Making Many PDFs into ONE!

pdfjoin-com-logoWhile entrenched in the arduous task of moving all of the materials on the Materials Exchange to a new platform this summer, I became painfully aware that many materials had many pages, some up to 20 (gulp!), because if you don’t know the trick to making multiple pages at once in Boardmaker, each page you create will be saved separately.  For example, a Go Fish game about fruit for 12 players would be saved “Fruit1, Fruit2, Fruit3,” etc.  That meant 12 downloads, 12 titles typed into the new site, and 12 links to be made for uploading. If you take a look at the many pages on the Materials Exchange, you’ll see this process had to be repeated over and over and over….I’m starting to feel faint, just recalling the experience.  No wonder my family started fearing for my sanity.

Having taken a couple of months off from the site to focus on the new school year (which also induces lightheadedness, I must admit), I am ready to start adding new contributions to the Materials Exchange.  Some new /r/ materials were just posted, and a number of core language stories for AAC users will be posted in the next few days.  I welcome YOUR materials for the Materials Exchange because, as I’ve been saying for over 15 years, sharing is what Speaking of Speech.com is all about. It’s a wonderful way to pay back for all of the materials that you’ve used from others. (Clicking the “donate” button on the top of the site is another way to show your appreciation for the new site and to help keep it going.  So far, 23 SLPs and teachers have kindly donated $5 or more to help defray the considerable out-of-pocket costs for this site, and I send my heartfelt thanks to each one).

Now for today’s tech tip — an answer to the problem!  There is a wonderful site called PDF Join that will allow you — for free! — to join multiple PDFs together to create one multi-page document!  This works with Windows or Mac.  Had this technology been available years ago when files were initially uploaded, my summer would have been much easier. Given the sheer volume of work I had to do with thousands upon thousands of files to organize and go through, I simply couldn’t use this tool on existing materials — the volume and chance for error were too great, and I was battling against a looming deadline.  However, I will certainly be using it with all new materials that are contributed.  But, hey!  You can use it, too!  You don’t even have to download any software;  simply follow the instructions on the website.  How awesome is THAT?!  This is just one such tool that I’m sure you’ll find helpful.  Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” you may discover that you’ve had this power all along! Here are instructions for using Preview on Macs.  And here on instructions for using a PDF merge tool in Windows 10.  Do you have another easy resource to share?  Please add to the Comments so we all enhance our knowledge.

Advertisements

Checklist for ASHA!

2016_convention_750x338To all the lucky SLPs who will be attending the ASHA Convention next week, WELCOME TO PHILADELPHIA!  You’ll be right in my backyard!  I can promise that you’ll love the City of Brotherly Love.  I’ll be there all three days, and will be doing a poster session on the SETT Process for assistive technology on Friday.  While the sessions are generally awesome, I find the most valuable part of the convention is the opportunity to network with SLPs from all over the world — similar to what happens on the SLP Message Center of Speaking of Speech.com, but LIVE and IN PERSON!!  I am so looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can!!  If you can’t get to the poster session, please keep an eye out for me around Convention Hall and at the Art Museum party, although, at 4’9″ and 100 lbs soaking wet, I can be a little hard to spot in a crowd, ha, ha.  That being said, it will be much easier for you to find ME than for me to find YOU, so please come up to say hello, or as we say in Philly, “Yo!”

As a veteran of previous ASHA Conventions, I have a few tips for newbies who are starting to pack for the trip:

