What are the best assistive technology tools for help with writing college level essays?

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Jamie Martin, Assistive Technology Consultant for Students and Adults with Dyslexia

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Great question! There are several assistive technology (AT) tools available to help with writing, depending on your particular language difficulties. Here's a breakdown:

If you have difficulty with spelling, there are two options that can help. The first is word prediction, which requires you to use a keyboard. After you type the first few characters of a word, the technology predicts what you are trying to write and offers several suggestions. You just tap or click on the correct choice and it is inserted into your text. On the college level, this option is good if your difficulty with spelling is not profound and you can type quickly. If you have great difficulty spelling and your typing is slow, a better option to keep up with the volume of college-level writing might be dictation technology. Software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Windows) and Dragon Dictate (Mac) will allow you to speak your words and have them transcribed into a word processor or other writing program.

If you have difficulty organizing your writing, an electronic graphic organizer can be very helpful. Instead of grouping your ideas in a linear outline, you can use a graphic organizer to arrange them visually in a mind map. Several apps and programs will then convert the mind map to an outline for you as you prepare to draft your essay.

Finally, if you have difficulty proofreading and editing your essays, there are two types of AT tools that can be helpful to college students. The first is text-to-speech technology. For many students with learning differences, such as dyslexia, proofreading their own writing is just as difficult as reading a book. A great first step is to use text-to-speech to listen for errors in a first draft. Then, you can use a contextual spell and grammar checker to take a deeper look for mistakes in your writing. Tools like Ginger, Ghotit, and Grammarly look at individual sentences and can pick out things like homonym errors that you don't want in a college-level essay.

If you use a combination of these AT tools, I'm sure you will see an improvement in your composition, and you'll become a more independent college student when it comes to essay writing.

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