Free Tools to Help with Organization and Writing

Balaboka – Balaboka is “Chatter” in Russian. And that is so true.  In addition to being a simple word processor, it also can handle text-to-speech.  The voices it uses are dependent on the voices installed on your system. There are some free voices available, which can be downloaded and installed on your system.  It’s free but works only on Windows (all version).

It is also one of two text-to-speech programs I know about which have a free option to convert the text to an audio file.  There are a number of export formats available, including WAV, MP3, WMA, and OGG among others.

Lingoes –  Lingoes is a dictionary program which runs in the background.  By “hovering” over a word, pressing a key stroke(s), a popup window will show the pronunciation, the part of speech and the definition  A speaker icon is shown so you can hear the word spoken and have the definition read aloud.

XMind – XMind is a free open-source mind mapping program.  There are a number of templates, some for education and several for business.  You can view yourr topic in a mind map view, outline and in the free version – export to an RTF file for use in a word processor.

LibreOffice– LibreOffice is a free open-source office suite.  It contains a word processor (Write), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation program (Impress), a database program (Base), a drawing program (Draw) and an equation editor (Math)

Zotero – Zotero is a research tool which allows you capture information.  It allows you to capture and store your research information into a searchable database  You can collect, organize, cite and share your research sources.  Zotero captures the information needed for bibliography and citations.  It can handle MLA, APA and numerous other citation styles. There are add-ins to integrate Zotero with Microsoft Word and LibreOffice.

Bruces Unusual Typing Wizard – Bruces Unusual Typing Wizard is a simple program to teach touch typing.   With a number of practice lessons and skill test, the program teaches the QWERTY keyboard. There is also a small game to reinforce the lessons in a fun way.

Windows Speech Recognition (WSR) – Windows Speech Recognition (Speech to Text) is part of the Windows Operating System.  It has been available since Windows Vista.  It does require an external microphone (USB preferred) and a minimal amount of training.  You can control the entire computer using your voice with basic commands.  It obviously integrates with MS Word.  It is also helpful to have a knowledge of the keystroke commands.

But Wait, There’s More 😊

All of the programs can be installed on a PC with a minimal amount of resources.  Even better, with the exception of WSR, they can be installed on a portable device such as a USB Drive.

June 2017 US Disability Unemployment Rates

June 2017

4.3% Unemployment No Disability

8.9% Disability Unemployment

30.9% Not in Labor Force – No Disability

79.3% Not in Labor Force – With Disability

16.0% Teenage Unemployment Rate

June 2016

4.8%  Unemployment No Disability

12.1% Disability Unemployment

31.0% Not in Labor Force – No Disability

79.4% Not in Labor Force – With Disability

19.2% Teenage Unemployment Rate

 

Tables A-1 and A-6 Bureau of Labor Statistics (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t06.htm

15-20% Persons with LD

Further Thoughts on Math Sequencing and Dyslexia Part 3g – High Tech Note Taking Utensils

Laptop

Choose a laptop that meets your needs – try the keyboard by typing a short document. In math and science courses, look at either a built in or usb numeric keypad.
For taking Pictures of the board when the lecturer is wiring formulas – a front facing camera (selfies don’t go the lecture review much good).
Look for adequate battery life – will it last through at least two back-to-back lectures without dying?
Number of USB ports – probably at least four
External microphone – most built-in laptop microphones are totally inadequate
Digital Recorder

Ease of use – optimally look for single handed operation
Features – Ability to index/bookmark, fast forward, variable speed playback, USB connectability
Size – portability and weight can be a huge factor if you’re also carrying a tome of books
Need for external microphone – test it in a classroom environment to see if it’s necessary. It might also be possible to have the recorder place with the lecturer or closer to the podium.

LiveScribe Pen

Review the different models – at the high end, you might not need the Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity
Here’s a comparison sheet for the different Livescribe models
Ensure you have sufficient quantities of either purchased or printed Livescribe paper.
Make a habit of keeping your pen charged.

 

Tablet

If you’re taking notes, a keyboard is a must.
Be familiar with the operating system and keyboard shortcuts
Make a habit of keeping your tablet charged.
If you plan to use the tablet to record, test it,
Make sure you have a front facing camera
Know how to backup to your preferred system, whether it’s the cloud or another device.
If you’re using a touchscreen, make sure you have stylus pen

SmartPhone

Have the appropriate apps loaded and up-to-date
Be familiar with their usage
If recording, check to see if an external microphone is needed
Make a habit of keeping your smartphone charged
Know how to use the front facing feature of the camera
Know how to offload your recording/notes – smartphones have a limited amount of storage

Further Thoughts on Math Sequencing and Dyslexia Part 3h – Low Tech Media

Simple paper – if you use a spiral bound notebook for different classes, ensure that you have the correct one with you. As a personal preference, I prefer three hole punch paper. This permits me to also place any handout received along with the class notes.

