I LOVE my Livescribe pen and we've bought one for our school already. (around $200) Zoe is changing the face of education. Check out http://livewithlivescribe.edublogs.org/ and consider following @grade1 (Aviva Dunsinger-gr 1/2 teacher whol is an amzaing guru of livescribe, blogging and more) Thanks for the mention, Jason. Good to meet you f2f! I love my Livescribe Pen as well. My husband and many of his colleagues use them as they are great for business and sharing meeting notes. I have seen the pen gaining traction in the independent/private school system, although I have yet to see one in the public system. I hope it does. Such a valuable tool. A few weeks ago my son introduced me to Jing (http://www.techsmith.com/jing-uses.html) which has similar capabilities to a Livescribe Pen, only on your computer meaning it captures everything you are doing on your computer while it records audio from the room and you can play it back or share it as a video. I've included the link. Check it out. I forgot to give my two cents worth on "...is the text always necessary?". I agree that sometimes it is, but many times it is not. If we are evaluating the ideas, thinking, application, oral communication then why does it need to be written down? Given the technology that we have available to us now, we can record audio and save it as a file to refer to for the purposes of marking and if we need it for evidence to support grades, etc. The concept of an online portfolio is something I hear a lot about these days and many schools are turning towards. A portfolio that is always in the Cloud and can be retrieved by students, parents or teachers anywhere. I can see value in that. TEXT TO SPEECH Kurzweil 3000 http://www.at-bc.ca/k3000.html Kurzweil 3000 I have had a lot of experience working with Kurzweil 3000. This is the primary text to speech tool used in our school board. It is including in all of our SEA claims, and our board has purchased an additional 200 licenses to be used board-wide and is accessible on our network computers. My initial introduction to Kurzweil came about 3 years ago when I was placed into a self-contained classroom with about 6 desktop computers and several students with SEA equipment. I did not use Kurzweil much in my classroom, but I did do some support for my students when they were reintegrated back into class. I also sat in on some training sessions my students received with their equipment. Last year was the first year I worked extensively with Kurzweil. One resource I found extremely helpful was LearnOntario http://learnontario.ca/software. AMAZING!!!! It has step by step videos for a huge range of software, including Kurzweil, as well as most of the OSAPAC licensed software. I still make use of it when I have difficulties remembering how to do things that are outside of the norm. I regularly work with students using Kurzweil in the classroom for a variety of tasks. Kurzweil has a huge range of tools to assist students in both reading and writing. Below are, in my opinion, the positives and negatives of Kurzweil: Positives Negatives Can add text via a scanner, through virtual printing, or Expensive can convert pdf documents Can scan in colour or black and white Difficulty converting graphic text – the more graphics, the more difficulty Kurzweil has identifying the text Wide range of voice styles to choose from Glitchy – we have had issues with Kurzweil not recognizing scanners, freezing, losing written work Very easy to adjust reading speed Intimidating – there are a LOT of buttons/controls to manage Integrated dictionary to allow students to look up Setup – not all controls are intuitive (see below) unfamiliar words Highlight text and extract highlights Add notes to text in a variety of ways (sticky notes, end notes, column notes, voice notes) Edit the text to correct mispronunciations Customize toolbars for student needs Can change whether Kurzweil reads a word at a time, sentence at a time, paragraph at a time, or the entire text continuously Can tile windows to see more than one text at a time – for example, the student can view the text and comprehension questions at the same time One big issue I have with Kurzweil is that several of the controls seem almost, “backward” compared to most mainstream products students are familiar with. For instance, to turn pages you use the down arrow as opposed to the up arrow. I thought it only bothered me, but ran into a teacher who is LD who told me it drives her crazy as well. Some frustration for LD students, although most seem to adapt to it OK with time. For an otherwise fairly well designed program, it seems like a simple fix that was overlooked. I have taken my original document and cut and paste to make it a bit easier to read without having to download the document. Everything is the same except the chart, which I had to adjust to fit in the post. Kurzweil 3000 I have had a lot of experience working with Kurzweil 3000. This is the primary text to speech tool used in our school board. It is including in all of our SEA claims, and our board has purchased an additional 200 licenses to be used board-wide and is accessible on our network computers. My initial introduction to Kurzweil came about 3 years ago when I was placed into a self-contained classroom with about 6 desktop computers and several students with SEA equipment. I did not use Kurzweil much in my classroom, but I did do some support for my students when they were reintegrated back into class. I also sat in on some training sessions my students received with their equipment. Last year was the first year I worked extensively with Kurzweil. One resource I found extremely helpful was LearnOntario http://learnontario.ca/software. AMAZING!!!! It has step by step videos for a huge range of software, including Kurzweil, as well as most of the OSAPAC licensed software. I still make use of it when I have difficulties remembering how to do things that are outside of the norm. I regularly work with students using Kurzweil in the classroom for a variety of tasks. Kurzweil has a huge range of tools to assist students in both reading and writing. Below are, in my opinion, the positives and negatives of Kurzweil: Positives Can add text via a scanner, through virtual printing, or can convert pdf documents Expensive Can scan in colour or black and white Wide range of voice styles to choose from Very easy to adjust reading speed Integrated dictionary to allow students to look up unfamiliar words Highlight text and extract highlights Add notes to text in a variety of ways (sticky notes, end notes, column notes, voice notes) Edit the text to correct mispronunciations Customize toolbars for student needs Can change whether Kurzweil reads a word at a time, sentence at a time, paragraph at a time, or the entire text continuously Can tile windows to see more than one text at a time – for example, the student can view the text and comprehension questions at the same time Negatives Difficulty converting graphic text – the more graphics, the more difficulty Kurzweil has identifying the text Glitchy – we have had issues with Kurzweil not recognizing scanners, freezing, losing written work Intimidating – there are a LOT of buttons/controls to manage Setup – not all controls are intuitive (see below) One big issue I have with Kurzweil is that several of the controls seem almost, "backward" compared to most mainstream products students are familiar with. For instance, to turn pages you use the down arrow as opposed to the up arrow. I thought it only bothered me, but ran into a teacher who is LD who told me it drives her crazy as well. Some frustration for LD students, although most seem to adapt to it OK with time. For an otherwise fairly well designed program, it seems like a simple fix that was overlooked. Hi Jason, Have you tried cutting and pasting using the Word clipboard in D2L? When you compose, be in the Advanced tab, and you'll see a clipboard icon with a blue W. I cut and pasted yours from your original .doc post -keeps the formatting and table. Jeryl Jason, thanks for the LearnOntario site, just checked it out and added it to my 'tutorial' page on the AT wikispaces I am creating. It's great! I agree that Kurzweil is a very powerful program that is also tempermental. I experienced some of that glitchiness during EQAO last year with documents that would not print and work simply disappearing. It was a challenge. I can also relate to the intimidation factor. There are so many controls and nuances to learn it is overwhelming. Thank you for the link to LearnOntario. This is a great resource and I can forsee its future usefulness to learn about each of the wide variety of technologies we need to be 'fluent' in. Kurzweil printing problems during EQAO. Yikes! Tell me about it. The Kurzweil developers were not that enthused about trying to solve the problem either, in spite of it involving the entire province on a high stakes test. Just checked out the Blio Reader, looks great! Very interesting info about Ray Kurzweil! Premier Literacy http://www.readingmadeeasy.ca/training/videos.html LE#2 E-tivity 2 (Lesley Andrews) Technology: Premier Literacy My Experience: I am familiar with Kurzweil 3000 as I have worked with students who have Kurzweil loaded on their SEA computers. In the last few years the Board I am in has begun using Premier in place of Kurzweil so I felt that I should become familiar with this suite of programs and understand their application in the classroom. What I found interesting is that Premier is now marketed as a suite of programs to facilitate literacy, no longer as assistive technology, and as a tool or resource to be used with all students, not just those students who are identified as having a special need or challenge with language. Premier has text-to-speech and text-to-audio (MP3 files) capabilities. As Premier is mainly a word processing platform, there is also an expansive dictionary available, word prediction, the ability to read almost any document (internet, email, digital books, word processing, etc.) and highlighting or bookmarking text. There are so many tools I found it difficult to try them all. This is the first time I have looked into Premier and I am not proficient. I expect that continued consistent use would help develop proficiency. I also expect that a need to use the technology in order to effectively access information would stimulate proficiency whereas for someone who does not need the technology, proficiency would come at a slower rate since I can access and comprehend information simply by reading. Positive Points of Premier Negative Points of Premier Reads many types of text therefore Most effective with digital content allows access to internet research therefore textbooks and reference which previously would require strong books should be in digital form which reading skills can be a challenge to access Varying levels of functional In order to integrate Premier effectively enhancement which means students into curriculum and lesson planning the can access the parts of the suite that teacher should have dedicated will be useful to them access to the technology “Key to Access”: software loaded onto MP3 that you plug into USB port which allows access to Premier suite of programs on any computer. This allows flexible access without a prescribed computer. This is the first time that I have accessed Premier although familiarity with similar technology certainly made it easier. I understand that the suite of programs is available at a more affordable price than Kurzweil which would make it attractive for school boards and individual purchase. There is also an At Home feature that allows students with access at school to access the same suite of products on their home computer. I recognize that other programs may offer more powerful tools, but I do believe that Premier offers tools that would level the playing field for many students, including English Language Learners and those who have language challenges, at an accessible price. Sources: http://www.readingmadeeasy.ca/training/videos.html http://www.specialneedscomputers.ca/index.php?l=product_detail&p=1052 A great summary, you're right, there is a LOT of tools within premier and it takes a long time to get comfortable with them. One of the tools I love the most on premier is the summary tool, it summarizes websites down to a few lines allowing the students to see whether the website has what they need without having to read lots of information. That is a pretty powerful tool! Thank you. I concluded that Premier is a viable alternative to the 'Cadillac' Kurzweil and this is another reason why. Does anyone know how the Summary functionality works? How do we know it's picking out the most important parts of the text we ask it to summarize? Is it really all that trustworthy? I'm not all that experienced with it, so would welcome insights. I'm not really sure how it works, but on the couple of occasions I have used it with kids, I have had no issues with it. We mainly used it to bring research on ancient egypt down to a more manageable level. "Inclusive Technology". I completely agree. An "I have a dream..." moment. Should a student need to be identified to have access to all of these powerful tools which can support their success? In my opinion, no. Of course money plays a huge role in universal access to technology for everyone but we are getting closer. When you hear about 'e-schools' where every student uses a computer for everything, no notebooks or pencil cases, etc., you would be hard pressed to figure out which students are identified. Students who have had access to, and effectively used, SEA computers in the past are way ahead of everyone else in using technology as their way of going to school and staying organized. Those who were on the margins would then be leading the pack. Write Outloud http://www.donjohnston.com/support/wol6tutorials/getting_started.html SPEECH RECOGNITION http://www.at-bc.ca/dnsp.html Dragon Naturally Speaking http://www.goqsoftware.com/en/ Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 is one of the speech to text pieces of software placed on SEA computers in our school board. In the past year, we have also started adding Speak Q to our SEA laptops. There are advantages and disadvantages to each piece of software. I have chosen to focus on Dragon. In my opinion, it is overall a more powerful piece of speech to text tool for students. There are some drawbacks to Dragon as well. I started working extensively with Dragon last year. I have created my own speech profile which I try to use on a regular basis. For me, it is fairly accurate (much to the surprise of some of my students). I have a fairly good understanding of the training process connected to Dragon, as well as the speech to text functions. I have not yet made use of Dragon’s ability to use voice commands to access menu functions and other aspects of computer operation. Positives Negatives Ability to create voice profiles in both French and Voice training can be a long process – is very frustrating English for some students Available as a free app on iPad/iPhone Students need to be aware of when the mic is on – Dragon blindly types whatever is said (students who self talk, or pause to talk to a friend while the mic is on will find whatever they say on their page) Ability to configure microphone to filter out background Temporary conditions such as colds that affect a noise (VERY useful in the classroom) student‟s voice can reduce Dragon‟s effectiveness Setup hot keys to access several Dragon functions In some cases, students need to try different microphones to find one that picks up their voice in a satisfactory manner Voice activation of the microphone – can put to sleep, Works best if used on a regular basis turn off using voice commands (and wake from sleep mode) Voice profiles can be transferred between computers (useful for students wanting to use Dragon from home) Ability to use with several programs and also comes with a built in word processor (Dragonpad) OSAPAC licensed Having used both Speak Q and Dragon, my personal preference is for Dragon. Overall it has the potential to do more than Speak Q. Dragon has the ability to not only serve as a way to get speech to text, but is also able to allow students to use voice commands to access most of the tools on their computer. Students with physical disabilities would find this function of Dragon very useful. I also like the ability to setup the microphone to filter out background noise. In a classroom situation, this can be invaluable in getting speech to text to work properly. Dragon does not work well with students who need a lot of, “self talk” to complete their work – some of the students I have worked with are unable to remember to turn off the microphone between when they finish dictating and when they start talking to themselves. Speak Q overall is easier to train, and gives the students the ability to combine speak and select text to help reduce errors from the program not correctly identifying what is spoken. Students can experience a lot of success very quickly with minimal training with Speak Q. However, Speak Q does have difficulty working well in situations with a great deal of background noise. Dragon can be seen as a, "miracle cure" for some students - they are able to talk, and the computer types. However, as you pointed out, this is not for everyone. I use Dragon periodically, mainly to keep my voice profile up to date and to remind myself how everything works for when I work with students. However, I MUCH prefer to type - I hate talking to my computer. I find it slower, and I have far more grammatical errors. I also find around about Grade 6, students become more self-conscious about their computers. One of the first things they move away from is Dragon - it is kind of, "weird" to talk to your computer. Really unfortunate. I was just working with a Grade 4 student yesterday who was using Dragon in class. His classmates were amazed that all he had to do was talk, and the computer would type for him. This wonderment seems to disappear as students get older. As to background noise, not many students are taught/remember to do the microphone check before using Dragon. It helps immensely in the noisy classroom. Dragon is surprisingly good at working in noisy environments once the mic check is completed. That being said, I always start training with Word Q. That way, if Dragon doesn't work, there is a backup plan, as Word Q almost always works without issues. Thank you for your insights Jason. As a parent of children who require accommodation in order to be successful (and a teacher of many who do as well) it does become tough around grade 6 because the students really just want to be like everyone else. Some teachers are great at making the accommodations seamless and the students are not singled out in any way, but others...not so much. It takes constant encouragement to get students to accept the accommodations and use them to their advantage and not worry about what the other students think. Thank you for all of the tips. http://www.goqsoftware.com/en/ Dragon is an amazing writing tool, in spite of its difficulty sometimes. (Perhaps it was named "Dragon" appropriately?) The newest version 11 Pro which is Ministry licenced is a vast improvement. I had a struggling student last week (grade 5) and had him dictate a paragraph into Dragon with no prior voice training. It typed out with 100% accuracy! (the look on his face was heartwarming.) Is there some way you can get some hands-on playtime with this and other AT, Al? That may help you make the needed leap from theory to practice. Remember, "Learn to Play/Play to Learn"> (ECOO.org 2011 conference theme) Lately I've been playing around with the Dragon Dictation app on my iPhone, so I thought I'd take a closer look at Dragon Naturally Speaking. With the iPhone app, you can dictate text and email messages as well as Facebook and Twitter updates. Neat! I've seen a high level demo of Dragon Naturally Speaking, so I was not completely new to the product. It was, however, exciting to delve into the more advanced features and functionality. It's amazing that one can essentially control their entire desktop using Dragon to do things like working with Microsoft Office products (for example, Word and Excel), checking email in a variety of email clients, and surfing the web. I couldn't agree more! I had three students last year with IEP's in French that removed the reading and writing assessment and instead assessed their oral skills. I started using a program called xpresslab for them which allowed them to hear a question and reply orally and then realized ALL my kids were dying to get their hands on it! Every child had a go at retelling the class play on it, and I then recored oral feedback back to them. By providing a different way to present their work, everyone responded at a whole new level. Positive 1. There is a lot of support available for Dragon, both in written and video formats. For students who don't read well, the tutorials are a great way to give them access to training on the product. 