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Technologies to Improve Literacy

Specific examples of technologies that help students experiencing problems developing writing skills follow. As in the reading section, common problems experienced by many students are presented along with examples of technologies that may provide solutions. Additionally, it is important to restate that many technologies can be used to solve more than one type of problem, and it should not be assumed the technologies presented are only applicable to a single circumstance.

Problem: Student has difficulty with some physical aspect of the writing process. Solution: Pencil grips, incline boards, alternative paper options, writing guides, or portable keyboards.

  • Pencil Grips. They help to build up the shaft of a pencil or pen and can help the user control the implement for easier writing.

  • Incline Boards. This allows the user to write on a 15- to 30-degree surface that especially can help young writers get better control on the paper.

  • Alternative Papers. Paper with bolder or raised lines helps writers stay on the lines while writing.

  • Writing Guides. These plastic guides are available for one to multiple lines and provide more of a guide than raised lines.

  • Portable Keyboard. This device (e.g., AlphaSmart® 3000) can be used to reduce the requirements of fine-motor control and coordination in cursive writing.

Problem: Student has difficulty spelling words when writing. Solution: Employ word lists or spell checkers.

  • Word Lists. Either made for the individual or commercially made (e.g., Quick Word Book), these provide models for correct spelling.

  • Spell Checkers. Electronic or handheld spell checkers (e.g., Franklin Speaking Homework Wiz® and the American Heritage Talking Dictionary) are easier to use than print dictionaries because a user can make a guess at spelling and get a list of possibilities.

Problem: Student has handwriting difficulties. Solution: Word processors, recorders, computers, and word-prediction software.

  • Portable Word Processors. These products (e.g., AlphaSmart® 3000) allow writers to use keyboarding to create documents. Most word processors have features that can help poor writers with some writing problems. The features include autocorrect, autotext, spelling and grammar checks, a dictionary and thesaurus, highlighting tools, autosummarize, changing background and text color, changing font style and size, and the tracking of editing changes.

  • Auditory Word Processors. These devices (e.g., Write:OutLoud® SOLO) give auditory feedback after the user types a letter, word, sentence, or paragraph. Aspects include the ability to change auditory feedback for any letter, word, sentence, or paragraph; to import text from other sources; to add graphics; and to change visual features.

  • Graphical Word Processors. These products (e.g., Writing With Symbols 2000) allow graphics to be used with or without text to aid users who are unable to use or read normal text.

  • Recorders. Both analog and digital, these are used to take lecture notes or record short passages instead of handwriting, dictating, or brainstorming. Digital recorders also can capture lectures for speech-to-text conversion.

Learning Point Associates

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