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 text-to-speech software to access curriculum, students who struggle with decoding are able to access and learn material at their intellectual level, instead of being limited to information at their decoding level. They gain exposure to higher level vocabulary and more complex sentence structures that they wouldn’t have access to without support. In addition, students can use voice-recognition software or electronic writing supports to bypass or help remediate a 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 technology support involves 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. At The Howard School, the primary software that we use is Read & Write Gold and Read & Write for Google. These tools can be individualized for changes in the voice type, speed of reading and background/highlight colors used on text. Additional tools include a built-in dictionary, word prediction, an extensive, phonetic spell checker, homophone checker, and study skills tools.

Our school software license entitles any student of The Howard School to install Read & Write Gold software on any personal computer, and Read & Write for Google Chrome is activated for every student on our student domain.

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. In order for this to be an effective tool, students should be able to organize their thoughts and use specific language when speaking. The student dictates into the computer via microphone and the software types what is said.

  1. Dictation built in to Mac OS
  2. Dragon Dictate for Mac*
  3. Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows*

* 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.

Electronic Materials

At The Howard School, every worksheet, textbook, or supplemental text is provided in both paper and electronic format to allow seamless access to curricular materials for our students who require text-to-speech software. All of our textbooks are scanned at AMAC, the Alternative Media Access Center (http://www.amacusg.org/). In addition, students who qualify are added to our Institutional Account at Bookshare (www.bookshare.org), an accessible online library that offers free access to a catalog of over 360,000 books to students with print disabilities. For our younger students, we have a subscription to Bookflix: (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/bookflix) which is an online literacy resource that pairs classic video storybooks with related nonfiction eBooks with text-to-speech support in human voices.

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.

Read2Go: http://read2go.org/
Developed by Bookshare to read books from the Bookshare collection, 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 , and Share, Print, and Export Documents .

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

If you’re interested in finding quality apps to assist with reading and writing, a very extensive list of apps that have 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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