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Get Writing with Kurzweil 3000-firefly Writing Templates

Written by Suzanne Feit

KurzweilEdu_New-Writing-TemplatesThe hardest part about writing a blog, for me, is organizing my thoughts into a logical sequence that support my topic. I imagine this is true for many writers. When thinking about writing a blog on Kurzweil 3000-firefly Writing Templates, I decided to use a template to begin. With 10 new writing templates added with the latest software release, there are now close to 30 template choices. I chose Persuasive Paragraph.

I can easily change from Brainstorm to Outline to Draft which allows me to think about my subtopics and the structure of my writing.

It is amazing how the writing process has evolved

KurzweilEdu_Graphic-OrganizerYears ago, teachers said we had to turn in our outline to show our writing process. Many of us would write the report and then figure out what the outline might have looked like. It was not easy to move backwards. And with paper and pencil, it was even more difficult to insert ideas sequentially when a brilliant idea was missed and everything had to be erased to make room to insert the idea. I never understood how anyone could know ahead of time how to organize their ideas. I found that the more I got into a topic, the more I realized that an idea needed to be introduced earlier or expanded.

With Kurzweil 3000-firefly, writing becomes child’s play

You can open a template and see the writing prompts and explanations of each step. The program encourages you to work in small increment s to develop your thoughts. It’s easy to go back and edit. By clicking the yellow Writing Toolbar icons, you can quickly view the Brainstorm, Outline and Draft of your topic. The last step is, Review Checklist. This encourages the writer to re-read and edit their writing. This can also be customized by the teacher to include any additional writing rubrics.

Built-in supports encourage independent writing, with improved results

KurzweilEdu_Writing-SupportsIt is a huge advantage to utilize the Kurzweil 3000-firefly talking spell checker, word predictor, and word vocabulary lists extracted from any reading passage. Having ready-to-use writing templates that support the writing process is very empowering. There is a NEW set of brainstorming templates to help teachers structure lesson plans aligned to common core and UDL. And, teachers can create their own templates. The reading and writing tools found in Kurzweil 3000-firefly are powerful tools that not only support the student with learning challenges, but can be used every day for whole class instruction to guide the reading and writing process.

Did you know?

A new Tier 2 vocabulary list was added to Kurzweil 3000-firefly with the latest release? Watch a free, on-demand webinar with Jim Burke to hear his strategy behind this academic vocabulary list.
Help Your Students Develop an Academic Vocabulary: An Effortless Solution

About the guest speaker: Jim Burke, an English teacher at Burlingame High School. Jim is the author of more than 20 books, including The Common Core Companion series and The English Teacher’s Companion.

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Which is the Best Voice for Text-to-Speech?

Written by Suzanne Feit

KurzweilEdu_text-to-speech_confidenceHow do you learn? Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner? Do you take advantage of close captioning? There are many factors to learning. Within any inclusive classroom there are students who learn and process information very differently. How can we meet the needs of all learners?

Research studies have explored the efficacy of text-to-speech. They have found that students who take advantage of the text-to-speech strategy are more confident in their learning and are more likely to pursue higher education1. They have also found that these text-to-speech programs are most effective when they promote independence by providing features that help the struggling reader access text and can easily be customized to meet the specific needs of the reader. The most successful text-to-speech programs introduce this strategy at an early age, before the student has struggled and experienced failure.

Up until 3rd grade, students are taught to read. After 3rd grade, the content is more complex and students read to learn. What happens to our students who understand but can’t independently read the text? The way people process text can range from just reading to just listening. In between these two approaches are many variables. Educatinal sofA tool such as Kurzweil 3000-firefly, allows the student to choose the method that best meets his/her needs. It can read out loud using a variety of voices, it can read at various speeds and has the ability to group text into sentences, paragraphs, words or even read just the highlighted text. Kurzweil can help your students not only have access to the text, but also give them easy ways to customize that access. If the student doesn’t know the meaning of a word, a definition can be read out loud. If the student is writing and needs support, there are options like listening to a list of synonyms. Kurzweil 3000-firefly users can now choose from a variety of Acapela voices. They should select the voice that is best. Do you know which voice is best? The answer is simple, the one that the student prefers!

