I.C.T. for Literacy.

Supporting literacy with I.C.T.


1. Introduction.
2. Choosing software.
3. Software to support phonics and spelling.
     Wordshark, Xavier software, Lexion, Track programs etc.,
     Catch Up, Clicker Phonics, Nessy, Progress with Quest.
     Teach your monster to read.
4. Software to support reading.
     R-E-M e-books, Talking Stories, Clicker Tales,
     Rapid Reading, Learners’ Library.
     ClaroRead, Read & Write, SaySo.
     Iansyst, R-E-M, Sherston, Smart Kids.
5. Software to relieve visual stress.
     Virtual Reading Rulers, Screen Ruler Suite.
6. Interactive Whiteboards.
     T.E.S. resources.
7. Powerpoint overview of I.C.T. to support Dyslexic Learners

 

1. Introduction.

Acquiring literacy skills is usually the key priority for dyslexic people. Carefully chosen programs can help dyslexic students in all areas of literacy.

The use of I.C.T. programs to support literacy skills can offer opportunities for those with dyslexia to work independently and successfully, in education, work and home environments. This page will offer advice and guidance on the types of programs that can help teach and practise reading, spelling and phonic skills.

There will also be advice on programs that can make “text talk”, or text to speech (TTS). These kinds of I.C.T. tools enable Dyslexic users the opportunity to access almost any text. At the end of the reading section is a section on software and strategies to relieve visual stress.

Using appropriate programs will provide opportunities to re-visit, practice and learn skills. Good programs should provide an environment that encourages the dyslexic and offers dyslexic individuals the opportunity to succeed.

The section on supporting writing will offer advice and guidance on I.C.T. tools and programs that support the writing process. No program can replace a skilled, specialist teacher, but many can offer support and practice on a regular basis.

Back to the top 

2. Choosing software.

There are many programs available to support Literacy skills. It is important to select these carefully, so they meet the needs of dyslexic users. There are also many new apps suitable for all ages that cover a wealth of Literacy skills (see bdatech.org apps page).

Important features and options to consider when choosing Literacy programs:

  • Full speech support options, so that all text on screen can be seen and heard.
  • Text that is highlighted as it is spoken or when it is selected, is useful.
  • Spoken instructions.
  • Opportunities to listen again or repeat an activity.
  • A structured progression or word lists that can be selected to meet the needs of the user in skill based software or predictive tools.
  • Easy navigation around the screen.
  • Help menus, with speech support.
  • Spellings, phonics and word lists that are written in lower case, not CAPITAL letters.
  • An uncluttered screen with a clear focus on the task.
  • Options to record the user’s progress can be motivating to the user and helpful to those supporting them .
  • A range of user and /or teacher options including choices of screen backgrounds, fonts and colours can also be helpful.

When playing literacy games or activities, younger users find it very helpful to have spoken encouragement, an opportunity or prompt to try again, or an explanation of an incorrect responses. N.B.: Make sure any software you choose is suitable for use on your computer or tablet, and meets the hardware specifications.

Parents should seek the advice from the school or any teachers supporting their child. It is important to choose programs that complement any teaching program and to select an appropriate level of difficulty or specific word list.

Programs for home use should be fun and motivating and should only be done in half hour periods. Be mindful of the danger of over-use and over-enthusiasm with one popular program at home or school. This may eventually have a negative result.

In the last 18 months there has been an increase in the popularity of iPads and similar tablet technology. There are numerous activities and games for these in the form of free or very cheap apps. Many are cut down versions of programs already popular for desktop or lap top computers. Similar advice as described above for software also applies when choosing these.

Back to the top 

3. Software to support phonics and spelling.

These kinds of programs usually offer a range of games or activities to practise skills in reading high frequency words, phonics and spelling. They usually use selected lists or a structured program.

Many programs for children use lists and approaches that include letter patterns used in Letters and Sounds, a phonics approach used in most Primary Schools as suggested in current government guidelines. Newer software and older versions have been adapted to meet this specific criteria and are often more suitable for children at Primary schools.

Many of the programs cover a wide range of ability or skills. These programs will continue to meet individual needs as the skills improve and progress. Other programs may focus on one specific area or skill.

