WordQ for Chrome from Quillsoft is a great tool for helping struggling writers. This app (deliberately not an extension) is robust, works offline, and integrates well with Google Drive. It’s the best low-cost solution we’ve come across during our extensive sweep of available tools.
If you’re needing to offer your students simple, free text to speech to support their reading of web pages or PDFs – or any other digital text for that matter – ClaroRead is a really good tool. It’s unobtrusive, and, once it’s set up for your student, it doesn’t require much attention.
You can download the extension from the Chrome Web Store and once installed this icon will show at the top of your screen.
Clicking it will open the discreet Control Panel which allow you to configure the tool to suit yourself or your student.
e.g. If you tick the settings like this your student can simply highlight text to hear it read aloud.
Experiment with the settings to suit your user – e.g. switching on Click and play will change the control panel accordingly. Watch a demo video here.
Using ClaroRead text to speech to support writing.
e.g. Students can also hear what they’re writing as they type.
Webpages can be very messy places to read from: broken or wandering text – often split at odd paces to accommodate a picture or advert, font sizes that are too small and shapes not really considerate to those with reading difficulties.
The Safari browser for Mac/iPad/iPhone has had Reader View built in for quite some time allowing users to strip the extraneous stuff out of the page leaving clean, plain text which can also be sized and have its font and background settings changed.
The extension looks like this when your browser is on most front/home pages that are links rather than text-based articles.
The extension icon changes when Reader View is available (text-based articles).
When the icon is clicked the page will change from a standard page to a clear, stripped down Reader View with font size, shape, and background colour/themes available down the right-hand side of the page.
This is the type of extension that should be made available for all pupils who have dyslexia, visual impairments, or any difficulty with reading that might be helped by seeing cleaner, clearer, more appropriately sized text. Using text-to-speech support software is also often easier to utilise with text that is spaced out in this way.
Our friends at CALL Scotland, Sally Millar and Gillian McNeill in particular, have produced another fantastically well-considered and well-designed app wheel: this time for apps that support the development of, or the full-blown use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
The BBC have created an easy-to-use configuration tool that allows you to view all of its web content in a format that suits you.
The tool is called MyDisplay and you can read about it and switch it on from here.
MyDisplay offers a number of preset page themes suited to a wide range of potential users via an easy to use menu page. The ability to create your own custom theme is also available.
Although this is only a trial at the moment, I believe that this tool will become a fixture that will help many people gain better access to the web.
This level of accessibility raises the bar for other web developers – particularly those that espouse inclusion. I would like to see Glow Futures incorporate this level of support for the learners in our schools.
I dabbled with Geocaching when it started to become popular a few years ago but time, the arrival of the children, and a variety of other intervening factors meant I never really ‘got into it’. However, when I bought a GPS enabled phone (iPhone 3G) last year I decided to revisit the sport/activity/game. I’m always out jogging or cycling with the kids, walking in the woods and hills that surround where we live so it seemed an obvious additional facet to our trips out.
So – what is it and what do you need to get started? Watch the 2 minute video to get an overview.
I can envisage geocaching being an excellent opportunity for teachers and pupils to take part in a healthy, outdoor pursuit while engaging in cross-curricular activities that would give rise, quite naturally, to team work, problem solving, and creativity. Pupils could, for example, learn more about their local environment through geocaching and go on to develop a deeper knowledge to enable them to plan, prepare, describe, and lay their own caches. Success is not all tied up in an ability to read and write so it offers wonderful opportunities for those who have differing learning styles.
GPS devices start around £60 Have a look here and here (thanks Iain Hallihan) although for a bit more (if you hunt around) you can get something a bit better in terms of facilities and robustness. Remember, though, there’s a good chance your phone has GPS facilities that are more than enough to get started.
My son, Finlay, finding a geocache in Clashwood, Muir of Ord.