Scanning in PowerPoint: Alternative Access

You’ve made some cool activities in PowerPoint. Now how will kids without the ability to use a mouse or touch screen use your activity? Switch scanning can be an answer.

 PowerPoint can be controlled by single switches and timings or with two switches, independent of timing.

Let’s take a minute to get everyone up to speed on switch scanning. If you are already comfortable with the process of scanning, feel free to jump to the picture below and we’ll dig right in with how to use scanning within PowerPoint.

For those of you new to switch scanning on the computer, you can’t simply plug a switch into your laptop and hit away. It is necessary to have some sort of interface between the switch and computer. The interface inputs a keystroke or a combination of keystrokes when the user presses the switch. You can read up on switch interfaces here at Better Living Through Technology. 

There are two main ways of scanning with switches.

Automatic scanning with a single switch.  The selectable items automatically highlight for a set amount of time, cycling through the items in a certain order. The user hits the switch when their desired item is highlighted.  

A benefit to this is that only one switch is needed. It also minimizes the need to hit switches, as the scan happens automatically.  

The down side is that the person has to be able to time their hits. Not all people with motor issues are able to carry out movements at the precise moment they want. It’s easy to hit too soon or too late and miss the intended item. Rats. 

Step-scanning with two switches.   This assigns one switch the function of moving the highlight to the next item (“stepping”) and gives the second switch the function of choosing the highlighted item.

This manual control over the scanning speed is helpful for people who do not have the ability to time their hits precisely.

However, it can require many hits to get through all the items in the scan cycle. It calls for coordination of several movements. It also requires the ability to activate two switches, which means finding two sites on the body capable of activating switches or the ability to move off one switch and onto another. 

There you go—a tidy primer on switch scanning.

Controlling the computer with a Jelly Bean switch (plugged
into an IntelliKeys port, offscreen)

I won’t kid you that PowerPoint makes designing activities to be scanned a quick process. Actually, it’s pretty labor intensive. It’s not something I’d recommend using as the main software for creating switch-scanning activities unless it’s all you have available . 

However, it is a good option if you are evaluating switch-scanning as a possible access method for a student. It lets them try out the concept before sinking money into an expensive piece of adaptive software. That’s a good feature! 

It also allows students who need access through switches to use some of the same activities as their classmates. This can count big for a motivating a student who wants to fit in. 

What kinds of activities work well with scanning? Actually, anything that responds with a click or touch! Just avoid drag-and-drop activities, because translating them to scanning is more work than we’re going to tackle.

These sample activities will give you ideas:

As with all things, the more you practice, the faster you get. If PowerPoint is your only option for scanning, take heart. You’ll be able to whip out scanning activities before long with enough practice.  

There are a couple ways to create scanning activities, but we’re only going to cover one here. It’s the simplest, most dependable, and provides the most visual support to students. It takes a little longer, but practice will minimize that.

Here’s how.

1) Create your page. Make it exactly how you want to it look, with objects sized and located just how you want them, because changes later will take extra time.
You can insert action AND animation objects, depending on how you want the objects to perform. If you need a refresher on the differences, check back here.

[Side note for those of you who attended the NWACS PowerPoint workshop in Seattle: I am so excited to announce that objects include ones with action settings AND animations! After thinking we were limited to just action settings (basically hyperlinking to a new page or a sound), I discovered how we can activate animations too...opening a whole new world of possibility!! Wahoo! Keep reading to find out how...].

2) Create duplicates of your page. Make as many exact copies as there are objects you want to include in the scan cycle.

