Learning styles vary from person to person. What worked for you as a student might not be the same strategy that works for your child (as any parent who has struggled to help with homework knows all too well).
Educators in East Greenwich public schools are dedicated to finding the right learning solutions for each student. And now, thanks to an EGEF grant, there’s a new way to make that happen: “Polishing Chrome”.
Chromebooks are increasingly popular in our district, and the “Polishing Chrome” grant funded two universal digital tools to allow students to have enhanced access to digital learning. One is the Snap and Read Google extension and the other is the Co:Writer extension.
Cheryl Simmons, Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Practitioner for EG Public Schools, spearheads this work and says that both extensions allow “for easy, quick access for any student or any teacher to evaluate and use the tools.”
As Ms. Simmons explains, the Snap and Read extension can be added to a student’s personal Chrome browser. “This extension includes options for tools to assist in accessing and manipulating digital text,” Simmons says. “Specific features include audio support for text, vocabulary support or text leveling, the ability to provide a quick, simple translation, an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool that supports access to PDF documents, and a study skill tool that includes options for note-taking, outlining, and citing sources.”
Meanwhile, the Co:Writer extension is a word prediction tool that provides robust spelling support for writing tasks. Co:Writer can easily be integrated within the Snap and Read toolbar and Chrome browser.
“As expected, students with more significant challenges with reading and writing utilized Co:Writer,” says Simmons, who introduced this technology during the 2016/2017 academic year. “As the year progressed, several students appeared to ‘outgrow’ the need for this tool. As their speed and fluency increased, they were successful in using the tools within the Google Docs – no longer needing access to the Co:Writer extension.”
Snap and Read has been an even more robust and widespread success. Students in grades 6 – 12 have been introduced to it, either one-on-one or as part of a larger lesson. Feedback is excellent — and as varies as each student’s learning style.
According to Ms. Simmons: “Mature or ‘expert’ learners take charge of identifying their individual preferences and customize the features of the extension. These students continue to independently access the tool when needed on assigned chromebooks. Expert learners report they may use it for a particular class or in a specific way related to the assignment and topic.
“For example, one student decided he only wanted the audio feature and no highlighting. Another student only liked the highlight feature and reports he only uses it for History assignments.
“A middle school student decided not to use any of the audio reading support features, but did use it to help with online research and organizing her notes digitally for a research paper. Another middle school student used the Snap and Read toolbar to take notes on a particular online reading assignment.
With many middle school students who have used the extension, the introduction of the Snap and Read Toolbar has lead to some good discussions regarding accommodations and individual learning styles. Some students have become more empowered in identifying what reading/writing tools may support their individual learning style.”
For Simmons, as well as the nearly 50 teachers who have tried out these extensions, “the most rewarding part of this project is watching students . . . become more aware and familiar with their learning styles and preferences. Some students have become more empowered to explore and customize not only the Snap and Read extension, but a variety of digital tools to support their individual preferences. It has also been exciting to see what students continue to access and utilize the extensions, as it may have not been the students that I had originally expected.
“Thank you, EGEF, for this opportunity!”