New Found Tools for OCR with Auditory Feedback and Phonetic Word Prediction (FREE)

Microsoft OCR with Immersed Reading

office-lens-iconIn a bid to continue supporting struggling student, Microsoft has introduced OCR functionality with the added benefit of Text to Speech (TTS) to its document scanning app, Office Lens . Office Lens works in tandem with your other Microsoft apps and requires an account. At this time, users do not need a Microsoft 365 subscription and can use a free outlook.com account.

The scanning app is straightforward to use and provides options to scan a business card, photo, document, or whiteboard.  Automatic page detection is available however the user still needs to press the camera button to capture the image.  The next step is to select the “Immersive Reader” option. The app will then OCR (Object Character Recognize) the image and produce a screen with the text extracted from the image.

Some standout features of this app include its simple user interface and the option for “Wide Text Spacing” which increases the line spacing for easier reading.  TTS is easily activated through the play button and reading speed is adjusted through a slider in the toolbar.  While reading, the screen is grayed out while the word being read is highlighted. This allows for easier scanning and reading. On tried scanning, the OCR accuracy proved significantly accurate.

Drawbacks of the app include limited ability to modify the font style and color options. Additionally, navigating through the text is a bit cumbersome. Original formatting of the document is removed from the scan which might be disorienting to readers.

See the video below for a quick walkthrough:

Phonetic Word Prediction Using Google Input Tool

Word prediction has become a commonly available tool on current mobile devices used to increase typing speed using the onscreen keyboard. This functionally, however, has been used by students with dyslexia for many years especially using flexible spelling or phonetic spelling predictors. Most operating system and mass market word prediction rely on the context of the writing versus phonetic spelling patterns and often do not support students with significant dyslexia.

Google’s  Input Tool is both a setting and a Chrome extension that helps support this spelling pattern. The traditional use of this tool is for keyboarding in multiple languages with transliteration available for some languages. This support, for example, allows a Hebrew writer to keyboard “shalom” using the roman keyboard while the Input Tool will then translate the entry to “שלןם”. This same support can be used while writing in English within Google Drive apps.

To activate this support:

  • Visit: My Account- Input Tools
  • Click “Select Languages”
  • Select English from the checkbox menu and save the settings
  • To test: open a Google Doc, upon loading you should see “En” icon at the end of the toolbar to the right of the “Tx” icon. Select the suggestion icon.
  • When typing, you should begin to see a suggested word list that follows the cursor and adapts to the letters being written.
  • To enter the desired word, either click on the word or enter the corresponding number.

The accuracy of this support for phonetic spelling has been  fairly accurate for longer words.  It falters however for homophones or shorter words. These, however, can often be corrected by Google Doc’s built-in spelling and grammar checker.

There is a bit of a lag between when the tool is enabled and the time it shows up within the Google Apps. An additional workaround to try is adding an additional language and then removing it once the tool is available.

See the video below for a quick walkthrough:

Zap yourself Organized with the Rocketbook Wave

Occasionally I like to support crowd sourcing projects that won’t break the bank and may have the potential of providing a new tool to my toolbox. The Rocketbook Wave has been just that kind of project and has become a staple in my work bag. It can also serve as a powerful tool to those students who struggle with organization but prefer the low tech pencil and paper.

Here’s how it Works

The notebook is available for purchase in two sizes and comes with a free accompanying app. The user then uses heat sensitive Frixion pens to take notes as needed.The best part is that a student can use one notebook across multiple subjects and does not need to worry about skipping pages. Each page comes with 7 icons at the bottom. The student can then “tag” which subject the note belongs to by coloring in the appropriate tag.
When finished note taking, the student thenscans the notes using a mobile device. Scanning is actually extrememly fastand effective given the notebook’s darkbrown border. No cropping or re-sizing needed like other scanning apps. Once all the pages are scanned, the student then sends the notes to its given cloud storage folder in either a PDF or JPG format. If writing using multicolor pens, these are preservedin the scan as well.
Now here comes the best part, when the notebook is filled up, the student can then place the entire notebook in the microwave, the ink will disappear, and the notebook is reusable once again!
I have been using my Rocketbook Wave for the past 2 months and fell in love with it. It has been a great tool for helping me organize my notes. Notetaking has been one area where I still treasure the kinesthetic pencil on paper experience and no touchscreen stylus will replace that feeling. Not yet atleast. A variety of writing implements are available through Amazon ranging from multicolor thicker markers to .7mm and .5mm pens. The markers also come with an eraser (friction heat) for on the spot editing.