2. Because Dragon is such a feature heavy tool, becoming a superuser would likely be quite an accomplishment for a student. I'm envisioning leadership opportunities here for the student who becomes proficient. They could end up being the go-to person for other students and teachers in their school. Negative 1. I've heard horror stories about individual voice files becoming corrupted when students accidentally use someone else's. This could lead to frustration, and time consuming recreation of the original file. I wonder if there's a process in place for backing up or password protecting voice files so they can be preserved. 2. Because this is speech recognition software, the student using it needs to be able to talk into a microphone. This could potentially be disruptive in a classroom situation, such as during a test. Dragon voice files can be backed up. We encourage students to back up (and when possible save to an external drive) regularly - at least once per month if possible. This also means you can export voice files if a student wants to set up Dragon elsewhere (another computer, at home). I had a student last year who had Dragon at home and was provided a new SEA laptop. We imported her Dragon file from home to avoid having to go through the setup. Dragon also keeps a "top-secret" backup file you can sometimes access if the original becomes corrupt. Our SEA IT guy had me retrieve a voice file once this way, but I honestly cannot remember how to do it. Somehow Dragon has a separate backup file that you cannot normally see. That being said, as Jeryl mentioned Dragon will work for some students with no training, and is well worth a try. So, I attended the ECOO conference last week in Richmond Hill (highly recommend it if you have interest in technology in the classroom) and had an, "aha!" moment during a session on Livescribe pens. Have already read (and experienced) some of the frustrations of Speech to text software. Zoe Branigan-Pipe, the presenter, was wondering why there was all the concern about converting speech to text. Are we not just trying to find out their ideas, and would not just the audio suffice? A very interesting point I thought when considering why you are having a student use speech recognition software. Something I am going to think about with my teaching - why am I having a student use Dragon (or Speak Q)? Would a simple audio recording get at what I am trying to find out? There will be times when I do want the text - perhaps as a tool to teach revising and editing, for example - but is the text always necessary? Anyways, thought I would share, and perhaps it would fit in best here. By the way, also attended a session on EQAO - the presenter was fantastic! Someone by the name of Jeryl, as I recall . . . Anyways, if you are on Twitter, Zoe is @zbpipe, and has some good tidbits of information from time to time. AL…..I do not have any working experience with this software but after hearing about it and seeing the tutorials - I think I would like to try it in practise. The tutorial I explored included Dragon in action and did investigate a few links. I noticed there was quite a range of products ranging from a cost of $99 for a basic home edition to a $599.99 for the professional edition. Prior to investigating this program I thought it was solely used to help special students but now realize it has a uses through features that will assist anyone looking to use it for a variety of needs. I chose to investigate the nuance tutorial videos under Education Solutions. As far as understanding what the program can do, I will have to trust information contained on the tutorials and links to list the following as : Positives + improves core reading and rewriting skills for students of all abilities + helps students with language-based learning disabilities more easily express themselves in writing + provides accessibility for teachers and students with physical disabilities that hamper typing + bridges English Language Learners' oral and written communication skills + enables teachers to prepare more detailed assessments of student work through dictation + claims to be 3x faster than typing and produces over 99% accuracy + forces concept of read- a-loud and its benefits via dictation + oral prewriting exercise helping organize thought and sentence structures +focuses on content rather than mechanics of writing Concerns Ironically enough, I was at a meeting recently of area special education resource staff and the subject of Dragon naturally Speaking (DNS) came up. - the version 11 was identified as being better than others - frustration with the sensitivity to voice training - mention of a need to work with student on virtually a 1:1 basis to set it up - time consuming to train voice and have student become more proficient in using the software - perhaps more suited to older students In summary, I had looked at this technology in the LE1 exercise. Although it may have its drawbacks as listed in the concern areas, I would like to give it a try and perhaps here from people who are using it or have tried to use it with students at the elementary level. I see the potential benefit to help students who have organizational difficulty with their sentence structure as well as practical limitations in getting their thoughts into a printed medium via computer either because of their limitations with keyboarding skills/mechanics or because of their particular learning challenges. SPEAK Q Believe it or not, this was he first time I had ever tried speech recognition software and I loved it! I decided to look at SpeakQ and downloaded SpeakQ/WordQ onto my computer. Unfortunately, it kept crashing my system (it‟s not the most reliable computer), but once I put it on my husband‟s computer, I was good to go. My biggest concern about using SpeakQ was whether it would be able to recognize my British / Canadian accent, but on the advice of one of my fellow course colleagues, I went for the UK option on the voices. Although I had to ensure I used my best British accent (it got confused on occasion), overall it did a pretty good job detecting what I was saying. I tested out some of the training programs but I was unable to use it in word processing software because it is incompatible with notepad, the only writing software on my husband‟s computer. I can‟t wait to try this out more on my school computer, I can see it being a huge help at report writing time if it‟s compatible with the software we use for this. The software is easy to use and navigate and I didn‟t need to look up any instructions or videos to get started. Positives Negatives Will make students much more independent It takes some time to train the computer if and confident in writing. you have an accent from another country! For most people, the amount of time required Students need to be speaking when the rest of to train your voice is quite small the class is quiet, this could make some students feel uncomfortable. Very simple interface, very user friendly The voice is very monotone and there is only one voice option (at least I couldn‟t find another!). The voice is also not as clear as I have seen on other text to speech programs. Students can read back what they have read. It‟s a small tool bar that doesn‟t dominate the screen or distract. Great support videos You can select how regularly it backs up your profile. It‟s available free through OSAPAC. I didn't find it too frustrating and I have quite a strong Canadian accent for a Brit and British accent for a Canadian :) I haven't tried it with ESL students. I imagine it would be a bit of a struggle. One thing that helps (and I just discovered and LOVE) is that if Speak Q guesses WAY off, typing the first letter of the word you want will get Speak Q to predict using that letter as a base. I envision my proficient users would be able to type much of what they want, then supplement with Speak Q when Word Q doesn't give enough options. I chose to investigate the SpeakQ software. It does seem fairly easy to use and the free 30 day option is great for a quick trial run before purchase. I have seen students using this in our board and it would appear easy to use. I must say the online video tutorials are wonderful and are a great resource before and after purchase. The short detailed video clips on every feature are priceless. As we discussed earlier we only want to look into what we need and this makes this very easy to search. The FAQ section was good as well for quick answers to common problems. Pros Cons Available in 4 languages, English, French, Spanish Not available as a „hands free‟ device so this would and German. not be a good fit for low-vision or poor dexterity users. The „speak and select‟ option is great for beginner users until you become more proficient then switch Must have ideas and thoughts fairly well organized to „speak continuously.‟ This will lessen the re- before dictation, may be difficult for some students. occurrences of the ums, ands, ahs. While this may be easy to get started there are still School licenses will allow for home use as well. bugs to work out for the new user. The way we speak is unique to us and it does take some patience Having the synonym feature makes for more to get to a proficient level. interesting and variance in word choice for any writers. Some LD students may find it weird to be speaking to the computer while the rest of the class is silent. Features are in the background and don‟t appear too distracting to the writer. Independence in writing on their own without the teachers assistance. Having the read back feature will help with punctuation and grammar as most students can hear when the sentence sounds right and can make adjustments where necessary. LE#2 E-tivity 3 (Lesley Andrews) Technology: Speak Q My Experience: Immediately I could see the value of the Word Q + Speak Q combination for everyone, not just students with learning disabilities. I type quickly, but there are times when dictating what I am thinking could be valuable. I can especially see this software as being a great support to young learners who are learning to write or English Language Learners especially because of the word prediction features and the spoken feedback. A definite positive aspect of Speak Q is that the training required is minimal and the time required to learn to use the system effectively would be quite short. Of course Speak Q (+ Word Q) does not have the extensive capabilities of a program like Dragon NS (+Kurzweil), but not all students require such an expansive set of tools; they only require some support in their writing. Positive Points of Speak Q Negative Points of Speak Q By speaking you can type one word or an This is technology that is used specifically entire paragraph which lends itself to for writing (word prediction, speech varying ability levels within a class recognition, spoken feedback) therefore it lacks the capabilities that students with more extensive challenges with language may require. Simple to train and learn controls making the program accessible to a variety of students and not infringing on instructional time to support students in its use. Affordable (less than $300) relative to many other programs making the program accessible to more students who can benefit from the support technology can offer. I am familiar with Dragon Naturally Speaking so I chose to do some research on Speak Q. Until today I had only heard of Speak Q in passing, but I have to admit I am hooked. I want to install Word Q + Speak Q on my system today. This is the first time that I have accessed Speak Q and I was amazed by how simple a program it is to learn and use. Sources: http://www.goqsoftware.com/en/try/speakq-video-demos/speakq-video-demos-page/ Speech Recognition - Speak Q Positives Negatives Registered trademark of Bloorview Kids Reb…Canadian! Moving horizontal green bar is displayed when you Not OSAPAC licensed (like Dragon Naturally speak a phrase Speaking), although Word Q is Multiple speech recognition profiles can be created Word Q software must be pre-installed A microphone wizard directs you how to adjust the Speak Q must be installed directly on an individual volume of the microphone computer. If there is a connection to a network, you can store and retrieve Speak Q files from the network directory. It is easy to train your speech. You can choose a Noise-cancelling microphone is recommended, or beginner, intermediate or advanced level. A short background noise can be distracting piece of text appears at the top of the screen. It is read and highlighted word by word making it easy to follow. The computer will say remaining words again if you forget what you are supposed to say. Spoken words are presented as a list of choices in Mistakes will occur the „Speak and Select‟ mode (default). You select from a list of words or phrases (both keyboard or mouse can be used) or letters can be typed Speech Q allows you to dictate either continuously Students have to be careful to access their into a document or into a word prediction box, you personalized voice file, they may lose information if can dictate in phrases or individual word, they forget to save it. Corrections can be made using speech-enabled Speak Q costs $99.00…but 30 day free trial word prediction. Back-up and restore your speech profile can be created, Speech Q can be used without having to learn speech commands Although I did attend one workshop on Speak Q at Strategic Transitions in Aurora I have yet to use it with students, although I have planned to use it with a student that I tutor since he has a learning disability (variable psychomotor expression). Speak Q offers great potential for differentiated instruction and universal design in learning experiences. It allows students to record their ideas where they previously would have struggled. Not only will they learn to write more fluently, but their spelling, grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension will improve due to their ability to write more complex stories. It is particularly useful for students who are slow in typing or writing by hand. Since students have to pay close attention to words that appear on the screen as they speak, their ability to focus increases. For all these reasons, Speak Q offers greater access to the curriculum, thus providing greater equity to students who require this tool. WORD PREDICTION/WRITING SUPPORT Read & Write Gold I chose to focus on Read and Write Gold as this is what I am encouraging students to use on a regular basis. The program has many features which I find a number of are user friendly. The hope is that as students will learn to use the full extent of the program over time as they get older. We were able to get a full day training session with selected teachers and classes to get the program under way. We introduced it toward the end of last year and now the students who are using it with any degree of consistency are finding it to be useful and fun giving them a feeling that they can be successful. Positives + adjustable tool bar with user friendly icons + play feature reads all types of text including that on pictures that can customize voices including "Julie" which speaks with a French accent excellent for reading French text + built in spell checker, dictionary, word wizard (thesaurus) + crystal ball icon for word prediction software + other features include study skills highlighters, pronunciation tutor, fact finder search engines Negatives - students really need to be able to spell first three letters of a word to make some accurate use of the word prediction feature - can be time consuming as the list of available predicted words can be lengthy - voices used are not necessarily of great quality reading with no emotion Liked the chance to review my use of this technology with the list of tutorials made available with the assignment. Overall we are pleased with the support it gives our students, we need more of our teachers to promote and familiarize themselves with its potential and features. The more students increase their familiarity with it I think the more useful it becomes for students. Thank you for your review based on first hand experience. I reviewed R & W Gold as well but do not have hands on experience. I came to the same conclusions that you did. I can see definite value for students especially if they start with the program in their elementary years and grow with it as I