Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Increasing Accessibility with Google Read and Write

Misty is our occupational therapist. In her role, she helps our students with disabilities in a variety of ways. She provides sensory regulation support such as exercises, weighted vests, and focusing techniques. She helps student develop fine motor skills, and also provides flexible seating options like wiggle cushions and yoga balls for students needing movement.
Misty also provides technology support for our students with disabilities to make our standards-based curriculum more accessible.

With an increase in accessibility to the web, our students are becoming extreme consumers of content. They can connect to the web and easily read or watch infinite sources of information. While many teachers are beginning to rely more on digital texts, there is a great extension for Google Chrome that can make reading and writing more accessible for our students with special needs.

I’ve been using Google Read and Write for the last few years with my students. Until recently, I was only using the basic reading and writing features. After chatting with Misty, though, I’ve learned some other great features of this extension that will be so helpful for my students.


In its simplest form, Google Read and Write will read any web-based text aloud. You can even control the rate at which it reads. Readers just click where they want to start reading, press the play button on the toolbar, and the program will highlight each sentence as it reads. Students can pause or replay at anytime.

Google Read and Write also has a tool called the Screenshot Reader. It’s intention is to read any text on a student’s screen once they draw a box around it. This allows students to access text in images, PDFs, and online textbooks. Misty has been working to get this feature available for our students, but due to a glitch on our end, we are unable to use it at this time. Instead, Misty has been using Snapverter to convert PDFs into a format that will work with Google Read and Write. Unfortunately, it takes a bit of time to do all the converting for students, so we are still hoping to get Screenshot Reader to work soon.

The read aloud feature is such a powerful tool for students who struggle with reading because they can still access online text, even when a teacher is unavailable to read aloud to them. This tool allows students to build independence and gain confidence in their online reading comprehension.


It also provides word prediction for writing. Students who are using this feature can begin to type words, and the extension will automatically provide word choices for the students. This is especially helpful for students who struggle with spelling.
Google Read and Write predicting words

Google Read and Write also has a speech-to-text tool, allowing students to use a microphone to create written text by simply speaking. The tool automatically converts the speech into text, including punctuation. Students can stop at any time and use the reading tool to check their work.
"I like using [the speech tool] because it helps me get ideas
out. When I write, my words get stuck sometimes."

So Much More

Google Read and Write also has some great research tools. While reading online, students can highlight text that they find important. When finished, students can choose to collect their highlights. This feature pulls all of the highlighted text into a new Google Doc. If the reader chose to highlight in various colors, perhaps to signify which text they found the information in or what main idea the information supports, then Google Read and Write will sort the highlights by color in the Google Doc. How awesome is that?

One other feature that I just learned about is Voice Notes. It’s similar to making comments in a Google Doc. Rather than typing a comment or note, the user can leave an verbal note. Instead of translating into text, Voice Notes remain in audio format, allowing the listener to easily hear comments and notes. I really like the idea of this feature for leaving specific feedback for my students. In the past I sometimes hesitate to write comments for some of my students because I know they will struggle to read my feedback. Voice Notes solves that problem. Students can even respond with their own voice note to form a running conversation of questions or comments.

As you can imagine, these features of Google Read and Write are a game changer for my students with disabilities. They can access text online and write much more fluently. Organizing notes from research is quick and effortless, and students can understand teacher feedback through voice notes. What a great tool!

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