KurzweilEdu_text-to-speech_ipadKurzweil 3000-firefly has over 25 Acapela voices, which current customers can install through the latest update. Each voice is different and can interpret and read content with meaning and emotion. The voices are grouped into North and South American, European and non-US voices. Within each set of voices there is often a choice of male or female. Using natural sounding, high-quality text-to-speech voices, Kurzweil 3000-firefly enables students to access text that is at or even beyond their independent reading proficiency. As a result, English Language Learners and students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, are able to read at a higher level than they could independently and achieve success alongside their peers.

Are You Reading to Your Students?

We often visit classrooms and hear that teachers are reading the textbooks and tests to their students with print disabilities. Teachers who read out loud often read at about 140 words per minute. Is this the way you read? In reality, when proficient readers read text silently, they often read a complex passage more slowly than they would when reading out loud, or they go back and re-read a sentence or paragraph several times until they understand the content. When an aide or teacher is reading text to the student, it is very rare that the student will ask the aide or teacher to re-read the sentence or define a word. When we visit the classroom of today, we see many students from different nationalities. Sometimes the local pronunciation or inflection by the reader can also cause a misunderstanding by the student.

By using the Acapela voices in Kurzweil 3000-firefly, the student can access the same voice and pacing wherever they are; whether they are in the classroom, the library, or at home. In addition, when the text or definitions are in another language, there are voices that read in that language with the correct pronunciation. Those same voices are also used when items are translated using the Translate button in Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

When asking Kurzweil 3000-firefly users how they decide which voice is their favorite, I frequently hear they choose a female voice when their teacher is a woman or a male voice when their teacher is a man. Sometimes, they just choose a voice in the range that sounds best to them. They might also choose to slow down the reading speed if the content is more complex, or speed it up if they are reading relatively simple content. Some students even use different voices for different subjects to help with recollection.

Installing the Acapela Voices

When you install or update to Kurzweil 3000-firefly, be sure to follow the instructions to also download ALL the wonderful Acapela voices that are only available with the latest version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly. The voices are FREE and the human-like voices really enhance text access and the reading experience for your students. They also give you the simple option of choosing the voice that’s best for your student.

1Text-to-Speech Use to Improve Reading of High School Struggling Readers

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Bookshare is now accessible directly through Kurzweil 3000-firefly!

Written by Suzanne Feit

Imagine what it’s like when you have to wait for your teacher to read the textbook to you. Or, you have to wait for mom to finish dinner and the dishes before she has time to read the most popular books to you? What happens when it’s time for the class to review the history chapter and you can’t review it by yourself? And, what can you do when the textbook is not available in PDF and it might take days to find someone to cut the binding and scan the book for you to have access to it?

Why should you, a bright learner, be kept behind because you struggle with decoding or processing and need more time and exposure to the text? What do you do if you can’t decode a word? Do you skip the passage and pretend to understand?

One truly accessible solution is Bookshare.org

Bookshare’s mission is to ensure that all individuals with print disabilities have equal and timely access to print materials. This is a growing online library of over 280,000 titles that is FREE to students with print disabilities. Once a student has qualified for Bookshare then access through Kurzweil 3000-firefly is a breeze. Visit the Bookshare website at www.bookshare.org to learn how to qualify for a membership.

Did you know that you can open Bookshare Texts Directly into Kurzweil 3000-firefly?

You can easily download your books directly into Kurzweil 3000 software installed directly on your computer. Simply, open Kurzweil 3000, go to the Online menu and select Search for Books. Enter the author, title or ISBN number and your Bookshare user name and password. The books are downloaded and saved to your computer. You can save this file to your Universal Library and access through the web-based firefly application at www.FireflyByKurzweil.com or through your firefly iPad App. At this time you can import directly into Kurzweil 3000 with an individual Bookshare account. Using a group account, simply download the book from Bookshare and then open it through Kurzweil 3000 and save to Universal Library in the respective student’s account.

