Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Read The Words...Or Listen Too

In the last post I tried a new application that gives you the option to hear the text. Some of us may not have needed it, some may have found it helpful while some may have found it essential.

We have students who cannot access text for a variety of reasons. Low vision and reading challenges are two common ones. But what about the student with attention difficulties? What about the student with sensory processing issues who does not register sensory input unless it is enhanced? Hearing and seeing allows for a multisensory approach that improves attention and helps some students to "notice" salient information. Perhaps you have students who are auditory learners. Hearing is the best channel to receive and retain information.

We can provide adult support to read the material for these students. This fosters dependence. As occupational therapists, we are always aiming for independence, however.

We can let our students struggle. Just read the words some may say. Easier said than done for certain students. They may eventually do it, but what have they missed in the process?

Now, thanks to the web 2.0 world we live in, there is an easy solution...and it's free. ReadTheWords is a web based service that assists people with written material. They do this by using TTS Technology, or Text To Speech Technology. It was created to assist students with learning disabilities with their studies, by means of auditory learning and auditory processing. The developers quickly learned that it was being used by many others for a variety of purposes. It has proved to be a great example of universal design because it accommodates a wide spectrum of users in their daily lives.

There is nothing to download and you can access this service online from any computer, anywhere. Once the text is converted, it does not have to sit on your computer. Students can take their reading on the go by adding it to their ipod or mp3 player. This keeps the information at the student's fingertips, at their desk in school or available at home for studying and review. ReadTheWords provides 15 voices to choose from and you can control the pitch and speed of the voices according to your preference. They read English, Spanish and French.

We want to make the information easily available to our students. We don't want them to run a marathon each time they need information. How exhausting and tiring would that be? The Boston Marathon is coming up, by the way. It is a commendable accomplishment, but not something you do on a daily basis!

photo citation: Benimoto

Friday, April 04, 2008

Viva Le Differance

I cringe when I walk into a classroom and all the desks are the same height. Yes, they look ordered and they line up so well. Once you add the students, however, the problem begins. You see, kids come in all different sizes.

Our students do not do well with a cookie cutter approach. One size does not fit all. Watch this short video, Animal School, to appreciate different learning styles. I first discovered this video on Karen Janowski's blog, Teaching Every Student. In the past several weeks, it kept coming to my attention (my niece identified with the kangaroo, a parent passed on the link to us at school, a workshop used it in the presentation and someone in my twitter network mentioned it in the conversation).

It's time I passed it on to you!