On Nov 27, I was excited to participate in the Palo Alto Tech Using Educators (PATUE) weekly edtech conference series. The organizer of this discussion was Sam Patterson (@LearningsLiving). His website, “Paperless Classroom”, is a great resource for information on how technology can help students learn. Meetups such as this one, hosted by PATUE, help both educators and parents like me interested in technology for kids with learning differences share important information.
I started my talk with a brief perspective as a parent who uses what is commonly called “assistive technology” to help my kids, each of whom has a different learning style. Speaking with me at the PATUE meetup was Shelley Haven of “Technology to Unlock Potential”. We met about a year ago when I attended one of her classes. Shelley is an educational technology consultant who provides assistive technology services including assessments, training, tech configuration, hands-on workshops, classes and more.
Her website is a great resource in this field and includes what she refers to as her Assistive Technology Toolbox, listing technology tools she uses with students and suggested resources. Shelley highlights on her website, Techpotential.net, that “Assistive technology can be a great equalizer, helping to level the academic playing field. The right technology tools can reduce the impact of learning barriers, leverage a student’s strengths, or provide an alternative means to accomplish a task.”
The two topics I discussed were 1) the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle Fire and 2) the new Livescribe Sky WiFi Pen. Immersion Reading is a feature exclusive to the newest models of the Kindle Fire. Readers who purchase a Kindle eBook as well as the corresponding audiobook from Audible.com can listen to a professionally narrated book while watching it “come alive” with real time highlighting on the Kindle Fire. What I like about the Immersion Reading feature is the professional narration of the audio book making the story come alive, rather than a computer-generated electronic voice.
I stumbled onto this feature when looking into options for one of my fourth grade twins who loves stories but does not like to read. So for now, the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle, when combined with audio books, is enabling my 9 year old “resistant reader” to listen (and follow) a new book every few days. When we ask him about the story he describes it in vivid detail, demonstrating high comprehension. He also is learning grammar and punctuation by following along in the text.
Here is a video on the Immersion Reading Feature:
“Academic research supports the assertion that all readers can benefit from listening while reading. In an influential 2007 study, “Learning through Listening in the Digital World,” neuropsychologist David Rose, Ed.D. and professor Bridget Dalton, Ed.D. drew upon cognitive educational research to report that “both learning to listen and listening to learn are critical to literacy in the 21st century as new technologies rebalance what it means to be literate and to learn.”
Professor David Dockterman commented on Rose’s and Dalton’s findings, “For struggling readers, narration can provide decoding support, but there’s an added benefit to well-narrated text that helps even competent readers. Hearing something read with expression provides additional clues to the meaning beyond the words themselves.”
The next assistive tech topic I covered was the new Livescribe Sky WiFi pen called Sky. This product is brand new and now has WiFi and cloud integration via Evernote. From the press release: “Livescribe smartpens digitally capture everything you hear and write, allowing you to simply tap your ink and play back everything you recorded at that moment.
“The Sky wifi smartpen wirelessly syncs your notes and audio with your Evernote account, making them immediately accessible on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or the web. When paired with your mobile device, Sky offers the natural feel and precision of writing on paper with the advantages of viewing, sharing, and saving handwritten notes on a tablet.”
Here is a video the demonstrates the Livescribe Smartpens:
Shelley Haven then discussed a wide range of assistive technology tools that can help “lower the hurdles” for those who learn differently. Shelley pointed out that even students who are successful at school may have learning differences, such as someone who can easily articulate an essay verbally but has trouble writing it down.
Some of the tools Shelley discussed during the PATUE meeting were audio textbooks from Learning Ally, electronic text and text-to-speech apps from Bookshare.org (Read2Go for iPhone and GoRead for Android audio), Inspiration for visual mind mapping, Kurzweil 3000 for study skills, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote for digital organization and Livescribe Pens for capturing handwritten notes and synchronizing these with recorded audio, allowing students to target audio playback.
Do you use any assistive technology for yourself or your kids? If so, please share what you use.