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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Least We Can Do


Reading Ira Socol's recent post on FreeTech has made me think, once again, about the importance of making sure that all we provide appropriate tools for students with special needs.

How often do we simply wait until a student with special needs presents and then make any additions to one dedicated computer in a classroom?

Although many special needs students do receive laptops with the necessary specialized commercial software, there is no reason why classroom computers cannot, also, be suitably enhanced given the availability of many free useful assistive technology tools. Preparing classroom computers really is the 'least we can do'.

For example, the following free assistive technology could easily be made available for students with special needs:
* Firefox Web browser - allows for many useful plugins.
* CLiCk, Speak - plugin for Firefox for reading/speaking web pages.
* Dkey and/or Tapir - which works in a similar way to 'predictive text' on your mobile phone.
* Ghotit - include a prominent link to this online spellchecker.
* vozMe, YAKiToMe!SpokenText, Read The Words - include prominent links to these online text-to-speech converters.
* HelpRead - text-to-speech reader.
* TopOCR - use your phone/camera as a personal scanner. Also includes OCR to mp3 (text to speech).
* Microsoft Reader - has many excellent features including text-to-speech.
* Microsoft Word - speech-to-text converter. Set up through tools, speech option (not free but a very useful option if Word is already installed).

 Mobile Phone Options
* Dial2Do - use your phone to send e-mail, txt messages, record reminders, post updates to twitter (normal rates for a phone call).
* Qipit - use your phone as a personal scanner to turn documents, notes and whiteboards into digital copies, pdf (normal rates for a phone call).

As well as this, students could be given a USB containing the impressive AccessApps, which contains over 50 open source and freeware assistive technology related applications. They can all be run from the USB stick on a Windows computer. 

Thanks Ira for the continuing inspiration that SpEDChange brings!

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Sarin Samuel said...

The current best text to speech software is Text Speaker. It has customizable pronunciation, reads anything on your screen, and it even has talking reminders. It is great for learning languages as it highlights the words as they are being read. The bundled voices are well priced and sound very human. Voices are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and more. Easily converts blogs, email, e-books, and more to MP3 or for listening instantly.

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