Achievable ways technology can help students with learning disabilities (Part 3)

Text Prediction

 

Text-prediction is a feature commonly used on tablet devices and smartphones.  Many of us without a print disability use it routinely. Imagine how much dyslexics appreciate it!

Text prediction is a built in feature of iOs devices.  On an iPad, go to the Settings screen, then go to General, and then Keyboard and enable Predictive.  The process is similar on an iPhone and on Android phones and tablet devices.

Go to Settings-General-Keyboard
Go to Settings-General-Keyboard

 

 

Enable Predictive
Enable Predictive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spell check and grammar check can be enabled on Mac and PC devices but that’s a bit like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  It may be enough for some writers who can mostly express their meaning and just need a bit of help to correct errors but others, especially younger students who are still working on literacy skills, need a lot more help.

It seems that Windows 10 may have a predictive text feature for its on screen touch keyboard. Windows 10 is very new and it will be interesting to see whether users like this feature.

Typ-O HDSpell Better and Ginger Page are iPad apps which specifically target  writing, using spell checking and text prediction.    These are quite simple apps without a lot of exporting options and extra features but that can be a good thing for younger students and those who are easily distracted by a lot of clutter on the screen.

Ginger Page
Ginger Page

Ginger Page is free.  The pictures below show its features,including options to translate, get a definition or synonyms. Suggestions from Ginger Page for my deliberate mis-spellings are also shown below.  I found that sometimes the iPad’s in built text prediction was beating Ginger Page with a suggestion but, I guess as long as you get a suggestion somehow…

 

 

15 - 5 15 - 2 (1) 15 - 1 (4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Page settings
Ginger Page settings

 

Spell Better
Spell Better

There is a free version of Spell Better which allows only one piece of writing and no exporting.  The premium version costs $31.99. There are two levels of prediction – the as-you-type level and the search level.  Again, the iPad’s spellchecker beat the app to a suggestion.  I needed to press the magnifying glass button (i.e. search level prediction) to get any suggestions.  See the pictures below.

 

15 - 10

15 - 9 (1)

 

 

 

Typo-HD at the time of writing cost $6.49.  It is a little more intuitive than GingerPage in that it offers suggestions about what the coming words might be. This is valuable for a student whose spelling doesn’t approach the spellchecker’s ability to recognise. Pictures below suggestions made and ways the settings can be customised.

 

15 - 6 15 - 7 15 - 8

 

All these apps will say a selected word or phrase aloud, Spell Better in an American voice, the other two in an Australian voice.

Another serious contender in the field of text prediction isa the products by texthelp – the iReadWrite app for tablet devices and Read & Write for Google app for Chrome on PCs and Macs. iReadWrite at the time of writing cost $36.99.  Read & Write for Google is a Google app. Google products such as GMail and Google+ operate on a subscription basis.  Find more information about texthelp here.

iReadWrite
iReadWrite

 

Read&Write for Google
Read&Write for Google
R&W2
Read&Write for Google

 

 

 

 

Have you used any of these products?  I’d love to hear your comments on the pros and cons.

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“Seven Steps to Writing Success” and students with learning difficulties

Jack? No, it couldn’t be.  He was dead.  I’d seen his bloodied body and been to his funeral. But I couldn’t mistake that walk for anyone else’s…

This was one of the “Sizzling Starts” I wrote yesterday at a “Seven Steps to Writing Success” workshop and according to the certificate I was given, I am now a graduate.

“Seven Steps”, developed by author and educator Jen McVeity, is “a unique system that chunks writing into seven main techniques” which a lot of Australian schools are adopting as a schoolwide method.

Writing success
Writing success

I came away with a lot of useful insights and ideas for teaching writing.  My reason for going was to pick up strategies for helping students with learning difficulties with writing and I was really encouraged that the presenter mentioned several times that students with LDs are definitely capable of writing creatively.

In particular I thought the following aspects of the program were beneficial for students with a learning difficulty:

  • The whole notion of “Seven Steps” provides structure for writers to hang their hats on and consider when they’re writing. A clear structure that they can remember is great to help these kids.
  • Planning is one of the seven steps. There is a story graph which makes it easy for kids to remember how to go about planning.
  • Short activities help to avoid cognitive overload
  • Repetition gives children with learning difficulties a better chance of assimilating new learning.
  • “Verbal is vital” is one of the catchphrases. A multisensory approach is great for students whose literacy skills are not strong.
  • Emphasis is on writing well and creatively. The training did include references to NAPLAN but doing well in NAPLAN is not the primary focus of the program.
Students with a learning disability can still be great writers
Students with a learning disability can still be great writers

Here are a couple of enhancements which may benefit those with a learning difficulty and make their writing experience even more productive and rewarding:

Tips for remembering a sentence – have a look at Dr Lillian Fawcett’s clip here, demonstrating how to help students remember a sentence they have created in their head while they work on writing it.

Assistive technology may be beneficial to help students

  • Make a plan electronically if writing is difficult with an app such as ShowMe or ScreenChomp
  • Write using text prediction and spell checking
  • Dictate their writing using speech-to-text programs or apps

writer-605764_1280

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