Today's class was quite powerful, as we looked at stories of students with learning disabilities. This is definitely a great experience because I've learned so much about the challenges students go through when faced with LD. I especially enjoyed the case studies of individuals with learning disabilities, because I was able to make connections to my students and reflect on their individual challenges.
To start the class, we watched videos on students with learning disabilities from the website firstname.lastname@example.org. I highly recommend these videos for all teachers because they teach you about how to cope with LD in the classroom and it would allow you to help understand your students better. It discusses the struggles families have gone through and the sacrifices they've had to make. It allowed me to reflect on a few of my students, and what they must be going through when asked to complete a writing task. I can make one specific connection with a student who acts out in class because of his disability. He is using this behavior to avoid having to complete the tasks which are extremely frustrating for him.
We viewed two specific stories, the first about a young boy named Nathan, who was visibly frustrated and hated school because he was struggling with writing. Prior to school he was a high achiever and his parents could not figure out how to help him succeed. We also viewed a story about a teenage girl, named Lauren, whose disabilities also affected her socially.
Using these stories, we were asked to complete a writing task analysis to describe the process we go through to hand write or type content. It is interesting to look at all the processes we use such as: motor skills, sensory processing, executive functions, recall, organization and sequencing. We don't often think about this, however, the way we sit and pick up the pencil all contribute to how we succeed at writing. We discussed different types of AT which are helpful to students, including objects which help students hold their pencils (I thought it was quite interesting when Barb explained some simple objects from the dollar store which assist with pencil gripping).
We were presented with different LD from Barbara and discussed the types of AT which could be used as compensatory tools. We were also introduced to some excellent word prediction programs described below.
We looked at WordQ, an integrated word prediction and speech recognition tool which offers writing support. It provides a floating word prediction box and it reads as you write. You can create a vocabulary for your student to help them formulate ideas. This program can be used on any type of word program and computer.
Tiki notes App
Personally, I thought this word prediction program was quite frustrating because it took a long time to use. You selected the first letter, than the second and continued until you could find the word you were looking for. It had an option for you to see where you were walking on the screen so you could type and walk at the same time. I also thought this could be troublesome.
This app was much easier to use and less time consuming. As you typed, numerous words came up to select. It also recognized the most commonly misspelled words and it had a text to speech feature which allowed you to hear the word, to confirm it was correct. It cost $14.99, which seems expensive, however, it is simple to access.
This is an excellent word prediction program for your computer and is not time consuming. It is easy for students to use and they can access a list of words using very few strokes. The bottom of the screen shows a list of words which relate to your topic. There is also topic dictionaries where students can select the topic they are writing about (ex. dinosaurs) and the word prediction program is more likely to predict the word they are trying to spell. The text to speech feature of the program also allows the students to hear the word they are trying to spell to ensure it is correct. This program is very expensive, but you get what you pay for! The Halifax Regional School Board provides this program for students who need it. I had the Assistive Technologist for my school do a consult with a student and she suggested this program for him. They send a computer technologist to the school to set up the program on two computers. Below is a link to the South Shore Regional School Board with excellent tutorials explaining CoWriter.
Speech to Text Software
The last part of the class was focused on speech to text (voice recognition) software. Barb actually showed me a program which came with my computer and is easy to use. Most of the newer computers have them, you just need to plug in a microphone to speak into.
Dragon Dictation App - is a free easy to use voice recognition app, which is part of Dragon Naturally Speaking Software.
Both programs allow you to quickly see your text and is actually a time saving device which can be used with anyone if it works. I become very frustrated with the programs and would never try them again! Probably a combination of my Cape Breton accent and my mumbling, the programs picked up very few of my spoken words. Barb said they adjust to your voice with use, however, this was not a good experience for me, and students would need excellent word pronunciation to use it.