Mary McBride, a K-5 special education teacher at Dundee Elementary School in Dundee, Oregon, noticed that some of her students were struggling and falling behind during writing and research assignments. These students were able to understand complex information and verbalize responses, but had trouble processing printed information and/or translating their thoughts into written work. Ms. McBride thought that integrating software designed to assist with writing processes into her existing computer lab might help students improve their writing skills.
Through an AccessSTEM Minigrant from DO-IT, Ms. McBride purchased Co-Writer, a word prediction program, and also provided a [since discontinued] speech recognition program, for students to use in the computer lab while working on writing projects. Co-Writer is a Don Johnston product described as an intelligent program that helps students write complete and correct sentences. As students type, Co-Writer generates a list of possible words students might wish to use in their sentences. In addition, Co-Writer can translate phonetic spelling and correct grammatical errors. Speech recognition allows students to dictate their thoughts directly into a word processing program. Students can edit mistakes and format text as they go.
Ms. McBride reported that, since the installation of the software, students who struggle with reading and/or writing have achieved on a higher level then they would have been able to otherwise. The use of technology for writing and research at Dundee Elementary School is a promising practice because it suggests that providing students with alternatives for completing writing assignments may result in increased academic success.
For more information on how students who struggle with writing processes can benefit from specialized software programs, consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base articles, What is computer-based speech recognition?, How can students with learning disabilities benefit from computer use?, and What are specific computer applications that can assist students with learning disabilities?
AccessSTEM minigrants were funded under The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM, Research in Disabilities Education award # HRD-0227995).