Many students have difficulty in the area of reading, and assistive technology can be used in a variety of ways to support struggling readers. AT can be used to help to teach students how to read and to accommodate for reading deficits. There are both low tech and high tech options available and should be utilized based on the individual student's needs.
Low technology Examples:
- Highlighters/ Sticky notes
- Colored overlays
- Audiotapes and CDs
- Graphic Organizers (taking notes while reading)
- Text-to-Speech - a tool that allows students' to visually read the text while they can hear it read aloud at the same time. To use this tool, kids click on or highlight words, and the words are read by a computer-generated voice. TTS can be used with books, emails, web pages and any digital text. It can also be used to convert text files into audio files.
- For the Laptop, Desktop, or Chromebook:
- Read and Write : Chrome extension (free TTS feature for all students; however, has multiple features for reading and writing that can be purchased. Please note: teachers have free access to full subscription automatically): A screen reader that highlights words and the line as it reads (1st choice)
- Read Aloud : Chrome extension (free) Another screen reader option similar to Read and Write (2nd choice)
- Natural Readers : Website (free): A TTS website that that allows up to 20 minutes a day listening. Simply copy and paste text into text-box and follow along as the premium automated voices read the text aloud. Learn how to use it HERE
- For the iPad or Smartphone:
- Built in accessibilities feature: (free) The iPad had a built in accessibilities feature in the settings that allows a student to highlight specific words or sentences to "speak" the text aloud. Please note that this does not work within a Google Doc or Google Classroom. Learn how to use it HERE
- Voice Dream Reader: ($14.99 per device) Because the free iOS speak selection and speak screen TTS option does not allow the student to use the features in Google Docs, other options were explored. Voice Dream Reader is a high quality TTS app that allows students to pull text from Google docs, websites, and Bookshare. It has multiple voices and accessibility features that make it an excellent TTS tool. Learn how to use it HERE
- For the Laptop, Desktop, or Chromebook:
- Audiobooks - audiobooks are a tool used by struggling and none struggling readers alike. They provide an audio version of the book they are reading. Students can choose to read along with the text or simply listen
- Local Public Library: Students can access audiobooks through their local public library by getting books on CD, mp3 file, or streaming through a service such as Overdrive or Libby. These are free with a public library membership; however may require increased wait times or a limited selection due to library's availability
- Audible, Kindle, or other Subscriptions: (pay per book or pay per subscription) Companies such as Audible or Kindle offer a variety of audiobooks on sale for purchase. These are typically streamed on a smart phone or tablet; however many can also be accessed through a laptop, desktop, or iPod.
- Learning Ally: (paid subscription by the district) Hamilton-Wenham Regional Public Schools has a purchased subscription through Learning Ally. Students who meet the identifiable criteria as a struggling reader are eligible for a Learning Ally account. There are over 80,000 books and text-books available for audio through this account. The majority of the books also allow the student to read along with the human reader with a visual display of the text on their iPad, laptop, Chromebook, laptop, or smartphone. Students can adjust the settings on the display for color, size, and text as needed. Students can also choose to have each word highlighted as they read along. To learn more about how to use this click HERE
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) - An OCR is a tool that transforms printed material into digital text files. These digital text files can then be used to edit or open with software such as the Text-To-Speech Software described above
- Tools for Low Vision/Vision Discrimination - Students with low vision or visual discrimination needs may benefit from tools to decrease clutter or magnify the text