Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Tech Tp (Pine Road Edition): SOLO Software

SOLO Software is a suite of applications intended for use by students with learning needs that correspond to having text read out loud, either due to a print disability or to aid in comprehension.  We have SOLO on all the computers in our school and access is not limited to those students who need the programs.  So, as a result, we can all benefit from their uses in the classroom. 

Read Out Loud is an overlay with a web browser and links to accesible ebook texts.  You can utilize ROL with any website by inputting the URL into the browswer with ROL open.  The voices are not as "natural" sounding as one might hope for, but they get the job done.  An outline can be built by highlighting selected pieces of information and adding them to an ongoing outline on the right hand side of the screen.  The screen can be adjusted to hide the outline altogether or show more or less of it as needed.

Write Out Loud is a word processing program that speaks what you type.  You can set up preferences to read individual letters (which in my opinion could be really annoying), individual words, which helps students to stop and think - "was that what I meant when I typed that word?", sentences following a period, which helps students to identify potential run on sentences or spots where they missed a period, and/or paragraphs.  Each of these can be selected individually or in concert.

Co-Writer supplies students with an ongoing word bank as they type.  Think about when you use Google and start to type a word or phrase and Google guesses at the rest and fills in the blanks.  Co-Writer does this too and you can set up a word bank to correspond with specific vocabulary, show a consistent word bank, or let the program run on its own.  When choices pop up, students select the number of the choice they were planning to type.  Once students get the hang of this, the sometimes tedious act of typing can be dramatically shortened.

Draft Builder allows students to utilize graphic organizers and outlines that they have created to construct a first draft of their writing.

Associated tools include a dictionary and (one of my favorites) a bibliographer, streamlining and simplifying tasks across the writing process.

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