By teacher guest blogger Kathryn Rose
It is September and my bet is that your classrooms and schools are already full of activity and the chaos of learning. The first full month of school is exciting – and busy!
Desks were cleaned and organized. Books were purchased and passed out.
And I will be even more audacious and make a second bet… you probably spent a bit of your own money to make your classroom really shine and sparkle for your brand new set of students.
Am I right? I know I am right. Especially if your classroom is large and diverse. Teachers want to ensure that they have every possible tool at their disposal to make the school year successful for each one of their students.
But what if I told you that some of the most powerful tools for your array of learners can be free and are just waiting for you to download? I know, I sound like a used car salesman but I would never lie to an educator.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, I think it is safe to say that educational technology and programming is here to stay. What was once considered a luxury that only wealthy schools could afford became an absolute necessity for everyone. Luckily, with a click of your mouse, many of the mainstay applications you use daily can be transformed into assistive tech tools that open up your lessons to learners that often get overlooked.
Let’s start with the Microsoft Suite. Most students already know how to check their grammar and spelling with the built-in tool but do they know how to use the text-to-speech function? It helps students in two incredible ways. For students that have trouble reading, text-to-speech will read content to them. For students that have trouble using physical tools, such as a pencil or a keyboard, the same function can help them dictate their writing into a word processing application.
Students that have auditory processing issues or limited fine motor skills can also use the suite to record their lessons for review and extra notetaking.
OneNote is another excellent Microsoft resource. It’s great for all students, but especially those who struggle with organization. This free app enables them to color code their notes while keeping everything organized and in one central location that can be monitored by parents and teachers.
Google also has some powerful tech assistance tools. For starters, everything on Google can be created and shared on the cloud for easy access. Google also has a “voice typing” function that can dictate notes in over 100 different languages.
Google also has browser extensions that are helpful for all learners but exceptionally useful for ESL students. Google Translate can help students translate texts into a native language and Google Dictionary can be installed right into the browser for an easy reference guide.
Outside of Microsoft and Google, there are several free apps and extensions that truly shine. BeeLine Reader is a browser extension that automatically adds color to digital text which can act as an overlay for students with dyslexia. For more general use, BeeLine can improve a student’s reading duration while they are having trouble focusing.
Grammarly for Chrome is a popular free extension that vastly improves a student’s writing. Over time, Grammarly can collect a student’s most common errors and email a list of feedback to them, helping teachers narrow in on problematic grammar issues for particular students.
If your classroom is exceptionally loud, Noisli is an application that helps students create ambient noise that helps them feel productive. Just make sure they have on headphones!
AlphaText is sort of like an all-in-one accessibility extension. It gives students a range of customizable options for their browser. They can adjust background color, text size, fonts, and line spacing which can make content easier to digest.
Educational technology is still moving at the speed of light. If you think there is a program or extension that could truly help your students, take a moment to do a search before spending your well-earned cash on another expensive option. You might just luck out. An education might be invaluable but your tools should not leave you broke.
Happy September, educators! We hope your school year is off to an amazing start!
About Kathryn Rose
Kathryn Rose is currently a virtual tutor and a museum resource teacher. She also freelances for businesses and startups in the education field. She has taught at her city’s botanic garden for 12 years and has been a Social Studies teacher in both private and public schools.
This content was originally published here.