Breme Write Right - The Schoolzone Assesment

Overview

Breme Write Right is a word processor/spellchecker specifically designed for people with dyslexia or with general poor spelling. The key to this product is the way that the built-in spellchecker operates. Words are checked against the database in a phonetic way. Thus typing “dubl” into Write Right brings up a list of possible words, which has “double” on it. To further aid weak spellers some of the listed words will have illustrations to help with identification of the correct word. Users can also listen to the words on the list which is an obvious boon to dyslexics. Additionally the program automatically detects similar sounding words like 'their' and 'there' as they are typed and immediately brings up a window illustrating alternative spellings and meanings.

The program can be tweaked to suit individual users. There are options to set the level of help provided, choose a voice to read text back and set up the retype function. This function means the user must retype the corrected word using the supplied correct spelling. This may be useful for poor spellers as it will reinforce the spelling rules, but most dyslexics, who find copying laborious and error prone, will turn this feature off. Users have a further option in that the colour of the background and the text can both be altered. Many dyslexics find certain colour combinations easier to work with and this caters for that facet.

The interface is simplified with fewer icons to search through on the tool bar. The “hints” that appear when the mouse hovers over an icon are also useful, with messages such as “align right” being replaced with the more straightforward “Makes the typing line up to the right”.

This program is extremely good value and many parents might wish to purchase a copy for home use. A free 30 day trial is available from the website www.bremesoftware.com

 

 

Assessment by

Colin Livingstone

Teacher (SEN)
18 May 2005

School responsibilities
Teacher (SEN)

Number of years teaching experience
10+

ICT experience

Experienced in office packages, SEN software and general maintainance programmes. I have installed software and hardware onto stand alone machines. I was involved in the Scottish Executive/
University of Edinburgh pilot for voice activated software.

 

Classroom use

Context
This product was installed onto the school network and accessed in the Support for Learners base. A variety of pupils from 12 - 16 used Write Right to complete homework tasks and classwork. In addition the software was used in a home environment with a mature student. All users were diagnosed with varying degrees of dyslexia and had all had at least basic computing skills. Write Right was used to produce homework essays and class work, and also for creative writing. Users spend varying periods of time on the program, ranging from 1 to 4 hours per week.
Labour saving aspects
The limited range of functions mean that Write Right is quicker to master than normal word processing packages such as Microsoft Word. Using the program to write reports or similar will be less time consuming than constantly redrafting hand written reports, with the consequent laborious process of spell checking via a dictionary.
Learning outcomes
There are no specific learning outcomes associated with this product. However it would be hoped that pupils improved their spelling skills, improved their word processing rates and skills, and bolstered their self-esteem. In addition pupils who adapt well to the program should become more independent in their working.
Student Response
All users were positive about Write Right, though the students who felt most positive were high achieving dyslexics who found the removal of the barrier to communication most useful. The longer they used the program the more positive they became, suggesting that reluctant users should be persuaded to persevere.

Students who felt less positively about the program were those who had other learning difficulties which weren't addressed by Write Right.

Special Needs

The whole rationale behind Write Right is to help dyslexics with the problems of spelling. The program allows users to select type and background colours to suit their specific requirements, and save these specifications for future use. There are a number of options to help reinforce spelling - users can elect to have to type the correct spelling of a word before it will be entered. This is possibly more suitable for common words than for words encountered on an occasional basis, but it is a useful option to have. To help users choose the correct word, pausing the mouse over a word in the spelling bank will cause it to be read out, with a (limited) choice of voice. In addition pictorial representations help pupils to choose correctly. This is particularly helpful when words sound the same but have different spellings (e.g. bear and bare).
Assessment and pupil tracking opportunities
The program can be set to save each error together with its chosen correction to a text (*.txt) file. The file will bear the same name as the piece in question and is saved to the same folder. This makes it possible to quantify improvement in performance, to allow pupils to monitor progress and to enable staff to work on recurring errors.


Design and navigation

Initially the layout may seem confusing, as it differs from the traditional MS Word appearance most users understand. To help users the icons have explanatory labels which appear and are read aloud when the mouse is paused over them. These are useful as they are written in a straightforward style - "Make the typing line up to the right" instead of "Align right" and "Load a picture" rather than "Insert picture". An auto save feature exists and files can be transferred that were originally written in MS Word. All the controls are accessed directly from the icons - there are no pop up menus with lots of further options. This makes the program easy to use, but this ease of use is traded off against the level of functionality. As a result Write Right is not suitable as a general word processor, but should be regarded specifically as a product designed for people who need comprehensive help with spelling problems.

Planning

Staff should set aside an hour or so to become familiar with the program, especially the help menus and settings. This is simply to be in a position to help new users get started with Write Right. Other than this initial user training there is no need for teacher intervention, and pupils should quickly become proficient.

Headphones should be made available on any PC which has Write Right installed - users will hear the words more clearly, and won't feel they are the centre of attention.

Schemes of work supported

Write Right is designed to help pupils across the curriculum, and consequently doesn't fit in to specific schemes of words. Where necessary words particular to a subject or topic can be added to the dictionary, although the initial dictionary is already comprehensive and sophisticated.

Literacy

The program is designed to help pupils with literacy difficulties. Navigation is simple and audio instructions and illustrations also assist users. The colour of the background and the text can be altered to the user's specifications. The spell checker works phonetically, maximising the success rate in locating the correct word. The option to have users retype the word correctly is also an aid to improved literacy. If users cannot locate the correct word it will remain highlighted, allowing a teacher or parent to review it later and correct. In addition the speed of the program’s spell checking function can be altered to suit slow typists, and prevent suggestions appearing before a word has been completed.

Ease of installation

The installation package is straightforward and self-explanatory. Once installed the CD is not required for operation.

When starting, the program suggests a switch to a higher resolution than set on the school network, but it works quite happily if this is not chosen.

The home use version had to be reinstalled after a month as a Run-time error 35600 prevented it opening. This is more likely to be a fault with the PC than the program. Once reinstalled it has operated trouble free.

Support materials

The CD-ROM comes with printed installation instructions and a brief overview of the program. In addition there is a help file on the disk, which can be loaded with the program on to your hard drive or kept on the CD to save space. The help file is accessed by clicking the Microsoft styled Help icon on the tool bar. This brings up five options. As an aid to poor spellers the icon changes over each option (help, about, quick tips, preview help and registration help) to guide users to the correct choice. The Help section is all on one page so users can scroll up/down to find articles. A hyper linked picture of the program in operation lets users click on the section they need help with. As an additional aid the relevant text is read out when selected. Although a little awkward at first this soon becomes intuitive, and its benefits for dyslexics are clear.

Suitable for ages
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18