 

The first wave of funding through Indigogo is closed however a new Kickstarter campain is open until April 1st. A $27 contibution will get you one Wave notebook and a Frixion pen. Check out the project and more details here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/642311833/rocketbook-wave-cloud-connected-microwavable-noteb

Fluency Tutor: Google App Integrated Running Records

TextHelp just released a new tools for teachers. TextHelp has been providing robust assistive technology tools for students and is branching out to supporting students on the cloud. They are one of the first companies to introduce a text prediction tool compatible with Google Apps and now is venturing into the instructional technology world.

Fluency Tutor is a tool that allows teacher to assign lexile or age appropriate reading passages for students to read and record via their Google Apps account. While reading, students are able to have the following tools available for their support:

  • Text read aloud with word by word highlighting
  • Simple dictionary definitions for unfamiliar words
  • Picture dictionary
  • English to Spanish translation
For the free account, teachers are then able to capture the recordings for each of the students on the main dashboard for progress tracking. The premium account features the ability to score the reading passage for the following errors:
  • Mispronunciations
  • Hesitations
  • Insertions
  • Omissions
  • Substitutions
  • Transpositions
A teacher is able to listen to the recording which is paused when marking an error. The app is also able to provide a words per minute count (after marking the 1 minute point) and a reading quality rubric is completed for each reading sample to generate a “Fluency Score”.  A progress chart is then available for each student to track changes in the Fluency Score and reading rate.
There are a variety of reading passages to chose from however at this point custom reading passages are not available. An annual subscription is $99 per teacher/ per year. 

Summer Project: My Metryx

My Metryx

This is a great tool for teachers to keep track of their students data and help “see” what their classroom looks like. There are many customizable features and you can make your data as precise as you need it. 
To start, you will create an account and start with a class. You can then add grades and add students to those grades or add individual students. This is great middle and high school teachers or cluster subject teachers who have multiple classes.
Next, you add your assessments. The hierarchy starts with the Subject > Skillsets > Skills. As an example you can open a Subject for ELA > Skillset for Reading (Running Records) > Skills of fluency, decoding and so on.
Now you can put all this information together and set up parameters for which students will be assessed for what skills. Outcomes can be rated on a yes/ no mode, rubric mode, or data entry mode. 
After assessing your students, you have the options of looking at individual student reports or view how your class is doing on particular skills. The reports are visually friendly turning your data into user friendly pie charts and line graphs for progress over time. Metryx will even help split up your class, either creating either equal groups or RTI groups based on the scoring data. 
Here is a link to a short video tutorial for the visual learners in the bunch: http://vimeo.com/57808886

Finally! An App Smashing Solution for PDF Annotation with Text OCR

=  SUCCESS!

One of the most challenging classroom tasks to modify for students with learning disabilities is the dreaded worksheet. Although there are multiple apps that will take a picture of a document and OCR (object character recognition) the text the formatting of the document is lost. Translation- you can take a picture of page and have it read back to you but it won’t look like the page you scanned.

Solution!
PDFpen Scan+ ($4.99) now allows you to take a picture of a document (single or multi-page), crop it to the desired dimensions, modify the contrast and then OCR the text on the page. Once this file is complete you can open the document in any PDF annotation app (many free options available). This will allow the student to press hold the text on the document and use the iOS built in speech to text accessibility feature to read back the text on the page. They can then annotate the document using a pen, type in text to fill in the blanks, or use audio recording (depends on the PDF annotation app) to complete this worksheet.

A bit of warning though: this solution does require an app savvy student and the OCR is not full proof.

Use the Copy Machine in the Office to Go Paperless

The next time you go make copies for the class check out the machine to see if you can insert a USB drive somewhere on the front or side of the machine. If you see it, you are in luck! You can now use the copy machine and the built in feeder to scan in student work, handouts from workshops (all those PowerPoint slide presentations), or other stacks of paper you want to have available just in case; without cluttering up the classroom.

Simply insert your USB drive into the port and select the “Scan” button on the copier. You can customize the file type (PDF probably is the most useful), resolution size, and other options. Press the start button as you normally would.

You can then invest in cloud storage like dropbox, google drive, or box to store this paperwork in the cloud. Your documents are then available anywhere you are when you need them.