ATL Tools Section

Name of the ATL resource 1

ClaroRead

How others can access the resource

ClaroRead can be accessed by downloading and installing it on a computer from the following URL by clicking on the “Download Now” button: http://www.clarosoftware.com/claroread. This procedure will install the trial version of ClaroRead and the software can finally be bought after the trial period. ClaroRead’s website also contains software installation guide and a guide on how to use the tool.

ClaroRead software is also available on the cloud. It provides users with TTS tool, OCR capabilities, and other tools via any device (phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computers) without installing any files. Users can access ClaroRead on the cloud via an internet connection and users will need to subscribe to this service.

A summary of ClaroRead

ClaroRead is a software that supports reading and writing. In order to support reading tasks, ClaroRead contains text-to-speech (TTS) compensatory support tool that helps students to read any on-screen text aloud by high quality human voice. It also reads text in emails, webpages (Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome), and any other program by selecting the text with the mouse or pointing the text with the mouse. As it reads out the text, it also highlights each word or sentence in any color so that the user can follow what is being read out. The user can also alter the reading speed and pause between words. The software also allows the user to read the text into an audio or video file in order to listen to the files at a later time (Claro Software Ltd., 2015).

ClaroRead is available in four different versions: SE, Standard, Plus, and Pro. The Plus and Pro versions have OCR capabilities; hence, these versions of the software can read aloud scanned paper books and documents. However, only Plus version of the software can support OCR capabilities for computers with Mac operating system (Claro Software Ltd., 2015). Moreover, the cloud version of the software also supports OCR capabilities and stores the scanned documents online via cloud storage like Evernote, Dropbox and Google Docs. ClaroRead SE and Standard versions are the USB memory stick versions. These versions run directly from a memory stick on any computer; hence, file installation is not required for these versions (Claro Software Ltd., 2015).

ClaroRead also provides access to other compensatory tools like word prediction, spellcheck, dictionary, mind map and idea capturing tool, and reading out aloud any written material during editing or revising process.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video showing how ClaroRead works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gFy7o9vqMM&t=15

My reasons for selecting ClaroRead

Every year, I come across few students who struggle with reading tasks; hence, they quickly lose interest to participate in any in-class activities. Some of these students also face difficulties while writing their ideas on paper. I feel that these students can benefit in many ways by using ClaroRead because this software not only provides a TTS support but also provides support to students in their writing tasks. ClaroRead will also enable these students to read their reading materials independently after installing this software on their computers. Since students in my classroom spend most of their time reading and analyzing topics from reading materials, ClaroRead can be a great resource for students with reading difficulties in order to enhance their participation in the learning process.

Critique of the ClaroRead including its affordances and constraints

ClaroRead provides a great TTS tool for students with reading difficulties and it also provides various other tools for reading and writing support. It supports eighty different speech synthesized voices and reads in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and twenty-four other languages; hence, the user gets to select any language or voice from a variety of different languages and voices/accents (Claro Software Ltd., 2015). However, some of the voices are not supported on mac computers and computers with Windows XP version. ClaroRead also works on Windows PC and Mac computers and it works with numerous other applications; so it supports various users.

ClaroRead is not a free software and it can get costly depending on the version of the software. The SE version is the cheapest version while Pro is the most expensive version. Only Plus and Pro versions have OCR capabilities but only Pro version contains some of the advanced functionalities of OCR capabilities. Also, ClaroRead provides a trial period of fifteen days only, which I don’t think is enough time to assess students’ performance in using TTS software.

Based on ClaroRead’s affordances and constraints, its benefits outweigh its drawbacks. Thus, I would recommend this TTS software for students who are able to buy this software since its TTS tool supports various file formats and it can also read text on emails and web browsers. Pro and Plus versions are recommended for students who also need access to other tools like OCR capabilities.

Decision and support needed to use ClaroRead in Education

In order to use ClaroRead for students with reading difficulties, computers or laptops will be needed with any of these operating systems: Windows 8.1, 7, XP, or Vista SP2 (Mac OSX 10.7 and above for Mac computers). Moreover, 1 GB of RAM and 1.25 GB of hard disk space will be required (2 GB of RAM and 470 MB of hard disk space for Mac computers). ClaroRead also supports Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013 (Claro Software Ltd., 2015). In order to hear the voice, sound card will also be required. Students may also need headphones if they are using the software in a quiet environment or environment where there is enough noise to distract the students. For Plus and Pro versions, scanner supporting TWAIN or WIA will be required if OCR capabilities will be used (Claro Software Ltd., 2015). If Standard and SE versions are used via USB, USB flash drives should be available for students.