think there are some extremely valuable tools included that will be a benefit in high school and post secondary school. I also agree that we as teachers need to be "fluent" in the technology ourselves so that we can effectively encourage and support the students who are using it. I really do believe this should be a priority. Thanks. I totally agree with you that teachers have to increase their familiarity with AT programs, and I have come up with a simple solution I will be suggesting to my principal. I would love to see 15 minutes each staff meeting used to show what a program can do with teachers volunteering to show a program they really like. From there, teachers can at least decide if it could support particular students in their classes and have more of an indepth play in their own time on programs they see as relevant. We did something similar to this last year with Math games and it was a huge support to us all. I agree. I heard that within the Halton board they're pushing to have a teacher in each school who specializes in AT and can be the go-to person -- or the person who demos interesting tools at staff meetings. What a great gig that would be! http://www.tdsb.on.ca/wwwdocuments/parents/special_education Read and Write Gold The way that this software was presenting itself made it feel a lot more like a, “this is for everyone tool.” At least the video and literature that I found had a universal design approach to the sell and they definitely have the available options to back it up. I did not see anything that spoke directly to learning disabilities. After viewing every video I thought of a different group of users that could benefit from this software. I did notice that the Toronto Board has bought into this product so someone important has stood up and said, “I think this is what the kids need.” I have never seen it in action so the video clips were a great help. Pros Cons The „FactMapper‟ option is a great way for Must already be pretty proficient in typing skills teachers to present the flow of information in a and dexterity. graphic organizer. For students the ability to create a presentation with graphics and written Not all boards are using this software so students information was impressive. moving around may find it confusing to keep switching software or have software that their new Good publishing tool as there is an option to board is not familiar with. export documents to a web page for sharing. The „Study Skills‟ option is great for online reading and highlighting to make study notes and collating the information by way of what you have highlighted. You can then have the system pull the chosen information and put together in a nice neat Word document for studying. Web searcher tool would allow the individual user to keep frequented websites at you fingertips. For educators you could preload the list with only the sites you want the students to view for safe searches and information rich sites. Allows for customizing in the placement and usage of the toolbar. It can be left floating onscreen or change the placement of it from horizontal to vertical. Judi, I reposted your message below using the Word/Clipboard feature in our Desire 2 Learn platform. Right now it seems like there are 3 "camps" for text to speech software across the province: Kurzweil, Premier and Read and Write Gold (Text Help) While many boards have adopted Premier because of Kurzweil's costs, others such have Toronto and Dufferin-Peel have Read and Write Gold. Sometimes one software fits a board's preference, including what works best on their network. -------------------------------------- Read and Write Gold The way that this software was presenting itself made it feel a lot more like a, “this is for everyone tool.” At least the video and literature that I found had a universal design approach to the sell and they definitely have the available options to back it up. I did not see anything that spoke directly to learning disabilities. After viewing every video I thought of a different group of users that could benefit from this software. I did notice that the Toronto Board has bought into this product so someone important has stood up and said, “I think this is what the kids need.” I have never seen it in action so the video clips were a great help. Pros Cons The „FactMapper‟ option is a great way for Must already be pretty proficient in typing teachers to present the flow of information skills and dexterity. in a graphic organizer. For students the ability to create a presentation with graphics Not all boards are using this software so and written information was impressive. students moving around may find it confusing to keep switching software or Good publishing tool as there is an option have software that their new board is not to export documents to a web page for familiar with. sharing. The „Study Skills‟ option is great for online reading and highlighting to make study notes and collating the information by way of what you have highlighted. You can then have the system pull the chosen information and put together in a nice neat Word document for studying. Web searcher tool would allow the individual user to keep frequented websites at you fingertips. For educators you could preload the list with only the sites you want the students to view for safe searches and information rich sites. Allows for customizing in the placement and usage of the toolbar. It can be left floating onscreen or change the placement of it from horizontal to vertical. LE#2 E-tivity 4 (Lesley Andrews) Technology: Read and Write GOLD My Experience: Read and Write GOLD has many features that are similar to Word Q, Premier and Kurzweil from a word processing perspective but these features do not, in my opinion, define the real power behind the program. The program has a toolbar that floats and is compatible with many different programs commonly used in all levels of school and business making it a very accessible tool. There are two aspects of this program that set it apart for me: The Teacher‟s Toolkit and the Study Skills and Research. The Teacher‟s Toolkit includes features like a spelling log and an activity log that allows the teachers to track a student‟s progress. Another feature in the Teacher‟s Toolkit that really caught my interest is Testmaker which allows the teacher to build tests, with a variety of question types, which the students then complete and submit to the teacher online. The most powerful and useful tools, especially in high school and post secondary school, are the Study Skills and Research tools. These tools facilitate student research by highlighting and extracting text, saving the information in a fact file, categorizing the information based on how it is highlighted, building vocabulary lists and all the while the program collects the date, author and source of the facts for the student. Read and Write GOLD will also build a bibliography for the paper being written. There is also a Fact Mapper function that allows students to map their thinking and then convert the map into text for students to expand and edit into their written piece. Positive Points of Read + Write GOLD Negative Points of Read + Write GOLD Encourages independence while the The reading voice is extremely teacher can track progress remotely computerized and I found it difficult to through the Teacher Toolkit thereby understand. This may be a significant reducing the stigma for students who drawback for students who are require extra support. learning the language or are hard of hearing. Testmaker facilitates the building of Lacks a speech recognition tool for online tests that students complete and students who prefer, or have more submit online. This improves access for success with, dictation than typing. students who require the support and reduces stigma since all students could complete the test online and it would be difficult to determine who is using the supportive features of the program. The Fact Mapper tool allows students to develop ideas and concepts then convert them to text. This feature structures and organizes a student‟s written work so they can expand and edit easily without getting bogged down in the organization of their essay. This is the first time I have heard of Read and Write GOLD and I am excited by the tools available. At $750 for an individual license the program is a little pricier but I do believe that many of the tools beyond the simple word processing capabilities are extremely powerful. For a student who has difficulty organizing their research and written work the Study Skills and Research tools are priceless. The student can focus on their research and writing while the program tracks their sources and develops their bibliography. As a teacher the Teacher Toolkit is extremely valuable to track my students‟ progress and to allow students who require the support to take their tests online. Sources: http://www.texthelp.com/page.asp?pg_id=10059 Read and Write Gold (TextHelp) has been exploding onto the scene in the past couple of years! It's the UDL solution for Toronto (TDSB) as well as Dufferin-Peel, with board-wide and take-home licences. There definitely seems to be the "Premier camp" and the "Text Help camp", amongst the Ontario school boards, with Kurzweil the mainstay for SEA. Jeryl You have answered a question that has been forming in my mind. What are the determining factors of which technology a student will have access to? Is it purely related to the Board a student attends school in? If a student moved to another Board would they have to learn a new technology or would they still have access to what they know? Does their SEA computer move with them? Word Q http://www.goqsoftware.com/en/ Word Q Word Q is a very simple, but very effective form of word prediction software. I have been making extensive use of Word Q for the past 2 years. Word Q is one of the first pieces of software I introduce to the LD students I work with. It is simple to use and very easy to implement into regular classroom practice. Outside of predictive spelling, Word Q has the ability to speak words and/or sentences as a student types. It can also read a wide range of text. Positives Negatives Easy to setup Need to either turn off word box or hit spacebar to type numbers Ability to switch between French and English Prediction box can be adjusted to either follow as students type or to remain in one place Adjust the number of words that are displayed as predictions Provides sentence prompts with homonyms and other difficult to discern words Can adjust the word order between most likely and alphabetical Can adjust how much text is read as a student types (will read letters, words, sentences, or any combination of the 3) Can change the voice type and speed Adapts to student writing style – adjusts what predictions are provided based on previous patterns Can set up multiple profiles (more than one student can use the same computer) Can setup word lists for specific topics OSAPAC licensed for take-home use “Read” function allows students to both read text and to use as a proofreading tool Word Q is by far one of the most useful programs I use with the LD students I service. It is very easy to put into their program and most students immediately see the benefits of using it. The only issues I have with it are making sure students turn it on when they type and making sure they are using the speech function with headphones. It has a tremendous amount of upside and very few negatives. I will deal with 2 questions in one. Co-writer - I have only used in a limited manner, but found it was not as easy to use as Word Q. There was a lag between what they typed and what went into the document, and the reading was not as good. I like that Word Q is relatively seamless when you are working with a document. That may just be my unfamiliarity with Co-writer. I had Word Q installed on the computers in my classroom when I took over the Spec Ed class I was teaching, so I just jumped into that. Word choice - by and large, the read back function does seem to take care of most of the issues around similar sounding words. That being said, I am usually OK with a correctly spelled, similar sounding word, rather than a poorly spelled word that I need to try to decipher the invented spelling/letter formation of. Most of the time I can still get the meaning of what they are trying to write, and best of all, I can actually read it - as opposed to the handwriting/spelling most LD students have. Jason Just reposting my Word Q write up for anyone who had trouble opening the original document Word Q Word Q is a very simple, but very effective form of word prediction software. I have been making extensive use of Word Q for the past 2 years. Word Q is one of the first pieces of software I introduce to the LD students I work with. It is simple to use and very easy to implement into regular classroom practice. Outside of predictive spelling, Word Q has the ability to speak words and/or sentences as a student types. It can also read a wide range of text. Positives Easy to setup Ability to switch between French and English Prediction box can be adjusted to either follow as students type or to remain in one place Adjust the number of words that are displayed as predictions Provides sentence prompts with homonyms and other difficult to discern words Can adjust the word order between most likely and alphabetical Can adjust how much text is read as a student types (will read letters, words, sentences, or any combination of the 3) Can change the voice type and speed Adapts to student writing style – adjusts what predictions are provided based on previous patterns Can set up multiple profiles (more than one student can use the same computer) Can setup word lists for specific topics OSAPAC licensed for take- home use "Read" function allows students to both read text and to use as a proofreading tool Negatives Need to either turn off word box or hit spacebar to type numbers Word Q is by far one of the most useful programs I use with the LD students I service. It is very easy to put into their program and most students immediately see the benefits of using it. The only issues I have with it are making sure students turn it on when they type and making sure they are using the speech function with headphones. It has a tremendous amount of upside and very few negatives. LOL. Teaching without technology just about did me in in my final internship at teacher's college. I had just finished two practicums with computer, internet access, multi-media projectors and document cameras in every class. Relatively primitive technology given what is available these days but still very powerful tools that made it very easy to develop really rich lessons that connected students to the rest of the world. It was a real struggle to go completely no-tech in my final internship, but I did it. I did make excellent use of any computer lab time my students had though... My son is sitting across from me typing away on his math homework. I asked him about teaching without technology (he attends an e-school-lots of technology). His response? "Why would you?". Such a contrast between Boards, schools and teachers. Being back in a school after 10+ years of resource, I'm finding it interesting (i.e.sometimes challenging?) to integrate AT into the day. One solution has been to model teach with a teacher (today was Smart Ideas) so that her grade 5 class completed their government project using technology. That was exciting. I've also tried to give AT a different flavour. For a group of needy students I have the AT* Crew (*AT=awesome technology)... Everyone now wants to join. Perhaps we could rename this course, the Use and Knowledge of Awesome Technology! Jeryl… One of the classes I supported last year was an LD self-contained classroom. The classroom teacher (who had an LD herself) referred to them as, "Learning Differences". They had some amazing discussions around how they learned differently. The lightbulb moment for a lot of LD kids is when you tell them that having and LD means you have normal to above normal intelligence. Many do not realize that they have to be smart to be LD. It's too bad some students with LDs don't know that they have average to above average intelligence. I think teachers should make this clear when they collaborate with students regarding their IEP. This should be part of the "demystification" process. Here's a link to an article on the need for students to know how they learn. http://www.ldonline.org/article/6157/ The Demystification process is probably one of the most important elements and one of the most frequently ignored when a child is diagnosed with an LD. I completely agree that it can be a light bulb moment for a student to realize they have an average / above average intelligence as they often say they feel 'stupid'. All students need to recognize they have strengths and areas for development and all students benefit from discovering how they learn and strategies to support them based on their learning styles. The AT crew is an excellent idea. I know a SERT who has done the same at her school. She has a group of students who all use SEA computers and they are the "tech squad" holding workshops over lunch to teach other students the ins and outs of technology they have access to in the classroom. Every workshop is well attended. It is impressive to see those who were previously on the margins leading the group. Oh, and check out the unlocking Carly article posted in the Resources section - she communicates primarily via Word Q. Co: Writer 6 http://www.donjohnston.com/support/cow6tutorials/index.html Co-Writer: A Word Prediction Tool The Potential for Differentiated Instruction and Universal Design in Learning Experiences Positives Negatives OSAPAC licensed – free Can be used with Write Outloud This word prediction software helps students by Some students likely need to be encouraged not to predicting the next word they are trying to type, rely on the words they know, but extend their providing options for what they are likely to be vocabulary. typing, and then reading options and typed words back to the student It floats on other word processors like Word Students whose oral skills are advanced may not Perfect, Microsoft Word, and Appleworks. find this tool as useful as those students with less advanced skills. You can turn off the word prediction and students Some students with less ability may be so focused can receive help with words only when needed on the options each time they type that they forget what they intended to write Since Co-Writer displays highest-frequency words when the student types the first letter, the student is improving their reading skills at the same time. Since Co-writer provides the student with an instant vocabulary list, it speeds up the writing process for them. Since Co-writer does not give the student “the answer” students learn to make choices based on their current literacy skills. Education for All (2005), notes that UDL regards “all learning as a continuum.” This means that because each student is unique, they all deserve a “flexible curriculum that provides him or her with the appropriate pathways for reaching learning goals…” For some students to obtain “access to the curriculum” they require a word prediction program like Co-Writer. Co-Writer “increases full access to the curriculum” for students who struggle with writing. The frustration they previously encountered is diminished (p. 10). Thus word prediction programs like Co-Writer become an “appropriate pathway” for them. When I searched for the free 30 day free trial download, I came across an advertisement that indicated that “Co-writer can now work together with Dragon”….for $429.00! Hopefully it will appear on the OSAPAC list soon. I would recommend Co-Writer because the word prediction feature helps students with special education needs to organize and write their thoughts. It also improves their reading skills. If I used it I would add content-specific vocabulary. If a few students in my class needed a scribe for test situations they might be reluctant to accept this accommodation. However, if they had access to Co-Writer they might be much more willing to use this program. Students with good oral expressive ability often get very frustrated when they cannot put their thoughts on paper. This can lead to poor self-esteem, lack of confidence and even ridicule and bullying from others. This could lead to behaviour problems. Thus, a tool like Co-Writer serves as an accommodation that would be very useful. I chose to take a look at Co:Writer for my exploration of word prediction software because this is a tool I hadn't seen before. I was, however, familiar with how word prediction tools help students who have issues with physical disabilities and or writing struggles related to finding the right words. Positive 1. I like that Co:Writer offers a set of features that can be used to individualize a student's experience based on their needs. For example, if a student only needs the word prediction to appear on the screen as they are writing, then the speech feedback can be turned off. In terms of differentiated instruction, this tool makes it easy for a teacher to offer a variety of solutions for students with unique needs. 