ClicNAct Documentation

Welcome to the educational activities Clicnact

Description

These activities come from a lot of different internet sites containing software for children with special needs created by special needs' teachers in Europe. The activities have all been used in the computer workshop of the Al Wafa school in Oujda, Morocco. The system contains more than 150 programs with more that 1000 educational activities. The activities cover a wide range of learning areas. Computing activities are particularly suited to children with learning difficulties. The computer gives them the possibility of repeating each activity until they master it (something that a normal school classroom situation cannot do).

Download

http://download.tuxfamily.org/clicnact/ClicNAct40c.iso

An updated version of the start file which will search for the system and run it from where it is, can be downloaded here :

http://download.tuxfamily.org/clicnact/CnStartTheMenu.zip

(you must have the system available on a disk or USB key on on hard disk, then unzip this file, save the .exe file somewhere and double click on it).

Installing

The entire system is contained in the above ISO file. Download it and then double-click on it to write it to DVD. The exact procedure for writing the ISO file to DVD varies according to your computer's setup.  If it does not work for you we suggest http://www.wikihow.com/Burn-ISO-Files-to-DVD.

You may also unpack the ISO file directly onto a USB stick, and run the activities from it. You may need to download a program such as 7zip (http://www.7-zip.org/download.html) to be able to do this, but once this is installed it will be quite easy to put the contents of the ISO file on a flash drive (with at least 1G free space). Make sure that you leave the contents in the correct root directory on the key eg "E:\Clicnact" so that the system can find itself on start-up.

Then click on the file on the root of the DVD to start the activities (CnStartTheMenu.exe). When it starts up the first time it will install two small softwares on your computer, while it is doing this you don't need to click on anything unless the system stops for more than a couple of minutes, just wait, the system will click in the right boxes itself. When the system starts up don't panic when all your icons and your task-bar disappear from your screen, they will come back 30 seconds after you exit the activities (you may be glad later on that they are hidden as your computer will be much more difficult for the user to sabotage without them). Put the activities into English by clicking on the flag until the British one appears. Use the stop button to get out of any activity that is too hard. Use the mouth icon to turn off the voice.

The password for the advanced settings is 2468, this allows you to prevent the user from exiting the activities and then subsequently trashing your computer by clicking on everything and anything in totally random order. Here you can also lock the system into English and exclude the more advanced activities (eg. choose only level 1 - that should keep you busy for quite a while).

The goal of the project

Our goal is to provide free educational activities on the computer which meet the needs of children with special needs: both physically and mentally challenged children. We are especially targeting the children of poorer families. We aim to provide a suite of activities free of charge for use in computer workshops and in the home. Our system is designed to work:

  • on second-hand computers - demanding applications are avoided
  • without needing an internet connection - the activities work 'off-line'
  • with verbal instructions in Moroccan dialectical Arabic - we want the system to be accessible to people who do not read either French or Arabic.  The system also functions in English and French though it uses a computer generated voice for this.
  • with the option of limiting access to the operating system (eg. Windows) where children could create difficult to solve problems by clicking without understanding. We therefore hide the computer's desktop and menu systems during the operation (these are automatically restored after a delay when the system is shut down). We have also programmed a lock into the interface which prevents the user exiting to Windows if they do not know a password.

What types of special need are you targeting?

We have not targeted any particular special need. Our system is not suited to blind children and is of limited value for deaf children (though its strongly visual nature makes it of some use for them). We would like to develop the system to be more useful with deaf children.

Our approach has been to sort the activities into groups according to difficulty and activity type. This simplifies the interface both for the child and for the person who is helping them. We have many very simple activities for children with severe limitations at the start of their learning.

The menu system

The menu system which comes with the installation has been created by us. Its goal is to organise the activities by type and difficulty level. This helps teachers choose activities suited to their children in a computer workshop situation. It also helps the parents of children who are working at home. The groups of activities (eg. Colouring-in) are not sorted by difficulty inside each group (though this is on our 'to do' list) . The menu is a program which can start other programs from their place on the computer disk. It does not need the internet to function (only its internet update function will require this). The system simulates a unified suite of educational activities like those which one can purchase on CD/DVD. When a child closes an activity (a program) the system returns automatically to the page from which that activity was chosen. This enables the child to then choose the same type or level of activity already chosen.