3) Add scanning highlights to one object per page. Leave the other objects untouched. You don’t want to touch them, because they will create a visual distraction if they vary from one page to the next.
Visual highlights could be a wide, bright border, a button of a different color, an auditory cue.
For borders, use a 6-point (or thicker) bright border around the picture. For button colors, I simply swap out the fill color and outline color of an existing button. Kids with visual impairments may benefit by having the button enlarged as well.
For an auditory cue, assign the sound file to the page transition. See the lesson on transitions.
Assign the action or animation you want the object to perform if it is selected. Leave the other objects untouched.
IMPORTANT: Animation objects must be set to activate with triggers when clicked. In the drop-down list, select the object itself as its own trigger.  You can review the process in this lesson.
The order of the scan cycle will follow the order of your pages. On page one, highlight the first object in the cycle. On page two, highlight the second; page three, highlight the third...until all the items/pages in the cycle have been highlighted.
4) For automatic (timed) scanning with a single switch, time all the pages to transition at the desired interval. For step-scanning with two switches, leave the slides to advance on click.

5) In the Slide Show settings, set the show to run in presenter mode. Also, set the show to loop until hit ESC. Looping allows the student to start over with the scan sequence in case they missed their target (this happens frequently, especially with automatic timing).

From the Slide Show tab (1), check Setup Slide Show (2).
This brings up a popup where you check that the show will
run in Presenter mode (3) and that it will Loop until hit ESC (4).
 6) Save your work.

7) Test your activity. Move forward through the pages with the SPACE bar. Select the action or animation on a page with TAB + ENTER. Automatic scans only require the TAB + ENTER command.

8) Program your switch interface. Use SPACE as the command to move forward and TAB + ENTER to select. If you are using an IntelliKeys, you need to make these changes to the appropriate key or switch port. You can also download a PowerPoint control Intellikeys overlay

Sensory Software offers a free switch control program useable with PowerPoint called SwitchDriver.

Once you feel comfortable making scanning activities, you may want to develop ones that use multiple scanning opportunities (like the bee quiz sample, which cycles through 3 question and response sets). Multiple loops are made by setting up custom shows within your activity.  This allows you to set up and navigate multiple loops within one show, so you can offer a row of questions or even (if you are very brave!) branching activities where the child determines the direction they will take.
This sounds harder than it is, so please don’t be intimidated. Mostly it’s just time consuming.
·        Create the groups of slides you will need as explained above.
·        Click the Custom Slide Show Button in the Slide Show ribbon and then click on the Custom Shows dialog.  
·        In the dialog box, click New and assign a memorable name to your loop.
·        Select all the slides that belong in one loop from the list on the right and then click “add.” They should now be listed in the left box. Click “OK.”
·        Repeat for each of the other looped sequences in your activity.
·        Now link the loops together so they make sense. For a linear activity, such as a quiz where the student answers one question following another, you will simply link the Custom Shows in order.
For example, in a quiz you’ll want to make a correct response lead to a new question. On the object that provides the correct answer, assign the object an action (note: this must be an ACTIONABLE object—see actions lesson). When the Action Dialog Box pops up, set the Hyperlink to go to Custom Shows and choose the one that is listed in the pop-up box that appears.
In a branching activity, such as a dynamic AAC page or a Choose Your Own Adventure style story, the Custom Show relates to the specific choice that has been selected. For example, if a student can scan between the choice of activity categories such as books, crafts, movies or outdoors, each of these choices would lead to a Custom Show with further choices specific to that category.
If you are adapting an activity you made earlier, the process is much the same. Copy an existing page but remove all the actions and animations. Now copy it again, as many times as you have selectable objects. Add the actions and animations back in, one object per page, for as many pages as you need. The steps above all apply as if you’d started from scratch.

So you see, creating scanning activities is indeed a lot of repetitious work. It takes time. But it is doable. The whole idea of a mainstream program being made accessible to kids with alternate access needs is pretty exciting, don’t you think? 

Please let us know if you make any switch scanning  activities! Or if you have questions, feel free to share those too.


jfarrall said...

Really great post - thanks so much. Will also be great to be able to refer others to this.

Rose-Marie said...

jfarrall, I'm glad you found this helpful. Thank you for refering others. I hope they find it to be useful too!