Assistive Technology Toolkit – Read&Write for Google

As more students are bringing their own devices and operating in cloud based environments, UDL tools which operate only on school based computers and have to be installed by technology personnel are becoming more impractical and more expensive. Learners need access on any device, beyond school walls. UDL tools which are browser and cloud based provide this independent access without having to install programs. They exist on the web instead of an individual user terminal. This allows for delivery of the tool or service to anywhere, from anywhere.

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) provides a delivery platform for cloud based tools. Learners can log into their Google Account and choose apps and extensions to use in the chrome ecosystem. This chrome ecosystem exists in the form of the Chrome Browser, which can be installed on PCs, iOS machines, tablets, and smartphones, as well as the Chrome operating system, which run Chromebook computers. Built into the Chrome ecosystem is the Chrome store where you can choose applications (apps) and extensions to be accessible on chrome. They are not installed locally, but rather you access the tools via the internet.

One of the best of these Chrome extensions is Read&Write for Google by Texthelp. Texthelp created the original Read&Write Gold text to speech tool. Read&Write for Google is a variation of the tool that is housed in the cloud, making it more accessible and easier to use. Districts don’t have to set up server space for voice training files and don’t have to install the program on local machines. When a learner logs in the toolbar is automatically loaded. A grey icon appears in a tab just below the navigation bar and when the text can be read it turns green. Clicking on the green square lowers the toolbar so a user can select options. The toolbar is available in Google Documents, a cloud based word processor, for Portable Document Files (PDF), for Electronic Publication Files (Epub), and Kursweil (KES) files. Reading web content is being added in the next month. There are more than a dozen different voice choices with male and female options with a range of accents.

In addition to text to speech capabilities the tool bar offers a word dictionary, picture dictionary, highlighting markup tools, a translator, quick search fact finder and vocabulary grid. These tools put the necessary pieces at the fingertips of learners who need them.

As Northern Gateway moves more into cloud a resource that was available for students at home and at school was increasingly important. Read&Write is a tool they can self manage and to increase their independence. Student can hear what they write. This gives them a chance to listen for voice, flow and mistakes. Often spell check will indicate a work is spelled correctly, but it is not the correct word for the context. Listening back to writing can find these errors. Students can check for run on sentences as the tool pauses for punctuation and is even quite strong with proper names. Read&Write pronounces numbers and with proper spacing can assist with numeracy and number pronunciation. A student has have trouble proper saying numbers in the hundred thousand range and with proper space was able to experiment and check how number should sound. Number sentences with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and equal symbols are read out, allowing students to not just see, but hear number tasks.

Read&Write has a free 30 day trial, but to access features other than the basic text to speech reading after that period, there is a cost involved. Individual users cost $100, but there are intermediate volume discounts of $10 per user and $2.25 per user with over 5000 users. The installation is tied to a Google account for individuals or a GAFE domain for education organizations. On a GAFE installation after the extension has been purchased through Texthelp it has to be added to the preinstalled collection of apps and extensions in the Chrome Management section of the GAFE admin panel. Read&Write works on the computer version of the chrome browser, for PC and MAC computers, and chromebooks. It does not run on the iPad or smartphone version of the chrome browser, however text to speech tools are already built into these mobile devices.

References

Texthelp. (2013). Read&write for google [Browser extension software]. Retrieved from https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/readwrite-for-google/inoeonmfapjbbkmdafoankkfajkcphgd

4 thoughts on “Assistive Technology Toolkit – Read&Write for Google

  1. Some some additional points, a comparative tool from LingApps called AppWriter Cloud places the user’s profile in the cloud as well. Analytics on how the user employs the tool can customize the experience. While this profile and analytics has been done by many software programs before, such as Dragaon Naturally Speaking etc. the profiles always tended to be local with the software. As Jen hints at, the tool was stuck on the division laptop/resource which may or may not be going home with the user.
    Having the profile in the cloud stops the users customization of the tool from being tied to a specific device. Now, any device anywhere can instantly provide the user their custom experience,. And when the laptop/resource has a malfunction, the user is no longer without their tool. They can simply move on to any device, and sign back in.
    A second amazing option through the Google Apps Volume Licensing, is that organizations previously had to manually track where each specific tool was installed. This can be cumbersome and tedious with so many one off applications and dedicated hardware. When the user went to their grandparents for Thanksgiving, the tool would be stuck on the laptop at school. Because Google allows the authority to purchase the licenses in volume, and then ASSIGN THEM THROUGH THE CLOUD TO INDIVIDUAL USERS, all the user has to do is sign into Chrome browser on their grandparents computer, and voila, the tool is available there as well.
    Cloud extensions in conjunction with a Google Apps for Education domain for students is doing to software services what virtualization did to the hardware industry. It is enabling the decoupling of the service/application from specific and defined hardware.

    Fantastic work Jen! Thanks!

  2. Hi. My name is Brantley Spillman. I am a student at University of South Alabama. I recently read your post on integrating video games into the classroom and, now, I have read over your newest post on cloud-based educational tools. Honestly, this blog post was beyond my understanding of technology. Most of the terms and tools you refer to in your post (cloud, UDL, Chrome, Texthelp, etc) were googled in order to gain an understanding of them. For that, I appreciate your writings. It is always important for me to learn new technologies and the terminology associated with them. Although, this course (EDM 310) has done wonders steering me in the right direction, I have quite a ways to go before I would be considered current. I believe what stood out the most to me were the capabilities of the “Read&Write” tool. Being able to hear what you write is clearly a beneficial tool for students to hear where their writings are limited or written with inaccurate grammar. Having access to these tools outside of school walls can aid in the learning process at home and can promote independent learning. Again, thank you for the information.

  3. Hi. I’m an Elementary Education major at the University of South Alabama. I found this post very interesting. At home, my dad, a medical school teacher, is always referring to the cloud and how useful it is for him and his students. Its good to know that this tool can be very useful to any classroom. I really like this idea of students being able to access these helpful tools anywhere. I never realized such a tool existed. Thanks for the new knowledge! I hope to one day use this in my classroom.

  4. Hi Jen, I am also a student at the University of South Alabama, majoring in Secondary Education/ English. During my time in EDM310, we have learned a lot about technology in the classroom. We have also used some of the tools from GAFE, which I find extremely convenient when working collaboratively with fellow students.
    I enjoyed reading about the Read&Write tool and find very interesting. We haven’t discussed it in class, but I think it would be extremely helpful in an elementary school classroom. Thanks for sharing!

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