2. For test taking purposes, it's excellent that the prediction feature can be turned off. Normally, as a student types, Co:Writer will be working hard to suggest what the next word might be in the sentence. Turning this off enables students to type sentences without help, but the help with spelling doesn't appear to go away. 3. Joy! Co:Writer integrates with Dragon Naturally Speaking as an excellent option for correcting errors that happen during dictation. A student using DNS who also has issues with spelling isn't going to recognize that DNS hasn't spelled words correctly. Hearing the speech feedback reread the words gives the student the opportunity to hear the mistakes, and then go back and fix them using the suggestions Co:Writer provides. Negative 1. There is functionality for customizing the user experience by activating a user and saving one's settings (colours, fonts, word banks, dictionaries, etc.). In a shared computer setting, I question how easily these settings can be tampered with by other students—inadvertently or otherwise. I always question the technology involved when a tool such as this one claims to predict, accurately, what the writer is going to want to say next. I took a closer look at the resources on the Don Johnston web site to get a better idea of how the prediction feature works. Apparently Co:Writer uses grammar- based prediction, which essentially means that the software knows if a word is a noun or verb, etc., and uses this information to predict what someone might want to say next based on the patterns people tend to use to string sentences together in English. It also has the capability of identifying phonetic spellings of words, for those students who spell phonetically, and then suggesting the correct spellings. I have a hard time believing that this sort of things could ever be a perfect science, but the thought and development that has been put into this tool over the years seems to have produced something quite useful, and I can't wait to see it in action. Hi Kelly - Thanks for the review and I liked the thought around integrating Dragon and Co-Writer. That could be a very powerful enabler for lots of students who struggle with communicating in print. As well, the feature that allows the word prediction based on phonetic spelling is a plus. Will have to see if the same thing is available on read and write gold. Al "I always question the technology involved when a tool such as this one claims to predict, accurately, what the writer is going to want to say next. I took a closer look at the resources on the Don Johnston web site to get a better idea of how the prediction feature works. Apparently Co:Writer uses grammar- based prediction, which essentially means that the software knows if a word is a noun or verb, etc., and uses this information to predict what someone might want to say next based on the patterns people tend to use to string sentences together in English. It also has the capability of identifying phonetic spellings of words, for those students who spell phonetically, and then suggesting the correct spellings. I have a hard time believing that this sort of things could ever be a perfect science, but the thought and development that has been put into this tool over the years seems to have produced something quite useful, and I can't wait to see it in action. " Found this part particularly fascinating. I have never looked into how the software predicts. I now need to go and see how Word Q predicts - if it is similar or not. Would be useful to know with some of my students in the higher grades who can identify nouns, verbs, etc. Jason The Word Prediction / Writing Support tool I chose to look at was Co:Writer 6. I have seen word prediction tools in action before but I have never tried one myself or seen Co:Writer 6 in action. I was impressed by the ability of this program to predict phonetic spellings in the video, and I can see that it could help students to become more independent writers. There is lots of ability to personalize the program, but I think it would work best for students who have their own allocated computer to reduce the chances of accidentally or intentionally changing someone‟s account. I would definitely give this program a try, especially as it is available through OSAPAC free of charge. It has some great benefits and I think the ability to connect it to Dragon Naturally Speaking provides an interesting connection to help students further improve their writing skills. Positives Negatives Able to recognize phonetic spellings, e.g. jraf There can be a huge range of words using for giraffe. Students can hear each word common blends which can mean that a suggestion before selecting it using a number student spends a large amount of time key. searching for a word on their prediction list instead of trying to type more letters in their word to refine the list. You can change the level of the dictionary so Although there is the option to create that younger or less able students are not individual users, I can imagine that it would overwhelmed by too many options on the be very easy for students to accidentally use word prediction and to increase the someone else‟s personal dictionary and add likelihood of the word they need appearing their own words to someone else‟s account. on the first page of the word prediction list. You can active a word bank or topic dictionary to increase the chances of the student being offered the word they need, e.g. activating a word bank on Ancient Egypt Students can create their own dictionary to help familiar words such as their name, pets name etc appear higher on the word prediction list. They can also create shortcuts to speed up their typing, e.g. when they type their initials, it will write their full name. Can be linked to speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking You can personalize the user settings, e.g. speed of reading, voice selection, background and text colour. Very simple to use and navigate, and it can be customized to meet the needs of the individual student, e.g. you can turn off text prediction or speech if the student just needs to see the words. Positives Negatives Very simple looking interface and easy to use Can be quite expensive when you consider it doesn‟t have all the features of some of the other programs available (starts at $84 per computer, compared with Premier that is $99 for the talking word processor but comes with a lot more features) An older version of it is available for free through OSAPAC Documents you create, e.g. tests, worksheets Can only be used with specific file can be opened in Write Outloud extensions (.txt files). PDF‟s and Internet pages can‟t be read with this software Check spelling option doesn‟t cover the student‟s work in the wiggly red lines other programs do. Instead, it reads aloud the phrase and rereads a misspelled word. Options are then given to allow the user to find the word they were looking for. All the options can be listened to as well as read. There is a useful homonym checker The homonym checker would be hard for a younger student to use as some of the language used is quite abstract, and it requires students to recognize they have used a word that is a homonym Talking dictionary included with over No word prediction and no ability to add 100,000 terms subject specific words to the dictionary The mark for deletion button would be a great way for students to edit their work without accidentally deleting the whole thing. It changes the colour of the text and draws a line through it, allowing the user to remove it, but not completely delete it until they are positive this is what they want to do. Add a picture option is a good addition to the Requires the pictures to be downloaded, I program allowing students to do all their don‟t think they can be taken from the writing in one program instead of having to internet. copy and paste their Allows you to hear the whole text read aloud, a phrase or just a word. At the end of a typed word or sentence, the text is reread to the student automatically. You can change the background and text colours to make it easier for all students (some students have a particularly hard time reading from a white page) E-tivity #2 – Text-to-Speech – Write: Outloud 6 For this activity, I chose to look at Write: Outloud 6 because I was completely unfamiliar with it. I have seen Kurzweil and Premier, so thought it would be fun to look at something new. Because I have seen similar tools, my expectation was that I would have little difficulty following along with Write: Outloud. Positive Negative Product Features… Cost – Making this product available to all students in a classroom could prove a little pricey. To furnish a Listen to Typed Text – Makes written work more computer lab with 30 computers appears to cost accessible for students who do not read well, or who something like $70+/license. have difficulty with spelling. Check Spelling – listen to pronunciations of misspelled words and possible replacements. Homonym Checker – definitions of homonyms exist for all suggestions. Testing and Assessment – activate test mode to restrict the use of spell checker, dictionary, and homonym checker. Talking Dictionary – Reads word definitions aloud. Mark for Deletion – Highlights text and crosses it out to mark text that might be deleted. Safe way to consider removing text without deleting it permanently. Add Pictures – Use visuals to support writing. Universal Design and Differentiated Instruction… This technology provides a different avenue for practicing and demonstrating writing skills by providing auditory support for students who are reluctant to write, experience moderate grammar and spelling challenges, or who write better with the auditory feedback. Reflection I like that Write: Outloud provides just a little extra support without an excess of features. It’s easy to get all muddled up in functionality and distracted by the bells and whistles of certain products. I’ve heard many people say that Kurzweil is the Cadillac for text-to-speech, and that Premier is a little less so but still quite great. It was kind of refreshing to take a look at Write: Outloud and see that the feature set is minimalistic—meant to provide a little support for students who need just that. The simplicity appeals to me, as I think it would appeal to many others. It has a more limited range of tools than many of the other programs in this area, such as Premier and Kurzweil which makes it much less daunting for a younger or less experienced student, but there are certain drawbacks that make it less useful for students in the older grades. This program is most noticeably missing word prediction tools, and the ability to read other types of files, including PDF files and Web pages which are available in some of the other programs available. These would be much more important in the older grades (essential in the intermediate grades, but beneficial in earlier grades too). The free version of Write Outloud, available from OSAPAC is not much different from the newer Write Outloud 6. Pros + ease of use with most features + spell check , talking dictionary and homonym check features + allows to easily activate speech button to read text out loud + add photo/picture feature + test mode feature Cons - found the test feature tutorial left me wanting to see how it worked in practise as I wasn't sure what to do at the end of it - absence of word prediction features makes use of this particular version more challenging with students who have limited spelling skills So in summary my experience with this particular edition would leave me familiar with the basic features to help students. I think my preference would be to use a program that does have word prediction features to help students who are challenged when it comes to their expertise in spelling. Many times I would help students as much as possible type in exactly what they had written as it was faster than to let them try to type text in. Then all they had to do was hear their words and edit their work accordingly. Write Outloud 6 is one of those "why would you pay money to buy it for school when you can get Write Outloud for free in OSAPAC?" I always liked Write Outloud as a simple text to speech tool. One advantage over others is the ability to change pronunciations of the spoken text (using phonetic spelling in the formatting) Once, when setting up a laptop with Write Outloudfor a behaviour student, I added every swear word I could think of so that when he typed in a juicy word to entertain the class, it would read them with other 'pronunciations' such as "no swearing", "I warned you", "detention at recess" etc. :-) Were there any negatives you found? Your chart only indicated the positives. One of the negatives of Write Outloud 6 is the price, which is as follows: 4 computers $84.00 each, 9 computers $78.12 each, 10-19 computers at $74.00 each, 20-49 computers 70.56, 50+ computers $42.00 each. The Co-writer & Write Outloud Bundle sells for $336.00. This is more expensive than the Word Q and Speak Q Bundle combined which is $ 279.00. It's great that schools always have the option to access the OSAPAC software first. Being able to use the phonetic spelling in the formatting for Write Outloud is unique - the students with behavioural challenges must have been shocked! Read & Write Gold 10 http://www.texthelp.com/media/12745/Read%20Write%2010%20Gold%20for%20Schools%20Beginner s%20Guide.pdf ORGANIZATION Inspiration and Kidspiration http://www.inspiration.com/Curriculum-Integration/Inspiration Well I have to confess to no experience whatsoever in using any organizational software that's been mentioned. I chose to review Smart Ideas 5 because it is available to me and now that I have seen how it works in practise, can see how it could be used to help students. I have been a believer in the use of graphic organizers generally and welcome such a tool. Whether it is the best option for me and then the students only time will tell as one has to get familiar with its possibilities and challenges. Advantages + simplifies information with less text providing clear overview/perspective/context for students who have challenges processing written language + ease of use to create a variety of interesting mind maps to suit individual needs + allows one to use available templates or customize graphic organizers to more specific needs + use of colour helps distinguish information to help organizational thinking and understanding + allows addition of images to further support visual learners + can be used to customize assignment/projects guide sheets to organize criteria in a user friendly visual format Negatives - may be difficult to navigate for junior students - can be time consuming for people not comfortable with the program to the point where it may be limiting in teachers willing to try it To summarize my experience with this is minimal but would like to get more involved with this organizational tool. One of the hurdles I personally need to overcome is working with classroom teachers to bring differentiated curriculum to the forefront with identified learners. My plan is to try and collaborate with teachers to identify expectations/units to modify curriculum and see if using this organizational software can help their understanding. Smart Ideas is a wonderful tool for all students. Al, I want to see you "get your hands dirty" and prepare something for your teachers and students. It's a bit like plunging into a pool, instead of poking your toe in to test the water. That's the area in which I would like to see you grow professionally.This group is here to support you! Open Smart Ideas, and choose Language Arts, > Essay Planning. It's much easier to customize a template, then create one from scratch. Click one of the boxes and simply type. e.g. main topic >"Dogs". Click to select each of the 3 big ideas. (once you see the layout, you'll understand) I presented Smart Ideas to a grade 5 teacher and class to help them with the Canadian Government unit. It's amazing what the students are figuring out on their own! Try it. Jason has mentioned that you can always "Undo" a mistake. Jeryl I have a pretty good background in Inspiration and Smart Ideas, so I decided to