Leveling the Playing Field and Feeling ‘Normal’ in the Classroom
Software Enables Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Students to Overcome Writing Hurdles and Advance Skills
QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY, MD—When you’re in middle school the last thing you want to do is stick out among your classmates. It’s hard enough when most everything you say and do feels awkward. Imagine then sitting in a classroom with 25 students and being the only student who requires an adult assistant to sit with you and help you write your assignment-yeah, right.
For Christina Schindler, a special education teacher specialist in the Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS), helping students not stick out is part of her job. One of the means that Schindler employs to help students in the classroom is WordQ, assistive technology software that supports writers regardless of their needs and ability.
“WordQ is effective because students can discreetly use it, get a tremendous amount of support and not feel singled out for special assistance,” Schindler said. “Using WordQ also helps create a sense of independence for students. The students feel that they have more control of their writing and don’t need to rely on others to help them.”
WordQ is a learning tool that levels the playing field in the classroom for all students-regardless of their needs. It allows students to work on the same assignments, at the same pace with the same expectations, building student confidence as writing skills progress. WordQ was created by goQ Software (goQsoftware.com) and there are millions of users worldwide.
“I recently introduced WordQ to my students who have the scribe accommodation. I am always looking for ways to make them more independent writers and I’ve found it with WordQ,” said Patricia Muller, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Centreville Middle School. “It’s been absolutely amazing. Students who struggle putting ideas together into complete thoughts are now doing it. They are not writing perfectly but they are writing more than they have written all year and what they are writing makes sense.”
The WordQ elegance is in its simplicity. It can be used with most any word processing software and uses word prediction technology that makes smart word suggestions with every letter the student types. WordQ is also text reading software that helps writers proofread their work. High quality text to speech reads aloud everything that has been typed so the writer can hear any spelling or grammar issues that may not have been seen.
“WordQ + SpeakQ is a bridge for the disconnect between ability and knowledge and performance that we see a lot with kids and individuals,” said Neil MacGregor, vice president for learner development with goQ Software.”Students can listen to the text and proofread their own writing. At the same time, they can get assistance spelling complicated words through sophisticated word predication, which is similar to but more advanced than what you find on your cell phone.”
“It helps me with my reading disabilities and helps me with revising essays,” said Centreville Middle School student Evan Donahue. “I put periods in and understand how to make sentences and paragraphs make sense.”
“It helps me spell words I didn’t know,” said CMS student Zach Duncan. “The prediction box also helps me put the words into my sentences that I can’t find.”
Schindler said that when students read back aloud what they wrote they often read what they meant to write, not what they actually wrote. WordQ reads back what they wrote and students can make accurate adjustments. Writing for them is less of a challenge and less frustrating.
“Hopefully, with this new confidence and independence, their skills will increase and they will not be so hesitant to write,” Muller added. “The best part is that they are in control and don’t have to rely on anyone to help them. Because I think hearing one’s writing read back is such a powerful tool, I plan to train all my students on Word Q next year.”
Based on recent state test scores, the QACPS is one of the top performing school districts in Maryland. According to Schindler, QACPS has adopted a universal design learning model which emphasizes student inclusion in the classroom. They are using WordQ across the county in all schools through district licensing. District licensing enables WordQ to be installed on every computer in every school. Now all students can access the program, so there is no stigma of using something different. WordQ is seen as a new software tool for all students in the county thus supporting the district’s UDL initiative.
Of the approximately 7,800 students in the district 933 have been identified as having special learning needs-nearly 12 percent. On average, these students spend about 90 percent of their school day in traditional classrooms (the national average is 50 percent). One key to their success in an integrated classroom is their ability to not stand out, not appear different, to feel normal. WordQ has helped these students do just that.
About goQ Software: Used by millions of people worldwide, WordQ + SpeakQ is the first and only integrated word prediction and speech recognition tools available. WordQ + SpeakQ is assistive technology that discreetly and seamlessly integrates with any writing application. From Word to Facebook, email to Twitter, WordQ + SpeakQ helps writers of any age or skill level communicate efficiently and effectively-it is a uniquely personal experience. WordQ + SpeakQ is distributed in the United States by goQ Software which is located in Dover, NH. More information is available at goQSoftware.com
About QACPS: Queen Anne’s County Public Schools serves approximately 7,800 students in Queen Anne’s County, a mostly rural county in Maryland located across the Chesapeake Bay from the more famous cities of Annapolis and Baltimore. Agriculture and aquaculture are the primary sources of income in the county with a population of around 47,000 people. It is one of the fastest growing counties in Maryland.
While relatively small, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools ranks very high among the 23 counties of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. In the most recent State-wide Tests QACPS Elementary School students ranked first in reading, first in math and third in science. Middle School students came in fourth in reading and fifth in science.
And at the High School Level, 11th grade student achievement exceeded performance targets in all areas of Algebra, Biology, English and Government.
Queen Anne’s County Public Schools recently received national recognition as being one of the best systems in the U.S. based on Return on Educational Investment by the American Progress Institute.
Part of the reason QACPS students do so well can be attributed to the system’s use of innovative technology, such as WordQ and the dedication and efforts of their educators willing to make the effort to see that all students have every opportunity to excel. More information is available at: qacps.schoolwires.net