Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Integrating Assistive Technology in the Curriculum

For my EDUC7724 Assistive Technology (AT) class, I was asked to closely look at one AT product included in Chapter 7 of the book Assistive technology for people with disabilities by  Bryant, D. P., & Bryant, B. R. (2012).  I decided to review Start-to-Finish. Start-to-Finish is a software application that helps students build reading fluency and comprehension.  It's packaged in a set containing a paperback, computer, and audio book.  Start-to-Finish’s newest offering is an online version of the computer books that work with iPads.  I reviewed the online version product demonstration video.  Start-to-Finish Online is a series of chapter books categorized by reading level and genre.  Books are available in two levels, the gold and blue levels.  The Gold Level contains books that are on a 2-3 grade reading level.  The Blue level books are at a 4-5 grade reading level.  Books are professionally narrated and are lively and animated. The pronunciation and enunciation of words is clear. As the book is read, the books’ words are highlighted on the screen. Students can go back and click on words to be re-read. The books are also illustrated. At the end of each chapter, a quiz is available to check the reader’s comprehension. Teachers are able to measure students’ progress and growth through a series of reports. The reports include how many books a student has read, the genre, and how well they have scored on the quizzes. The reports also show what words the students have selected to be re-read. Preferences are available for the reader. A reader can turn scanning on and off, and adjust the speed of the reading. The auditory feature can be turned on and off for reading of the books and the quizzes.  I found it interesting that the founder of the company that makes Start-to-finish, Don Johnson, is dyslexic and read his first chapter book at the age of 15. He is the author of one of the Start-to-Finish books, Building Wings: How I Made It Through School. In this book, he tells his personal story as a struggling reader. He is committed to helping struggling readers succeed in reading. Visit for resources to help struggling readers.

I think this product would be beneficial to struggling readers. It would help them develop reading fluency and comprehension. In a video, teacher Lisa Delgiudice shares her students are comprehending and actively engaged in reading while using Start-to-finish books. She spoke of one reader who made facial expressions denoting anger when the narrator was reading the words of a character who is angry. The teacher attributes the program’s ability to make the books come alive through narration as being very powerful for struggling readers.   

There is a cost associated with this product. There are several pricing packages that range from a 4 title package to site and district licenses.  

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