look at the resources for Inspiration. I spent some time in a high school Special Education Resource class during the last school year, and I worked with several students who were using Smart Ideas to do their assignments. I've made my own mind map using Inspiration, describing my philosophy of teaching, which is one of my favourite pages in my teaching portfolio. I hadn't seen much of Kidspiration, so it was great to take a closer look. Positive 1. I love that the information you input in Diagram View and Map View carries over automatically to the Outline View and even becomes available in the Presentation View. (I didn't even know there was a Presentation View. Apparently this is new.) This integration of content is extremely powerful. I've put this on my list of positives, but it's also a huge negative if people are unaware that this is all possible. If a student goes to all the trouble to organize their thoughts visually, and then doesn't realize they can export their outline to Word, they are missing out on the power of the tool. 2. Because I'm an English teacher, I'm always looking for new ways to teach the writing process. The fact that I can teach it using technology excites me to no end! The writing process needs to be iterative, with lots of milestones for feedback and revision. I think it would be cool to teach Inspiration at the same time as I teach the writing process. Instead of creating a graphic organizer worksheet, why not use the Diagram or Map view to brainstorm and then organize ideas? Students could then export their outlines to Word and start writing their rough drafts. For oral presentations, the Presentation View could help them consolidate their ideas into something presentable. I learned quite late that I am visual, and I always struggled to find ways to organize my notes in a way that made sense. Had I learned the writing process using something like Inspiration, I might have had fewer struggles. Negative 1. With Kidspiration, I think it's great that it offers activities using math manipulatives. I wonder, though, if the students who really need to have something tangible in their hands would benefit. work in the primary division and the math manipulatives are great. While this is a virtual tool the 'hands-on kids' are up and interacting by moving the objects around to make and solve math questions. I think the value is in the interaction. The smartboard can provide those kinds of opportunities. I know a high energy kid who likes to pace his steps to rehearse something he needs to remember. Just the movement of his step helps him store information in a different way. I do believe that whether they are real blocks or virtual that necessary 'interaction' is still there. Keeping in mind, we can never speak for all. Kidspiration is geared to children in grades K to 5. This is advertised as a ‘visual’ learning tool for all children. This product is licensed by my board and a lot of primary teachers are making use of this software. Positives The use of icon symbols is very helpful for younger users or users experiencing a language barrier. Students who need that little bit of support in getting their ideas across find this software very helpful and extremely easy to use. This tool allows them to focus on content rather than the formulation of information on paper. The students need only to type the information and Kidspiration will organize it for them in the framework or their choice. This software follows the UDL guidelines in that it would benefit many students in the organization of their work not just students struggling with organization. Visual and Kinesthetic learners will especially enjoy working in Kidspiration. Having the smartboard available so that not only teachers make presentations but students as well can be the experts and provide opportunities for other students to engage with their creations in a physical way through virtual manipulative. Graphic Organizer: Kidspiration will allow for students to take the information they have and organize it in their own unique way. Students are able to create very clear and meaningful presentations that show their work in a visual way. They provide the information and Kidspiration provides the templates of organization for the information. Math Concepts: The many manipulative that are available will help in understanding conceptually many of the computations that children are to learning. The teachers may use this as a demonstration tool on the smartboard to do whole class instruction. Then students may use these manipulatives on their own to design and solve math problems on independently. Auditory Learners would benefit from pre-recorded instructions for a step-by-step account of expectations rather than text. There is also a text-to-speech interface that aids students who struggle with printed text. Negatives Students with small motor skills issues may find it difficult to use. http://www.inspiration.com/videos/Kidspiration LE#2 E-tivity 5 (Lesley Andrews) Technology: Smart Ideas My Experience: I chose to review Smart Ideas because I have worked with the program in the past and I was not a fan in relation to other similar programs. Since I have the opportunity now I thought I should take another look at Smart Ideas. On this inspection I found Smart Ideas easy enough to navigate and it had the same basic capabilities of other organizational software, like Inspiration, for converting the idea chart to text for the student to expand and edit their writing. The creative „Deluxe Connectors‟ would appeal to younger students as they could create their chart using sailboats, cars or fish. The quick fire feature allows students to get their ideas down quickly and then the ideas are easy to move around the page and categorize. The stickies are a neat feature that will allow you to draw attention to a specific area or perhaps remind yourself of an area that requires more attention. I also found the feature that allowed you to go inside a category to a new layer to be a real plus. Sometimes a concept map can become very crowded and difficult to decipher so the extra layers allow for broader idea generation. There is a feature that allows you to view a combined image with all the extra layers at once. On the negative side I found the provided pathways for connectors to be limiting and when the page became crowded it became more difficult to have uninterrupted lines extending to each idea. I could not access more „Deluxe Connectors‟ although the program indicated they existed. I also found the clip art gallery to be very limited in selection and I needed to use outside sources to gain an extensive library of graphic material. This is a challenge given that graphics play an important role in the mind mapping process. Positive Points of Smart Ideas Negative Points of Smart Ideas Quick fire feature allows students to get Limitations in connectors/pathways their ideas down quickly and easily made it more difficult to create maps categorize them by moving them with clear connections between ideas around the page Multi-layers allows for extensive Limited clip art gallery (at least on trial concepts with multiple categories and version) which made adding graphics sub-categories without crowding the difficult and time-consuming main page Program gives students a visual and graphic version of their concept/ideas which is especially useful for the visual students in the group Converts their concept to text, providing a framework where the student merely needs to expand on their ideas and edit their work. This is key for students who have a difficult time organizing their ideas and then keeping them organized while they are writing. This is not my first exposure to Smart Ideas. I still prefer other programs but I did not find the tools as limiting as I have in the past. If I worked in a school where students could access Smart Ideas I would feel comfortable teaching students to use the program effectively and to their advantage. I know many students who have access to organizational programs like Smart Ideas, although they do not know how to use them. I really see these types of programs as useful to any student, not just those students who need support to organize their writing, because it makes organizing writing-and keeping it organized while they write- so much easier. Sources: http://smarttech.com/smartideas Lesley, Smart Ideas is Ministry licenced. Do your students not have access to it on school computers? The Cliplet gallery is very useful -especially the count-down timer for our ADHD students. Yes, Smart Ideas is on the computers but I find that students generally are not encouraged to use it and it is not integrated into the teaching of the writing process in this Board. Maybe it is a step that is seen as time consuming? Possibly the lack of access to computers on a regular basis or teachers who are not familiar with the technology are also obstacles. The only student that I have seen use it was fortunate to spend time at the Centre and used a computer full time. This is unfortunate since I believe that concept mapping is a powerful tool for all students to organize their thinking and the other features offer a great deal of support for students who struggle with organizing their ideas for writing. If I ever get my own classroom I can assure you that students will be exposed to concept mapping as a necessary step in the research and writing process. I just asked my oldest son (just started Gr. 9) why he did not use Smart Ideas. He said he knew it was on the school computers and his SEA computer but he was not encouraged to use it and teachers never spoke of Smart Ideas. Outside of students who have prescribed computers, in my experience technology is just not a large focus here unless it is the personal interest of the administration or teacher. I agree with you Lesley. I think if the teachers are not comfortable with the technology they are not going to encourage the students to take a stab at it. I suppose if the students were to run into difficulty the teacher would feel inadequate in assisting. I am hoping this will change soon. More and more teachers are realizing that these options are great and helpful and once exposed to them the more likely they are to use. Not only that, the kids are really adept to new tech and just would love to be able to teach the teacher a thing or two! A huge gap in our system is the lack of knowledge passed along to teachers about how things work. Many have no idea what is OSAPAC licensed, or get the training to know how things work. I am glad to see more and more OSAPAC licenses coming with take home rights for teachers - that is where most of them will actually try stuff. Our Board does have a teacher assigned as a tech coach - she is itinerant, and work with teachers on technology stuff. Unfortunately, she is only 1 person for the entire Board - both elementary and secondary - so you can guess how many teachers she is able to work with over the course of the year. She also needs to be invited in, which means a teacher needs to have some idea of what they want to learn. I have to agree with you that Smart Ideas isn't as slick as other products. I found Inspiration to be a world of wonderfulness by comparison. Inspiration 9 I bought a copy of Inspiration, Version 9 several months ago and finally started using it a few weeks ago when I started tutoring a student with a learning disability. The recommendations on his psycho- educational report indicated that the student should dictate his thoughts and have them scribed in the appropriate place in the Inspiration template. It was recommended that creating his own charts should be a gradual process. Thus, I have only used Inspiration a few times, but already can see that this is a terrific program. The student was highly motivated to provide ideas as requested when I was helping him record ideas as he prepared his book report. The most positive thing about Inspiration is that it supports Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction in many ways: Positives Negatives Mind minding capabilities allows students to create a Inspiration is not ministry-licensed, hopefully it will be mind map to visually construct a concept or idea that on OSAPAC soon. It is expensive. Inspiration 9 costs branches out with additional thoughts or ideas they may $69.00. For a home & school installation on two have-this greatly benefits students who are visual computers it is $111.00. It can be installed on 3 home learners or have a visual-spatial MI preference. computers for $119.00. Visual learners retain information better when they can It will take TIME to learn all the features. associate a picture with a key word. Inspiration has a bank of 1,000 symbols. It also provided access to over one million symbols through Inspiration Web Resources. However, to accommodate students who are easily distracted, teachers can limit which symbol libraries are available for certain projects. Tailor-made custom libraries can be created in a template, libraries do not need to be loaded on computers Auditory learners benefit from the spoken word, Inspiration provides video and sound integration. Multimedia such as Quick Time movies & MP3s can be inserted. This motivates students to be more creative as well. Visual Learners have a choice of over 60 templates that create 3 views or environments - diagrams, mind maps or outlines - to help the student gather information, plan and organize ideas, auditory learners can listen to the “how to” videos by accessing the “Learn to Use” feature if they desire help with using any of these templates. By grouping ideas, students learn to clarify their thinking. The fact that the templates are theme based is very helpful for the teacher when designing tasks for English, Science, Humanities, Thinking & Planning topics. In terms of UDL, teachers can use several of these options when planning for subjects not listed above. Inspiration is a powerful research tool for all junior, intermediate, senior and even university students (I wish I had this outlining environment tool to write my essays in university!) Drag and drop actions allow the student to move text, images, video and sound files from other sources into the project they create in Inspiration. URLs can also be dragged and dropped to create hyperlinks to reference material. Files from the desktop can be added All leaners will benefit from the word guide (an integrated dictionary & thesauraus) links synonyms to definitions, a red line indicates a spelling error and can be corrected with a single click There are several transfer layout options available once the diagram, mind map or outline is completed to create organized written documents. Students now have a structure because their ideas have been organized in a hierarchical fashion. The Presentation Manager also offers options. The RapidFire Option is a great brainstorming tool that can be used to generate ideas prior to creating relationships. To accommodate students who require scaffolding/chunking assignments, teachers can ask students to use the “Smart Checklist” to assign and track progress Inspiration helps all students, regardless of exceptionality to improve their visual and linear thinking. The visual and auditory reinforcement aspect of Inspiration aids in memory retention and organizational skills The Inspiration manual gives a great overview of how to use the 3 Inspirations Views: Diagram View, Map View, Outline View, as well as Concepts Maps, Idea Maps, Mind Maps, Webs, Storyboards & Outlines. I experimented with all the views and found them very easy to navigate. However, learning everything that Inspiration offers will take some time. My intention is to read the 80 page manual thoroughly and keep experimenting in order to become competent with all the features the program has to offer. I also plan to purchase “The Thinking Classroom” which supports teachers in creating lessons/units based on specific critical thinking skills. It is $42.00. http://onlinestore.strategictransitions.com/product_p/is-us-tc.htm Inspirations 9 Inspirations 9 is a piece of software that most students use for organization. I have been working with Inspirations in both the form of Inspirations 8 and 9 (currently we have both versions in our school board with the 8 version installed on a few of our older SEA laptops) for the past 2 years. Positives Negatives Wide variety of preloaded templates Transfer function only compatible with Word or Open Office and not Wordperfect (which is OSAPAC licensed) Variety of different symbols and connectors – can also Can be difficult to print – planners will sometimes import pictures to help with visual cues extend over more than one page and can be difficult to orient correctly Compatible with Word Q Ability to convert finished planner directly into a PDF format Ability to transfer planner and notes into word processor (either Word or Open Office) – eliminates the need to retype information already on the planner Switch between graphic view and outline views depending on student preference Rapidfire – can quickly brainstorm ideas on a topic and place into individual bubbles Ability to insert voice and video Ability to convert planner into a presentation similar to powerpoint This is a great organization tool. One of the chief drawbacks, which relates more to teaching style, is the difficulty printing organizers. Personally, working with a student using Inspirations, I would view the planner while on the computer if I want to check their work before they move into a different format. This would allow them to use the tools such as voice and video notes which would not show up on a paper copy. It would also allow a student to create their plan in whatever format they like, without having to worry about it needing to fit on a page to print. Teacher should realize that with the addition of sound or video notes, students may be able to complete assigned work entirely in Inspirations. The presentation manager also allows students to present their ideas in an alternate format. No. I encourage teachers to look at the planners on the computer - most of the time, they are used as more part of the writing process, and not so much as the assessment piece. Teachers can look, give feedback, then have the student move on. If I desperately wanted the planner, one thing I would look at would be converting it to a PDF and then saving it on a memory stick so I could view it later. Inspiration 9 does this in the file menu. I have never tried it, as I have Inspirations on my computer, but if I didn't, that might be an option. Anyone else know how to get Inspirations to print nicely? I haven't really looked into it as I would prefer students to feel free to use it without being concerned how it will