A common struggle for students with limited motor skills (gross and/ or fine) is meeting the expectation of using a laptop in a 1:1 Chromebook school. There are still problems in cases where accommodations have been made for students, for example the implementation of a touchscreen Chromebook still leads to the problem of icons being small and hard for students with limited motor skills to accurately press small icons to carry out tasks such as opening a new tab and cycling between tabs. Other functions such as multi key commands for copy (Control+C) and paste (Control+V) require holding down multiple keys at the same time where students with limited motor skills may struggle with pressing just one intended key at a time.
Shortkeys is a free extension for Google Chrome which allows for one button press to carry out functions within the Google Chrome browser. Shortkeys, along with an optional USB-keyboard or number pad, permits students with limited motor skills to have more control over their Chromebooks to carry out tasks that able-bodied students struggle with such as command over tabs. Shortkeys can be useful in the example task of students being asked to research a topic on the internet and take notes on Google Docs. Students would have to be constantly switching between tabs to read on a website and then go back to the tab with Google Docs to record their notes. Students with limited motor skills who struggle with tasks related to tabs can use Shortkeys to assist them in speeding up the process between going back and forth between tabs related to the assignment by only pressing one key.
Shortkeys involves replacing a less frequently used key such as [ `] [The actual Bracket keys [ ] ] and other keys that can be found on specific keyboards. This is where the usage of external USB-keyboards of number pads comes into place. Numerous custom keyboards can be found online but very basic number pads or small keyboards designed for video gamers would be more ideal in order to not take up as much space. Some custom keyboards even include the functions of user specified macros however their software is most likely incompatible with the Chromebook Operating System which is the focus of the article, but is still something that can be the focus of future reports. Keyboards being used with Shortkeys can also labeled for students with other intellectual or learning disabilities so they can have a better way of remembering which key carries out what functions. External keyboards are not always necessary, especially if students are using speech to text since Shortkeys can be turned on and off within the Chrome browser.
Shortkeys does not allow users to carry out the copy and paste commands with one press of a button. On a Chromebook there are three ways to copy and paste (after the intended text has been highlighted with a mouse) 1).Press and Hold the Control key and then press C (Copy) and then press and hold the Control key again and press V (Paste) 2. Use two fingers on the built in mousepad or touch screen and click or tap on the highlighted material to bring up a drop down menu with copy and paste features on it 3. Like the previous way, plug in an external mouse and right click to bring up the same drop down menu. All of the options involved multiple fine and or gross movements the fingers and wrists. This leaves open the possibility of contacting the developers of Shortkeys to work on allowing copy and paste with their extension. One button press copy and paste are available on Windows machines. Software the permits one button copy and paste can be combined with the usage of Shortkeys to allow students with limited motor skills to have a greater sense of participation within there classroom settings.
Shortkeys allows for a function to import and export settings to allow for easy programming and sharing of different settings that are generally found to be successful for students with different limitations on motor skills. Students and teachers who are learning how to use Shortkeys for the first time can import settings to help them get started. Settings for different class periods or tasks can be saved and loaded to ensure consistency across settings. Anybody who has read this article can feel free to send their exported settings to me so I can share them with other users of Shortkeys to create a collaborative network that promotes the assistance of disabled individuals, specifically those with limited motor skills.
How to use Shortkeys on a Chromebook
- Go to Shortkeys in the Chrome Webstore or search for Shortkeys on the Chrome webstore under Extensions
- Click on the blue “Add to Chrome” Button shown in Figure 1 (you may need administrative approval if the devices is managed by your district)
- Once the extension installs to chrome, refer to Figure 2 and click on the icon in the top right corner of the browser, then click on manage extensions in the dropdown list from the Shortkeys Icon.
- You will be redirected to the settings page for Shortkeys. Click on extension options to begin reassigning keys for necessary offered functions.
- Refer to Figure 4 and add a new shortcut. Make the input for the boxes match figure 4 exactly (Key input is optional but Behavior should say “Trigger another Shortcut”)
Then create a new shortcut that matches figure 5, this time the key input should be a string of keys. The example I gave was [ctrl+tab] since this command would normally switch tabs. Whatever you decide to input make sure it matches your “Trigger another Shortcut” command you made in step 5.
- Note: I have not been able to get the one button press features to work every time without setting it up this way (For switching tabs at least)
- Refer to figure 6 and make sure to enable shortkeys on all websites by clicking “Activation settings” and selecting “enable on all sites” from the drop down menu.
Save your settings and repeat steps 5-7 to optionally create a command for going backwards between tabs to enable multi direction switching. If you do this ensure you don’t use the same keys or you will confuse the program and previously defined commands will not work.
- Make sure to reload all tabs before testing your shortcut keys or else they will NOT work.
- Refer to directions after all figures for instructions on how to import preloaded settings from a set of shortcuts I created using less frequently used keys to enable the functions of: Switching between multiple tabs, opening new tabs, and searching selected text on google.
To import preloaded settings click on the import tab and copy this line of code without altering anything: This code will allow the asterisk *key to search google for highlighted text, the semicolon ;to move forward a tab and the backquote `key (usually above tab). I considered these keys uncommonly used in every day computer work but the keys are easily interchangeable after importing code to accommodate to what works best per individual.
Feel free to post questions below in the comment field for anything not clearly outlined in the article or help designing custom key shortcuts or information on other techniques mentioned about accessibility for students with limited motor skills. I’m curious to see how others put this bit of assistive technology to use.