It can help understanding if spelling programs offer individual words in a sentence context or an explanation where they may be easily confused,(e.g. see and sea). It is helpful when illustrations or photos of words used in games can be spoken, to aid understanding and avoid confusion, e.g. mat/rug, hat/cap).

There is a wide range of suitable programs to suit all ages and abilities. The following suggestions of popular software suitable for Dyslexic users, are just a few:

Wordshark 5 (Age 5 to adult).
Wordshark100s of word lists to use with over 40 motivating games to help reading, phonics, spelling and alphabetical order. The lists include the English National Literacy Strategy that support the latest “synthetic phonics approach”, based on Letters and Sounds and similar phonic approaches as used by many schools. There are also subject vocabulary lists for KS3. The programs can be used or modified to suit all ages from 5 years to adults. There are many user options and the facility to add your own word lists. Detailed records are kept and certain activities can be printed onto worksheets. Wordshark is available on USB pens.
Wordshark website.

Xavier Programs.
Xavier USBThis company has pioneered many programs especially for dyslexic users, including:

  • Sounds & Rhymes – games and activities for vowel and early blending skills
  • Magic e; – a game to support the use of silent e.

See also Soapbox, Sentence Pumper, Suffix and Punctuate Plus.
All these programs area available on a USB pen to enable access on different computers.
Xavier website

Lexion.
This is a wide reaching program that can be used to improve and practise a variety of Literacy and associated skills from early years to 16 years or older.

LexionThe program has a variety of activities and exercises at a wide range of ability levels to support phonological awareness, reading, spelling and comprehension. It also includes activities to support Maths, direction and memory. It has an assessment facility that will generate a selection of appropriate activities from the results. All activities come with a range of options in both difficulty settings and personal user settings. Detailed records are kept of all use and progress.
Lexion website.

Word Track, Spell Track, Idiom Track and Alphabet Track.
These programs are part of a series that are particularly useful for primary age children who need to focus on a specific skill.

Other useful programs written by the same author include Letter Olympics (b/d activities), Two Wise Owls (mnemonics for spelling) and Think About 1 (Interactive stories).

There are many options to select content and level together with format and colour options. There are pupil tracking facilities in Spell track and Word track.
Sherston website.

Catch Up 1, 2 & 3.
Catch up picture 5.Designed for primary age users, this motivating program takes the user through a range of exciting worlds to help them achieve reading and spelling 100 high frequency words in CD 1. CD 2 covers similar activities in phonic skills. Catch Up CD 3 is for ages 8 to 14 years, and the three collections are called The Catch Up Literacy Digital Games. See an NTC article about Catch Up CD 3, Word version and PDF version.
Catch Up website (see resources menu).

Phonics CDs for Clicker.
A set of 6 CDs to use with Clicker that progress from early phonological awareness to simple blending skills. Designed for younger children but many activities, especially in the more challenging CDs, are suitable for older users up to 10 years.
Cricksoft website.
 
Nessy.
Nessy LearningThe latest version of this popular programme, originally written for Dyslexics, includes games and challenges to support reading and spelling, together with placement assessments, progress logs, and additional printable activities. See also a range of apps as part of the Nessy resources.
Bristol Dyslexia Centre website.

Progress with Quest.
This is a web based program offering a structured approach to phonic and spelling skills using fun games and challenges. It is aimed at Primary aged users. It offers a placement assessment to follow a carefully structured programme based on a phonic progression. Detailed records are available and progress monitored.
Progress with Quest website.

Teach your monster to read.
Monster chickExcellent free, online, interactive, early phonics, games program. The learner, from 5 to 8 years, creates a friendly monster and takes him all the way through the adventure. Choose from many fun activities for learning the sounds for single letters and letter-groups. Use the sounds to read and make words and follow instructions in sentences. The progress chart shows which items need further reinforcement. Now available as an app for iPads.
Teach your monster to read website. See a review in Word and PDF formats.


Back to the top 

4. Software to support reading.

Together with programs that support word recognition and phonic skills, there are popular programs to support reading in the form of electronic or interactive talking books. There are many available to choose from, both fiction and non fiction. Some support specific reading schemes others are standalone stories. Most have in built digital recordings but some can be used with Microsoft Speech or other similar TTS tools.

