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I teach at a school for students who have language learning difficulties. One of our students (I’ll call her Janel) makes excellent use of technology to help her overcome her difficulty with reading and writing for herself. To help her to read her assignments, she often uses digital books that can be read to her with Natural Reader (a free text-to-speech reader for both Mac and PC). Anything that is in digital form can be read with text-to-speech software. When surfing on the web, she can simply copy and paste what she wants to hear into her software. For a fee, the personal version will read directly from a web browser.
Janel also downloads some of her literature books from sites that provide either free audio or digital copies of them. Gutenberg and Manybooks are sites she frequently uses.
Janel also uses the Livescribe Pen to help her take notes in class, complete her homework, make study cards at home, and annotate in her books as she reads. She uses the post-it note paper that can be purchased to use with the pen to annotate in the book. At the end of each chapter, she sticks a post-it size sheet in her book. She then writes one or two words on the page and begins recording with her pen as she orally summarizes the book.
Similarly, anywhere she needs an annotation, she uses a small piece of the specialized paper that comes with the pen, pastes it on the page, and uses the pen to record her voice annotation. To make a study card, she cuts a piece of the paper into a small rectangle and writes the word followed by a question mark. As she writes the question mark, she records the definition of the word. When studying, she reads the word, tries to remember the definition, and then taps the question mark to hear its definition. In this way, she knows whether she said the correct definition.
One of our teachers told me about AudioNote, an app for iPad and Android devices, that works similarly to the Livescribe Pen. It is available at low cost through iTunes and there is a free version for Android. While I have only briefly tried it myself, I can see some powerful possibilities for getting help for students who have trouble either taking notes in class for themselves or trouble getting their thoughts down on paper when doing homework.
I have written on the topic of homework help in the past. For more information about students who struggle with homework, read my earlier blog.