After meeting these requirements, IT department at any educational organization will need an approval to install this software on any school computer. Training on how to use the software should also be arranged for all users and most of the training guides and documentation are posted on ClaroRead’s website. IT department will also be required to provide technical support related to the installation of this software. Software technical issues can also be addressed with Claro Software Ltd.

Finally, if ClaroRead cloud solution is used in the school, then users should be provided with access to internet connection and the school’s firewall should be modified to allow access to cloud version of ClaroRead.

Name of the ATL resource 2

Read&Write

How others can access Read&Write

Read&Write can be accessed by downloading and installing it on a computer from the following URL by clicking on the “Download Free Trial” button: http://www.texthelp.com/UK/Our-products/Readwrite/Downloads. This will install the trial version of Read&Write and the software can finally be bought after the trial period. Read&Write also provides contact information for technical support on their website for users having difficulties with installing the software on their computers.

Read&Write is also available on the cloud. It allows users to access this software instantly using any mobile device connected to internet.

A summary of Read&Write

Read&Write is another software that supports reading and writing. It provides TTS compensatory tool for Windows and Mac computer users. Read&Write is also available on the cloud for users who need to access this software without installing any files on their computers. Read&Write reads text aloud from any file with dual color highlighting – words are highlighted in one color as they are read aloud while the sentence is highlighted in different color. Hence, dual color highlighting helps users to comprehend the text and recognize the words easily on the screen (Texthelp Ltd., 2015). It supports various formats of text: Microsoft Word, Google Docs, .txt files, web pages, pdf files, graphic files with text, instant messages, emails, daisy books, dragon recognized text, and all content on the screen including file names and tool tips. Read&Write also supports scanning of printed materials into digital files that can be read aloud by the software.

Additionally, users can select any preferred reading voice and they can also control the pitch, speed, and volume of the voice. Read&Write can also convert any text into an audio file such as MP3, M4A, and AIFF using high quality voices. Apart from providing TTS compensatory tool, this software also provides other tools that are helpful for students with reading and writing difficulties. These tools are text and picture dictionary, spell checker, verb checker, word prediction tool, vocabulary tool, calculator, translator, and other tools supporting study skills and research (Texthelp Ltd., 2015).

Here’s the link to the YouTube video showing how the Read&Write works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RypAr9YhcDo&feature=youtu.be

My reasons for selecting Read&Write

Last year, when I was looking for a TTS tool for my students, I came across Read&Write. Similar to ClaroRead, Read&Write would be very helpful for my students struggling with reading in and outside the classroom. I also have few students in my classroom who have difficulties in both reading and writing; so, this software would be a great compensatory tool for these students since it will provide supports to students in both areas.

Read&Write is also a cost-effective solution because it provides both supports in a single software than having two different software. Moreover, a software providing both supports will simplify students’ tasks by not having to learn two software at the same time.

Critique of the Read&Write including its affordances and constraints

Read&Write provides various other tools that support both writing and reading; hence, that can potentially enhance students’ academic skills in other areas too. For instance, ESL students can translate words from their reading assignment into another language; hence, this can enhance their reading comprehension skills.

Read&Write also provides ample videos and instructional guides showing usage of TTS tool for reading and other tools for writing supports. Although, the software is produced in UK, it is sold internationally and technical support is available to all customers world-wide.

However, this software is not available for free. Read&Write is less expensive than ClaroRead and it has a longer trial period than ClaroRead. Similar to ClaroRead, Read&Write offers variety of other tools that may not be useful for students needing a TTS compensatory tool only.

I would recommend this software to students and educators willing to purchase compensatory tools for students with reading and writing difficulties. Read&Write can be a helpful software for students with reading difficulties only but I would still recommend looking at other software that will only provide TTS support because that may turn out to be more cost-effective solution.

Decision and support needed to use Read&Write in Education

Schools implementing Read&Write will need windows XP SP3 or above or Mac OS 10.7 or above versions on their computers. The computers will also need 4 GB of RAM and 4GB of free disk space on any computers with Mac operating system. However, computers using windows operating system will need 512 MB of RAM and 2 GB of free disk space (Texthelp Ltd., 2015). Sound card for audio output and internet connection for downloading the software and for activating certain features will also be required. Depending on the needs of students and the environment where the student would be using the software, speakers or head phones may be required to access the TTS tool in Read&Write.

