Friday, September 7, 2012

A Mother and Son Talk About Bookshare

Listen to the mother and then just do it. Eccl 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest column: FCAT fails to allow dyslexics, disabled to use technology

Published: June 3, 2012
Click here to listen to the commentary.

By Davis W. Graham — Commentary (

As a person with the gift of Dyslexia, today I am thriving with text-to-speech technology that enables me to read at 340 to 510 words per minute. Not all the population has the ability to access such "free" tools.

Over and over again I hear stories of people who have dyslexia and other print "disabilities" and are still struggling. Their lives, like mine, could be changed with such Tools of Engagement.

Then I began to hear of lives and families who have been devastated by the FCAT and the lack of accommodations for those with print disabilities.

Did you know a child with the gift of dyslexia is not permitted to have assistive technology to help them in the reading portion of the FCAT?

High failure rate

The recently posted scores on the 10th-grade reading test show 81 percent of kids with disabilities failed. It is suspected that means about 80 percent of the students with specific learning disabilities failing -- compared to 73 percent last year.

Once they fail this test, they are then set on a path of lifelong struggles centered on this one failure, one of which I have endured.

The cost of funding this failure is enormous. We have increased populations in juvenile detention. Some 30 to 50 percent of juvenile detainees have a reading disability.

Even if the person is not in a correctional facility, the knowledge of failure can lead to addictions which numb the present to forget the past. The list goes on.

Our test-based education system not being held to American Disabilities Act standards is blatant discrimination. ADA is required in almost every other facet in our lives.

This is the beginning of a child's life in the education system and hence begins an intelligent life being measured and changed by a discriminatory test.

It is said there is a 16-year-old who is still in middle school because of failure to pass the FCAT. If not for a counselor's intervention, a woman who has been sight impaired since age 13 would not have been allowed to graduate from high school because she did not pass FCAT -- even though she was in the top 10 percent of her class.

Technology bridges gap

People with dyslexia or other print disability are living in a technical dream-come-true world which can equip the 10 to 20 percent of those who have dyslexia with tools such as Balabolka, Readplease, Xmind (note taking tool), Read2Go and -- which will change their future outlook.

This technology has bridged the gap, but for this technology not to be allowed in today's educational journey -- such as the FCAT -- then our education system is living in a two-faced world.

When a building is built today, it is required by law to have ADA-compliant restrooms. A person in a building that does not have an ADA restroom may be put at a temporary disadvantage. Because the FCAT does not accommodate a person with a print disability, that mars the person and family for life.

We are on the edge of the digital age where we can power up all students by advocating technology, but as it stands we are asking students in some academic settings to "power down."

Davis W. Graham, is the executive director and CFO of Manatee Diagnostic Center in Bradenton.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Technology to Help Struggling Students (Click to listen)

Technology to Help Struggling Students

by Heidi Silver-Pacuilla and Steve Fleischman
Feb 2006 | Vol 63 | No. 5

Helping Struggling Students Pages 84 - 85

Many technology features that were originally developed to help people with specific sensory impairments are now widely in use. We have begun to take for granted the ability to zoom in on small print or to have written text speak to us. Closed captioning of video programs, originally developed to support viewers who are hard of hearing, also has mainstream uses, allowing us to “tune in” to a program across a noisy room by reading the captions.
Such accessibility features, particularly text-to-speech and speech recognition, are increasingly available in educational technologies as well. Although schools commonly use them to support students with sensory impairments and learning disabilities, these features can help a broad range of students. Research is beginning to show the benefits of giving all students access to these capabilities.
What We Know

