1999 Conference Proceedings

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PIXWRITER: SUCCESS FOR BEGINNING WRITERS

Jim and Jean Slater
Slater Software, Inc.
351 Badger Lane
Guffey Colorado 80820
phone: 719-479-2255
fax: 719-479-2254
www.slatersoftware.com

A Hands on Computer Lab Session

All special educators can identify the many skills a child must have to write--ability to hold a pencil, knowledge of the alphabet and sound-symbol relationship, fine-motor control to form the letters, understanding of words, sentences, punctuation, etc. What about the child who does not have the physical ability to hold a pencil? Or the student whose poor visual memory makes learning the alphabet a frustrating chore?

It is these students, and others with moderate to severe language, cognitive or learning disabilities, that PixWriter was designed to help. PixWriter combines pictures, text and speech to help beginning writers experience success. One click on a picture button and the user sees the word printed, see the picture paired with that word, and hears the word spoken. Sentences, paragraphs or whole stories can be written, read, saved, and printed. PixWriter has a 1700 picture library in full-color, and is available for Macintosh computers.

During this hands-on computer lab, participants will learn how PixWriter allows the user to compose written materials even if his/her knowledge of spelling skills, sound-symbol relationships, or the alphabet is not fully developed. Anyone who is at an emergent level of literacy can write notes, letters, stories, complete written language classroom assignments, and communicate through written language.

The user selects buttons which are part of a vocabulary set-up at the bottom half of the monitor screen. The buttons contain words and pictures that the parent or service provider have filled. After a selection is made, the word and graphic are displayed on the top half of the screen, and the word is spoken. A maximum of 32 buttons can be used in one vocabulary set-up, but not all the buttons need be filled. By selecting buttons in sequence sentences can be written,--documents up to 500 words can be written. The buttons are selected using the mouse or a TouchWindow (TM). The program also successfully interfaces with switch-scanning software and alternative keyboards.

Participants will learn all the features of the program. It is easy to fill the buttons to make vocabulary set-ups. The parent or service provider simply types in the words using the keyboard. The words/pictures on the buttons can be changed or erased, and the location of vocabulary can be moved. Pronunciations of words can be changed, pictures can be imported from other sources (like digital photographs), and keyboard access is always available. Once the set-up is ready for a student or class, it can be saved.

In order for PixWriter to be expandable to fit the needs of many students, editing capabilities are built into the program. These advanced features allow for words to be inserted into or deleted from a sentence, and punctuation added. The entire document can be read aloud. All documents can be saved and printed, and the printed documents look just the same as the computer screen with words and pictures.

PixWriter is flexible enough so that it is appropriate for preschoolers with or without disabilities as well as adults who have developmental delays, or have suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke. It is a tool to help school-aged children learn to write and make the connection between pictures and print. Students with cognitive delays, severe speech/language delays, learning disabilities, autism, and limited English proficiency will all benefit from using PixWriter.

Professionals working with students with special needs, who want them to develop written language skills, will come away with many ideas of how they can use this software in their classrooms. Many examples of vocabulary set-ups will be shown as well as the work that students in elementary schools have produced.

SUMMARY

Come and learn about the new software, PixWriter, which combines print, pictures, and speech. Students with special needs write notes, stories, and reports by selecting picture buttons.


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