1.Develop or download a rubric to use to evaluate software for assistive technology.
I chose to customize a rubric that I found to evaluate Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking, both are speech recognition software. I chose to evaluate the products by product and overview, features and hardware, and support options available. I felt that by including all of these elements the intended audience would get the full picture of its capabilities, not simply the product.
2.Download a 30 day trial of Inspiration. Create a sample lesson for your classroom or library OR design a project for your workplace.
I thoroughly enjoyed the offerings of Inspiration. While I was exploring, I created the basic outline for a five paragraph essay. In addition, I created a page with the bubbles that could be a place for students to brainstorm ideas. My intent was to use this program as a tool for teaching students an effective way to write a five paragraph essay. First they would pick a topic, then brainstorm, complete the outline, and finally, compose the essay. All stages could be handed in and graded.
I also plan on using this software tomorrow as I embark on my own research paper for my classes. I am a strong advocate in outlining and this program saves me time and formatting headaches :0)
Finally, I consulted another website for reviews of this product that I felt was quite helpful:
3.Download a 30 day trial of the read out loud software program, Kurzweil 3000. Experiment with it.
I was overwhelmed with ideas for use of the Kurzweil 3000. Though I enjoyed experimenting on my own, to fully appreciate its offerings, I suggest visiting http://www.kurzweiledu.com/v11overviewvideos.aspx. These videos provided a true representation of just how useful this program can be. I thought immediately that the Reading Specialist at my school would particularly enjoy this site. I liked that it could be used as assistive software for students with specials needs or simply assistive software to be utilized in the everyday classroom. My one critique, which cannot really be helped, would be the pronunciation of proper nouns. This may confuse some children as the voice did not always pronounce them correctly; however, overall, I was thrilled with this program.
4.Look at the accessibility features already built into your computer's operating system. Choose your operating system and watch the demonstrations.
I have Windows 7, so unfortunately, I was not overwhelmed by the accessibility features available. One feature that did surprise me was the magnifying glass. Very often, I just need a minute detail of something enlarged. The magnifying glass, now that I know it is there, will be quite helpful. In addition, the text enlarger was also key. I remember being a part of the TappedIn session and felt frustrated that I could barely read the text. Like Windows 7, the program had an easy feature to enlarge the text to a more comfortable size. Other features, such as personalization and adjusting the volume were not new to me.
5.Check out InfoEyes, a library service for persons with visual impairments.
InfoEyes seems like a practical application for those with visual impairments. Instead of having to type questions, a person can schedule a live appointment with a librarian. Seems like a very direct approach to overcoming this need.
6.In your journal or blog, write about how you can implement assistive technology at your school or library. In California, a good place to start is the California State Library website.
Regarding my personal situation, I plan or already do use a number of assistive technology devices. I would like to purchase a microphone that has multiple channels. This microphone is worn by the teacher. All students can hear the amplification; however, students with hearing impairment can wear headphones and screen any sound other than the teacher's amplified voice. I am considering budgetting for such a device both as a voice saver for me and for those with special needs. A useful device that I already have is a wall-mounted SMARTBoard. This board allows for students to use a giant touch screen while working with music reading. The board can be used as a projector as well. I use the SMARTBoard daily by creating programs through SMARTBoard Notebook software. This technological device saves me time from having to print numerous copies or make posterboard visuals.
7.Using the rubric you created or downloaded, write a review on each of the software packages.
I chose to review two speech recognition packages that are available. The rubric for comparison of Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking is posted on Blackboard. I did provide the needs assement and justificiation for reference.
Software Selection-Needs Assessment
It is our goal to have students learn in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities can bridge the gap with the use of assistive technology. Assistive technologies allow for meaningful and developmentally appropriate learning to occur without changing the learning object. Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe the lack of control of the muscles or joints due to an injury during brain development, which results in disrupted coordinated movement. Seizures, mental disabilities, auditory problems, visual problems, communication problems, and possible impairments of other senses are sometime parallel with this disability. Our student who has cerebral palsy may need support walking, talking, and eating. In addition, she has difficulty working with the computer for long periods of time due to her poor fine motor skills.
While less intensive use of the computer can be remedied with the hardware selections, the addition of speech recognition software could help her easily navigate on the computer or “type” a paper. Speech Recognition is a technology that allows the computer to identify and understand words spoken by a person using a microphone or telephone. The ultimate goal of the technology is to be able to produce a system that can recognize with 100% accuracy all words that are spoken by any person. The following software is a recommendation in order to increase her independence and productivity during the school day and specifically while using a computer during her time in the library: Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking.
Though the difference in price is extreme between Dragon Naturally-Speaking and e-Speaking, I do find Dragon Naturally-Speaking to be the most effective choice. The major advantages to the Dragon Naturally-Speaking versus e-Speaking is that it provides the necessary hardware, has a high accuracy rating, has telephone support, and works on all operating systems other than a MAC. The district’s intent is to upgrade to Windows Vista within the next two years. e-Speaking would no longer work on this operating system. In addition, Dragon Naturally-Speaking provides its users with a manual as well as tutorials for support. This software program could help the student with cerebral palsy significantly by allowing her to independently work on the computer without the use of her fine motor skills. In addition, this product can be used by others as a tool for dictation. The Dragon Naturally-Speaking software is a small investment that would result in large success. Wilson Elementary should purchase this software immediately.
For more information about the software: