I recently went to a conference at The Washington International School in DC where a session was run on various assistive learning tools by Jeff Sisk, the Assistive Technology Integration Specialist for the Fairfax County Public System. One tool stood out over the rest and I wanted to share it with you.
Chrome is my browser of choice and while I have used Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and countless others it continues to remain streamlined, fast and fairly intuitive. When Google allowed third party companies to create chrome extensions I was extremely happy, and optimistically cautious that some wonderful tools would be made available to the general public.
An extension is a piece of software that provides additional functionality to the Chrome browser. For example, the Clearly extension by Evernote allows the user to strip away all of the extraneous pictures and video from a website and just display the text in a clean page free from media distractions. While one should always be leery of plugins and downloads that access your “private” information I was confident that Google would at least provide a first line of defense of weeding out harmful add-ons to my browser and computer.
Jeff demonstrated a new, free extension called Read & Write by a company called TextHelp. Read & Write puts a little button on your Chrome browser that adds accessibility features to Google Docs such as Text To Speech with Dual Synchronized Highlighting and Study Skills tools. It was fantastic! One of the current limitations we are experiencing with the Kurzweil software is it’s inability to be used directly in Google Docs. Currently, our students have to copy their work out of Google Docs and either paste it into Kurzweil directly or into Microsoft Word to be imported into Kurzweil.
Read&Write works right in Google Docs. It also allows our students to look up textual or pictorial definitions of words they might not understand. I urge you to take a look at it at the link I provided or visit the Google Chrome Store at https://chrome.google.com/webstore. Be sure to click on Extensions at the bottom of the index that’s on the left side of the web page and then type in Read&Write in the search bar.
The first application I explored for integrating the Kinect into our curriculum was Kinect Paint. Kinect Paint is a fairly simple to use paint program that allows the user to use one arm to select different brushes and colors and control the cursor. When you want to draw all you have to do is raise your other hand. Once you have finished you have the option to save or start over. Definitely something I would introduce to our ES kids.
Kurzweil Educational Systems was founded in 1996 and is recognized as the leading developer of reading technology for people with learning difficulties and those who are blind or visually impaired.
The following is a list of Kurzweil 3000 tutorials linked straight from the Kurzweil website.
- Showing and Hiding Toolbars
- Changing Reading Options
- Looking Up Words
- Using Color Highlights to Study
- Creating Sticky Notes and Text Notes
- Working with Column Notes
- Using Writing Supports
Academhack came up with some great ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom. I agree it can be an exciting tool to engage students outside of the classroom. Mr Dooley expanded on the idea by offering an extensive list of resources, ideas, hints, tips, and tricks on how to positively affect your classroom with the use of Twitter on his own blog.
I believe this to be a very useful way to “hook” non-believers into Twitter. Create the community by having all students follow each other and yourself. Tweet a few minor writing assignments and the community will be off and running. Students will undoubtedly be engaged in rich discussion (some more than others though), which should stimulate ongoing interaction beyond school walls. An interesting tidbit that academhack mentions is Clive Thompson sixth sense of Twitter.
Track a word or phrase:
Students can track specific words and phrases through Twitter which could help them keep tabs on current events. This could be really helpful in classes where Current Events is relied on heavily.
Student can follow professionals:
Following people of interest (and there are LOTS of them) can help stimulate the “believability” of Twitter’s usefulness to students. Have students find political figures, rocket scientists, colleges, or famous people!
This is a great video created by Justin Tarte featuring 25 students he interviewed regarding their opinion of the use of technology in education.
In his own words:
We all live in a world that is rapidly changing, and in particular, the advancements associated with technology. As society evolves and changes, schools are coming under increasing pressure to stay with the times. So often we hear that technology is a silver bullet in education, but we must remember that technology is merely a tool.A tool in the hands of a sub-par educator will continue to yield a sub-par education, while a tool in the hands of a great educator will only enhance and aid that educator.
With the huge push for technology in schools, I thought it would only be fitting to take some time and ask what students thought. Here are the responses from 25 students at Seckman High School in Imperial, MO.