High-Tech Help for Writing

By Sheryl Knapp, A/AOGPE and Shelley Lacey-Castelot, MS, ATACP

At a glance

Assistive Technology can help children in all aspects of writing • Among the most useful AT tools are word-prediction software and graphic organizers • Using multiple technologies for single assignments helps students succeed where they might not have previously

Pupil In Class Using Digital TabletAn array of solutions is available for students who struggle with all facets of writing, including spelling, letter formation, and organization. Portable word processors, spelling/grammar checkers, and sentence expansion software are commonplace.

Word prediction software also is a powerful tool, providing increasingly refined “guesses” at words as additional letters are entered. (A limitation of this type of software is that typically the second or third letter in words is a vowel, which tends to be problematic for students who struggle with spelling.)

Graphic organizers help students preplan and organize information for writing, even when entered non-sequentially.

The latest and most rapidly expanding technology for struggling writers is speech-recognition software, which converts speech into printed text. In newer versions, speech-detection accuracy is nearly perfect for students who receive appropriate training and have the right equipment. As a positive side benefit, students that become accustomed to dictating specific punctuation often grow more attuned to punctuation in general.

Software even exists for “reading” the text in PowerPoint presentations, enabling students who struggle with reading and writing to add their own bullet points, and then have the PowerPoint presentation read to a class as they present it.

Many of these technologies can be used individually, but they are often more powerful in combination (e.g. text-to-speech software coupled with speech-recognition software). They are also becoming increasingly portable, with speech-to-text software and other functionality now available on many smartphones, iPads, and laptops.

Writing Technologies To Consider
  • Grammar/spelling/homophone checkers: White Smoke Grammar-spelling assistant, Ginger
  • Word-prediction software: Co:Writer; WordQ; textHELP Read&Write Gold
  • Word-prediction software combined with speech-recognition software: SpeakQ
  • Graphic Organizers: Report Writer Interactive; Inspiration; Kidspiration; Draft:Builder; VYM (View Your Mind); MindMapper
  • Writing Online: Writing Fun; Wacky Web Tales; Writing Fix; Read/Write/Think; OurStory; Memograph; ToonDoo; Ginger Spelling; Ghotoit; Scholastic: Story Starters (for Grades 1-4)
  • Reading-Writing Bars: My StudyBar; Kurzweil; Premier Literacy; Read&Write Gold
  • Speech recognition software: Dragon NaturallySpeaking; Dragon Dictate for Mac; Microsoft Speech Engine

Videos for Learning: Discovery Education; various available through www.donjohnston.com (e.g., Incite! series); Google videos, YouTube

iPad Apps for Writing

  • iWordQ
  • iReadWrite
  • GoodReader
  • QuickOffice

iPad Apps for Note-Taking

  • AudioNote
  • SoundNote

SmartPen for Note-Taking (with synchronized audio and notes):

  • Livescribe Echo SmartPen
  • Livescribe SkyPen
  • Livescribe 3 SmartPen

Sheryl Knapp is the founder and President of Literacy Learning and Assessment Center of Connecticut. Knapp has Associate Level certification with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Shelley Lacey-Castelot is the Director of Literacy Solutions in Oxford, CT, and an expert in the evaluation and use of assistive technology for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders.

Related Smart Kids Topics (link titles below to articles of same name)

Managing LD/ADHD • Assistive Technology • Treatment & Support for LD • Academic Skills • Accommodations & Modifications