Friday, March 11, 2005

I can Read! ASL to English: A Software Program

Initially, I found the name and a brief review of this software program at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center website, located at http://clerccenter2.gallaudet.edu/stg/STGTitle.asp?RecID=431.

However, further research led me to more information regarding the software at this website: http://www.deafsoftware.com/cdroms.html.

I was extremely drawn to this piece of software from the get go, because last semester in my graduate course, Designing a Technology Rich Curriculum, at the University of Florida, I partook in a personal endeavor to create a similar concept using Mediator. I wrote a story, took pictures relating to the story, and then filmed my sister signing the story. I created an electronic storybook using Mediator that would allow deaf and hard of hearing students to independently read through the story, but if they came across a word they did not understand they could click on the word and a video would pop up of my sister signing that word for them. I was extremely pleased with the end product, but found limitations in that it cannot be uploaded to the web with the video components. Therefore, right now, it can only be read on a computer with Mediator (at least read to its full potential!).

With that in mind, my initial review of the software, I can Read! ASL to English, serves a highly similar function at a low cost, and with the software in hand the program can be run on a computer at home or in school! The current stories are definitely directed toward younger students, geared toward primary level children who are learning to read. However, the site does mention the possibility of software in the future directed at a slightly older crowd! Furthermore, in addition to allowing students to see a video of the sign of a word (or whole sentence) they do not know, it also provides interactive quizzes at the end of each story that emphasize key vocabulary found within the text. Students complete tasks such as matching the name of words to pictures (very low key and contains little pressure).

Although I have never actually seen this program, on the outskirts it appears to have very positive characteristics in assisting deaf and hard of hearing students in literacy development, while at the same time developing a sense of reading independently. Many times deaf and hard of hearing students lack decoding strategies many hearing students posses, and this leads to them needing assistance when they come across a word they do not know. This program takes that constant assistnace away and allows them to develop a self-confidence in being able to read independently. In addition, students can run the entire program independently at home or in the classroom. The program is self directed allowing studnets to choose the story and guide themselves through the storybook. If used at home, this program could be a great way to get parents involved. It is low in cost and seems to be high in ease of usability. Many deaf and hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents, many of whom do not sign. This program could be used as a great bridge to home and school because its interactiveness and ease of video accessibility could allow parents to read a storybook with their children and possibly learn a few signs at the same time! I am sure there are drawbacks to the program not seen in the reviews, but an overall look at the software, I can Read! ASL to English, it appears to be an extremely beneficial program....I might have to purchase a copy so I can check it out further and see for myself its true benefits!

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