Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group Presents
Meredith College Offers WYNN to ALL Students
Belief in Universal Design Leads College to Load WYNN on every Freshman’s Laptop
“Colleges and universities are ‘the new frontier, in terms of access to education’ for students with learning differences,” said George Jesien, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, in the September 22nd edition of the Wall Street Journal.
With special needs students applying to colleges at more than five times the rate of the 1980s, it is particularly interesting to see how U.S. colleges and universities are addressing the requirements of these potential students. By federal law, public schools must create an Individual Education Plan, IEP, to tailor instruction in order to provide an appropriate education for any student with special needs. At the college level, the legal requirement is only to provide “reasonable accommodations.”
What are “reasonable accommodations?” That assessment is up to the individual college or university. According to a guide from The Princeton Review, there are three levels of commitment to students with disabilities.
- The Basic Plan – self-directed or decentralized programs offering limited accommodations such as untimed testing or note-taking help. Most colleges and universities that admit students with disabilities fall into this category.
- The Coordinated Services Plan – at least one trained staff member whose duties may include input on admissions, provide study-skills classes, tutors, and other services. For an example, visit Meredith College in Raleigh, NC.
- The Structured, Proactive Plan – offer modified coursework, trained staff members, monitor student progress; might require student to sign contract. For an example, visit The University of Arizona’s Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques (SALT) Center
Meredith’s Reading Technology Pilot
We here at WYNNing Word recently had the opportunity to visit Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. We met three wonderfully dedicated people from the Offices of Disabilities Services who are ardently working to enhance the learning of all students at Meredith.
Jill Trianna, Cheryl Todd, and Crystal Burwell truly believe in the school’s philosophy, “We strive to create an accessible community at Meredith, where people are judged on their abilities, not their disabilities.”
Jill Trianna, told us, “Disability Services provides Reading Technology, sometimes called text-to-speech software, to our students. Disability Services offers many options for students who want or require their texts in an audio format. This software is useful for students with and without disabilities as it proves to enhance comprehension of any print material required for class. This concept is referred to as Universal Design.”
Jill Trianna, Coordinator of Disability Services and Assistant Director of Counseling Center, and Cheryl Todd, Campus Computing Specialist, worked to procure funds through a diversity grant to develop a Reading Technology pilot (1) to orient participants to the purpose and benefits of reading technology (RT), (2) to train participants to use the RT programs effectively and efficiently, and (3) to obtain feedback about RT programs from participants in order to guide future RT funding and availability.
Once the funding was received, a committee was formed to choose the programs to be used in the pilot. The committee was looking for ease of interface, variety of useful tools, and programs that fit into the concept of Universal Design. WYNN and another reading software program were chosen.
Jill, Cheryl, and Crystal Burwell, Disability Counselor, went to all the Instructional Technology classes to introduce the software programs and provide the training necessary for students to be proficient with the tools offered by the programs. The participants in these classes were students with and without disabilities. They were asked to enroll in the RT pilot’s Blackboard course to complete training modules for both programs, use the software in the Learning Technology Lab, and then post their comments to a discussion board. Finally, they were required to complete a survey after the pilot had been completed.
WYNN Impresses Students
“I think WYNN is very easy to use. The toolbars with images makes finding what you need really accessible.”
“I really like the highlight option on WYNN, It helps me get through my readings faster and most of the time I retain more information by using this software.”
“I really like the highlight option in WYNN. I could see this as very beneficial for studying. The auditory feature of hearing the text being read to you could play a huge part for students who need that kind of learning,”
“I think this is amazing technology, and I look forward to using it for the remainder of my time at Meredith.”
“I like that this program will read the book to you because I learn better hearing then me reading it to myself. I am able to concentrate better when I have to listen to someone talking outloud.”
“One thing I really like is the highlight toolbar option. I always highlight my work when I am reading to help me know what I feel is the most important in my reading,”
“I do think that it is an excellent learning tool.”
