Product Review of Read&Write
Read&Write is a literacy support tool available as software, a browser extension, or app keyboard. It’s suite of features was developed to help learners of all abilities access texts and improve their skills. With Read&Write installed, learners can listen to any passage (documents and webpages) with a line-by-line text-to-speech option or with a screenshot reader; or if they want to listen later, they can make an MP3 of the passage using the Audiomaker feature. To support understanding and comprehension, learners can lift the meaning of words in a passage using either a dictionary or picture dictionary. The screen mask feature darkens most of the page other than a horizontal line that learners can control with the cursor. This eliminates page distraction, helping learners focus on select lines and easily track progress along the page. To increase accessibility, learners can use the simplify page feature, which gives them control over font size, spacing, and color contrast. When reading online, this feature removes distracting pictures, ads, and links to other articles. It also has a translator option to support understanding of foreign language words. As learners read a passage, they can use four different highlighters to note important information. The highlights can then be collected and gathered onto another document for safekeeping and reading by the text software. They can also highlight words they want to collect in a vocabulary list. The platform automatically takes words from the text and creates a vocabulary document that includes definitions, visual supports, and space for users to capture their own thoughts. When Read&Write is used as a browser extension, it has the capacity to sync with Google and automatically collect highlights or create vocabulary lists as editable and shareable Google docs. Learners can practice reading aloud by highlighting a passage and then tapping the Practice Reading Aloud button. This prompts them to record themselves reading the text and use other features to improve fluency.
If writing is learners’ focus, but they struggle with motor skills or have other issues, Read&Write offers a Talk&Type feature. With this feature, learners can dictate their writing. In addition to composing paragraphs or essays, learners can create a voice note for later review. Using the Check It feature, learners can verify spelling, grammar, and punctuation in their work. With the prediction feature helps learners along while they’re writing, offering suggested words.
Although Read&Write is marketed for learners with literacy needs, all learners can benefit from its features. The text-to-speech options can be used to listen to longer passages instead of reading them — improving listening comprehension and engaging learners’ auditory and visual senses. Talk&Type allows learners in a science lab to take notes and record observations orally, freeing up their hands to work. The highlighter options can be used for note-taking in any classroom; learners can use the Read&Write toolbar to underline passages they find important on a website or while using iPad apps, or to record voice notes as they browse. To develop their writing skills, learners can build sentences using Read&Write’s word prediction tool, and then work in groups to make complex sentences or paragraphs on a given topic. The vocabulary feature, which automatically creates a list of words and definitions based off of highlighted text, could also come in handy as a glossary or study tool.
In collaboration with Respondus’ LockDown Browser, Read&Write offers a handy accessibility feature that gives learners taking exams (and locked into a single window) access to accessibility supports from Read&Write they need to be successful during an assessment or exam. Using this feature, educators can still lock down learners’ devices to prevent distractions or cheating, while making sure learners still have the Read&Write tools they rely on. Tools like text-to-speech or simplified text, which enlarges the print, can support Individualized Education Plan (IEP) assessment modifications. Moreover, the translator and dictionary could give ELLs access to language supports during testing.
Read&Write lifts many barriers that impede learner learning. This software offers a nice toolbox for educators to choose from, especially when supporting learners with learning disabilities or language learners. There’s a nice mix of features that increase accessibility and aid learner productivity. It should be noted, however, that this tool is all function and no style; there aren’t any bells and whistles to keep learners highly engaged or even to get them interested to start. Yet at its core Read&Write does what it intends to well. And by enabling learners to develop their skills in ways more in sync with their abilities and across all of the web, learners will likely feel empowered and more confident. Read&Write, for instance, provides an easy way for learners to hear passages as well as dictate passages, lifting the barriers of reading fluency and writing for learners with learning or language challenges. Since many learners have higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension, Read&Write allows learners to engage with higher-level texts than those at their typical independent reading level. This is a big benefit to both educators and learners, since textbooks are increasingly digital. By providing a menu of tools, it also encourages learners to be more self-reliant. The platform encourages learners to think about what they need to be successful and independently pick the tool that best fits their needs during a specific task. For example, as learners develop self-awareness about their own learning process, they’ll appreciate the ability to simplify an online article when they find it too busy or distracting. They’ll also appreciate the ease of creating study tools with the vocabulary list and highlight capture features. Rather than spending time creating resources, they can invest their time in studying or making sense of content. The Practice Reading Aloud feature can be an excellent tool for learners to independently improve their reading fluency.
Beyond reading, Read&Write also enables learners to use creative thinking and write at a level that’s beyond their independent ability, through dictation and predictive text. Moreover, the recordings they create can be used as proof of their new skills. As digital assessments become more popular, the collaboration with Respondus LockDown Browser is particularly appealing — giving learners access to tools that will help them truly show their understanding while preventing them from navigating to other webpages. Overall, this extension and app — while not slick or flashy — could be a great addition to just about any classroom, helping educators differentiate and empowering learners to choose learning tools to fit their needs.
Overall User Consensus About the App
While it’s not flashy, learners will appreciate that the features unlock text, the web, and digital documents.
Curriculum and Instruction
Help make the development of phonics, comprehension, and fluency skills more equitable. Useful, flexible options — like a standard dictionary and picture dictionary — offer help to learners of any ability.
There’s a host of useful features that increase accessibility. The help/support site and the chat support feature provides instant solutions. There could be better in-app onboarding.