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Pros: Helps reduce distractions/frustrations so students can make the most of their time.
Cons: Could use in-app onboarding. Costly if you're buying licenses for individual students.
Bottom Line: This handy set of accessibility tools helps students get the access they need when they need it, promoting independence and building confidence.
Although Read&Write is marketed for students with literacy needs, all students can benefit from its features. The text-to-speech options can be used to listen to longer passages instead of reading them -- improving listening comprehension and engaging students' auditory and visual senses. Talk&Type allows students in a science lab to take notes and record observations orally, freeing up their hands to work. The highlighter options can be used for note-taking in any classroom; students can use the Read&Write toolbar to underline passages they find important on a website or while using iPad apps, or to record voice notes as they browse. To develop their writing skills, students can build sentences using Read&Write's word prediction tool, and then work in groups to make complex sentences or paragraphs on a given topic. The vocabulary feature, which automatically creates a list of words and definitions based off of highlighted text, could also come in handy as a glossary or study tool.
In collaboration with Respondus' LockDown Browser, Read&Write offers a handy accessibility feature that gives students taking exams (and locked into a single window) access to accessibility supports from Read&Write they need to be successful during an assessment or exam. Using this feature, teachers can still lock down students' devices to prevent distractions or cheating, while making sure students still have the Read&Write tools they rely on. Tools like text-to-speech or simplified text, which enlarges the print, can support Individualized Education Plan (IEP) assessment modifications. Moreover, the translator and dictionary could give ELLs access to language supports during testing.
Read&Write is a literacy support tool available as software, a browser extension, or app keyboard. It's suite of features was developed to help students of all abilities access texts and improve their skills. With Read&Write installed, students can listen to any passage (documents and webpages) with a line-by-line text-to-speech option or with a screenshot reader; or if they want to listen later, they can make an MP3 of the passage using the Audiomaker feature. To support understanding and comprehension, students can lift the meaning of words in a passage using either a dictionary or picture dictionary. The screen mask feature darkens most of the page other than a horizontal line that students can control with the cursor. This eliminates page distraction, helping students focus on select lines and easily track progress along the page. To increase accessibility, students can use the simplify page feature, which gives them control over font size, spacing, and color contrast. When reading online, this feature removes distracting pictures, ads, and links to other articles. It also has a translator option to support understanding of foreign language words. As students read a passage, they can use four different highlighters to note important information. The highlights can then be collected and gathered onto another document for safekeeping and reading by the text software. They can also highlight words they want to collect in a vocabulary list. The platform automatically takes words from the text and creates a vocabulary document that includes definitions, visual supports, and space for users to capture their own thoughts. When Read&Write is used as a browser extension, it has the capacity to sync with Google and automatically collect highlights or create vocabulary lists as editable and shareable Google docs. Students can practice reading aloud by highlighting a passage and then tapping the Practice Reading Aloud button. This prompts them to record themselves reading the text and use other features to improve fluency.
If writing is students' focus, but they struggle with motor skills or have other issues, Read&Write offers a Talk&Type feature. With this feature, students can dictate their writing. In addition to composing paragraphs or essays, students can create a voice note for later review. Using the Check It feature, students can verify spelling, grammar, and punctuation in their work. With the prediction feature helps students along while they're writing, offering suggested words.
Read&Write lifts many barriers that impede student learning. This software offers a nice toolbox for teachers to choose from, especially when supporting students with learning disabilities or language learners. There's a nice mix of features that increase accessibility and aid student productivity. It should be noted, however, that this tool is all function and no style; there aren't any bells and whistles to keep students highly engaged or even to get them interested to start. Yet at its core Read&Write does what it intends to well. And by enabling students to develop their skills in ways more in sync with their abilities and across all of the web, students will likely feel empowered and more confident. Read&Write, for instance, provides an easy way for students to hear passages as well as dictate passages, lifting the barriers of reading fluency and writing for students with learning or language challenges. Since many students have higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension, Read&Write allows students to engage with higher-level texts than those at their typical independent reading level. This is a big benefit to both teachers and students, since textbooks are increasingly digital. By providing a menu of tools, it also encourages students to be more self-reliant. The platform encourages students to think about what they need to be successful and independently pick the tool that best fits their needs during a specific task. For example, as students develop self-awareness about their own learning process, they'll appreciate the ability to simplify an online article when they find it too busy or distracting. They'll also appreciate the ease of creating study tools with the vocabulary list and highlight capture features. Rather than spending time creating resources, they can invest their time in studying or making sense of content. The Practice Reading Aloud feature can be an excellent tool for students to independently improve their reading fluency.
Beyond reading, Read&Write also enables students to use creative thinking and write at a level that's beyond their independent ability, through dictation and predictive text. Moreover, the recordings they create can be used as proof of their new skills. As digital assessments become more popular, the collaboration with Respondus LockDown Browser is particularly appealing -- giving students access to tools that will help them truly show their understanding while preventing them from navigating to other webpages. Overall, this extension and app -- while not slick or flashy -- could be a great addition to just about any classroom, helping teachers differentiate and empowering students to choose learning tools to fit their needs.