Wow! There was so much to look at this week, my mind is swimming! I had some trouble getting my rubrics into my blog, so here's an overview.
First, I installed the trial of Inspiration. My school actually uses this software, and has it installed on all computers in classrooms and the lab. I attended a PD training about it a few years ago, where I learned some of the many features included. The concept-mapping is wonderful, especially because you can change the format into notes and outlines to help visual learners transition to more formal writing assignments. Our school also uses Kidspiration (I think of it as a younger brother of Inspiration), which has many of the same features aimed toward a younger audience. I use this frequently as a first grade teacher. There are pre-made templates in science, math, reading, and more! It also allows teachers to create and save their own templates for all students to use. I love the text-to-speech, and so do my struggling and strong readers alike! All of my students have found some success with Kidspiration, and it can easily be adapted for a variety of abilities. Some students will simply drag pictures into appropriate categories, while others will include labels, sentences, notes, and more.
Kurzweil 3000 was completely new to me, which made experimenting with it rather exciting. It seemed to take just short of forever to install and set it up on my computer. It was worth it! I had fun playing with some of the things it can do. I like how it reads what you type, and then reads the sentence back naturally after you add punctuation. Even questions are read correctly! (I can imagine using this to show my young writers how their writing sounds. They read the words they WANT to say rather than what they actually write on the page.) I played with the different options for reading, like phrases, speeds, etc, and even threw in a few spelling errors to see what would happen (they were read phonetically). I also liked the definition, spell, and synonym features. I can only begin to imagine how many students at my school could benefit from this! The options to use the toolbar, create a new document, upload, or scan an existing document make it incredibly flexible. I even copied and pasted some lines of chat from gmail and it read them to me!
InfoEyes is a fabulous idea! I like how the service ensures a person can get the answers they need even if their own local library is closed at the time!
I plan to share the Windows demo page with my technology committee at school. This is something we can ALL do with little to no assistance, and few people know about it! I will recommend incorporating this into one of our PDs for staff, since all school computers use Windows. I'm not sure how much we would be allowed to do on the computers in the lab (unless we reset things after making a change), but this could be especially useful for a classroom computer station!
My software choices for my tech plan are on our class DB!