For older readers there are abridged texts of well known stories and classic literature. More recently there have been many texts of fiction and text books made available in electronic format to use with a variety of TTS tools. Schools and educational establishments can access hundreds of titles for their pupils to access from Load2Learn.

Talking books allow dyslexic students to read text in a supported environment and at a pace that suits their needs.

Talking books and texts will usually highlight the text as it is being spoken, in words or phrases. Many TTS tools can bookmark texts and offer options to alter format (colour, font, size, linespacing and background).

They usually allow users to click on any word or phrase to hear it spoken. Some will explain tricky or technical vocabulary. Many dedicated talking books to support reading schemes have additional, optional activities to support phonics, spelling, comprehension and grammar. Some include story writing activities too.

There are some smaller hand-held tools available to enable easy access to text but ensure any chosen will offer the required speech support. Kindle and similar electronic book products have many texts available with TTS facility. It is anticipated all electronic texts will have TTS options in the future.

Hand-held scanning pens can enable users to listen to to more difficult individual words and phrases when help is required reading.
 
Useful sources of interactive books include:

  • R.E.M. Search for Interactive books, talking books and e-books.
  • Sherston. Talking Stories.
  • Crick Software. e.g. Clicker Books, Clicker Tales.
  • Pearson Ltd. Rapid Reading, intended for schools (KS 2) and Rapid Plus (KS 3+).
  • Neptune. Search for Learner’s Library.

There are a few programs that are not stories and just focus on reading for meaning or specific reading skills.

Some I.C.T. tools will enable any text on screen to be heard (TTS). This may be a better solution for older dyslexic students, who wish to read a wider range of articles, for example from the World Wide Web or access texts that are from a scanner or word processor. These I.C.T. tools can be loaded as an extra toolbar and many offer the facility to read text and pdf files. These types of programs use synthesised speech engines. Unlike the early robotic sounding voices most of the latest programs use excellent human sounding speech engines and many are available in regional accents.

For examples of useful text to speech tools see:

See Supporting Writing for further information.

Further useful sources of reading, spelling and phonic games and activities include:


Back to the top 

5. Software to relieve visual stress.

Many Dyslexics find the glare of text on a white background a cause of visual stress that makes it uncomfortable to read and can in some cases distort the text or cause it to move. To help relieve this problem coloured overlays are often used. The colour used is a personal choice to suit the individual reader. Where this is the case a similar “virtual overlay” can be purchased to use on computers. (This feature can also be simulated in screen settings or is an additional feature in other programs.) When loaded, these virtual overlays will appear to float over the screen and can be moved using the mouse or touch, where applicable, on most applications, programs and web pages to offer the same kind of relief.

These simple I.C.T. tools offer users the choice of colours; usually size and guideline options are included. Some come with magnifiers. Some programs do not offer an overlay as such but a simple menu to alter screen settings that affect the background of all menus and pages. This is a useful option when screen settings are shared by many users (see below).

Screen settings can be changed on the control panel of any personal computer or tablet to suit the user or simple changes such as colour background can be made in individual programs such as M.S. Word. However in schools or some business networks, where computers are being used by many users, it is not always possible to do this.
 
Useful sources and examples of programs to relieve visual stress include:


Back to the top 

6. Interactive Whiteboards.

For teachers or businesses that use these on a regular basis it is worth changing the background colour to a shade other than white to reduce glare and visual stress of those reading from the screen.

Pastel colours, grey or dark colours with light text are often easier. Whiteboard tools such as screen reveal and spotlight (adjusted to a long rectangle), can support tracking and following the text. The screen magnifier can be helpful too.

Times Educational Supplement (T.E.S.) has released a wealth of great resources including literacy and numeracy activities suitable for younger children. Available from T.E.S.

Back to the top 

7. Making the best use of I.C.T. to support Dyslexic Learners.

Victoria Crivelli gave a summary of the information in this page at BETT 2011. Here is the PDF file of her Powerpoint presentation.
At BETT 2010, Victoria Crivelli talked about I.C.T. interventions for Wave 3. See the Word and PDF files.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. May 2015.
Copies of this page may be made providing it is unchanged and the source is acknowledged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s