Day 15 – with a little help from my friends – Assistive Technology – #28daysofwriting

“He has some great ideas in class but….”

“Jane contributes so well to discussions in class but….”

“She struggles to get what she wants to say on paper”

“He understands but can’t write….”

I imagine there isn’t a teacher on the planet who hasn’t said something similar to this at some stage in their career but what has been the next move?

Using an iPad to record work is a great option. Recently we’ve introduced some iPads into a school to be used by students with reading and writing difficulties. Feedback is coming in from teachers that it is making a difference – not only are these students writing better and producing more work but they are more engaged and there are fewer behaviour issues. Of course it isn’t a panacea and it may be the honeymoon period but I am confident these iPads make a difference and alleviate stress for students who struggle in our text based world.

There are many word processing apps. Many of my students use Pages – this has predictive text and their work can be read out using the ‘speak’ option. (See Day 13 – accessibility).

Changing the background colour isn’t as easy as in Word but it is possible in page set up and then changing the colour of the whole page.

Some more advanced word processors are Writer (a new app from the makers of VoiceDream), iReadWrite and Ginger. These have good predictive text, good text-to-speech and good facilities to change various colour settings.

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A more advanced assistive word processor is WriteOnline by the makers of Clicker.

You can create word banks or use Clicker’s own and the student toggles between the two like here for A Christmas Carol.

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I love this app and find students can produce great work independently once the bank of words have been created. It’s really important TAs know how to do this.

The student can also hear any word read or, when they put a full stop at the end, the sentence is automatically read out. There’s also a ‘speak all’ option.

These apps really do engender independence and allow the student to achieve.

Another option is using a wireless keyboard – the screen is then bigger and the student can practise touch typing skills.

So, next time you hear yourself saying ‘this student can….but….’ alongside all the other marvellous things I know you do, maybe another is letting them get by with a little help?

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