by Diane McCargar
Among the educational software available today, its unusual to find software specifically suited to adults with low literacy skills. WordQ is a rare example of such a software program. It was developed by Bloorview MacMillan Childrens Centre in Toronto with support from the Ontario Rehabilitation Technology Consortium.
WordQ is a writing aid software program. It is not meant to be used by itself; it is a tool to be used in conjunction with any software program that requires a user to read and write. The software will assist users with spelling by predicting what word they are trying to type as they are typing it. As they try to spell a word, a small box appears close to the text they are typing and lists approximately 5 possible words to choose from. The more letters that are typed correctly, the more accurate the list will become. WordQ also reads back to the students what they have typed, giving them an opportunity to edit their sentence structure or word choice. Along with reading what the student has typed, the software will also read any text that can be selected on the screen. This includes software content and instructions.
The Prediction section of the software can be tailored to a students abilities by limiting or expanding the vocabulary sets. Although the vocabulary sets already include a fair number of proper nouns, students can also add other proper nouns such as street names to the lists. The biggest drawback to the Prediction section is that the students must be fairly accurate with the first few letters in the word in order for the list to predict the word correctly.
The Speech section uses synthesized voices to read what students have written. These voices read each word to the student as they type. The voices are fairly realistic and the pronunciation is usually, but not always, accurate. If the word is not known by the software the voice will read the word phonetically which of course doesnt always work. The Speech section is great for reinforcing sentence structure because each sentence is read back to the student when the end punctuation has been typed. If a student has forgotten the punctuation, then everything from the previous end punctuation will be read.
Generally the software is easy to use. I did encounter one problem when trying to type numbers with the prediction feature on. Instead of getting a number, I got the corresponding word from the prediction box. You can turn this feature off at any time if you find it interfering with what you are doing. It is also wise to minimize the WordQ software window so that it doesnt constantly hide the close window button.
Although the cost may be prohibitive to some literacy programs, I think this tool is just too useful not to mention. Students who have their own computer, especially students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, may want to purchase personal copies for themselves. Before purchasing software such as this, always check to see that your computer meets the software system requirements.
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