print properly. The only solution I have found successful so far is building the concept map to fit 8.5x11 paper, then printing it on 8.5x14 and cutting it back down to 8.5x11. Very low tech and a waste of paper, but effective. I guess another possibility may be to print it at a reduced size so it all fits on the page and then blow it u This is a copy of my original post on Inspirations in case you were having difficulty opening the document Inspirations 9 Inspirations 9 is a piece of software that most students use for organization. I have been working with Inspirations in both the form of Inspirations 8 and 9 (currently we have both versions in our school board with the 8 version installed on a few of our older SEA laptops) for the past 2 years. Positives Wide variety of preloaded templates Variety of different symbols and connectors – can also import pictures to help with visual cues Compatible with Word Q Ability to convert finished planner directly into a PDF format Ability to transfer planner and notes into word processor (either Word or Open Office) – eliminates the need to retype information already on the planner Switch between graphic view and outline views depending on student preference Rapidfire – can quickly brainstorm ideas on a topic and place into individual bubbles Ability to insert voice and video Ability to convert planner into a presentation similar to powerpoint Negatives Transfer function only compatible with Word or Open Office and not Wordperfect (which is OSAPAC licensed) Can be difficult to print – planners will sometimes extend over more than one page and can be difficult to orient correctly This is a great organization tool. One of the chief drawbacks, which relates more to teaching style, is the difficulty printing organizers. Personally, working with a student using Inspirations, I would view the planner while on the computer if I want to check their work before they move into a different format. This would allow them to use the tools such as voice and video notes which would not show up on a paper copy. It would also allow a student to create their plan in whatever format they like, without having to worry about it needing to fit on a page to print. Teacher should realize that with the addition of sound or video notes, students may be able to complete assigned work entirely in Inspirations. The presentation manager also allows students to present their ideas in an alternate format.p on the copier perhaps? Again, it's pretty low tech. The program I chose to evaluate is Smart Ideas 5. Before this, my only exposure to organization software was XMind which I always found quite complex and fiddly. I didn‟t expect Smart Ideas to be much different but I was quite pleasantly surprised. The program is easy to navigate and allows students to simply produce a variety of graphic orgnanizers. Within a few minutes, I was able to create mind maps and use templates to create a range of different organizers. You can very easily change the shape and colour of the boxes and connecting lines, allowing students to organize their thoughts into groups once they have put down all of their ideas. There are some excellent templates, split into different categories including language arts, science, planning and social science. The templates are aimed more at high school level, e.g. literary narrative analysis and argument planning, but many of them can be used at a primary and junior level including family tree, timeline, chain of events, circle of events, fishbone diagram, venn diagram and science research project. There is also a quick create option and a variety of layouts that allow flexibility in creating different organizers, and a presentation option which removes all the buttons for a clean looking presentation. I can see students enjoying using this program as it is much more fun than using pen and paper and it could easily be used to organize their work quickly and effectively by grouping and sequencing their ideas. It would be ideal for students with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD but would be useful for all students to help them draw connections between ideas. Positives Negatives Helps students organize their thoughts by The templates are suited to high school level using colour / shapes to sort their ideas students primarily, but simpler templates can be quickly created for younger students. Has a range of templates to provide a starting Students may become overly focused on point for students, including essay planning, changing colours and shapes and less on family trees, tree diagrams, spider diagrams organizing their thoughts and ideas into a and sentence building coherent order Simple layout makes it very user friendly and A certain level of mouse control is required easy to use to make connecting lines between ideas Boxes can be moved around to link and order ideas Graphic organizers support visual learners Different levels of complexity can be easily created Has potential to be used from primary aged to high school level students Helps students plan out their writing and thought processes, allowing them to put their ideas down in any order and later draw connections and order them. Extremely beneficial for students with ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities but could benefit all students by helping them see links between their ideas. You can add clipart, hyperlinks and „cliplets‟ that include clocks that show the actual time, timers, spinners, protractors, hundred squares and other tools that could be useful across the curriculum. For my first time using this program, I am really impressed. It has some great features and I will be checking our school computers to see whether we already have access to Smart Ideas. The 30 day free trial has all of the features of the full version and this has helped me to get a good look at the options that are available. This program can be used across the grades and could be a huge support for students throughout the entire curriculum. It‟s very easy to use and makes graphic organizers much more interesting for all students. It could be a very useful tool for our students with ADHD/ADD and learning disabilities by helping them to organize and link their ideas more effectively and help them be more independent in their planning and expressing their thoughts. Great piece of software. It is OSAPAC licensed, so it should be on your school network and available to all students. You have to respect the learning curve somewhat when introducing to students. I go into a first session with students not expecting to get much work done, but allowing time to, "play" with the software. In smart ideas, it is fun for them to change the shapes/colours of boxes. This can take up a lot of time, especially if you are expecting to have a finished planner within the time you have on the computer. Giving them time to try out the features, then jumping into a more time-sensitive activity often works better. aura, you mentioned that Smart Ideas has a "presentation option which removes all the buttons for a clean looking presentation"...I am still trying to figure out how to do this in Inspiration. In Inspirations, go to View -->Presentation Manager. It may only be available on Inspirations 9. I will try to remember to check version 8 tomorrow if I get a chance. WRITING SUPPORT/MULTIMEDIA Clicker 5 http://www.cricksoft.com/us/products/tools/clicker/home/writer.aspx The writing support tool I have chosen to look at is Clicker 5 which is available in both English and French. I‟d heard about this program before, but I hadn‟t ever seen it or tried it out. Having watched the videos about it, I am really excited by this product as I can see it being an enormous help to me as a Core French teacher. Clicker is one of those programs that would have limited use in the English curriculum in my opinion. It would be great for students who are English Language Learners and for younger students, but beyond this, I think there are better programs available. For Core French though, I think it would be just as useful as it would be for younger students. Students are seeing the words and able to hear the words read aloud which would be a huge help for many of my students with LD‟s. In addition, to be able to quickly create sentences by clicking on words would remove a lot of the frustrations they face. I am really excited to incorporate this program into my teaching and I will be definitely exploring this program further. Positives Negatives Clicker writer reads back what the student Some mouse skills are needed, although you has written and all features in Clicker allow could use a switch or simpler mouse if the student to have the word/sentences read needed. to them. Clicker grids help students to structure No word prediction means students have to sentences without the need for typing skills. attempt words when writing and then fix the They simply click on the words to make errors sentences. The talking books allows you to provide More beneficial for younger students and information which can be read back to the second languages. Older students may find student and can be combined with the clicker the grids a bit limiting, although the talking grids to help support their writing based on books could be a useful tool in the higher the topic. grades. You can build in links from the internet to allow for further detail and differentiation Pictures automatically appear when you type one of the words from Clicker‟s inbuilt picture library or you can use your own pictures Has access to an online library of clicker 5 activities (LearningGrids world) with no charge for access. These can searched for by theme, subject or age Can be used for ELL as well as supporting students with special needs. Students can use Clicker to create multimedia presentations. Can be used to assist students with speech difficulties and fine motor issues (can be used with swtitches) Grids are quick an easy to make I chose Clicker because I had heard of it and thought it might be available to our school/board. Upon investigation I noticed not only was it available, but it was actually usable and on my classroom computer. I found the multimedia approach intriguing. Advantages + allows for quick integration of both text and pictures + voice quality and a variety of voices to select from + will read for you without use of a highlighter + has a number of existing grids that can be customized to suit needs + allows for reading of internet text + combines pictures/words for students new to English + allows for the creation of multimedia projects + can create a talking book with graphics +contains library of learning resource grids + contains word bank grids to assist writing Disadvantages - has similar elements to other programs concern for having too many programs available - obvious time and expertise involved in learning programs/features As mentioned, had no experience with the program yet today after investigating it - shared some of its features with two colleagues. One immediately used it with the Promethean board to get some expertise and the second, ensured the program was made available on all our special education computers and was quite excited about its potential for use in the French division of our school. Hi Al, I'm thinking this is something I have seen in use in my board. I should have a quick look. I really liked the way you can set up an exercise in sequencing for emergent readers. This way you can vary by using pictures and no text then up the line to the combination of both for those that can. <<< Replied to message below >>> Authored by: al Copetti LOVE the idea of using it with a Promethian or Smart board, that's a great idea! At first glance Pixie 2 looks like a simpler version of a smartactive application. I initially thought why would we need this when notebook files can be created with embedded video or mp3 files. I kept investigating and realized this is a much more “user friendly” for students to access than the notebook options. Notebook seems to have been geared to aid the instructors or presenters. I found an interesting video that shows how you can use this software in conjunction with the interactive whiteboard for collaborative books etc. This would marry two great tools into one. Once a piece of work is complete the various publishing options are there. This software does advertise as an art application for all learners due to its vast assortment of art in a database. Pixie 2 is not licensed by my board. Not having had the opportunity to use it myself I can only speak of what I have found online. Pixie 2 does come across as a worthwhile tool for many subjects.. The prospect of using a digital camera and loading students own images on screen is very exciting. There is nothing more enticing to a younger audience than themselves. Who better to talk or write about than the person they know best. I find getting emergent writers excited about writing can be difficult. If we give them a task with too many choices they may get caught up in the decision making. However with some students keeping a writing task as open ended as possible allows their creative side to go wild. Pixie 2 gives students a range of available assistance. Should the writer be challenged in providing the text portion then they can choose to use the audio recording to match the pictures they create. Should they be fairly proficient in getting ‘thought to text,’ they can choose from a vast assortment of text options to write the story or give speech bubbles. This is not to say the options are not interchangeable for each students based on their desire to use them. Overall I was impressed by this product and I hope to use it in the future. Pros Cons Supports multimedia in many forms. Could not really find a negative. Pixie 3 is already out.? Extremely user friendly with the picture Icons for emergent or ESL students. Can be tailored to many different learning styles. Builds literacy skills for the emergent writer. Provides many templates for the various writing forms. Provides templates for a collaborative booklet. Lots of publishing options ranging from simple prints, cartoons, magazine, article, newspaper, biography, or even a video. Thanks for this review, Judi. The visual support for learning is so essential as we teachers do tend to talk and talk and talk... between LD, ESL, auditory processing and attentional needs evident in our classrooms, do you feel that we rely too much on the auditory when teaching? I think that some teachers have difficulty letting go and trusting the process of learning in the spectrum of ways that we all learn. We are in an age of discovery. If we let the students lead the way in regards to the technology side, it's amazing what they will show you! I think the video posted on E9, the hole-in- the-wall experiment with Dr. Mitra says it all...build and they will come. I'm brand new to Clicker, but so far I like what I see! My first impression of the product is that it's a great way to teach struggling and emerging writers how to write by providing structure and modeling at first, and then gradually moving toward more free writing exercises. This is something a teacher could incorporate into a computer lab scenario and tailor to the individual needs of the students. Positive 1. The ability to model and scaffold provides structure for learners who need it. 2. Writing with the use of pictures caters nicely to the visual learners among us. 3. For those students who are ready to work independently, creating talking books or multimedia projects enables them to get creative and use the technology to complete assignments. 4. I think it's a huge plus that Clicker has switch access, so students who can't use standard computer peripherals can still access the Clicker functionality. Negative 1. I don't begin to have any concept of how much is too much for a class set of licenses for a software product, but it seems to me that $1100 for thirty seats might be a bit lofty. Maybe someone with experience in this area can shed a light. (Engaging title, Kelly) Lucky for us, Clicker 5 is Ministry licenced (thus, free) for all schools in the province, and is an extremely powerful tool for all special learners, from pre-K (+high incidence special needs) to secondary. Did you have a chance to check out the Clicker grids network/library online? It's an excellent example of educators going beyond the manufacturer's "box" to truly enable it as an authentic tool for support learning. (great fun, too!) I think that some teachers have difficulty letting go and trusting the process of learning in the spectrum of ways that we all learn. We are in an age of discovery. If we let the students lead the way in regards to the technology side, it's amazing what they will show you! I think the video posted on E9, the hole-in- the-wall experiment with Dr. Mitra says it all...build and they will come. I'm brand new to Clicker, but so far I like what I see! My first impression of the product is that it's a great way to teach struggling and emerging writers how to write by providing structure and modeling at first, and then gradually moving toward more free writing exercises. This is something a teacher could incorporate into a computer lab scenario and tailor to the individual needs of the students. Positive 1. The ability to model and scaffold provides structure for learners who need it. 2. Writing with the use of pictures caters nicely to the visual learners among us. 3. For those students who are ready to work independently, creating talking books or multimedia projects enables them to get creative and use the technology to complete assignments. 