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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2015)

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Cover, page 11 of 21


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Read&Write – Literacy Support Software for Higher Ed Learning

By Kimberly R. Nix, Professional Development Manager, Texthelp

“I need to read how much… by when?!?”

When faced with the sheer volume of reading for today’s college coursework, this question could be asked by almost anyone -- a freshman, an athlete, a graduate student, a student with disabilities, an English language learner, or a college instructor. The struggle to “get through” the reading material doesn’t just involve working through complex text in order to comprehend the content. This also means dealing with new, often difficult vocabulary, tough concepts and topics, and being able to retain the content for use with higher level thinking requirements such as explaining, comparing, analyzing, and synthesizing. 


Reading Support

So where can additional support be found to interact with all the different types of texts instructors require students to read? As many students are now discovering, Texthelp’s literacy support software, Read&Write for Windows and Read&Write for Mac, can read aloud any digital text, including locked files and images, Word and Google documents, PDFs (portable document format files), web-based content such as email, social media, text in learning management systems, online tests, and books. These text-to-speech tools on the Read&Write toolbar will also read text aloud with dual color highlighting helping to increase reading speed, focus, engagement, and comprehension. 

Reading the text is the first step in learning the content, however, in order for that information to “stick” in the brain, we know students must be able to interact with their digital text. Read&Write contains tools which will allow students not only to read the materials, but organize the information for making notes about the content, highlighting in four colors, collecting highlighted information, and creating study guides, two-column notes, and outlines. A critical step in understanding information includes being able to organize it for learning. The very process of doing so will help students to begin learning it. 

Once organized, students can easily access resources for clarification. These resources include a dictionary with three types of definitions, a fact finder which conducts quick web searches for additional topic information, and a picture dictionary which provides pictures as well as allowing for adding these pictures to a Word document.  With these tools, students are able to get needed material for improved understanding. Often students do not fully grasp vocabulary in the text, and they know what they do NOT know. Having these types of tools at students’ fingertips can facilitate independent acquisition of topic-specific knowledge to fill the gaps. 


Vocabulary Acquisition

It is widely known that 75% of reading comprehension is dependent upon comprehension of the vocabulary. With Read&Write’s vocabulary list builder, students can select specific words from a PDF, website or Word document, and the program will create a four-column graphic organizer containing columns for the word, meaning, symbol, and additional notes. Because this organizer is created in Word, modifications such as adding additional columns, translations using Read&Write’s translator tool, images and other memory cues can be added. Using the very programs students use natively, Read&Write can help them prepare materials to be digested in the way that suits them best.

Our Speech Maker tool can even turn text into an audio file that can be listened to on a phone or portable music player, assisting in study on-the-go, repetition of key concepts, and auditory learning.

Organizing for Research and Writing

In addition to reading, vocabulary acquisition and studying, Read&Write has tools for research, assisting individuals with collecting and saving information from a variety of applications such as Microsoft Word and the Web. Read&Write can keep track of, and export, sources. 
Once ready to draft a research paper or any other type of writing assignment, utilizing Read&Write’s writing tools can make the drafting and editing process easier and help eliminate mistakes. While drafting, using the word prediction feature can not only empower those grappling with word choice and the physicality of typing, but with the ability to download specific academic word banks or create-your-own sets.  Students can use word prediction with ready-access to the words needed for writing. Editing tools include a phonetic spell checker, homophone and confusable word checker, verb checker, and, of course, nothing helps catch unflagged errors better than using the read aloud tool to hear exactly what you have written, not what you think you wrote.

Read&Write’s advanced features, customizable toolbar, and ease-of-use encourages independence and student usage. Availability of short-feature videos and a quick reference listing from the toolbar itself, supports implementation. Of course, onsite training and training via webinar are available, targeting specific uses and strategies for the higher education student and instructor.

About the Author

Kimberly Nix, M.Ed., Senior National Professional Development Manager, has been responsible for all training and implementation projects at Texthelp, Inc. for the last 5 years.Nix ’s background includes work as a National Education Consultant and Secondary Reading Intervention Specialist at McGraw Hill Education, a Reading Coordinator for Hillsborough County Schools and Strategies Trainer, Reading Coach, and Teacher in Florida and Virginia. Her reading classes included students who had various needs from learning disabilities to English Language Learners. She is a published author and has a BS in Middle and Secondary Reading Education and an MA in K-12 Reading Education specializing in Adolescent Literacy.

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