Veronica With Four Eyes

All of the Technology in My Dorm Room: Post Round Up

When I lived in on-campus housing during college, I often received questions from people about all of the technology in my dorm room, and how I used mainstream technology devices for my classes as a student with low vision. I often gravitate towards high-tech devices and applications since I feel very comfortable using technology, and the tools in my dorm reflected that as I used them for school, work, play, and independent living. Here is a post round up of all of the technology in my dorm room, and how I would use it in different contexts.

The key to using multiple devices: platform agnostic

I consider myself to be platform agnostic, and try to use applications that work across multiple operating systems- for example, using a notetaking application that is supported on Windows, Android, and iOS. There are some cases where I prefer to use apps or tools that are exclusive to one operating system, but in general I would look for tools that could sync across all of my devices.

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Desktop computer: HP Sprout

Over 90% of my college assignments and classes required the use of a computer for completing homework and projects, though I didn’t necessarily need to have a laptop for all of my classes since they were in a computer lab. For this reason, it made sense to have a desktop computer in my dorm since I didn’t have to keep track of too many physical copies of assignments. I also appreciated having access to a larger screen and full keyboard for working on coding assignments for long periods of time.

My desktop computer is a HP Sprout, an experimental computer design that combines a large touchscreen, 3D scanner, and built-in cameras that can serve as a video magnifier. The HP Sprout is no longer available for sale, but I’ve written about how to choose a desktop computer for college below.

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Laptop computer: Surface laptop

I had purchased a Surface computer in high school that I planned to use through college. I didn’t complete a lot of assignments in my dorm with the laptop, but would still use it for in-class projects, presentations, notetaking, and working on video projects. During my final semester of undergrad, I upgraded to a new Surface laptop and purchased a desktop docking tool so I could easily connect my Surface to an external/larger monitor- I wasn’t living in a dorm at this point, but this setup would have been great for a student with low vision working in their dorm.

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Tablet: iPad

I love my iPad for reading textbooks and working on applications where I need to have the screen closer to my face- it’s easier for me to zoom in on information on the iPad or enlarge text compared to working on my laptop/desktop, since I can position the iPad underneath the bifocal in my glasses. I also prefer to use my iPad for checking email since the Mail app has a more minimalist design compared to other email applications, and enjoy being able to use apps like FaceTime and other messaging tools to talk to my friends.

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Smartphone: Android

I use an Android smartphone because I appreciate having the option to use third-party customization apps for items like my keyboard, homescreen, and other display features. Android also has a huge array of other accessibility features I use in my classes, including options for live captioning, recognizing text and objects in images, and using the Google Assistant to help with tasks.

Outside of using my phone as assistive technology in class, I also appreciate that Android has an option for storing and sharing medical information in an emergency- this was especially helpful when I had to leave campus by ambulance and could share information with first responders.

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Display mirroring: Chromecast

The Chromecast tool is a game changer for mirroring tabs and enlarging information on my computer, phone, and tablet. I would frequently cast my phone display to the Chromecast on my TV to enlarge my phone screen, or play videos for classes on the larger screen so I could listen/control the volume more effectively than on my computer. Using the Chromecast is also much simpler than having to connect a device with cables- I just have to press two buttons to start sharing.

Chromecast comes built into many smart TVs, or users can purchase an external Chromecast device to plug into their TV via HDMI. To use a Chromecast in a dorm, the Chromecast will need to be registered through the college’s IT services website or similar site to connect to the wifi- in my case, I had to import the device’s MAC address. However, this only needs to be done once and students can use the device for the entire time they live on campus.

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The Nook eReader is one of the first pieces of assistive technology I ever received, and I exclusively use it for reading books and content that doesn’t have a lot of images in it. I used my eReader in a few different ways for virtual learning and reading assignments without a backlight, but I primarily use it to read for pleasure and check out the latest novel I downloaded from Bookshare- since Bookshare is free for college students, I can download as many books as I want!

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I often had to print out assignments to turn in for my classes, and found a printer on super sale shortly before I started college- since it was often challenging for me to leave my dorm and walk to the library, it made sense to have a printer in my dorm. Another consideration was that when I first started at my college, the printer software that was used for campus printers was difficult for me to enlarge/read, so it was easier to use my own personal printer.

In my dorm, the printer sat on top of the mini fridge next to my computer, so I could reach it easily and scan in items as needed. When my brother started attending the same college, the printer was relocated to his room since he needed to use it more often.

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Smart speaker: Amazon Echo Dot

I chose the Echo Dot for my dorm room because of its size and speaker quality- I didn’t want a loud device for my dorm. Having a smart speaker in my dorm was absolutely amazing since I could use it to access information in a nonvisual way- no looking at a display to read information.

I’ve used my Echo Dot/Amazon Alexa in my dorm in a lot of different contexts. Built-in skills like checking the time and weather for helping me plan my day were helpful, as well as the option to look up definitions and perform calculations. Outside of third-party skills, I also created some of my own custom skills, like creating a tool to help me navigate my dorm and get flashcards for studying.

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Here is a round up of all of the technology in my dorm room and some examples of how I would use it as a student with low vision