It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of younger students as they wrote…and the excitement of their teacher
In my role as an Educational Technology Coach, I have been fortunate enough to have been invited into many classrooms to work directly with teachers and their students. One of the most popular requests by teachers is to introduce their class to the Read & Write for Google Chrome toolbar. This is one of my favourite tools to show students because it is a perfect example of a tool that, a few years ago, would have only been used by students with special needs, but is now available to (and useful for) all students of all ability levels.
The tools in Read & Write (affectionately known as the “Purple Puzzle Piece”) are relevant to students at any grade level. I have seen a Grade 2 class at Gordon B. Attersley use the Hover Speech tool to have a website about an animal they were researching read aloud to them. They also used the Highlighter tools to identify the important information about their animal, then extracted that information using the Collect Highlights tool. In order to teach the students the importance of making jot notes in their own words, the students then used the Talk & Type tool to synthesize their highlights into jot notes. Finally, when it was time to write a paragraph about the animal they researched, they used the Prediction tool to help them type it out.
It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of younger students as they wrote their paragraphs and the excitement of their teacher as he watched his whole class fully embracing the technology and using it to make them more successful. I have also had the opportunity to work with an Intermediate Core French teacher at Lakewoods P.S. who is using Read & Write with her Grade 7 and 8 students. The students have been using the Practice Reading Aloud tool to demonstrate their fluency in reading leveled French texts out loud. They are able to record, listen back, and then submit their reading to their teacher for assessment without the added stress of a classroom presentation. The tools in Read & Write are universally beneficial to students of any age, and some teachers are even using them to proofread their report cards before submitting them!
While the tools of Read & Write are useful for all students, they can be essential for students with special needs as well as English Language Learners. I have had the opportunity to show a group of E.L.L. students at Pickering High School how they can use the Talk & Type and Translator tools to help them express their ideas in English while having the ability to easily check the meaning of a word in their first language. One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had as a Tech Coach came when I was invited into a Primary Language Class at Sunset Heights P.S. where the students have a 1:1 computer to student ratio. The students loved all the tools in Read & Write, especially the Talk & Type tool!
The teacher and E.A. in the class were apprehensive about the students using speech to text technology as many of the students have significant speech impediments and issues which make their verbal language difficult to understand. One student, in particular, had an issue with the muscles in his jaw which restricted his ability to move his mouth. The surprise and excitement on both the student’s face as well as the adults in the class when the computer recognized his voice and recorded his words was priceless! He proceeded to write an entire story about a dinosaur during that period and the teacher commented that it was the most writing he had produced all year.
As we continue to embrace technology as a learning tool, I am excited to see how tools like Read & Write, continue to shift Assistive Technology towards technology for all. By providing all students access to tools that increase their engagement and allow them to address their areas of need, they are better able to produce work that is more reflective of their true ability.