4. I think it's a huge plus that Clicker has switch access, so students who can't use standard computer peripherals can still access the Clicker functionality. Negative 1. I don't begin to have any concept of how much is too much for a class set of licenses for a software product, but it seems to me that $1100 for thirty seats might be a bit lofty. Maybe someone with experience in this area can shed a light. I'm pretty clueless about what's available for free via the Ministry, but I think that's about to change this week. :) Where is the grid network/library? Am I just not seeing it on the Cricksoft web site? I'd love to take a look. Hi Kelly, It's a separate site: https://www.learninggrids.com/us It's a free registration, or you can browse for free. Here's one example: http://www.learninggrids.com/us/ResourcePage.aspx?resuid=057fae14- 8dec-4de5-ae4a-3d0036839951 (Ontario curriculum-poetry (Intermediate/Secondary) They update the grids every two weeks and you can search by grade, subject and themes, it's a great resource site. Pixie 2 http://www.tech4learning.com/pixie/videos Intellitools http://www.intellitools.com/special/demo/control.html Intelli Tools Classroom Suite Positives Negatives Alternative keyboard option, students with Word Prediction: If students click numbers for physical, visual or cognitive disabilities can type, words they want to use….this might not help them manipulate screen information, menu commands improve their spelling/writing skills, would it not be better for them to type the whole word?....However would be very good for students who cannot physically type! Integration of three products in one suite: Did not find on OSAPAC IntelliPics Studio 3 ( multimedia presentation tool) IntelliMathics 3 (virtual math manipulatives tool) IntelliTalk ( talking word processor / writing tool) Numerous cross curricular activities to choose from Expensive! (over $1,000) pre-primary to grade 8 - reading, writing, math, social studies, and science- with option for teachers to create their own (with numerous templates/graphic organizers in all subject areas) Scaffolded examples are provided for students, as much practice provided as needed, lots of reinforcement of specific skills, immediate feedback, lots of tutorials, examples Assessment - Teachers can track progress and see types of errors students are making, can eliminate answer-checking option for testing, track students' activity, records all responses , including test responses, print marks for reporting, essentially each student has a personal e-portfolio Student can create compositions in a variety of subjects with images, built in authoring tools, variety of ways to present material, built in word prediction tool improves fluency in writing Networking option available Highly motivational, lots of visual & auditory support as students complete tasks, animation, multimedia, varies levels of difficulty from very easy to complex Intelli Tools embodies the concept of Universal Design because all students can access this program. For example, students with physical disabilities can use the IntelliKeys overlays, touch screen instead of standard keyboard, single-switch scanning, etc. It is a great tool for differentiated instruction because the teacher can assign activities based on students‟ learning styles, readiness levels and interest. I have not been exposed to this program before, it has many of the features of the other programs, such as Clicker 5, Word & Speak @, even Inspiration. It almost seems that if you have this program, you don‟t need a lot of the others, would be interested in what others feel who have experience with this program. Your comment in your negatives column made me think: Word Prediction: If students click numbers for words they want to use….this might not help them improve their spelling/writing skills, would it not be better for them to type the whole word?....However would be very good for students who cannot physically type! Yes, it would seem that students who actually type the words would have greater gains in vocabulary and spelling skills than students who simply type a number...I would be interested to see some data on that. The only reason I say this is, for those who have watched the video for E- tivity 9 of Sugata Mitra's work in India and children self-teaching using a computer, students who merely are observing or interacting with material at a distance can pass a test on the material with significant success. Of course there is a social factor related to this success (group learning) but to me it means that students are absorbing far more information than we are aware of even if they are not interacting with the material as we would expect. Our Board has purchased Classroom Suite, but is having a hard time getting it to work on our school network. Resource teachers love it, but find it also freezes and is slow to load. This is more due to our school network than the program itself. I haven't checked the word prediction on Classroom Suite, but find the word prediction in Word Q is surprisingly effective at helping student writing - even without typing full words, they do pick up on the patterns of the words they use most often. This is something we want to look at more closely in our program, but haven't quite figured out a way to collect data on it. LE#2 E-tivity 6 (Lesley Andrews) Technology: Clicker 5 My Experience: This is another software program that is new to me. Right away I could see the benefits of this program for whole class modeled and shared reading and writing. The flexibility to use graphics and animation, create your own talking books that are tailored for the interests and abilities in your group and to create extensive word (phrase, sentence) banks for use in writing is extremely powerful. This is a program that can be adapted for multiple ability levels within a class. I also liked that the program could be used for Mathematics, Science and Social Studies as well since you are creating your own materials and the program would be useful in supporting English Language Learners in their writing and reading across the curriculum. Positive Points of Clicker 5 Negative Points of Clicker 5 The program can be used for individual learners or in whole group activities. Text students have written can be read back to them by the program allowing them to hear their work Talking books (existing or self created) support reluctant readers and engage students by tailoring material to ability levels and interests Word, phrase or sentence banks help students expand their vocabulary and word choices and offer spelling support when students are using the keyboard The extensive picture library allows the use of pictures to support reading. The record feature allows students to practice their pronunciation of words, phrases or sentences after hearing an example. Program allows scaffolded instruction and gradual release of responsibility encouraged in the language curriculum I could not find a negative aspect of Clicker 5. This program is extremely versatile and could easily be integrated into any language program and used across the curriculum to support and encourage the development of reading and writing skills for every student in the class, not only students who are learning a new language (it is also available in Spanish and French) or students with special needs. With a single license priced at $250 this is a powerful program at an affordable (relatively speaking) price that would be useful for primary and junior ability level students. Sources: http://www.cricksoft.com/us/products/tools/clicker/home.aspx I think Intelli Tools incorporates everything Clicker 5 can do, might be wrong though. I find it a bit overwhelming when you become convinced that a certain program is the 'best' for a certain situation and then another program does relatively the same thing. Teachers have to be great 'critical thinkers' when assessing programs. It is entirely possible. One thing I am definitely learning is that there are many programs available, many are similar in a variety of respects and which programs you will use will depend on the Board you are working in (maybe even the school you are working in). I think 'overwhelming' is an appropriate term. Well said. I use the analogy of having a runny nose. You can use Kleenex, Scotties, Puffs etc, but they all do the same job! Focus on the tool, not the brand name, and ask yourself "How does this help student learning?". When I first started this course, I wanted to know about individual programs, I recognize now though that it's more the different types of programs I need to learn about, e.g. speech to text, word prediction etc, especially as some programs integrate multiple tools. Also, they update regularly and new ones come out. It doesn't really matter particularly which speech to text program you use, although they have small differences, they all seem to be fairly similar in many ways. Pixie 2 Pixie 2 is a multimedia creation program. I have not used Pixie 2 before, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is a slightly simplified version of Frames 4, which I was introduced to late last year and have demonstrated for several classes. I am sitting at the ECOO conference in Richmond Hill as I write this, and decided to look at Pixie on the advice of one of my teaching partners who was introduced to Pixie at one of her conference sessions. While I have just started using Pixie, it is fairly similar to Frames 4 (same company) so I am finding it relatively easy to maneuver around. Positives Negatives Very engaging visually Found the talk button confusing – default setting, doesn‟t talk much – needed to consult the help menu to figure out how to get it to read menus (felt it was more useful this way) Large amount of built in tools for students – clip art, special effects, backgrounds, etc. Undo button clearly marked – GREAT importance for kids – one of the first things I teach with any piece of software as it encourages exploration without the fear you will ruin everything Controls very graphic, easy to identify Looks like it would work well on an interactive whiteboard Ability to insert images, videos, and text Ability to export in a variety of formats Talk button can be set to read all controls ‘ I found this to be a fairly good piece of software. Having had experience with Frames 4, I would be tempted to use it in place of Pixie. Although it is not as graphical and simple, it is also fairly intuitive and has a number of additional features that are useful, especially for older students (Junior age and above). This serves as a great entry point for teaching students about a number of alternative ways to show their learning, including slideshow, video, and audio. I have found Frames 4 to be very motivating for students with the number of different ways they can present information and to demonstrate their creativity. Pixie would work in a similar manner. Loved the idea from the introduction video of creating historical items such as newspapers, as well as more current event material such as newsletters. Frames 4 is by the same company. It is very similar to Pixie, but with more features around what you can do in each of the, "boxes". I was introduced to Frame first, and came to Pixie later. Students may find it easier to start with Pixie, then move to Frames. That being said, I have introduced Frames to quite a few Junior students who had little or no problems figuring out the basics. Freeware: Open Source and Online Options The range of resources for education is growing at an exponential rate. Many of these new developments are Open Source, meaning they are collaboratively developed by experts in the field and freely shared. We need to be constantly curious (just ask your students!) about the latest technology innovations and their potential for changing lives. Here we will have the opportunity to have a wee taste of the range of resources available. Gliffy http://www.gliffy.com/ Gliffy is a web based diagram creation tool that allows you to create a vast array of diagrams from templates or from scratch. This tool allows you to create diagrams as well as share them or collaborate with colleagues. This is a drag and drop tool that is incredibly easy and straightforward to use. You can create professional-quality diagrams including: * Flowcharts * UML class diagrams * Network diagrams * Floor plans * SWOT analysis * UI wireframes * Website mockups and maps * Class diagrams * Org charts * Business process diagrams * Venn diagrams Source: http://www.gliffy.com/products/online/ Gliffy allows you to use the program to create 5 diagrams for free and they must be public. For $4.95/month/user you can create up to 200 diagrams and store them privately. For $9.95/month/user you can created an unlimited number of diagrams and store them privately. The site indicates that educational institutions receive a discounted rate. Two stars: Easy to use drag and drop platform, many many many templates to work from Wish: You didn't have to pay for it! To be honest I think that this program would be accessible to a wide ranges of grades/ages. The drag and drop function makes it easy to use and the broad range of diagrams available means that there is something there for everyone. I tried out the Venn diagram, but there a many many more. I could easily see grade 1 students using this with no problem and I can see post graduate students using it for their work as well. Put a group of students in front of Gliffy and I expect that they would have it figured out faster than I did. Oh wow! I wish I had known about Gliffy when I was doing tech writing and process analysis. I can see this translating over nicely into the classroom. Too bad they limit the usage of the product. That's just not nice. I'm using Google Chrome browser and having trouble loading the Gliffy Interface. Anyone else experiencing this? I am also on Chrome, but not having any problems. It seems to be working fine. Love this tool. I am playing with the floorplan portion and can imagine a number of area/perimeter problems for students. Very cool! Jason WEBSPIRATION www.webspirationclassroom.com Webspiration Classroom is advertised as “the online writing, visual thinking and collaboration tool for students and teachers.” It is essentially “INSPIRATION” for a class website, and sold by the same company that sells Inspiration. The advantage is that you have access to INSPIRATION without it having to be downloaded on individual computers. I purchased an Individual Education account about a few months ago (39.00/1-year), intending to use it with students that I tutor; however since I never had a chance to really explore it , I decided to reseach this tool. After exploring the site for about 3 hours, I am convinced it is one of the best tools a teacher can have (for all students in their class!) Individual Education accounts are “automatically configured as faculty accounts and cannot be turned into student accounts.” My Individual Education account includes the “Webspiration World School,” and gives me access to the Webspiration Classroom user network. This is where teachers who create templates have the option of contributing their template to a database of templates. For school accounts the pricing is as follows: 10-30 accounts @ $10.00 each or 31-99 accounts @ $9.00 each. http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/pricing (Pricing) To access the program, Webspiration gives me an Org ID. Once I created my user name and password I had on-line access to the program. The “Educator Resources” section has many lesson plan ideas, examples and tips on visual thinking. GLOBAL TEMPLATES include the following categories: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Thinking & Planning For example the Language Arts category provides templates for the following: Language Arts templates: Analyzing Author Techniques; Assignment Completion Plan; Biography; Character Comparison; Compare-Contrast Essay Planner; Essay Planner, Guided; Exploring Historical Fiction; Fiction Notes & Analysis; Generating Questions; Group Project Plan; Inquiry-Based Paper; Issue Analysis; KWL Organizer; Narrative Writing Planner; Non- Fiction Analysis; Opinion Support; Outline; Persuasive Speech or Essay; Place in History; Problem-Solution Essay; Project Design for Teachers; Research Paper; Research Topic; Summary; Syllabus; Theme & Character; Venn Diagram; Vocabulary Web; Website Evaluation; Weekly Lesson Plan; Writing a News Article; Writing Fiction; Writing Process, Writing Topic The following options appear on the “Student Resources” section: The Writing Process Overview Prewriting Drafting Revising Editing and Proofreading Publishing Writing Essays, Narratives and Reports Overview Writing a Summary Prewriting Writing a Persuasive Essay Drafting Writing a Personal Narrative Revising Writing a Book Report Editing and Proofreading Writing a Lab Report Publishing Descriptive Writing Writing a 5-Paragraph Essay Writing a Cause/Effect Essay Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay Writing a Problem/Solution Essay Since one of the students I tutor has to write a book report I decided to click BOOK REPORT and follow the prompts: There were several great links that had all the information a student would need to write a good book report. Elements of a Good Book Report http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/book-report-drafting Revising Using Comments http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/comment-feature Create the Outline…….I was directed to use the FICTION NOTES AND ANALYSIS template to help me „actively read the book.” Other directions included: “Record plot summaries using the notes attached to each chapter symbol – you can even include page numbers of significant events which will help you write the report later. As you read you can use the other areas of the template to keep track of characters, settings, new vocabulary words, etc. When you finish reading, the template will help you create an outline for your book report. Simply switch to Outline View and fill in any missing details. http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/book-report-outline There is also an EXAMPLES TAB which has a collection of “built-in” examples (which can be modified and used as desired). Example of Planning an Essay http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/launch.php Webspiration Classroom's Diagram View “helps to generate ideas and clarify thoughts, making brainstorming and planning fast and easy. Using symbols, links and text, you‟ll create bubble diagrams, flow charts, concept maps, process flows and other visual representations that stimulate and reflect your thinking.” Switching from Diagram to Outline View The Diagram View and Outline View are integrated, therefore they keep track of ideas students complete their work.Diagram View can be switched to Outline View. Working collaboratively Students can collaborate and share documents. Everyone can work on the same document, “contributing, posting comments, and viewing changes.” Teachers can also post assignments, which students complete and submit electronically using Webspiration Classroom. This makes Webspiration Classroom “ideal for team projects, study groups, reviewing and commenting on documents and co-authoring materials.” Multiple users editing the same document Several students can “edit a document in a near-simultaneous fashion without their edits conflicting with one another. Users are automatically switched between “Editing,” “Reviewing,” and “Waiting” states.” Chat The Chat function also facilitates collaboration. Groups of students can work on a document and use Chat to discuss their work while “actively editing or viewing the document.” “Chat can also be used to record comments when working alone, or to keep a historical record of participants in a group