Assistive Technology: Carole Ries
Reviewer: Carole Ries, OTR, Assistive Technologist
District: Wayzata Public School, Plymouth, MN
Number of Students: 10,000 Students: 7 elementary, 3 middle schools, 1 high school
Product: SOLO 6 by Don Johnston
Our district was interested in evaluating technologies that would support literacy. SOLO 6, developed by Don Johnston, is a suite of four software tools that can be used individually or together to support students’ reading and writing skills.
Reviewer's Notes: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that the Wayzata Public Schools uses when evaluating technology tools. We are committed to embedding technology solutions into our curriculum from beginning so that these tools are available to all staff and all students.
The components are:
Write Outloud: A talking word processor that supports the editing process and increases the amount of written communication.
Co:Writer: A word completion or word prediction tool that support students who are slow at keyboarding, have difficulty spelling, and narrows the gap between thought and written words.
Draft Builder: Creates outlines, organizes notes, builds a draft and scaffolds students through the writing process.
Read Outloud: Is a text to speech program that can read the web, e-text and digital books and helps to collect and analyze relevant ideas and organize notes. It has many reading comprehension supports embedded into the program, including highlighters, a dictionary and a bibliographer.
A pilot study, evaluating Solo 6, was completed by K-12 general and special education teachers in our district. After 8 weeks, each participant completed a feedback survey. The results conclusively revealed that the majority of the teachers strongly agreed that Solo 6 would help their students with writing, reading, organization and research.
Wayzata Public Schools then purchased a district license of Solo 6 and installed the software on all student and staff computers. Additionally, students have take-home rights to the software. Students can download the software from the district website or check out a CD of the program from the media center to install on their home computer.
Amanda Leddy, 6th grade Language Arts Teacher at Central Middle School, used Draftbuilder and Write Outloud to complete a history research paper. Students’ feedback about Draft Builder and Write Outloud was very positive. They stated that it was faster to take notes using Draftbuilder, they could quickly see where more research was needed because of the organization provided by Draftbuilder and they preferred to take keyboarding notes rather than handwritten notes. All the students surveyed felt the program was easy to learn, taking less than 10 minutes to learn how to use the software. Ms. Leddy reported that using the software increased productivity by needing three less class periods to complete the paper. She stated that Write Outloud also increased students’ independence with spelling and proofreading, resulting in more time for her to work with students that needed more one to one support. Finally, Ms. Leddy stated that using the software improved the quality of the final paper.
Carol Dunsmore-Clement, Elementary Special Education Teacher, is using Read Outloud with students with print disabilities. Her students are reading more, feel less frustrated when reading and are choosing to read in their free time. The students and their parents are happy because the students have increased independence at home when completing their homework. One student proudly stated that he read a book independently at home and when he came to school the next day he received 10 out of 10 on the test! The technology motivated and engaged him.
Lori Fildes, Director of Special Education, said, “Solo 6 has been a tool commonly discussed at student Individualized Education Planning (IEP) Meetings. Parents are thrilled that Wayzata Public Schools is supporting such a powerful technology that will assist their children in becoming independent as possible in their academic learning. That being said, it is clearly not a tool reserved solely as a special education adoption, but is quickly becoming a way of assisting all students and staff in their academics. It has the capability of enhancing student work and in some cases, helping students to be successful without the need for referring them for further intervention and/or special education services.”
Shelly Nelson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, shared, “Taking the time to complete work well is important. With the use of Solo 6, our Language Arts teachers found that students took better notes, produced better research papers, demonstrated an understanding of the research process and saved several days of class time typically dedicated to a research writing project.”
The implementation of Solo 6 has been a positive initiative to provide a flexible approach to reading and writing so that students can customize the software to meet their individual needs. Our implementation team continues to meet. Our next goal is to work with publishers during our curriculum review process to build an accessible digital library of all our textbooks and to begin to take data of how SOLO 6 is impacting students’ reading and writing skills and scores in our district.