Day 16 – Do we really need to read and write? #28daysofwriting Assistive Technology

I was recently introduced at a training session as ‘the woman who will persuade you that reading and writing are not required to succeed in school’ – I laughed nervously saying ‘well, not quite but……’.

Reading and writing are vital, of course, (and talking) but Assistive Technology has come on so much that if you cannot do these things it is still possible to achieve in education. I work in mainstream (although I’m constantly bugging nearby Special Schools for advice) so advanced technology isn’t as widely used and my first few blogs in this Assistive Technology series concentrate on free technology which, if there’s an old laptop going dusty in the corner, will suffice for many students.

I do however meet students who do not read very well; ask your SENCO how many candidates require readers for exams – it may surprise you. These young people are not accessing the curriculum in the same way as their typically developing peers. Some students hide this well, some rely on friends or the class TA, some appear truculent and some are skilled at listening and will attempt to remember enough salient information to get by. Imagine if all these students required glasses however, would we be happy to let them cope without them?

Using technology is not without its difficulties – it may require teachers to send electronic copies of text and, being (cough) slighty disorganised myself, I know this isn’t always the first thing on a teacher’s mind; it may be that the work is no longer available in an electronic format or it’s from a text book which hasn’t been downloaded from Load2Learn yet.

Imagine if there was a simple app which took a picture of any (typed) text and then read it back to you?

Well there is now.

It’s done with OCR or something….

Capturatalk and Clarospeak are two apps which do this – it’s not cheap (£55-75) but I’m sure this cost will come down in the next few years. For the type of student who likes to be independent but has to rely on others in class, this could revolutionise how they cope in the classroom.

As I have said previously, I don’t think this technology replaces reading and writing, more so enhances it. Until students catch up with their peers, we need to find some solutions and this, although pricey, could be the answer for a few of them. I’m certainly going to give it a try.

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