Reading Vision Supports Using Chrome Extensions

The benefits to using Chrome as a browser are all the add-ons and extensions that are easy to download from the Chrome Webstore.

Color Supports

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.

Speed Readers

These tool are used to increased reading speed but having one word presented on the screen at a time also limits the need for eye movements called saccades when reading. Some students struggle with the mechanics of moving their eyes across a page and tend to skip words or lines that affect overall 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

Speak It is an extension that once installed allows the student to select text and have this text read back. The voice is a bit synthesized and does depend on the internet speed connection to function smoothly.
Select and Speak is another extension that provides text to speech supports. 

Font Modification

Clearly is one of my favorite extensions from the makers of Evernote. The extension clears away the ads and presents the text from the article in a clear and simple presentation. Users can customize the fonts spacing, sizing, and color scheme as well as highlight salient details. The article can then be clipped directly into your Evernote account. Premium subscribers can also have the text read back to them with word highlighting!

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.

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Why Doesn’t Starfall work on my iPad?

So you have your iPad and ready to use it in the classroom. Finally, your students will have the chance to practice their reading at their desks only to find that your favorite sites don’t work on the iPad!

Why? Many sites use Flash animations to work their games and interactive books. Popular iOS browsers such as Safari do support this type of program and there for the content will be viewable on your iPad. Some sites have started making apps that match the content on their web browsers but there is another way…

Try downloading Puffin. This is a free iOS web browser that will play Flash content.

Know any other browsers to recommend? Share in the comments section below!

Review: Adobe Voice

Adobe has recently release its own story telling app. Although there are many in the app store this one offers a few unique benefits for teachers and students. Following the Universal Design for Learning model, using Voice can help provide students with a means of expression.

Voice follows a familiar “slide” format however it has pre- made templates for the following: Promote an Idea, Tell What Happened, Explain Something, Follow a Hero’s Journey, Show and Tell, Share a Growth Moment, Teach a Lesson, Share an Invitation, or Make Up My Own. Each template comes with a range of slides (5-8) that asks the user to answer a particular question on that slide. This is great for students who just don’t know where to start and what to say.

Within each template, students may add icons (provided by The Noun Project), photos, and text (No video). They are then able to record audio narration that follows the visual support. Once all the slides are built, the presentation can be customized by themes and background music can be added to run throughout. The great benefit of this app is that it provides rich variety of content within it. When adding photos, a student may search and Voice will only provide images tagged as having a Creative Commons License.

Once you are ready to publish, the project can either be public or private and all attributions are inserted automatically. This is a great pro for this app in getting users to give credit where credit is due.

Understood.org- A Site for Teachers, Parents and Students Affected by Learning Disabilities

One of the reasons I am so invested in the use of technology in the schools in exactly for the benefit it offers students with learning disabilities. There are many students sitting in classrooms all over the world right now struggling to fit themselves into the box. Technology opens the doors for students to better access what they need to know and also show their teachers and the world what they have learned.

This is one reason why I am so excited to hear about the launch of Understood.org in August 2014. This site is a partnership among multiple organizations helping students with learning disabilities and will be clearinghouse for resources, support groups, and events. The feature I am most looking forward to will be examples of just what the world looks like for students with learning disabilities when they read, write, and compute.

Stay tuned for updates…

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.

Lingua.ly Chrome Extension for Building Vocabulary

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:

Air Server: Wireless Mirroring for Your iOS Device

What you Need:

  • iOS Device
  • Computer (PC- XP Not supported/Mac) Connect to projector
  • Install Air Server on your computer 
  • Internet connection to activate software
  • Wifi connection on computer and iOS devices

Want to show the class a great app or stream your lesson on your smartboard while walking around the classroom? AirServer is here to help… AirServer is desktop software that allows you to project your iOS device. You can mirror your iOS device as well as multiple iOS devices that are connected to the same network through the AirPlay support in the Control Center. They provide you with a 7 day trial version just to test it out and make sure it works with your system. To purchase, a standard license (3 computers) is $14.99 and educational license is $11.99. Bulk licenses are also available.

Screen Recording

On a Mac you can also screen record if you want to provide a reference for your students who may need to re-listen to your lesson. This is also a great resource for flipped classrooms. This feature is the works for PCs.

So You Have a Whiteboard! Don’t Reinvent the Wheel!

Many times using a new whiteboard may seem like a daunting task and it turns into a glorified video projector or another board to write on. The whiteboard can open doors to making a teacher’s life so much easier with some time invested in exploring the following resources. Most whiteboard products sponsor sites to allow for activity exchanges. These activities are created by fellow teachers and can be adapted to meet lesson needs. There is no need to start anything from scratch. Most likely someone has already created a lesson for what you need.

Smartboard’s activity exchange is called Smart Exchange and has a wide variety of lesson topics and grade levels. To download free lessons you will need to create an account.

Promethean board’s activity exchange is called Promethean Planet. Again, you may browse for free lessons but download with an account set up.

Mimeo system’s activity exchange is called Mimio Connect.

There are also many third party sites that create interactive activities for whiteboards. Check out some of these:

Scholastic has some free content but also sells bundles of literacy based lessons. These are compatible across devices. Activities are available in social studies, language arts, science and learning games.

Gynzy although not a free resource ($99/ year) does provide you with a free trial basis to try it out and see if the content suits your needs. They are browser based and allow you to save your favorite tools and lessons for easy access. They are also working on making their content tablet accessible although this is not yet active.

Read Write Think has a great variety of interactive literacy based activities that can be used up to high school grade levels.

Text Prediction Options for Google Docs

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.