In my Adaptivtive Technologies class this week, I was asked to examine an assistive technology tool mentioned in our readings for the week. I have decided to learn about and report on Write: Out Loud, a word processor with a text-to-speech tool that provides many other features to help students with their writing. Write: Out Loud is made by Don Johnston, Inc., which sells many reading and writing assistive technology tools.
I have never seen Write: Out Loud being used. I have recently been wondering what the value of a text-to-speech program would be when this feature is included in so many word processing programs and devices. Why should school district pay for a tool that they already have? After reading about Write: Out Loud, I realize that this particular product does have many advantages that are not typically included in traditional software packages and devices.
This video demonstrates how Write: Out Loud works.
I like how the software will read letter-by-letter, word-by-word, or sentence-by-sentence to the student. It will also read back an entire writing piece when the student is finished. I have worked with many students who know what they want to say, but cannot get the words on the paper in the correct order or with correct grammar. Once they hear their writing out loud, they know something is wrong and want to fix it. With Write: Out Loud, students can learn to independently monitor their writing by listening to what is being read to them.
The spell check feature is another tool that shows advantages over traditional spell check tools. As the video shows, the spell check will read each word to the student. I cannot tell you how many times students who are strong writers have chosen the word “defiantly” over “definitely” just because it was the first word on the list. Struggling writers have an even harder time choosing from a list of words with similar spellings. Having the words read to them would be a great help.
Write: Out Loud also includes a homophone checker and talking dictionary. It words well with Co-Writer, another product from Don Johnston that predicts words and checks grammar as students type. Finally, Write: Out Loud claims that teachers can be trained to use this software in 30 minutes. This is important, since and AT device will not be effective if the teacher is not comfortable using it.
I was not able to find any criticism of Write: Out Loud online. I am sure there are critics, but any Google searches came up with sites related to Don Johnston, or reviews that were either positive or neutral. I would suggest that anyone considering using this product should request an opportunity to try it out before committing to a purchase. As of this post, an unlimited desktop subscription license, which allows schools to install the program on every computer in the school, costs $15 a month. This seems like a great price for a tool that can benefit students in many ways.