  1.  Take your most comfortable shoes!!  Really, no one cares if you show up in sneakers.  You’ll still be smiling by Saturday, while those with fancy footwear will be sidelined with bunions.  And sneakers will give you an advantage as you dash from one session to another.  You’ll get there in time to get a seat, but those struggling with heels or boots — or worse, boots with heels! — will be locked out or forced to stand against the wall for the entire session, which won’t be making their feet feel any better for the next dash.
  2. Get the free Program Planner app right now!  Survey the offerings, prioritize those sessions that interest you most, download the handouts, and study the map so you know where you are going next. There’s no time to waste between sessions.
  3. If you are traveling with colleagues, lucky you!  Put your heads together and figure out how to cover the most sessions possible, then take good notes and share them.
  4. Dress in layers.  The ASHA team must have paid off the Weather Channel, because sunny days are forecasted Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with temperatures ranging from around 60 during the day to around 40 at night.  That means you are not going to need a winter coat during the day, so leave it at the hotel, use the coat check room at Convention Hall, or leave it at home and layer up with a sweater and jacket if you’ll be going outside a lot.  But do be sure to bring a light sweater or jacket into Convention Hall.  I’ve been in there when it is freezing and, guaranteed, you’ll find the temps uneven from place to place.
  5. Empty out your purse of all but the most essential items! You won’t need a pen — you’ll be getting dozens of them in the Exhibit Hall.  Tissues, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, your wallet and ID are the basics. And a painkiller, if you didn’t heed my warning in #1.  Take your smallest purse and wear it across your body.  This reduces back strain and gives you another advantage in the dash to the next session. Backpacks can be a nuisance to stow in crowded session rooms.
  6. Bring a sheet of address labels. While there are online entries for prizes, you’ll likely be filling out a bunch of raffle entries and postcards for more info.  Slapping on your address label will save you time and reduce hand-cramps.
  7. Bring your appetite!  You simply can’t leave Philly without wolfing down at least one Philly cheesesteak, a hoagie, a soft pretzel with mustard, Bassett’s Ice Cream with jimmies, anything from DiBruno’s, and water ice (pronounced “wooder ice”).  Many gastronomic delights can be found at the Reading Terminal Market, but be prepared to wait in line.  A quicker and just as satisfying solution is to eat at some of Philly’s gourmet food trucks!
  8. Resist the urge to sign up Philadelphians for artic therapy. Our native son, Bradley Cooper, will help you to understand our regional speech and language.

Looking forward to a wonderful convention!!  Wishing you all safe travels!!

Some FAQs about SOS.com

Since the “new and improved” Speaking of Speech.com went live last week, I’ve been getting lots of emails expressing delight with the new format, and also some questions.  Here is some info you might find helpful:

  1.  Where is the — material that I found several years ago on your site?  Oh, I get this question a lot!  Please note that, with probably less than a dozen exceptions of files that had become corrupted, every single document that was on the old site has been transferred to the new site, and they have been kept under the same headings as before.  The materials are all there;  only the menus have changed in appearance!  If you haven’t scrolled through the lists of materials lately, you really should. It’s astounding to see how much is on there — and it is still all FREE!
  2. How do I contribute to the Materials Exchange?  I’m happy to get that question and would be happy to add new materials.  In recreating the site, I noticed a startling trend.  Contributions of materials were very strong until TeachersPayTeachers came along, then there was a very steep decline.  New materials are always welcome on the Materials Exchange.  Guidelines for sharing materials are found HERE.  Send your original materials to pat@speakingofspeech.com, and I’ll be happy to post them.  It’s an easy way to share your hard work with colleagues all over the world.  Just think of how many students might benefit!
  3. Why don’t my old bookmarks work?  Every page on the site had to be rebuilt from the ground up.  That means each page has a new name and a new URL.  If your old bookmarks are not functioning, you’ll have to go to the home page of the site and bookmark it anew.
  4. How much does it cost to run a website?  Well, most SLP sites can be up and running at minimal cost, but Speaking of Speech.com is different because of the huge volume of free materials that are stored on it.  It is, in fact, one website that you see and a new hosting site with cloud storage that you don’t.  There are many additional yearly costs, including the domain names, my email account, and the newsletter service.  This particular upgrade cost me several thousand dollars (we won’t even talk about the time devoted to it!), and I estimate that I’ve spent upwards of $25,000 to maintain the site in its lifetime.
  5. Will there be a membership fee to use the site?  No, I have always wanted the site to be free to all SLPs, teachers, college students, and parents, and I intend to keep it that way.  However, many SLPs urged me to add a “donate” button on the site and said they’d gladly make a one-time contribution to its upkeep.  Faced with the increasing expense of the site, I took that advice and added the button at the top of each page.  If you value the site and want to express your appreciation, I can assure you that even a $5 donation would be met with my sincere gratitude!  To the 10 SLPs who have made a donation — thank you!!!

 

It’s LIVE! Check out the new Speaking of Speech.com!!

