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Assistive Technology

The Howard School prides itself on our technologically savvy educators and students. A pioneer in the use of assistive technology in educating learning disabled students, we believe that technology is a vital tool in the educational process, and that students must be comfortable with all forms of new technology to stay competitive in today’s world. Teachers work with our Instructional Technology and Assistive Technology staff to introduce new technology to the students at the correct age and skill level.

Equipped with the right tools, technology can help bridge learning difficulties for students. Tech tools and software integrate easily to make learning more accessible at school and at home. For example, using voice-recognition software, students bypass a reading or writing difficulty and produce written work that can be evaluated on the merits of creativity and expression. Assistive technology software also allows students to dictate classwork into a smartphone, email the file and download it for study at home.

Another form of assistive technology is the SMARTboard, which continues to be an effective tool in Howard School classrooms, not only for their use in engaging and motivating student learning, but to specifically relieve challenges with classroom note-taking. For many of our students, concentrating on note-taking while comprehending the lesson being taught, are two very difficult tasks to do simultaneously. Teachers’ lessons can be preloaded onto the SMARTboards and then easily transferred to student laptops, reducing the need for note-taking during class. This removes an academic hurdle for our students and promotes student learning.

Technology Used to Assist Our Students

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Designed for students who have problems with decoding. Reading material is loaded onto the computer and the software reads it aloud, while highlighting each word as it’s read. Changes in the voice type, speed of reading and background/highlight colors used on text can be made based on individual preference. Additional tools include a built-in dictionary, word prediction, an extensive, phonetic spell checker, homophone checker, and study skills tools.

Read and Write Gold

Our school software license entitles any student of The Howard School to install Read & Write Gold software on any personal computer.

Voice Recognition a.k.a. Speech-to-Text

Designed for students who have difficulties with getting their thoughts into written form due to grapho-motor issues, processing issues or extreme spelling issues. PLEASE NOTE: The training involved in the use of this software makes it prohibitive unless there is a significant difference between what the student is able to produce verbally vs. written. They must be able to organize their thoughts and use specific language in order for this software to be effective. The student dictates into the computer via microphone and the software types what is said. The user files are trained for an individual user and updated each time the software is used; therefore, a personal computer with the software on it is required.

  1. Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Windows-based)
  2. Dragon Dictation 4 (Mac-based)
  3. Dictation built in to Mac OS (requires Mountain Lion or Mavericks)

Additional At-Home Apps and Tools

Voice Dream:http://www.voicedream.com/
Voice Dream can be purchased for $9.99 on the Apple App Store:https://itunes.apple.com/app/voice-dream-reader-text-to/id496177674

It provides text-to-speech support for books from Bookshare, pdfs, web content, Dropbox files and more. They also provide an extensive list of additional voices that can be purchased for $1.99 - $4.99, but it comes with a free voice that is fairly high quality. Once you have your Bookshare Individual Membership (see above), you can link your account to the Voice Dream app by going to the settings tab at the bottom of the screen, adding your login information to the account and saving it (see below):

When you go to download a book, touch the + sign at the bottom of the screen and select Bookshare from the list. You can search for a book from the screen that pops up and will be directed to download the book.

Read2Go: http://read2go.org/
Developed by Bookshare to read their books, Read2Go can also be purchased for $19.99 in the Apple App Store:https://itunes.apple.com/app/read2go/id425585903?mt=8

TextHelp Web Apps: TextHelp, the developer of Read & Write Gold has a suite of Apps that work within browsers (e.g. Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer) on iPads, iPod Touches, iPhones as well as PCs and Macs. The suite includes Read&Write Web (reads web content), eBook Reader (reads Bookshare books), and Spelling, Speech, and Dictionary components that can help with written expression. Installation instructions for each app can be found within the correlating link. The apps can be found at http://apps.texthelp.com/

iReadWrite:http://www.texthelp.com/north-america/ireadwrite
Also developed by TextHelp, iReadWrite can be purchased for $19.99 on the Apple App Store:https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ireadwrite/id600843386?mt=8

iReadWrite includes writing supports including Text-to-Speech with Dual Color Highlighting ,Contextual Word Prediction ,Phonetic Spell Checker , Sounds Like and Confusable Word Checker, Text and Picture Dictionary ,Customizable Background and Text Colors , Choice of Voices and Fonts , Import Documents , andShare, Print, and Export Documents .

It is recommended that students use a wireless keyboard with the iPad for writing, so that they can continue to work on keyboarding skills.

If you’re interested in finding quality apps to assist with reading and writing, a very extensive list of apps that haave been vetted by The University of Michigan can be found at:http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/tools/apps

The apps are categorized by reading, writing, spelling, articulation, phonics, organization/study skills, resources/reference, and math. They are also leveled for preschool, early elementary, later elementary, middle school, high school, and college/adult.

Technology in the Classroom

It is important to understand the needs of our students and to introduce technology that will enrich learning environments we create at The Howard School.

Technology opens up new channels for learners, who tend to connect more and achieve more when they have multiple ways to access information. Some activities in The Howard School’s classrooms are a natural for multimedia, such as creating stop-action animation of a science experiment or making an iMovie for a presentation. Some activities are truly Web 2.0 – multimedia tools that allow users to interact and collaborate – such as students logging in to class blogs for homework assignments, study guides and links to useful resources; Skyping with an author during the Lower School’s Reading Month; or launching a YouTube channel for Hawk Talk, The Howard School’s student-run news program.

“In the technology-rich world we live in, one that our students have grown up in, we have to be sure that we are using the correct technology to enhance learning,” says Lisa Prodigo-Nimorwicz, instructional technology coordinator at The Howard School. As the go-to tech resource for faculty, she helps teachers implement the best tools for specific projects and guides students in using them.

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