2003 Conference Proceedings

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Mary Jo Barry
Don Johnston Incorporated
26799 W Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
Phone: 847-740-0749, ext 554
Fax: 847-740-7326
Email: mjbarry@donjohnston.com

Daily written language exercises around current events can be extremely painstaking for struggling writers. Poor spelling, processing issues and lack of motor skills are often the barriers that keep students from participating fully. Using Co:Writer(r) 4000 and Co:Writer(r) SmartApplet(tm) for the AlphaSmart(r) can not only provide the critical support students need by furnishing them with the best word prediction available but can also provide the contemporary vocabulary they need when writing about current events.

More and more you see students with varying abilities using AlphaSmarts to write. The AlphaSmart has become an industry standard for both Regular and Special Education, eliminating the stigma students using Assisitive Technology often felt. Using the Co:Writer SmartApplet on the AlphaSmart breaks the constraints that tie students to a desktop machine and increases the opportunities students have to write anywhere, any time and now, with Co:Writer Topic Dictionaries, they can write about anything!

Within minutes, teachers and paraprofessionals can grab text from information and news sites on the Internet to create topic specific dictionaries, which students can use immediately to support their writing. Topic Dictionaries enable students with disabilities to take part in standard writing assignments that would typically be out of reach. Educators are constantly amazed as they observe students' writing abilities begin to match their conversational vocabulary skills.

Examining writing samples of students writing without Co:Writer versus students writing with Co:Writer and then with Topic Dictionaries applied, we see students exceed expectations, gain confidence and write with less frustration and fatigue. Students may be able to verbally describe in detail the victory of their favorite sports team the night before, but when faced with spelling sometimes-difficult names, strategic plays, etc. they may not be able to demonstrate their extensive knowledge of the topic. Removing these barriers and giving them the tools they need to rise above the threshold of success impacts not only a student's writing, but also reading and word-study skills. Research shows us that each area of literacy impacts the others. Meeting students where they are developmentally and providing tools that empower them to have just a few successful experiences can make all the difference in the world!

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