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Making the Most of Standard Technology to Enhance Learning

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By Lisa Wahl, M.A.

How Students Can Interact with Electronic Text

Students who are adept at using a computer mouse or touchpad can manipulate electronic text - to their advantage - in a number of ways.

Working with Electronic Text for Studying and Writing

  • Your child can use a color-coding system to highlight important names, dates, and events in a history article, by changing the color of the text. This can substitute for taking notes by hand for children with dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting).
  • Students can easily search electronic text, making it easier to retrieve a particular fact or to find all mentions of a character, event, or date.
  • In Microsoft Word, students can use the electronic highlighter to mark important passages. Older students might want to know that they can search by highlights, allowing them to compile information after reading a passage.
  • Cutting and pasting essential information into a blank document allows students to move things around, organize the information, and begin to incorporate it into their written work.

Technology Tip

In Microsoft Word, search by highlights using the Find command under the Edit menu. Expand the Find window so that you can find by Format, which allows you to select Highlight.

Looking Up Word Definitions

If your child is using Microsoft Word, he can highlight unknown words and select Dictionary under the Tools menu. This will bring up the definition, as well as synonyms. The built-in speech on the Macintosh mentioned earlier will read the definition, if you highlight all or part of it.

Technology Tip

  • For Windows, WordWeb can be installed so that it looks up highlighted words from within other applications, such as Microsoft Word, or a web browser.
  • Windows users might prefer a free talking dictionary available from NaturalReader.

Converting Electronic Text to Portable Audio Files

There's one more option for electronic text. Listening to text on the iPod or portable MP3 player is the access method of choice for many college students with LD because it's portable and "invisible." A student usually listens to a computerized voice read the text while following along with the hard copy.

Technology Tip:

Free and low-cost utilities for conversion of digital text to an MP3 format are listed at the Using Technology to Support Diverse Learners.

If you make MP3 files for a child who is too young to do so himself (or who might benefit from your input), you can "super charge" the text by first typing in short questions after every paragraph or section that prompt your child to consider what he's just heard. Stopping to summarize is a highly effective strategy that will increase comprehension and retention of what he's read.4

Getting Started - and Looking to the Future

This article describes just some of the strategies for using electronic text to enhance learning. Your child can benefit from knowing how to adapt text to his particular needs, but he may need your support and guidance to explore the various alternatives. Be sure to encourage your child to become proactive in making his own adaptations and telling teachers what works for him. Technology offers so many options that it's the rare person who remembers all the great features of even a single piece of software. Learning to use standard technology effectively will increase your child's independence and his ability to achieve in school and in life. © 2008 GreatSchools Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally created by Schwab Learning, formerly a program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation