Don Johnston's "Building Wings"
Don Johnston Communities
Dyslexia & Dysgraphia
Universal Design for Learning
Learning is For Life
Katie McKay Phillips
Prolonged at-home learning is something that everyone was unceremoniously thrust into with a forceful shove. The disruption to daily routines, the school day, and home life is likely at the forefront of your mind. How could it not be? It’s a time of uncertainty, of unprecedented actions, and of life-impacting decisions for everyone. It’s also a time when districts are realizing the importance of building core capacities to help students independently access their schoolwork—PDFs sent home by teachers, reading assignments, and online eLearning resources. One of the core things districts are turning to is assistive technology that helps students read, write, and annotate.
Technology, for good or for bad, is everywhere these days. And one bright spot in these dark times is technology can ease the transition to at-home learning for students who learn differently, through the use of Assistive Technology (AT). AT can be a device, a software, or equipment, anything that helps an individual work through or around their struggles with learning or communicating—whether in reading, writing, or another subject. So, for example, eyeglasses are AT, audiobooks are AT, and wheelchairs are AT.
And while assistive technology can help students grow, learn independently, and thrive—especially in an eLearning environment—there are still outdated myths and misconceptions about the use of AT that need to be dispelled. According to Understood.org, one of the biggest myths is that, “using AT will prevent kids from learning academic skills.” Thinking back to the example of the eyeglasses, you can see reading accommodations in the same light. Just as the eyeglasses don’t prevent a person with nearsightedness from accessing a book, reading accommodations for a student with dyslexia can bridge the gap between making what was impossible, possible.
Another common misconception is that AT is “cheating.” Allowing students to use the accommodations they need to be successful doesn’t give them an unfair advantage, anymore than a wheelchair gives an advantage to someone with a physical disability. We’re all augmented in some way, and that’s ok.
Reading Accommodations will read materials out loud to students. Often, a student’s listening comprehension is higher than comprehension when independently reading text, so this simple read aloud strategy frequently makes the difference between struggling and keeping up with schoolwork. Tools can level difficult vocabulary to increase readability and have annotation supports built in for students who need to fill out PDF worksheets and quizzes. Snap&Read has visual supports, translation, graphic organizers, and of course text-to-speech also help students to bridge gaps and access school work.
Writing Accommodations will help your student write independently. If spelling and sentence creation is a hurdle, Co:Writer has word prediction, voice typing / speech recognition, and support for many different languages.
When someone has a stake in the input of something, they are inherently more likely to care about the outcome. That’s why 89% of Educators agree when students take the lead in their own learning, they succeed. Students need to feel empowered to take control of their learning. After all, that is what providing accommodations to students is all about. With proper support, we firmly believe that anyone can become a learning technology expert, or as we like to call them, a TechXpert. Becoming a TechXpert opens the doors to self-awareness, independence, and passion, no matter the subject matter or learning style. That is why we are huge supporters of TechXperts and student-led learning.
Our Don Johnston Learning Academy is a free self-guided learning platform for students and teachers. Student-led video modules walk through Co:Writer and Snap&Read.
Three sections break the learning down for the most beginner to advanced user. The learning modules make great homework assignments or extra credit. Students can send you the certificate as proof they completed a course! Each segment is only 10 minutes, making it perfect for getting everyone fully adjusted to learning from home, while getting them on-boarded to use their AT tools independently.
Co:Writer (word prediction, speech recognition, and language support) and Snap&Read (reading accommodations and study tools) are all available across platforms including Google Chrome, iOS, and Microsoft Edge. Students can install on any device and login with their username and password—getting access to all of their personalized settings and resources.
Our Chrome and Edge Extensions integrate seamlessly right in the browser window with any of the content your school sends home for remote learning. Some of these resources may be in inaccessible formats (where the text can’t be selected), so Snap&Read’s Screenshot Reader takes a picture of the text, makes it accessible, and reads it aloud.
We understand that as some of the most vulnerable students head home for eLearning, our role is to let our tools go to work helping students access learning—so they don’t miss a beat. Whether you’re a current customer or a new customer, we’re here to help you provide essential accommodations and learning supports.
During the pandemic crisis, we’re making our tools free for practitioners, schools, and districts. We also have a free trial for parents and their children and low monthly cost. We’re also developing free resources for parents and host free webinars to help schools with accessibility efforts.
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For next steps on how to get free access, click here.