Current feature set:

The system's simple visual interface is an effective way of managing and directing the computer work of a child with special needs. Behind the interface is a complex program which manages the visual and audio environment in a intelligent way. This system has the following capability :

  • The menu system automatically fills any screen that it works on and re-sizes each icon to fit
  • Start the selected program when its image is clicked, then adjust its window so that it fills the screen.
  • The visual menu labels each page and provides for easy navigation between levels and groups.
  • Each activity (program) is numbered for tracking the children's work. These numbers are shown in the visual interface. Sheets for tracking the users work have been developed and can be found in the documentation supplied.
  • The visual menu system has a mouse-over speaking built in so that non-readers can listen to what each button will do in their chosen language. Each activity and menu group is explained on mouse-over.
  • The relative sound levels of the activity itself and the audio help system are adjusted so that the voice is clearly heard (improvement needed)
  • The system detects whether an activity from the educational system is already running when a user clicks to start a new activity. The running activity is first closed (killed) before a new one is started. This prevents system blockages due to memory overload. This is particularly important for second hand computers which have limited hardware resources. Also the system will not allow the visual menu to start up more than once (same detection system).
  • When the menu system starts up, the computer's desktop icons and task-bar are hidden so that no other programs may be started up in parallel. Clicks and typing from impatience are ignored.
  • An animated coloured “wait” window appears to help the child wait until the activity is ready for use.
  • The audio help system starts up in parallel with the activity itself. Its help panel gives access to verbal explanations in the selected language on how to succeed the activity. If the activity is closed independently then the floating help panel detects its disappearance and closes itself automatically. The help panel currently enables the user to stop the help voice and to close the program. The help panel's ''stop'' button gives a unified method of closing all activities (some of the activities originally used rather obscure methods of closing themselves which would have confused some children).
  • Integration of an internet updater which enables a user who has an internet connection to download the latest translations and latest versions of the software. Obviously this is not useful if the user has not internet connection.  (This is currently not functioning). 
  • Though the system has an internet updater it is primarily an off-line system. The large majority of families for whom this system is intended could not afford an internet connection (they may perhaps have a computer which is 2nd hand). Therefore all the activities are installed on the hard-disk of the user's computer.
  • New activities (programs: .swfs .exes etc) can be very quickly added to the system. The visual interface will then show them, the most time consuming part is the writing of the instructions and lesson plans for each new activity. We insist that only free activities be integrated to the system.
  • Integration of a text help system (HTML) using a stand-alone rapid browser. This may also be used for future  lesson plans.
  • The aim is a system completely free of charge (operating system and activities included).

The system comes with a demonstration / installation CD. This currently speaks English, French and Moroccan Arabic (and displays the text is it speaking for each language). The demonstration functionality enables use of the activities without installing them on the computer. The installation CD/DVD is multilingual like the rest of the system.

Multilingual operation for both activity audio help and for the lesson plans. A language button toggles between English, French and Moroccan Dialectical Arabic. Both the audio help and the lesson plans will then operate / appear in the selected language.

An advanced menu panel with the following options:

The ability to lock the user into the current activity (to stop fidgety children from changing activity every few seconds in class).

Possibility to choose the levels of activity which the interface shows.

Lesson plans for certain activities which are built into the menu help bar (the Eiffel Tower changes from red to green when such lessons are available).

Extra software

Some of the activities rely on external software modules in order to function. For example some activities require Microsoft.net to work. For this reason also the Linux version presents a smaller set of activities because some of the activities do not function under Linux's Wine compatibility layer.

FAQs Frequently asked questions

Why are a lot of the programs in French?

These activities where created by special needs teachers in Europe. They have been proved in use with children with special needs. In our selection of software we have privileged the French language because it is the most understood of the European language used in Morocco. A lot of the activities are very visual, they do not need much textual help or explanation in order to be understood by a child. We have provided step-by-step instructions in dialectical Moroccan Arabic to make it more intuitive.

Why have you chosen to provide explanations for your activities in dialectical Arabic instead of in French or Standard Arabic?

Our system is designed for small children from poor families. We believe that, for example, a 5 year old Moroccan child with special needs has a better understanding of Darija than of Fusha or of French. We are providing a computerised learning system that is accessible to the largest number of Moroccans including people who do not read and write (the children or their parents). By beginning computer work at the place where the children are, we want to then help them to better learn other languages (the system contains several language learning exercises for this).

How do you use the activities in a computer workshop situation?