Research in psychology has shown the power of simultaneous, multiple modes of input to gain and hold a person's attention and to improve memory. Lewandowski and Montali (1996) conducted a study that compared the learning of poor readers and skilled readers who were both taught through a text-to-speech application with simultaneous on-screen highlighting of the spoken word. This study showed that experiencing the text bimodally (visually and aurally) enabled poor readers to perform as well as skilled readers in word recognition and retention. Research by Allinder, Dunse, Brunken, and Obermiller-Krolikowski (2001) and Meyer and Felton (1999) confirms that highlighting text as it is spoken can help learners pay attention and remember more.
Text-to-speech also relieves the burden of decoding for struggling readers, allowing them to focus on comprehension (Wise, Ring, & Olson, 2000) and improving their endurance in completing reading assignments (Hecker, Burns, Elkind, Elkind, & Katz, 2002). Research has also shown that students with learning disabilities identify and correct more errors in their compositions when they use text-to-speech for proofreading (Higgins & Raskind, 1995).
The inverse of text-to-speech is speech recognition, in which the technology takes spoken words and translates them into type. Speech recognition provides access to computers not only for users who have physical disabilities, but also for those who have constraints related to fatigue, poor handwriting, spatial organization, or spelling. Speech recognition also provides immediate constructive feedback, as users see their own words transformed into written text with correct formatting and grammar (Silver-Pacuilla, in press).
Early research conducted with previous versions of the technology, which had considerable problems with accuracy, indicated that the strategic use of speech recognition improved users' literacy skills (Higgins & Raskind, 2000). The researchers attributed these benefits to the heightened, strategic engagement with print and language that users experience while dictating and correcting errors.
A third technology application that has received research attention is computer-based graphic organizers. These tools facilitate brainstorming, concept mapping, and outlining in much the same way that teacher-led instruction does, but with the advantages of providing word processing and text-to-speech support and the ability to rearrange elements or switch between outline and map view. In one study (Sturm & Rankin-Erickson, 2002), middle school students with and without disabilities were taught concept-mapping strategies and then were asked to write descriptive essays using either no map, a hand-drawn map, or a computer-drawn map. Students who constructed concept maps during the prewriting stage—either by hand or with the computer—produced significantly more sophisticated and complete essays. Students who used computer-based mapping also reported a more positive attitude toward the writing process.
What You Can Do

Educators should not hesitate to integrate technology features into instruction for students who struggle with academic tasks. These approaches can support learning by building literacy and language skills and independence.
Text-to-speech. You can use text-to-speech to increase the amount of reading that struggling readers do. For early readers and young English language learners, use digital storybooks as a fun and interactive way to engage with books. Encourage older readers to use text-to-speech to access motivating, content-specific texts on the Internet. For students who struggle to read classic literature, consider downloading the texts as e-books that students can read with text-to-speech. Much e-book software includes annotation, highlighting, and linked dictionary tools to facilitate studying. To help with writing, have students proofread their compositions as the software reads them aloud. You can install free, downloadable text-to-speech programs or find this feature bundled in many operating systems and stand-alone applications.
Speech recognition. Use speech recognition technology to help struggling writers and spellers get their ideas on paper. The immediacy of the dictation process reinforces the vocabulary and use of writing conventions and punctuation. Special programs can help struggling math students dictate and organize mathematical expressions. If you haven't tried speech recognition software lately, you'll find vastly improved capabilities, reduced training requirements, and better microphones available at very reasonable costs.
Graphic organizers. Many teachers now use graphic organizers to tap into students' visual and spatial abilities, strengthening the connection between these ways of knowing and academic tasks. You can use computer-based graphic organizers with whole-class instruction to show the connections among big ideas in the content areas, as well as to demonstrate writing and reading comprehension strategies. Encourage your students to try using graphic organizer programs for annotations during reading or prewriting brainstorming. The ability of most of the software packages to switch between map and outline views supports students' progress through the writing stages.
E-Resources. Today's Internet contains a plethora of reference and resource material. Encourage all your students to use these resources, which provide “just in time” and “just in case” support to help address vocabulary and background knowledge gaps. For English language learners or students struggling with reading and writing, provide extra training in using e-resources with text-to-speech software. Such support will give these students access to the same powerful knowledge base that their peers enjoy.
Technology to Help Struggling Students

by Heidi Silver-Pacuilla and Steve Fleischman
Feb 2006 | Vol 63 | No. 5

Helping Struggling Students Pages 84 - 85

Educators Take Note

Accessibility features in common technology applications can help struggling students make important connections—to the content, among ideas, among their own sensory modes of learning, and between their digital competencies and the curriculum. These technologies, however, will not automatically create success straight out of the box. Educators need to strategically integrate these features into sound pedagogy to help struggling learners achieve both academic and technological success.