by Gerry Kennedy
For PC Compatible Computers running MS Windows 95 /98
Inclusive Writer from Inclusive Technology Ltd. and Widgit Software
This highly regarded package has received very favourable reviews. It is a fully featured word processor with many additional features. It displays pictures with text. Included on the CD-ROM are over 3,500 pictures. Using digital devices such as digital still and moving cameras, scanners and other image manipulation programs you can add your own images as well. It has high quality voice capabilities where you can change volume, speed and pitch. The program can be run from a CD-ROM drive or from your hard disk (which is preferable). It can be purchased as a single user product or more economically as a 5-user, 10-user or even as a site licensed version! It is so versatile and has so many features – you have to see it and work with to fully appreciate its power and breadth of appeal. Inclusive Writer supports a range of users, particularly those at risk and children who find writing difficult.
Pictures appear above text as you type, or as words are entered from a touch membrane keyboard (such as IntelliKeys or Concept Keyboards). When used with onscreen keyboards (such as Clicker 3 or Discover:Screen), it is an extremely powerful literacy tool for students ‘on the go’ using a Notebook computer. You can also use its own onscreen word/phrase banks if you prefer, as these are also included with Inclusive Writer! One click on a letter, word, number, phrase or sentence, and the information is sent to the main working document. You can elect to have letters, words and/or sentences read aloud, as it is sent or typed, or after a body of text has been created. It knows about plurals and has a spell checker that displays pictures!
Inclusive Writer is a handy aid to assist struggling students with spelling, learning about word families, grammatical structures and other crucial aspects of literacy. It has been designed in the UK for students at Key Stages 1 and 2 and also for students with learning disabilities. It caters directly to students in grades P-6, and can be used to assist students with learning difficulties in Years 7 and 8. As with all software, it is how it is used, and depends upon the time and care taken by teachers to appropriately set it up in the classroom. There are just so many ways to use this package!
TAILOR FOR ALL USERS
The program has multiple tool bars that pictorially represent menu features/options as a set of icons. There are five standard toolbars. The toolbar can be turned off if required. The various toolbars accommodate very young users through to older, more capable students, who requite assistance with spelling and literacy. You can tailor and customise the writing activity to meet the specific needs of the learner, as well as the “look and feel” of the package. Every child can have his or her own settings, saved for quick and elegant access to a writing page that has been tailored for their individual needs, or for different forms/styles of writing.
As with all word processors, the text style, font, size and colour can be changed at any time. Text can be aligned left, right, centred or fully justified. Fonts in your system can be appear as Regular, Bold, Italic or Bold Italic as standard. Strikeout and Underlined are also supported. Text can be hidden at any time. You can import and export text. If you have written a story, instructions, directions or spelling lists in MS Word or ClarisWorks, you can easily bring them in to Inclusive Writer. In this manner, you can create ‘talking books’ with pictures! Poetry, lists and recipes come to life with the use of colour or black and white images, especially if the text is spoken as it is “imported”. Exporting text provides opportunities for re-publishing student work in other formats or in other software programs. Projects can be typed into Inclusive Writer with the support of images, photos and pictures. Parts or the whole text can be re-versioned in MS Publisher, or in a desktop publishing package, or presented in HTML for a web site page. The applications are endless.
Tabs can be set to 2 to 10 characters. This allows users to type up text in columns as lists or to present data in a table. This is a pre-requisite skill that needs to be introduced and taught at an early age. There is a Grid Making facility for teachers and students alike. Text size can be increased or decreased quickly from toolbar icons, as can any picture, symbol and/or photograph. Highlighted text can be voiced once, or repeated. This is ideal for students who are learning new words, drilling spelling or listening for errors, meaning or context. It aids in comprehension as students hear their obvious mistakes, which may have gone unnoticed.
SPELL WITH PICTURES
There is a fully integrated spell checker. Spelling errors can be ‘marked’ as they are entered. An auditory ‘alert’ mode can be set where a sound is heard when a new word or misspelt error is typed. Teachers, parents and students themselves, can edit the spell checklist at any time and delete incorrectly spelt words, or include new ones. In this way, new words that will be dealt with in thematic work, spelling bees, or tasks/projects can be added beforehand to ensure success to promote confidence and independence for students. Moreover, words to be replaced with best guesses are shown with a picture! This provides added meaning and context. A pictorial spell checker is one of the greatest strengths of this new genre of literacy software.
You can write in ‘text mode’ or in ‘picture mode’. Many educators may feel that this type of support will make students lazy or not attend to whole words. Over time, pictures can be slowly reduced in size, or completely ‘removed’ so students can learn to write and read text without support. Using images, a student can be a more confident writer, experimenting with the knowledge that he or she can see the correct word displayed, or hear mistakes as they are typed.
There is another great feature, referred to as a ‘word bank’. This is not a new technology, but one that has been available in other forms in the past, usually as an “add-on” program. It is an integral part of this innovative software package. In addition, teachers can create ‘environments’, where a type of template is created, with associated word banks visible onscreen, ready to be accessed by a simple click of the mouse button.
There is also support for homophones. Words such as ‘sea’ and see’, or ‘where’, ‘wear’ and ‘we’re’ are checked by looking for the matching picture. A comprehensive ‘List Manager’ provides the facility for control over word, picture and sound associations. You can create and edit your own word lists and add special effects, custom sounds or even another spoken language to a picture or a word! The package contains ready-made activities, environments and word banks as well as sequencing activities, non-fiction writing ideas and lists of rhyming words. These serve to both demonstrate the many powerful additional features and strengths of Inclusive Writer, as well as to provide further motivation and ideas for teachers. There is a handy tutorial and a very useful Help guide online, which includes a glossary of terms. Inclusive Writer – your primary word processing solution!