Kids that struggle with decoding, fluency, comprehension, and other
language skills often find electronic readers invaluable. The built-in
dictionary, thesaurus, and study support enable students to obtain
definitions and synonyms online, highlight important text, and even
extract text to create an outline or summary with voice and text notes.
Embedded scanning allows printed text to be converted to audio, which is
then read to the student.
The voice quality of text readers has improved dramatically, sounding
almost human, and students are able to select from several voice
options as well as adjust speed and phrasing. Portable electronic
readers, which can scan text on demand—for instance, a restaurant menu—
are also available. Although not a replacement for explicit reading
instruction, research suggests that these devices may improve fluency
through repeated exposure to the same words.
Students can also gain access to course content through videos,
widely available online and via DVDs. This medium is very powerful for
many students with learning differences—particularly those who struggle
with language, as it helps them to map words and concepts with the
visual images they see.
Electronic Readers To Consider
Help for Writing
A wide array of solutions are available for students who struggle
with all facets of writing, including spelling, letter formation, and
organization. Portable word processors, spelling/grammar checkers, and
sentence expansion software have become commonplace. Word prediction
software also is a powerful tool, providing increasingly refined
“guesses” at words as additional letters are entered. (A limitation of
this type of software is that typically the second or third letter in
words is a vowel, which tends to be problematic for students who
struggle with spelling). Graphic organizers help students to order
information in coherent passages, even when entered non-sequentially.
The latest and most rapidly expanding technology for struggling
writers is speech recognition software, which converts language into
printed text. In newer versions, speech detection accuracy is nearly
perfect for students who receive appropriate training and have the right
equipment. As a positive side benefit, students that become accustomed
to dictating specific punctuation often grow more attuned to grammatical
concepts in general. Software even exists for “reading” the text in
PowerPoint presentations, enabling students who struggle with reading to
add their own bullets.
Many of these technologies can be used individually, but they are
often more powerful in combination (e.g. word prediction software
coupled with speech recognition software). They are also becoming
increasingly portable, with speech-to-text software and other
functionality now available on many standard smartphones and laptops.
Writing Technologies To Consider