meeting setting. All chat activity for a document is permanently recorded and date- and time-stamped, and all people shared on a document can view the complete record.” Show changes Revisions of the document are save. “The Show Changes feature uses colored text to indicate differences between each of these revisions.” This allows the teacher to see “ what has changed, when it was changed, and by whom.” I forgot to include the two stars and a wish! STAR # 1...This is a great example of "inclusive technology", if this was your class website every student would have access to INSPIRATION. STAR # 2...A great tool to promote collaboration & communication (chat function, groups working on same document etc) WISH.....I had a class so I could try this GREAT tool! WEBSPIRATION www.webspirationclassroom.com Webspiration Classroom is advertised as "the online writing, visual thinking and collaboration tool for students and teachers." It is essentially "INSPIRATION" for a class website, and sold by the same company that sells Inspiration. The advantage is that you have access to INSPIRATION without it having to be downloaded on individual computers. I purchased an Individual Education account about a few months ago (39.00/1-year), intending to use it with students that I tutor; however since I never had a chance to really explore it , I decided to reseach this tool. After exploring the site for about 3 hours, I am convinced it is one of the best tools a teacher can have (for all students in their class!) Individual Education accounts are "automatically configured as faculty accounts and cannot be turned into student accounts." My Individual Education account includes the "Webspiration World School," and gives me access to the Webspiration Classroom user network. This is where teachers who create templates have the option of contributing their template to a database of templates. For school accounts the pricing is as follows: 10-30 accounts @ $10.00 each or 31-99 accounts @ $9.00 each. http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/pricing (Pricing) To access the program, Webspiration gives me an Org ID. Once I created my user name and password I had on-line access to the program. The "Educator Resources" section has many lesson plan ideas, examples and tips on visual thinking. GLOBAL TEMPLATES include the following categories: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Thinking & Planning For example the Language Arts category provides templates for the following: Language Arts templates: Analyzing Author Techniques; Assignment Completion Plan; Biography; Character Comparison; Compare-Contrast Essay Planner; Essay Planner, Guided; Exploring Historical Fiction; Fiction Notes & Analysis; Generating Questions; Group Project Plan; Inquiry-Based Paper; Issue Analysis; KWL Organizer; Narrative Writing Planner; Non-Fiction Analysis; Opinion Support; Outline; Persuasive Speech or Essay; Place in History; Problem-Solution Essay; Project Design for Teachers; Research Paper; Research Topic; Summary; Syllabus; Theme & Character; Venn Diagram; Vocabulary Web; Website Evaluation; Weekly Lesson Plan; Writing a News Article; Writing Fiction; Writing Process, Writing Topic The following options appear on the "Student Resources" section: The Writing Process Overview Prewriting Drafting Revising Editing and Proofreading Publishing Overview Prewriting Drafting Revising Editing and Proofreading Publishing Writing Essays, Narratives and Reports Writing a Summary Writing a Persuasive Essay Writing a Personal Narrative Writing a Book Report Writing a Lab Report Descriptive Writing Writing a 5-Paragraph Essay Writing a Cause/Effect Essay Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay Writing a Problem/Solution Essay Since one of the students I tutor has to write a book report I decided to click BOOK REPORT and follow the prompts: There were several great links that had all the information a student would need to write a good book report. Elements of a Good Book Report http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/book-report-drafting Revising Using Comments http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/comment-feature Create the Outline…….I was directed to use the FICTION NOTES AND ANALYSIS template to help me 'actively read the book." Other directions included: "Record plot summaries using the notes attached to each chapter symbol – you can even include page numbers of significant events which will help you write the report later. As you read you can use the other areas of the template to keep track of characters, settings, new vocabulary words, etc. When you finish reading, the template will help you create an outline for your book report. Simply switch to Outline View and fill in any missing details. http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/studytips/book-report-outline There is also an EXAMPLES TAB which has a collection of "built-in" examples (which can be modified and used as desired). Example of Planning an Essay http://www.webspirationclassroom.com/launch.php Webspiration Classroom's Diagram View "helps to generate ideas and clarify thoughts, making brainstorming and planning fast and easy. Using symbols, links and text, you'll create bubble diagrams, flow charts, concept maps, process flows and other visual representations that stimulate and reflect your thinking." Switching from Diagram to Outline View The Diagram View and Outline View are integrated, therefore they keep track of ideas students complete their work.Diagram View can be switched to Outline View. Working collaboratively Students can collaborate and share documents. Everyone can work on the same document, "contributing, posting comments, and viewing changes." Teachers can also post assignments, which students complete and submit electronically using Webspiration Classroom. This makes Webspiration Classroom "ideal for team projects, study groups, reviewing and commenting on documents and co- authoring materials." Multiple users editing the same document Several students can "edit a document in a near-simultaneous fashion without their edits conflicting with one another. Users are automatically switched between "Editing," "Reviewing," and "Waiting" states." Chat The Chat function also facilitates collaboration. Groups of students can work on a document and use Chat to discuss their work while "actively editing or viewing the document." "Chat can also be used to record comments when working alone, or to keep a historical record of participants in a group meeting setting. All chat activity for a document is permanently recorded and date- and time-stamped, and all people shared on a document can view the complete record." Show changes Revisions of the document are save. "The Show Changes feature uses colored text to indicate differences between each of these revisions." This allows the teacher to see " what has changed, when it was changed, and by whom." Scribe – Google Labs http://bloggerindraft.blogspot.com/2011/08/introducing-google-scribe-in-blogger.html Mywebspiration http://www.mywebspiration.com/ ReadPlease http://www.readplease.com/ Judi, you've outlined the pros and cons of ReadPlease. Ten years ago, it was innovative in that it was the first free alternative to Kurzweil / text to speech. It was originally developed by a fellow to help his blind father, and he never expected it to take off like it did. It's worth downloading the free version- try clicking on the "face" of the speaker and listen. The developer has quite the sense of humour. With all text to speech software, you must be cautious about mixing and matching too many programs on your computer. Each carries its own speech engine interface and you can sometimes have a software glitch or computer crash. The more sophisticated software such as Kurzweil tends not to "play nicely" with ones like ReadPlease. -always good to treat your IT support people well, as they will be a vital part of the team. ReadPlease is an ideal choice to install on an old hand-me-down computer to support a struggling student. Would you recommend this to parents for home use? ReadPlease is a free text-to-speech software that reads any text you copy/paste into the ReadPlease interface. It offers four different voices, two male and two female. Some are better than others, in my opinion, but I imagine that would be personal preference. STAR The interface is very simple, and provides easy access to the voice speed and font size controls right on the main screen. I also like that the product offers a "canned" Low Vision setting that optimizes the screen with a font size and colours that work best for people with low vision. I've attached a screens shot of the interface with the low vision settings turned on. STAR ReadPlease also offers version that read in languages other than English, including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and even British English (for those of us who love the accent!). So for French teachers, for example, this is also a viable option for helping students who benefit from the speech output as they learn. WISH ReadPlease itself does not integrate with other programs. To use it, you have to copy/paste the text you want read into the ReadPlease interface and click Play. This is perhaps not quite as convenient as the tools that will read right out of a word processor or a browser, but I guess beggars can't be choosers when it's a free tool. In a pinch, this would work well for most people who just need simple text-to-speech. Natural Readers http://www.naturalreaders.com/index.htm NaturalReader I chose to investigate NaturalReader 10.0. This text-to-speech software does have a free basic download that gave me a fancy floating toolbar on my desktop. It‟s very easy to get started by highlighting any text and press play to listen. My initial reaction to the product was positive. The webpage has great advertising geared to people in general who would rather listen than read text. Some of the „sell‟ features include; reading email, learning a language, choice of different voice selections and easing eye strain. They have a trial section where you can hear what it sounds like while reading. They do boast of a „natural sounding‟ voice. This is not the voice you hear in the free version. The free version, even at the same speed as the trial voice, was very robotic and not natural sounding to me. I would hope that upon purchase you would have an upgraded, clear sounding voice. Two Stars They do offer a conversion tool for mp3 or wave files for your ipod which would come in handy while on the go. An easily accessible scanner icon for scanning books into files for students would also be beneficial. A Wish Make the free download sound like the demo voice and I would use it. Judi, I agree with you, the free download voice isn't great and I found the trial version quite buggy. I loved the voices on the online trial. The french versions were excellent and I will definitely use the website for my students. I don't think I would download the trial for them though. http://www.naturalreaders.com/index.htm Dragon Dictate for iPod or iPad http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dragon-dictation/id341446764?mt=8# Speech Recognition tools in Microsoft Word (under tools, speech) or built into Macs http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/word-help/about-speech-recognition-HP003084099.aspx http://lifehacker.com/215764/hack-attack-make-your-macs-speech-recognition-work-for-you WritingFun http://www.writingfun.com/ Comparative curiosity got the better of me when I saw that this program was spearheded by the 3P for Learning Group. They promoted World Math Day on March 1st and later World Spelling Day around the 9th of the same month. Interestingly enough they also provide programs for a fee that are tied into the above activities. At the time we registered our school for free for the math activity and many, many of our students liked the program. Specific to this exercise, when I clicked onto the link www.writingfun.com it led me to a page where "Jenny Eather" fetured ;using text organizers to assist in the writing process." What I found was a site powered by spellodrome promoting a program for a fee to mainly engage students in spelling activities. Among the advantages listed: + highly motivating , students earn reward points for success that can be redeemed in a number of ways +supports independent learning + helps in the development of one's own spelling strategies + enhances vocabulary + good for 5- 18 year olds + weekly reporting of results As far as the two stars go, see it as very similar to the mathletics program which was highly motivating to students due in part to a competitive aspect allowing to compete against other students in similar grade ranges or the computer. Secondly, teacher involvement can be hands on in the monitoring and set up via key word lists to be focused on for spelling purposes as well as providing data to determine needs and level of success. The wish - well wish it was what was originally mentioned a text organizer ... . Really see it as spelling focused activity which although valuable, may be more time consuming than necessary with the advances in spell check technology in virtually every assistive writing program out there. At an advertised cost of $1/wk wonder if this narrow a focus in the writing field is worthwhile. Having said that I would encourage teachers to register for a free one month trial as it is as mentioned fun and motivating. Thanks, Al, for your insights. I was going to take a look at this one, but I was confused by the Spellodrome stuff. I ended up choosing a different one that made more sense. Perhaps now I'll go back, on your recommendation, and take a closer look. hank you SO much for exploring and reflecting on this writing resource, Al. Unfortunately, from the time we wrote the course, it was first offered in the summer and now, Writing Fun has gone from an amazing open (i.e. free) writing organizer to being sold (out?) to a commercial company. (aargh!) I think you would have found the original site to be much more useful and you would have likely found many connections to your practice. I'll look for a replacement site for future. You've provided a good model for others when investigating new software or websites; be a critical thinker and look at sources, links etc in order to best make a judgement call as to whether it rates further investigation. I didn't realize that the site provider had done the World Math Day work. I echo your sentiment about the value of spelling activities for our special learners. Is that a philosophy that is transparent in your own practice? Thanks for this heads up, Al. Google scribe is a word prediction tool used with Blogger - Google's blog creating tool. Since it is used in Blogger, I tried it in a blog post. To see my review, check out http://mrswansclassroomblog.blogspot.com/ It is the Oct. 20 post, "Google Scribe ETFO AQ" Jeryl/anyone else, let me know if you also want me to paste my post here as well! I can cut and paste it over, but thought I would save a step. Jason, it's good to know what the limitations of Scribe are, not having a speech feedback feature ceratinly is a negative. PS..You have a great blog...and wikispaces! I'm sure your colleagues and students are very appreciative of all the great info! I have created several resource wikispaces (for my teachables) and find them very helpful. I think it's great that you're including the link as you've given us the preamble. Great site! Perhaps some of your colleagues might consider starting a blog on the blogspot platform? I'm a huge fan of Blogspot. I have several personal blogs on the platform, and I can't wait until I get my own class so I can start another one. It's such an awesome way to share resources and communicate with students, parents, and even other teachers. I quite right Wikispaces as well. The 3 of us in the Technology Resource Program in our Board are trying to manage a wiki. Great collaborative tool. One of the BEST wiki's I have seen is Brenda Sherry's - she is the technology coach in our Board and has a fantastic wiki http://tech2learn.wikispaces.com/ The free tool I have chosen to try is natural readers (www.naturalreaders.com). I found this at the end of last year when I was looking for a French text to speech program and bookmarked it but never got a chance to experiment with it. As with many online free programs, the free version contains fewer features than the versions you can purchase, but it is still a useful tool for use in the classroom. The free version includes a text to speech reader which can be opened in a floating tool bar and used to read information in PDF files and you can cut and paste onto the demo web page. If you purchase the program it can also be used to read Microsoft Word files, web pages and use the text to MP3 option. Also, the education versions come with 1300 e-books. I loved the Demo webpage, where you can cut and paste text into it. It had a very natural French voice (working as a core French teacher, this was a huge plus for me!) and read smoothly. Despite trying to download the free version with the floating text box three times, it kept crashing every time I tried to load it up, which was very frustrating. I can see the website being useful but the program is definitely very buggy. Stars - Love the idea of the floating tool bar that you can then use for PDF files – I can convert many of my word files to PDF and allow my students to have any worksheets read to them which would be a great help for my students with learning disabilities. - Very natural smooth voice and speaks in English, French, Spanish and German for free. Wish - I wish the program was less buggy! I really wanted to get it going and tried fixing the errors several times but it just wouldn‟t load for me. Hi Laura, I chose this one as well. I was not happy with the clarity of the free voice option. The demo voice was quite good but this was not the same as the freebee. Is the French option free to use as well and have you had a chance to try that one? I used the French voice on the website and I think this is the way I would have my students use it, cutting and pasting to hear back their work. Realistically, they only write a few sentences a lesson so it isn't a big deal for French lessons to only have the small box to put their text in. Oooohhh. This is intriguing. I will need to try the download as well to see if it will work. I have a few students that could use this on a trial basis to see if they would be able to work with something more expensive. Also have a few who don't qualify for SEA who do have computer access through the school. Thanks for sharing!
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