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 2.33.19 PM  After many months of mind-numbing work, the “new and improved” Speaking of Speech.com is finally done!  If you’ve been following the saga on this blog and on Facebook, you’ll know that I was forced to recreate the entire site, including the HUGE Materials Exchange, or risk the site being lost when the web host upgraded.  Having been in this same position 10 years when the first web host went out of business, I knew how much time and effort it would take and, frankly, very seriously considered just shutting down the site.  I put out a survey to see if the site was still of any value to SLPs.  After all, times have changed since the site was first developed many years ago. The response was overwhelming!  Well over 3000 SLPs responded in the first few days;  92% said the Materials Exchange was the feature they used most.  Half of the respondents took the time to write comments, all in the vein of “PLEASE DON’T SHUT DOWN THE SITE!”  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the very kind words of support and encouragement.  Quite honestly, that’s what gave me the motivation to save the site. (I only regret that I am unable to answer each comment personally, as every one truly touched my heart).  Attempts to hire someone to redo the site fell through, so I took on the project myself. Ugh.

Saving the site turned out to be quite an adventure. I did a bare-bones recreation of the site on 5 different platforms to see which was most suitable.  Four platforms turned out to be insufficient for one reason or another, so I canceled those and went with the fifth.  I built one entire page of materials on the Materials Exchange, only to find out that when the user downloaded the material, the document names change from the original, descriptive titles to a crazy string of numbers!  This threw me into panic mode, and necessitated multiple phone calls to the host’s tech support to figure out a work-around.  I also wanted to be sure that I’d never, EVER have to go through this “download, upload, type, and link” routine again.  The solution was for me to purchase a second site used for Cloud storage of the thousands of materials.  Files stored on that site retained their names when downloaded.  Whew!  I had to purchase a few additional upgrades so that the site would work better than ever.  It is now 51 pages long (not including all of the message boards!), but you’ll it very easy to navigate.

After thinking very long and hard about it, I took the suggestion of many SLPs and added a “donate” button to the top of the site.  It has always been my intention that the site would be free for all to use, and that is still the case.  However, if anyone wants to donate any amount to help with the expenses of keeping the site running, I would be ever so grateful.   I did add some advertising to the site as unobtrusively as possible; that generates pennies a day, but every little bit helps.

My goal was to have the new site up and running before the start of my new school year, AND I DID IT!!!  (I go back to school on Monday).  I truly hope that you enjoy the new format and that you continue to use it often.  If you haven’t checked out the boards in the SLP Message Center, please do!  The message boards provide a great way to dialogue with colleagues around the world.  The HELP LINE message board is such a lively place that you can sign up for a daily digest of new posts.  I check this and the other boards daily and always learn something new.  I hope you’ll join in the conversations!  I also hope you’ll contribute some new materials to the MATERIALS EXCHANGE.  Directions are on the site.

I’ll be doing some tweaking here and there over the next few weeks, but hope that, overall, the site works well for you just as it is, because I really need a break! 🙂 Many thanks again to all for your support and encouragement!  I hope you all have a happy, healthy, rewarding new school year!!!

 

Update on Speaking of Speech.com

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all of your encouragement and offers of assistance in my challenge to save the Speaking of Speech.com website! Two months ago, I received word from GoDaddy that my website would have to be upgraded by September or it would be lost.  If SOS.com was a typical website, this would be a nuisance but wouldn’t have dire consequences.  But SOS.com is NOT typical.  The Materials Exchange contains thousands of free materials.  To upgrade the site, I have to download every document individually, then upload and link each one individually.  I had to do this once before, and it was sheer torture.  I vowed then I would never do it again.

I’ll be honest….knowing what I was facing, I was on the verge of pulling the plug on the site when I posted a link on FB to a survey designed to find out just how valuable SOS.com is to the SLP community.  I knew it was an important resource 15 years ago when it was one of the very few pioneer SLP sites, but now it seems that every other SLP in ASHA has a site, blog, Pinterest page, Teachers Pay Teachers store, and/or Instagram account, which I would naturally assume would dilute the impact of my site.  Given that the site requires significant time and expense to maintain, I felt I couldn’t justify going through the torture of rebuilding it if it had run its course and wasn’t needed that much anymore.

