It’s a new year, and a big one, too. But first, dissertation.

This year, I graduate and enter the world of the jobseekers. This year, I have to stand on my own two feet. This year, I turn 21.

But first I need to write my dissertation. I’m planning to look into the general area of how technology can be used in OT. One idea is to use my experiences with the iPad on placement to inform my dissertation, but now is not the time to be specific. Therefore, the next week will be dedicated to searching for and reading articles on touchscreen devices and commercial technology used by OTs. If you have any suggestions, give me a head’s up on Twitter (@munchknmunch) or in the comments!

Using the iPad for handwriting practice.

(Sorry if this is all a bit disorganised. I’m just a bit excited about my new toys!)

My personal project at the school this term is to implement the iPads sitting in storage. I’m mainly using Dexteria (£3.99), and app made with OTs in mind to work on fine motor control. Dexteria has three activities: Tap It, Pinch It and Write It. All of the activities are great, with Pinch It being the favourite amongst my students, but I’d like to highlight Write It and one of the issues brought up by it while trialling it at school. That issue was the need for the kids to practice their letter formation in a similar way to actual writing, not just tracing them with their finger.

So I suggested the school get a stylus to pair up with each iPad. This again raised a problem – most styli are designed with “normal” adults in mind, meaning adults with the ability to hold and use itty bitty skinny short pens. What we needed were thicker, longer styli that felt as much like the pencils/pens the kids use as possible. After extensive reading of online reviews, I discovered an Etsy shop that sold rather clever handmade styli. They are also seemingly more durable than the average iPad stylus, according to countless Amazon reviews (avoid rubber/sponge-tipped styli).

Shapedad has several stylus designs, but all have the unique conductive fabric “sock”. I received three of them today: the Stylus Sock Pro, the Stylus Sock GOLD and the Eco Stylus. I can’t quite decide which I like better! They look and feel great, and they work on both the iPad I’m borrowing from the school over the holiday and my new Android phone.

Stylus Sock Pro, Eco Stylus and Stylus Sock GOLD

Stylus Sock Pro, Eco Stylus and Stylus Sock GOLD

Stylus Sock Pro, Eco Stylus and Stylus Sock GOLD with the iPad

Stylus Sock Pro, Eco Stylus and Stylus Sock GOLD with the iPad

Stylus Sock Pro with Doodle Buddy (free)

Stylus Sock Pro with Doodle Buddy (free)

Stylus Sock Pro with Doodle Buddy (free)

Stylus Sock Pro with Doodle Buddy (free)

Eco Stylus with Dexteria's Write It

Eco Stylus with Dexteria's Write It

Flan using the Stylus Sock GOLD with Dexteria's Write It

Flan using the Stylus Sock GOLD with Dexteria's Write It

Eco Stylus with pencil grip

Eco Stylus with pencil grip

While being the most expensive of the standard styli (£13.01), I love how the Eco Stylus is the right size for a pencil grip! It’s sock also doesn’t come off, which is great for working with more fidgety children.

And one last thing – shapedad also makes the Steady Stylus (T-shaped) and the Mouthstick Stylus for those who have alternative needs.

Week 1/14 of my final placement.

First, let me just say that typing this out on the iPad is really odd. I’m still not a big fan of onscreen keyboards, especially ones that require short nails. I’m lazy, ok? Also, my pointer fingers are not like my others. All my other fingers can bend and type, but my pointers are sort of flat, so I need to change the angle of my hand to type with them. If that makes any sense to you.

Second, I love my placement. Every day, I get up before 6am to catch a 7am train to Vauxhall. I feel groggy and hungry, but so far I haven’t felt dread. It’s great to be at the school. The kids are adorable, if a little overexcited and easily distracted. The staff have been friendly, including the teaching assistant, a Kiwi who’s the same age as me. It helps to not be the only inbetweener (i.e. not child, but not proper grownup). It’s a long day, and I leave exhausted but so very, very happy.

Is it too terrible that I’m hoping they offer me a job after I graduate? Hell, I’ll stay on past December 9th until there term ends if they let me.

So what have I done in the past week?

Monday was just meet&greet.

On Tuesday, I helped out a class with their famous namesake research, this class being named after famous dyslexic, Richard Branson. I also watched two assessments being done with a new student: the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (only the VMI subtest) and the Motor-Free Visual Perception Test-III.

On Wednesday, I was introduced to the Toolbox for Learning. The Toolbox includes the spanner for memory, the screwdriver for word-finding and the spirit level for helping you be ‘level for learning’. The OTs were responsible for the spirit level, spending the day by going around to each class and teaching the kids about the Brain Engine. (Too much energy, like a racecar, and your mind zooms around without absorbing anything and eventually crashing. Too little, and you’re too lethargic for your brain to take in anything. You need to be just right – alert but calm.) In the afternoon, I tried to introduce a class to the topic, and I think I did quite well considering how little I knew and how nervous I was.

Thursday and Friday were literacy assessment days, so while my PE assessed kids’ reading skills, I did some studying and tinkering on the iPad. I did watch a couple of the non-OT assessments and got to see two very different boys with dyslexia, the one with the better reading and comprehension oddly having less confidence. When my PE was in charge of entertaining the kids in her group of ten while one or two were being assessed by her co-teachers, she let me choose some of the activities. On the Thursday, we played a LOT of dodgeball, with me being used as a human shield quite a bit. On the Friday, I introduced a very unwilling group of kids to the Left/Right game. They all wanted to play dodgeball again, but they ended up loving my game! (Line up in the middle of the room. When the teacher says ‘left’, run left. Same for right. Wrong direction and you’re out. Significantly slower and you’re out. If the teacher says a different word, like ‘rice’, and you move, you’re out.) Finally, I also observed the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and a modified version of the Ayres’ Clinical Observations. They were both fascinating in their own ways.

I really hope I do well this placement, and I hope I continue to enjoy it here, as then I’ll know for sure that this is what I’m meant to do.