software offered an easy to use, time efficient means to meet to needs of all my students. Some ideas of how the product can be used include:
- Labeling cupboards, drawers, materials, and work areas.
- Creating visual schedules.
- Creating visual sets of rules.
- Making very simplistic to complex topic boards to assist student communication.
- Providing visual options to allow non-verbal students a means to interact and participate with core curriculum content.
- Developing picture based journaling options for students with reading and handwriting challenges.
- Use of symbolation technology to augment print based books.
- Create highly modified learning tasks to allow students access to core academic content.
- Create interactive boards to help a child develop on screen notes home to their family describing their activities they had completed.
- Create on screen activities to augment a lesson presented to the class with built in quizzes.
- Incorporate visually enhanced social stories that were individualized to the student. This was further expanded with Boardmaker Plus by allowing voice augmentation to onscreen social stories.
- Create interactive, on screen learning with the support of a touch window and scanning technology.
- Send letters to students in a format that allowed for decoding and comprehension at their individual level.
- Created visual supports to replace and reduce the incidents of maladaptive behavior.
Boardmaker products have been an integral tool in developing learning for students with diverse educational needs. From the basic set-up of the classroom to the intricate development of specialized curriculum and communication systems, the software offers a wide array of options to move students on the path of learning. Numerous resources via the Internet offer free downloadable materials to enhance the use of the software further. A few favorites are listed below.
Adapted Learning is a free resource that has a multitude of adapted lessons, books, and supplemental materials that are ready to use. Materials are available for the original Boardmaker as well as Boardmaker Plus. Over 840 children books already adapted!!!! – comes with lesson plans and a vocabulary list and varying number of vocabulary (e.g. 6 to 20)!!!
The Baltimore City Public Schools website has picture symbols for more than 800 book titles, which require Boardmaker software to open, and MS Word documents with story comprehension questions.
- Submitted by Tammi Haverly, Children’s Care Education Administrator