We start by getting the children to work with activities that are simple enough for them to easily succeed them. These activities teach them how to work the mouse and the keyboard. We do a detailed written evaluation for each child when they begin in the workshop. We follow their progress in each subsequent session by noting the number of the activity that is used and the level of achievement. This historic record helps us in the future to move the child onto more difficult exercises according to their ability. Our aim is to bring the child to do activities which are more and more difficult and which cover a greater variety of learning areas.

Lesson plans

We have created a number of lesson plans for activities that are suited to this. This gives more structure for the student as they work towards mastering the program. These lessons are accessible though the help menu bar which appears underneath the current activity. When an activity has lesson plans the small icon of the Eiffel Tower becomes green (instead of its normal red), clicking on it will bring up a grid showing the available lesson models. By clicking on one model the screen will restructure itself with the activity on the left 2/3rds and the model on the right third. The student can then work on the project on the left while examining the model on the right of the screen (on some smaller screens it may be necessary to drag the model off to the right for full access to the activities menus).

How do you measure the progress that the children make in your workshop?

We do a detailed evaluation for each child at the start of their time in the computer workshop. Afterwards their work is monitored each session. Each session the child is marked on each activity as follows: a=not understood, b=partially understood, c=understood but repetition is needed, d=mastered (no need to redo). These evaluations, when properly filled out, provide us with a written record from which the progress of the child can be clearly seen.

What is the role of the teacher in computing education?

It is important that the child is encouraged to work as much as possible without outside help on the computer. By acting independently the child may gain confidence in their ability and will learn through their own discovery. The teacher's role (or that of the helper in the case of another person) is to watch over the interaction between the child and the computer and to intervene when they judge it necessary (eg. To explain what to do when the child is lost in the current activity, to direct them in the choice of the next activity or to help when they show signs of stress or frustration). A too bossy style, or repeated interventions should be avoided because they will block the progress of the child.

How should we use these activities?

Many of the activities in the suite are meant to be used with a helper. The activities cover a range of different educational areas such as maths, recognition of shapes and colours, strategy, etc. These exercises are meant to be worked on in a class situation (at least with another available person who can help the learner overcome difficulties they might encounter) and for most children solo-work will not enable them to adequately understand the subject – extra explanation is necessary. The verbal explanations which are built into the system are meant to clarify what the child needs to do to work the activities, but they are not sufficient to enable them to succeed for example in doing a maths problem.

Why have you included games groups in your system?

We use games towards the end of our sessions with the children to reward them for their work. We know that many children (especially those with special needs) have a very limited concentrated span, after this time they are no longer able to work on more demanding exercises. The ability to think abstractly and to succeed certain maths exercises is quite advanced. A small child with special needs is generally not capable of this early on in their learning cycle. A good selection of educational games (we mean by this that each game is chosen with certain learning goals in mind) is like a set of building blocks on which the ability to think abstractly may be built.

How do I install the system?

The installation CD/DVD adapts itself to the operating system on the destination computer and will guide you through the installation process. The installation disk provides:

Demonstration mode – the demo mode enables use of the system from the installation CD/DVD. Please note that some of the activities do not work in this mode. Not all activities are able to be run correctly without a hard disk install. However the demo mode enables you to see the menu system and to try out the system before you decide whether you want to install it on your hard disk or not.  If you run from a USB or other read/write media the vast majority of the activities will function correctly.

Choice of installation destination – the install CD/DVD gives you the choice of a destination partition (D, E, etc), a partition will not be suggested if it does not have enough free space for the installation.

Automatic installation of the software which the system needs to function (Espeak, Shockwave Player, Microsoft.net).

Deletion of older copies of this same menu system (this avoids having two bulky copies of the system on the same computer).

After having installed the activity system, while additional software is being installed, you may be asked to answer some questions. Under the automatic installation these questions should be answered automatically by the system (which can also tick boxes itself). Please wait up to two minutes before replying yourself to these questions. If the system does not respond after two minutes please reply to these questions yourself. If you do not know what to answer you may simply cancel. If at any stage the system refuses to respond you may safely stop and restart the computer (this is usually advised after having saved your other data, when you encounter problems). Interrupting the installation of these activities will not at all cause problems to your computer, also it is quite possible that an installation that did not completely finish may actually function acceptably for most or all activities (try it out before re-running the installation). If the installation does get stuck and you need to restart the computer or kill the task, you may rerun the installation without any risk.