When Read&Write is approved to be used on school’s computers, IT department will need to install this software on all computers. IT department may need to modify the firewall in order to not block the students from using this software when internet connection is required or when accessing the cloud version of this software. Although most training videos and guides are provided on the website, training should be provided to students who cannot learn independently by reading guides or watching online videos. Students may also require technical support from IT department; however, this can also be arranged through Texthelp Ltd.

Name of the ATL resource 3

WordTalk

How others can access WordTalk

WordTalk can be downloaded and installed on a computer from the following URL: http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/Home/ by clicking on the “Download now” link. Alternatively, WordTalk can be downloaded and installed from the “Download” tab of the URL. Installation guides for installing WordTalk for all versions of Microsoft Word can be found in the “Installation Guide” tab of the URL (CALL Scotland, 2014).

Summary of the WordTalk

WordTalk is a free text-to-speech plugin for Microsoft Word application. More information about WordTalk can be accessed from its website. WordTalk speaks the text in the word document from the point where the cursor is placed and it will highlight the text as it keeps on reading (CALL Scotland, 2014). Moreover, the user can select WordTalk to speak the entire document, paragraph, sentence, or a single word. The user can also adjust the colors of the highlighted text and can change the voice and the speed of the speech. WordTalk also has a talking spell checker that will help the users to select the most appropriate spelling of the word. The user can also convert all the text in the word document into speech and save that as a .wav or.mp3 file. All these functionalities are done via simply using the WordTalk toolbar which appears in the “Add-Ins” tab of the Microsoft Word application (CALL Scotland, 2014).

My reasons for selecting WordTalk

Through my teaching experience as an instructor for Islamic history and civilization for students in grades 5 and 6, I do a lot of in-class readings with my students where I read aloud paragraph by paragraph and involve students through group discussions and activities. Every year, I come across students who are reading below their grade level. These students struggle with reading assignments that need to be completed outside classroom; hence, they eventually lose interest in completing their assignment. Thus, I decided to try WordTalk for my students in September of 2014 after getting an approval from the leadership team. WordTalk worked very well in providing reading support to my students outside classroom and most students were able to complete their reading assignments successfully. WordTalk was officially implemented in January of 2015. Moreover, WordTalk was selected for Islamic studies program because it is available for free and all of the reading materials for this program are available in Microsoft word format.

Critique of the WordTalk including its affordances and constraints

WordTalk is a free plugin for any version of Microsoft Word application and its website contains easy installation instructions for different versions of Microsoft word. When it is installed on a computer, it occupies minimal amount of memory. Its website also provides excellent support and troubleshooting tips in the form of FAQs. Moreover, second line of support is also provided where the user can contact WordTalk developers by filling out a web form on their website.

Since WordTalk only works with Microsoft Word, I wish it worked with other similar word processors like OpenOffice.org, Google Docs, and Zoho Writer. WordTalk is also limited to Windows operating system; hence, it does not work on other operating systems like Mac operating system and Linux.

Therefore, based on the strengths and weaknesses of WordTalk, I would recommend this plugin to users who need free TTS tool and users who have Microsoft Word installed on their computers. However, web pages, emails, pdf files, and other text files cannot be read using WordTalk unless they are converted into word documents.

Decision and support needed to use WordTalk in Education

Most schools or educational institutions use Microsoft Word application; hence, installing WordTalk on school computers should be an easy process. WordTalk works with Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Moreover, it will require Microsoft Word 2007 or higher version with any of these operating systems. WordTalk is also approved and certified by Microsoft and its license information is included on its website; however, teachers will require approvals from the leadership team to use this plugin in the classrooms, libraries, and computer laboratories.

Another important aspect to consider when installing WordTalk is its access. Since most schools have firewalls blocking the download and installation of this plugin, Information Technology department needs to be consulted before installing WordTalk on a school computer. My recommendation would be to get IT department involved in installing WordTalk on various computers.

IT department or teachers may need to train students who are new to WordTalk. IT department at schools may not need to support WordTalk because its technical support is provided on the website and through directly contacting the developers of WordTalk. However, any issues arising from the malfunction of Microsoft Word can be directed to IT department.

References

CALL Scotland. (2014). WordTalk. Retrieved from http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/Home/

Claro Software Ltd. (2015). Claro Software. Retrieved from http://www.clarosoftware.com/

Texthelp Ltd. (2015). Read&Write. Retrieved from http://www.texthelp.com/UK/Our-products/Readwrite

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