Assistive Technology for Reading in the Classroom

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

Children of all ages may struggle with reading skills in the classroom, but various forms of assistive technology can both aid in learning and also increase motivation and confidence.

Why Assistive Technology for Reading in the Classroom?

Have you ever noticed that your students with learning disabilities sometimes have behavior problems? When learning to read is difficult, a student's self-esteem and motivation can suffer, leading to disruptive behavior. As a teacher, you can use learning aids to help students with learning disabilities achieve educational goals, preventing some of the frustration that leads to behavior issues. Assistive technology for reading in the classroom includes converting written text to audio, using space holders, engaging with fun learning software, and other resources. Let's take a look at some of the options.

Audio Books and Publications

Being able to hear the written word can accelerate a child's learning by removing the frustrations of reading delays and keying in on the auditory learning mode. Many resources are available for reading millions of books and publications in audio form, some of which are free and others that require a subscription fee. Some of these libraries for audio books and publications include:

  • Bookshare
  • EBSCOhost
  • LearningAlly
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Internet Public Library
  • iBook on Apple devices
  • Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts
  • OverDrive, which catalogs audiobook collections available at local libraries
  • The Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Audio books give students another modality to understand the written word.

Optical Character Recognition

Optical character recognition (OCR) devices allow you to scan printed material into a computer or handheld unit, turning printed text into a digital format that can then be converted to audio. Words are highlighted as they are read, allowing the child to see the word on the screen and hear it at the same time. Students can also change the color and size of text and add bookmarks for easy navigation around the text. First developed in the 1990s, OCR is now conveniently incorporated into many software programs and devices like computers, tablets, phones, and printers.

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