Don Johnston recently released Co:Writer Universal and it offers some lovely features. When a school signs up for a site license students and teachers can create individual accounts. This account can then be used to log into the Co:Writer Universal web app , download the Chrome extension, download a PC or Mac version of Co:Writer and just announced today use Co:Writer as an iOS device.
The web app also opens as a separate window in a browser and has a very similar interface to the iOS app. Previous documents are autosaved in the home menu and can be further edited. Functions such as inserting images, text formatting, customizing the word list, and speech feedback setting are available. Another helpful feature is the topic dictionary support. If the writing is related to a book for example, you can search for a topic dictionary related to the book title and the word prediction will start including character names and other book related vocabulary. Written work can then be sent to Google Drive or Dropbox accounts.
|Co:Writer extension in a Google Doc|
An added benefit to this tool is that it can also be downloaded as a Chrome extension and work
directly within Google Docs or websites with text boxes to complete. I had tried using it within Slides but the performance in this app was varied. This is a great feature that is not available on other cloud based programs (see previous post here).
What is and why use word prediction and auditory feedback anyway?
Word prediction is often used for students who struggle with spelling and may be reluctant writers because of this difficulty. There are varying qualities of word prediction algorithms and use of “flexible spelling”. If the student types “tdy”, can the program predict “today”?
Auditory feedback can be used for students who struggle with grammar and produce writing sampled devoid of punctuation marks or omit words without noticing even if attempting to edit your work. Hearing back one’s writing helps students catch these errors. Some option for this feedback include hearing each letter typed (emergent writers), each word typed (assisting with sustained attention), or each sentenced typed. These are personal choices that a teacher and student can make to see what best benefits the writing.
The benefits to using Chrome as a browser are all the add-ons and extensions that are easy to download from the Chrome Webstore.
Beeline Reader is an extension that converts the text into flowing colors to increase the speed of eye tracking while reading. This also helps decrease the frequency of skipped lines which affects overall reading fluency and comprehension.
Sprint Reader is an extension that allows a student to select text from an article or webpage and present each word individually on the screen. There are many font, sizing, and color modifications to customize the presentation. Also keyboard shortcuts can quickly stop, rewind, or modify speed as you are reading.
Spreed is another speed reading extension with similar features that allow customization of font, sizing, and speed. The benefit to this extension is that these customization options are available on the same screen as the words presented.
Text to Speech
OpenDyslexic is an extension that converts most fonts presented on a webpage to the Open Dyslexic font. This font was created with attention to each letter to limit “b” and “d” confusion and draw the eye to the bottom of the line.
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
Lingua.ly is a great extension built for developing vocabulary in a new foreign language but also works great to develop vocabulary for struggling students.
The concept is simple and works great. An account is created with an initial set up process. The student chooses their native language and language to learn (for this case both are set to English) and once set up is complete the student is ready to read any web content.
When a student lands on an unfamiliar word, they may double click the word. A simple definition comes up and the word is pronounced for the reader. The word then remains highlighted on the webpage.
For further review and practice, students can log into their Lingua.ly account and either read new content based on the words previously selected or practice flash card type games with these collected words.
Here is a video highlighting the basic functions:
For those familiar with assistive technology software a common solution for struggling students involves the use of writing with auditory feedback and text prediction. With the increased integration of Chromebooks into the school, two companies have started integrating these options into Google Docs. Although not as robust as their desktop counterparts they are a good start. One drawback involves the long word bank list and need to click to enter a desired word into the writing passage. Both extensions can run on Chromebooks or on a Chrome web browser and have a 30 day trial available. Google App for Education and single annual licenses are available.
1. App Writer Cloud by LingApps. App Writer is also available as an iPad app. A variety of languages are available for purchase with a good quality voice for auditory feedback. Performance however is affected based on internet speed connection.
2. Read&Write for Google by TextHelp. This app also provides users with the ability to highlight text within the document and collect these highlights into a separate file. There is also a dictionary and visual dictionary option available.
Being a visual learner I am venturing on creating infographics to help navigate the bountiful world of edtech. Here is my first infographic for principals and other school admins on how Google Apps can help run a school.
Picto4me is a lovely addition to the Chrome Webstore. This app lets you create communication boards as well as run a browser based player that can be switch accessible. There is also a scan based on-screen keyboard however the generated text at this point cannot be copied or used outside of the main window. Great image library and also allows for URL images.