For copying and writing math formulas, I find that unlined paper works best. If you are creating a mindmap, you definitely want unlined or at least a graph type paper.

Write only on one side when taking notes. If when reviewing the notes there are additional annotations, they can be made on the blank side of the turned sheet. It’s possible to overlook material written on the back of a sheet when reviewing

Number each page – sequence is important.

If using a pen, ensure that the ink won’t smear or smudge as you write

Further Thoughts on Math Sequencing and Dyslexia Part 3g – High Tech Note Taking

Develop a system for taking notes. As obvious as it seems, make sure electronics are charged or the batteries are fresh. Just in case, have a charger with you and get a seat near an electrical outlet. In older classrooms, plugs may be at a premium so having your own plug you can share with others. Oh, and make sure they’re TURNED ON when the lecture starts.

Be proficient with the software or device(s) you’re using. Practice in a non-threatening environment, using your camera, digital recorder

Then review the topic the instructor is covering that day. If you’re outlining, a pre-prepared topic sheet with plenty of blank space will allow you take adequate notes. If the instructor hands out a topic sheet at the beginning of class, use that for your basic outline.

If you’re creating a visual map, you can follow the same steps as the outline; review the material beforehand and use any written materials the instructor may provide as a guide for your map.

Listen and condense what the instructor is saying – Don’t attempt to write everything verbatim

Use special abbreviations for terms that will help you speed up the physical note taking process. If you’re using a word processor, learn how to use autocorrect to expand repeated expressions. If you’re not using a word processor – look for an app that has the same functionality.

Stick to keywords and very short sentences

If taking an academic class, look for key phrases

Sit up front so if there are formulas or solutions written on the board, you can get a clear picture with whatever camera device you’re using. It will also improve the audio quality if you’re recording the lecture.

Dictater Adds Controls to Your Mac’s Text To Speech Function

Not being a iOS person (don’t own or know how to operate Apple products) I have to take this report at face value.

Dicater is an add-on app to extend the functionality of the Text to Speech function in Mac’s.BY adding the interface, the user can now pause, play, fast-forward and rewind. The most significant control, especially for those with learning disabilities, is the “Teleprompter” control.

This control adds tracking or highlighting of the words as spoken, adding a visual cue to the audio. There is a setting to font color and size. The default voice can also be changed to any other voice already installed on the system.

Dictater can be found here – http://nosrac.github.io/Dictater/

www.nptraining.net

Further Thoughts on Math Sequencing and Dyslexia Part 3f – Low Tech Note Taking

Develop a system for taking notes. As obvious as it seems, make sure your pencils are sharp and your ink pens actually have ink and you have the correct notebook or writing medium (lined/unlined paper)…etc.

Then review the topic the instructor is covering that day. If you’re outlining, a pre-prepared topic sheet with plenty of blank space will allow you take adequate notes. If the instructor hands out a topic sheet at the beginning of class, use that for your basic outline.

If you’re creating a visual map, you can follow the same steps as the outline; review the material beforehand and use any written materials the instructor may provide as a guide for your map.

Listen and condense what the instructor is saying – Don’t attempt to write everything verbatim

Use special abbreviations for terms that will help you speed up the physical note taking process.

Stick to keywords and very short sentences

If taking an academic class, look for key phrases

Sit up front so if there are formulas or solutions written on the board, you can copy them correctly

Further Thoughts on Math Sequencing and Dyslexia Part 3e – Linear vs Visual Note Taking

Linear vs Visual Note Taking

In both types of systems, during the note taking process, the verbiage should be concise – not an attempt for a transcription. Additional elaboration can occur during the post-lecture review of the notes.

Linear note taking is the process of writing down information in the order in which you receive it. The most taught technique is the outline. Starting with a main topic, indenting for a subtopic and additional indents to further layer. In traditional outlining systems, The main topics are indicated by Roman Numerals, with subtopics indented and changing to Arabic numeric, Uppercase Characters and Lowercase Characters.

Linear notes are quick and relatively straightforward to produce and reproduce. For this reason they are often used for recording information at meetings, lectures and talks.

Visual Note Taking is the process of mapping notes to resemble a tree and branch structure with ideas (lines) radiating from the main topic. It is good for visual learners and making visual connections.

Use of color to emphasize different concepts and important points can enhance the visual learners learning process.