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Written by Leandra Elion, Delet faculty, “Special Education: Teaching for Inclusion”

We know that if we let our students roam aimlessly and endlessly on the internet we are diluting and even damaging their learning. However, by directing them to the right web sites and tools, the internet, with its connectivity and resources, can be a boost for their learning.

Here is one tool that makes digital learning so powerful and effective. It is also a tool that has been designed to make learning accessible to all.

Read&Write for Google Docs is a FREE extension to google chrome that offers a range of multi-sensory learning supports that can be used by all students in a classroom, but are particularly helpful for specific learning situations. For instance, students who have print disabilities will benefit from the text-to-speech features, students who are English Language Learners will benefit from the translation, dictionary and picture dictionary tools, and students who have executive functioning issues will benefit from the collection of highlights.

Read&Write was developed by the company Texthelp to produce software to help people overcome physical and communication barriers, especially barriers to reading and writing. Through partnerships with publishers and other software companies, they have made Read&Write for Google Docs as a free downloadable chrome web extension that can be used on any document in Google Docs.

Here are some features that make Read&Write a powerful and useful teaching tool:

1. TEXT TO SPEECH tool – all the text can be read aloud using the easy play, pause and stop icons and You can change the voice and the speed of the reading.
1speech-accessibility2. FACT FINDER tool allows you to explore a topic by running a google search. Just place your cursor next to the word you want to find out more about and then click the fact finder icon in the toolbar. A new window will open up with the google search links.

3. TEXT DEFINITION tool allows you to read and hear a definition of a word. Just place your cursor next to the word whose meaning you wish to know and then click the text finder icon in the toolbar. A pop-up window appears on the screen with a concise definition.

3textdefinition-accessibility4. PICTURE DICTIONARY tool allows you to see a visual image of the word (if applicable) by showing widget symbols. Just place your cursor next to the word whose meaning you want enhanced with a visual representation and click the picture dictionary icon in the toolbar. A pop up window appears with some widget symbols.


5. TRANSLATOR tool allows you to see what the selected word is in a several common languages. Just place the cursor next to the word you need translated and click the translator icon in the toolbar. A pop up window appears with the word in several languages.

6. COLLECT HIGHLIGHTS tool allows you to collect, in a separate window, words and sections you have highlighted throughout the document.  You can highlight in different colors (for instance you could highlight nouns in yellow and verbs in green, or main points in blue and details in pink) and when you click the collect highlights icon in the toolbar a new window will open with all the highlights arranged by color or position (you have the choice).  You can save these highlights to a new google doc.

6collect-accessibility7. VOCABULARY BUILDER tool let you highlight words to be learned  and then it organized the highlighted words into a table with text and visual definitions.  When you click the vocabulary builder icon in the toolbar a new window will open with all the vocabulary words in a chart.  You can save these vocabulary words as a new google doc and you have a study/review sheet.

For video tutorial on Read&Write for Google Docs, use this link to youtube

If you find Read&Write useful to you and your students, let me know.  Send Leandra a tweet @2read4life.

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