Enabling Technologies (Part 4). Google Docs and Chrome Extensions supporting Study Skills.

This article is 4th and final part of our series on built-in enabling tools, looking at a range of tools available through the Chrome browser.

If you type ‘Chrome Extensions for Dyslexia’ into Google you will be amazed how many extensions appear in the list alongside many more articles on the subject!  Making choices about which ones will work for all the different tasks you do when surfing the web is not easy.  Most apps and extensions work on Chromebooks from the Chrome browser.  You need to be logged in and online to go to the Chrome Web Store.

These extensions may be linked to desktop or mobile apps so you could find you do not need to learn new skills in order to use them.  For example if you use TextHelp Read and Write on your tablet or desktop computer you will recognise the way ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome’ works with web pages and common file types in Google Drive (including: Google Docs, PDF & ePub).

Texthelp Chrome extension

The free extension, is an add-on toolbar offering text highlighting with text to speech, translation and the ability to declutter a page to practice reading with a recording that can be shared with others.  You need to pay a subscription to use all the other features such as capturing notes and scan to read. This is also the case when using the ClaroSoftware ‘ClaroRead Chrome’ with the basic reading and text highlighting with access to paid features such as reading Microsoft online office documents, coloured overlays and word prediction.

If you are using Google docs you can use the built in speech recognition called “voice typing” found under the ‘Tools’ menu.  You will get a prompt to make sure your microphone is on and set the language to English UK, also checking the microphone icon is red before you start recording.  There are a host of other accessibility features including text to speech or screen reading when text is selected.  This feature can be turned on via your Google profile settings and you will see an Accessibility tab appearing above your Google doc.  Some features differ in the way they work depending on the version of Google docs and the operating system, so you may find you need a free extension such as Read Aloud that supports many languages and highlights the selected text in a pop up window.

Grammarly chrome extension

Grammarly is another free extension from a company that also offers premium online and desktop versions of their service.  The Chrome extension provides grammar and spell checking; with support from an ‘assistant’ that explains the mistakes. Write or copy and paste any English text into Grammarly’s Editor when you are working online and it will tell how long you were writing, the types of audience you may want to aim for as well as the writing style.  It does not work with Google docs.  You need to login and set up a profile that fits the style of your writing.  Grammarly uses wonders of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the fact that it gathers data from users and learns from your mistakes helps it to flag up your usual errors.  If you are in education, you may find the plagiarism checker useful (premium version only)

Microsoft offers an Android version of OneNote for Chrome books and there is an online version that works with the free OneNote Web Clipper extension.  This is handy for capturing entire pages, sections, articles, and images that can be saved directly into OneNote notebooks.  Useful when searching for things or need to know where something came from as the web address comes with the clip!

Dyslexia unscrambled extension

It can be hard to keep an eye on the extensions’ support area, but most developers have their own websites for example Avishaan Sethi, who made a very simple extension called ‘Dyslexia Unscrambled’ in 2014.  It turns the text on an accessible webpage to charcoal grey using the OpenDyslexic font with left alignment of the content.

Mercury Reader removes ads and generally declutters web pages leaving you with the text that can be changed into serif or sans serif font in a small, medium or large size with a background of black with white text or vice versa.   This is a really useful extension if you find you are distracted by all the images and banners presented on a page.

Settings within 'Mercury Reader for altering the font and colours

If you want to plan what you are going to write or just make graphical notes to revise work, it is possible to mind mapping skills with Connected Mind.  It is not as user friendly or robust as the desktop versions of mind mapping or even web versions such as MindMeister, but it works as an instant work around, saving files is free when you login.  Another way to revise interactively is to use Quizlet that provides endless flashcard study sets or you can create your own.  It also works with diagrams and images. You can import work from most Office docs and Goole docs and make easy tests.

Mind map in Connected Mind extension

The wonderful thing about apps and extensions is that you can try them and easily remove them if you do not like them.   So have fun and explore the Chrome Web Store for more ideas.

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