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.