Literacy software made free for students

BY JOSIE GERESZEK
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Read&Write Gold, an application designed to help students as they work, highlighting, reading text aloud and featuring numerous other actions, has been made available free of charge for all MSUM students. The software includes support tools for reading, writing, test taking, research and self editing skills.

“Read&Write is a universal application designed as a learning software piece,” said  Maribeth Plankers, clinical supervisor of speech language hearing sciences. “It’s basically a toolbar that can be used for reading, writing and research.”

This is done through the offering of numerous pre-set features students can choose from: All, Reading, Writing and Study Skills and Research, as well as a customizable My Features option. Throughout the program, there are more than 25 tools students can use to create individualized applications.

The toolbar, which users can choose to make floating or docked, works with applications familiar to students, such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Reader, Safari, the Cloud and several others. It allows for access not only on PCs and Macs, but mobile devices as well.

Although the program is typically used to help students struggling with reading and writing, those with related learning disabilities and English Language Learners, Plankers said the app can be useful to every student. She said the software was a worthy addition to MSUM because the school had set out to find accessible instructional material which could teach to all learners, regardless of skill level and need.

The research component, she said, is perhaps the greatest benefit, as it helps a student to organize, create bibliographies in various formats, and visualize findings in the form of fact finders, folders and mappers.

Although it’s available to students and faculty free, the software isn’t cheap. According to Planker, a student could spend $595 to gain access to the toolbar through one independent user license. So it’s good news the expenditure was made through a grant. This has helped MSUM and NDSU, which has also gained access to the program, blaze the way of homework help in secondary education.

“It’s probably still at this point more prevalent in school settings from elementary up to high school, but we’re starting to see more secondary schools getting it,” Plankers said. “It’s really worth your time, especially with the amount of rigor for writing so many college courses have. I don’t think there’s any other software on the market like it.”

There are currently four labs on campus offering the program and a fifth will open in the library when construction has been completed. There is also a home version which can be accessed by any student or faculty member at MSUM. The service is available for download via MSUM’s instructional technology services page and is listed as Read&Write Gold.

Plankers said it is being made accessible to every student because it can be useful to every student. “This is not just for those who struggle, this is for all students.”

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