What system did you use to develop this program?

We used AutoIt 3. We thank the AutoIt team who have produced a very powerful and easy to use programming system especially as concerns its graphic interface.

What limitations does the system have?

The system is still being developed. The dialectical Arabic explanations has meant the creation of a parallel system which tracks the stages of each activity (we do not have access to the source code for each activity). The tracking system is not perfect for all the programs present. For example our audio explanation sometimes play at the same time as those built into the activity being used.

Since we do not have access to the source code of the activities we cannot delete parts of their visual interface that annoy us. This includes: internet links which try to take a child to a site if they click on them (often the help menu of an activity will also do this).

Future features envisaged:

Possible improvements to the system

Installation CD/DVD:

  • The possibility to uninstall the system Clicnact
  • The choice to install only part of the activities (skipping for example the difficult ones)
  • Choice to install only the desired languages
  • Installation customised for Linux so that it can boot the computer and function completely independently of the Operating System
  • The creation of a self-extracting click-and-point installation file for Windows users to be able to more easily install it to USB or hard disk.
  • The addition of mouse-over help for the bottom help bar.

Menu system:

  • System to track the progress of the children
  • Addition of a set of tools to stop the children clicking on internet links or to block all internet connections
  • Creation of other groups of activities (geography, anatomie, health) and groups for specific handicaps (deaf and mute, blind)
  • Addition of a group containing tools for checking the health of children (eg. eye tests, hearing tests)
  • Further development of the lesson plan system to be able to show videos of the lessons and to be able to read out lesson instructions in each language.

Known bugs:

  • The splash window that covers the Espeak install during a new install can confuse people and prevent them answering questions the system is asking.  This window goes away and the system is programmed to answer these questions by itself.
  • The cancel / stop button does not work during the hard disk installation routine.
  • WfVocab does not shutdown its daughter screens.
  • If you click too rapidly on an activity the system gets confused and will either return to the main menu or try to start up the wrong activity.
  • Espeak does not read all the messages correctly during hard disk install.

Why do you not provide a fully functioning CD/DVD instead of requiring the activities to be installed to the hard disk?

Our installation CD/DVD has a demo mode which allows users to try it out.

Some of the activities in the system cannot function from read only media such as a DVD.

Because of clumsy handling, children often damage CD/DVDs (scratches, cracks, dirtiness) not to mention the computer's CD drive. We would like to avoid this type of problem. It is also true that most of our activities do not require much disk space.

Where do you install your program on the computer?

For now the menu system is found in the following directory “C:\Program Files\CnSystem” and its subdirectories. All the activities are found here “chosen partition:\Program Files\CnSystem\CnActivities” and its subdirectories (where the chosen partition will normally be either C, D, E etc). As for supplementary software required for the system these are generally installed under “C:\Program Files.”

What do I do if the installation does not work properly?

You may use each activity by itself from its installation directory. These directories are here : “chosen partition/Program Files/CnSystem/CnActivities/” and all the subdirectories. The problem with this approach is that the help system will no longer be available.

If the menu system is installed but does not function properly this may be corrected by rerunning the installation from the CD/DVD, the Internet Update function is also capable of correcting such errors.  Download a new version of the system from our internet site.

Contact us to ask for help.

What is the organisation CTS?

CTS (Consulting Training and Support) is a humanitarian Non Governmental Organisation based in French speaking Switzerland. CTS helped with children with special needs in Morocco in partnership with several associations already working in this area.

In which computer workshop was this system developed?

For this project CTS worked in partnership with the Association Wafa in Oujda. A engineer worked in a computer workshop with the children from this organisation from 2005 until 2010. In this context the checking of the current system was done.

What is the copyright status of this system?

The graphical interface was created by us and is freely supplied for your use under the GNU General Public License V3. You may use this at your own risk, we cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss of data that you may experience on your computer as a result of its use. This applies to the installation CD/DVD, to any installed version, to any internet update or any other combination which we may furnish you. The system is provided without guarantee, if any errors cause you to need to repair your system this will be at your own cost. The CD/DVD or its corresponding ISO file downloaded from our site may be freely distributed by you to whomever you wish.

We have used and tested this product for more than 5 years without seeing any damage to our computers.

How do I find help if I have a problem?

You may contact us at clicnact@free.fr., our web site is http://clicnact.free.fr but please do not expect a response rapidly.  Currently this email address is checked twice a month.