Ms. Caroline Le, Coordinator of the Writing Center, provides an overview of the assistive technology available to students with learning disabilities.
Kurzweil is a text-to-speech program, meaning students can listen to text being read to them on the computer. The Writing Center requests and converts textbook files from publishers to make all textbooks available to students on Kurzweil. When using Kurzweil, students have many options such as changing the type of voice or the reading speed and magnifying of the text. The text is highlighted for students to follow along; this is especially helpful for students who are auditory learners or who have reading disabilities. Aside from textbooks, any document, such as journal articles, tests, and quizzes, can be scanned for use in Kurzweil to accommodate student needs.
WordQ is a word prediction, text-to-speech program. Using WordQ, students have the ability to correctly choose vocabulary to use in their writing that they may otherwise be unable to completely spell. As a student types, a small box containing a list of possible vocabulary follows his or her cursor. The student need only click on or hit the corresponding keyboard number for the word he or she wants to use. If the student does not recognize the spelling or complete form of a word, WordQ’s text-to-speech function allows him or her to listen to what the word is before choosing it. Additionally, students can play back what they have written, or have WordQ read what they are writing as they are writing it. WordQ’s text-to-speech function can also be used on the Internet! For students with dyslexia, reading disabilities, or those who learn best through auditory processing, WordQ can make all the difference in ease of writing.
Inspiration is a visual tool which allows students to create graphic organizers, concept maps, mind maps, webs, outlines, plots, and graphs using pictures, lines, and shapes options. It is helpful for students who learn visually and prefer to organize their thoughts in a visual manner. Student Jessica Parola states, “Even though I’m not usually required to make outlines for my classes, I use Inspiration to brainstorm for all my essays.” Templates for all subject areas and writing needs are available to students who want more guidance in the brainstorming and organizing process. These can be converted to formal Roman numeral outlines with just one click!
Editor is a program which generates suggestions for how students can proofread their essays. Once a student uploads his or her essay draft, Editor then numbers each sentence and provides a usage report. In the report, spelling, grammar, and stylistic flaws are presented. It is then up to the student to review each sentence with the corresponding suggestion for change and decide whether or not the revisions should be made. This program is useful for all students because it makes the proofreading process explicit and causes students to critically think about their writing decisions.
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Dragon Naturally Speaking is a speech recognition program which allows students to write and edit documents by speaking into a microphone. Each student can create an individualized account, wherein, upon completion of voice recognition training, Dragon Naturally Speaking will “learn” the student’s voice, making recognition more accurate each time the program is used. Dragon Naturally Speaking is especially helpful for students with physical disabilities. Much independence is gained when a student need only worry about expressing his or her ideas.