After reading comments such as these, the committee ascertained that WYNN was the reading technology that Meredith College would like to use to enhance their Universal Design options at the school.
WYNN Installed on Student Laptops
The pilot stimulated such excitement and enthusiasm amongst the students that Jill, Cheryl, and Crystal knew they had to find a way to make WYNN available to all students at Meredith College. So the team approached Jeff Howlett. Jeff is Meredith’s Chief Information Officer and sits on two technology-related committees. Jill says that since coming to Meredith, Jeff has been a huge advocate for their efforts towards incorporating Universal Design into the curriculum. After reviewing the results of the pilot study, Jeff was able to see the importance of having WYNN available to all students. He agreed that WYNN should become a part of the standard software load on Meredith laptops.
As a result of the Reading Technology pilot and the efforts of Jeff and Cheryl, WYNN is now part of Meredith’s Laptop Program. It is installed on every laptop that is issued to each incoming freshman and every returning junior. Each student also gets a printer/scanner. To insure the successful use of WYNN, the Offices of Disabilities Services had initiated a variety of opportunities to familiarize students with WYNN:
- Posted WYNN availability on the Meredith Web site
- Trained Residence Student Technology Assistants who help students in the dorms
- Posted training modules on Meredith’s Blackboard
- Sent e-mails to students to inform them about WYNN’s tools
- Opened online communications with Crystal to answer questions
- Weekly training sessions available with Crystal Burwell at the Counseling Center
- Info and training is part of Meredith’s First Year Experience Classes
- Visiting Instructional Technology Classes to encourage future teachers to become familiar with how WYNN may help their potential students.
In order to have accountability, students must access WYNN through Blackboard and complete an exit survey at the end of the semester. This tracking will provide important feedback as to which populations are using WYNN, how students are using the software, and how the school can extend the use of WYNN in the future.
Although it is too early to draw conclusions, Jill, Cheryl, and Crystal are very encouraged by the number of requests they have had for information, training, and downloading WYNN. They tell us WYNN is drawing more requests than any other software they have offered to students in the past!
We are very excited to see the dedication of this college staff to the concept of Universal Design. It is quite impressive to observe this wonderful example of leadership in the enhancement of learning for all students at the college level.
Our hats off to you!
Keep an Eye on the News
We have included some links that will give you more information about the disability services provided at Meredith College.
Please visit the following links for general information when choosing a college for a special needs student.
Tip of the Month
If you have received WYNN training and plan to teach WYNN to your teachers in group sessions, we suggest this helpful option.
Use our Training Video CD on a large screen or whiteboard so that you can isolate a particular aspect of WYNN for in-depth training! Have WYNN open while you are projecting the video. Using the ALT and TAB keys (hold ALT and press TAB), you can switch between the CD and WYNN. So if you are focusing on Reading Styles Toolbars, you can switch from the CD to WYNN and demonstrate these tools in real time. If the participants have WYNN open on their desktops, they can practice along with the presenter.
This same procedure of working with both the training CD and WYNN can be followed by individuals working independently to learn WYNN or to refresh their current knowledge of WYNN’s tools.
The WYNN Training Video modules cover the following topics:
- Introduction to WYNN
- Reading Styles Toolbar
- Study Tools – Parts 1, 2, and 3
- Spell Check and Homophones
- Freedom Import Printer
- Internet – Parts 1 and 2
The CD is $35.
To order the CD, please contact Loni Atton, Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group, toll free at 800-444-4443, extension 1032.
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About Freedom Scientific LSG
Freedom Scientific, Learning Systems Group provides products that are acclaimed for
their easy-to-use interface, innovative technology, and flexible but powerful features. Designed by educational experts to enhance the learning process for struggling students, WYNN provides reading and writing solutions. Freedom Scientific LSG also created TestTalker, which provides test-taking preparations and worksheet completion. To find out more about our products, please visit us at www.freedomscientific.com/lsg.