Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Google Docs/Read & Write for Chrome

Google Docs has been P's favorite assistive technology so far. Remember, his worksheets look like this:

It doesn't really lend itself well to typing out answers. P started writing numbers in each blank, and then numbering his answers correspondingly in a Google Doc. The process would be even easier if the worksheet questions were numbered or - dreaming a little dream here - the teacher would put the worksheet into a Google Doc, share it with P, and then just let him answer that way.

P told me, "Google Docs is easy. It's just like writing. Except, you know, typing." It's familiar and simple. The auto-save feature is a huge bonus, and sharing with his teachers is a snap. All of the teachers and students in his district have Google accounts, so it's easy to share his completed Doc with his teacher for grading.

I also really love the fact that his class has regular access to Chromebooks, and that he can use his school Google account to sign into our Chromebook at home. Everything looks just like his school account, everything is in the same place, and homework will be much more seamless with that system.

I had been encouraging P to use Read & Write for Chrome. Read & Write is a powerful suite of tools that work as an extension on your Chrome browser. It can read text, look up words (with words or pictures as a definition), summarize long articles, and more. However, the most amazing tool is the voice dictation. I had students who use Dragon in the past, and it was a nightmare. I'm sure the new Dragon versions are better, but Read & Write is so simple and the voice detection is so good. You just talk and the words appear on the screen, right in a Google Doc. It couldn't be easier.

However, P was not on board. Using the voice input was just too different than typing, and watching the words appear on the screen distracted him from what he was thinking. I've used Read & Write with some of my students with good results, so I was disappointed that P was so resistant to using it.

Then, last night P had to do a worksheet. He misunderstood the directions, so when he was halfway done he had to erase everything and re-do it. He became less and less willing to do the worksheet, and distraction turned to procrastination turned to anxiety turned to tears. After two hours I sent him to get a drink and come back to try again. But when I tried to focus him on the questions at hand, he just poured out a jumble of ideas and partial answers.

"We're going to use Read & Write," I told him firmly. "Enough is enough. Let's just get this done."

So I turned on the microphone for dictation, turned the Chromebook so the screen was facing away fro him, and told him to talk about the questions. When he realized he couldn't see his words, the pressure eased and he quickly verbally explained all of his ideas. Then once he was done we simply cut-and-pasted each idea into the relevant answer area.

"See?" I asked. "Easy peasy. What do you think?"

He was exhausted and grateful. I think he finally sees the value of the program. Now he just needs to practice it enough to feel comfortable using it by himself.

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