Well, I was blown away by the response from SLPs around the world!  In the first three days that the survey went online, nearly 3000 responses were received, and over half of the respondents took time to leave dazzlingly kind words of encouragement, including suggestions about how to make the transition and offers to help with the effort.  I also received countless emails and messages on my blog and through Facebook.  Please believe me when I say that I was deeply touched by every one, and deeply regret that I cannot possibly answer every one individually!!  (Well, I guess I could, but then I’d never have time to redo the site!).  PLEASE share this post with your colleagues to help me send my heartfelt thanks to everyone who reached out in support!

The survey results provided me with some real surprises.  The first surprise is about how many SLPs still use the Materials Exchange:  92% report it is feature they use the most! (Gulp!) That response alone cleared up any doubt that the Materials Exchange would have to be preserved. In the comments section, SLPs begged, pleaded, and told me how the Materials Exchange got them through grad school and remains their go-to resource in their career.

The second surprise was how few SLPs use the message boards in the SLP Message Center! I was shocked to find that only 5% of respondents named the message boards as their favorite feature on the site and 68% said they NEVER use the message boards!!  Good grief, is this because users bookmarked the Materials Exchange and never get beyond that section???  Oh, if so, many SLPs don’t know what they are missing!!  I use the message boards every day and have learned SO MUCH from the conversations on the Help Line and other boards!  SLPs who do use the message boards routinely expressed over and over in the comments that they, too, expand their knowledge, skills, and techniques via the message boards, and many expressed that they appreciate being able to post anonymously (unlike the message boards on the ASHA site, for instance). This gives SLPs the freedom to seek support on caseload challenges, knowing their name, location, or students cannot be identified.  I hadn’t even considered that when I set up the boards, but this advantage was pointed out by a number of SLPs.  If you haven’t checked out the message boards, please do!  You’ll find them at the “SLP Message Center.”

After such an overwhelming response to the news that the site was in jeopardy, I had no choice but to try to save it.  I spent many hours on the phone with web developers, and actually started to recreate the site on 5 different web hosts to see which platform would be the most compatible with my needs.  Unfortunately, I ran into drawbacks with each one, so I went back to GoDaddy (unquestionably the best platform for my site’s features) and spent many more hours on the phone trying to figure out how to make the transfer as easy as possible.  The HUGE problem, of course, is the Materials Exchange. There is just no way around downloading, then uploading each and every page individually.  This is because of how the materials are stored on their server, soon to be obsolete.  The only good news is that I was able to purchase a second site that essentially provides me with “cloud” storage so that if I am ever faced with having to upgrade again, I won’t have to  go through rebuilding the Materials Exchange again.  At least, that’s what they told me, and I have no choice but to believe it!  GoDaddy has a “facelift” service which you can buy to do the site upgrade.  Although I was skeptical, I paid the $500 for this when the agent assured me that the Materials Exchange wouldn’t be a problem for the facelift team, then breathed a sigh of relief.  Unfortunately, a few days later, the facelift team took a look at the sheer volume of materials on the site and said “no way!”  I got my $500 back, but knew that meant I’d have to do it myself.  (To all SLPs who so very kindly offered their assistance in this task, and even offered their husbands and sons who are computer experts, I truly thank you all!  This really isn’t the kind of job that can be divided up.  Even if it was, it would take me a long time to write out the multi-step, often quirky, instructions, and I’d still have to go through the entire exchange to check for errors.  If errors are made –and they will be–better that they are mine, as then I’ll be able to figure out how to fix them!)

For the past 6 weeks, I have been chipping away at the transfer of the materials whenever I find some free time, and have declared nearly all of today through Monday as a marathon transfer session.  My dear husband is very understanding, but I did hear him refer to himself as a “website widower” and I know he’ll be relieved when the new site is up and running.  Me, too!

The new and improved Speaking of Speech.com will be up and running for the 2016-17 school year, with as much of the Materials Exchange as I can transfer (hopefully, all).  You’re going to love the new look of the site, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new features I’m adding.

Many thanks again to all of you SOS.com supporters!  Yes, I’m doing the work, but your encouragement is what is saving the site!