Thursday, January 18, 2018

EdTech for Struggling Readers

A teacher's number one responsibility is to meet the needs of their students. Now this sounds like an obvious statement, but it isn't always as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is hardly easy at all. The reason we use technology in education is to support student learning by helping teachers meet the needs of their learners.

This post will focus on two support tools for struggling readers. Whether they are Native English Speakers, English Language Learners (ELL or ESL), or Dyslexic, our schools are filled with a large amount of students who struggle when they read. These tools will obviously not solve the problem for the students, or teach them how to read (only skilled teachers can do that). Yet, these tools might give some support to those students at a time when a teacher isn't available to them.

Speechify - Chrome OS & iOS app
I was introduced to Speechify in Episode 99 of The House of #EdTech Podcast by Chris Nesi. Speechify does what many apps and accessibility features on devices do by reading text that a student highlights on their screen. So you may be thinking, then why use it? My answer would be, ease of use and quality of voice. The drop-down menu in the chrome extension allows you to change the speed of speech and voice with a couple of clicks. There is even a child voice that can be used, which sounds surprisingly real.

If you decide to go the premium route with Speechify on your iOS device, the app goes the extra mile! You can connect the Google Chrome Extension to your iPhone and it will share text between the two devices in a clean and organized manner. Send multiple multi page documents to your phone and have them read to you. It's like taking anything on your computer screen and sending to your phone as an audiobook.

Speechify also does something rather phenomenal with your iOS device. Take a picture of a page of text and speechify will import it as a text file, and then read it to you.

Think of how this can support your students that struggle reading classroom content. Also, think about your students that have hectic life schedules, they can now listen to their science book on their way to work or practice.

OpenDyslexic Font Extension - Chrome OS
This extension simply changes all of the font on the webpage you are viewing to the OpenDyslexic font with one click. It's that simple!

OpenDyslexic font has been in development for at least a couple of years now. I do want to state that I'm not licensed or trained enough in dyslexia to know if it is actually proven to help students with dyslexia. I have however had a handful of students try this font extension on their chrombook screen, and some claimed that it helped them read their screen better, while others didn't like using it. So like many things EdTech, it will probably come down to a preference by the student.

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