New to the firefly Web-based Application?

The web-based application, firefly, now has a button named Open a File From Bookshare! This button allows you to search by Author or Title and the book is placed into your Recently Opened folder. Logging into www.FireflyByKurzweil.com, this file can be moved to any location by using a Right-Click and selecting Copy and then opening any folder in your Universal Library and selecting Paste.

Once the text is in Kurzweil 3000-firefly, you can save chapters, add bookmarks and take advantage of all the other wonderful Study Skills tools within the program—and access the eBook through Kurzweil 3000 software installed on your computer or by logging into www.FireflyByKurzweil.com. Often districts and individual students have a Bookshare account but they think they need many other tools to access these files. Now with Kurzweil 3000-firefly, all the reading,  comprehension, writing and testing tools are available in this one application.

Universal Library Really Means Easy Access

Any Bookshare file in the Universal library can be accessed from Kurzweil 3000, www.FireflyByKurzweil.com or the firefly iPad App. In addition, using Kurzweil 3000-firefly allows you to save any file as an audio file for additional access.

Now all students can have the same opportunities to independently read, listen and access their textbooks and leisure reading books.

We invite you to learn more about Bookshare and Kurzweil 3000-firefly by watching our recorded webinar
Bookshare & Kurzweil 3000-firefly: The Dynamic Duo!


How Can You Prepare for the Influx of Immigrant Students?


How Did We Get Here? Background on Our New ELL Students

Across the nation school districts have received record numbers of immigrant unaccompanied minors within the last few months. An unaccompanied minor is any student who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian when they arrive in the United States. Students who are escaping violent conditions in Central America have arrived in every part of the country from Alaska to Alabama. Even those districts that are familiar with providing academic support to large numbers of English Language Learners are struggling to meet the needs of this new population of students. Although many are simply classified as English Language Learners or new arrivals, unaccompanied minors often have limited literacy and school experiences in their native language and typically do not come with the proper immunizations, financial backing, or familial supports.

On every news channel the discussions range from how to stop students from arriving to how can we provide stable homes for them; fortunately individual opinions on this crisis really don’t matter. Regardless of students’ immigration or citizenship status, under federal law students must receive equal access to a public education. The question we must all ask is: How do I support these students in the classroom?

What Steps Can Be Taken to Support These New ELL Students?

While this population of students may come to school with a variety of challenges there are two actions that can be taken immediately to help recent arrivals succeed in American schools.

1. Lower the Affective Filter for Immigrant ELL Students

Most students are coming from tough situations, which involve trauma, abuse and unspeakable violence. Before students can learn, they must let their guard down, feel at ease and embrace their new learning environment. Providing students with a low anxiety classroom environment where they feel safe to learn, are respected by and feel comfortable with their peers and teachers is the best way to include students in the classroom and school community. Knowing that their progress and success matters, students will be open to all the opportunities that education in the United States has to offer.

You would be surprised how technology helps to bridge both relationships and learning! Students hovered around an iPad or a computer highlighting the words they can read themselves or using the bilingual dictionary to make meaning of a simple sentence helps make these connections.

2. Provide Creative, Flexible Options for ELL Students to Access Content

Many students in this population have limited formal education, and will not be use to or benefit from “sit and get” lectures or traditional worksheet paper and pencil assignments. These methods don’t get your students excited or motivated to learn the language and the content. Using advanced educational software, like Kurweil 3000-firefly, provides students with the opportunity to acquire core academic skills in a variety of content areas in a multitude of ways. Because teachers can upload their course content to Kurzweil 3000-firefly‘s cloud library, the software provides the flexibility needed to provide supplementary materials closer to the students’ instructional level. Every student will not begin at the same level, however when we start with them where they are, you will be able to move them to where they need to be! Reading and comprehension features, such text-to-speech in over 18 languages and dialects, visually tracks words bringing the content alive while supporting vocabulary development and content knowledge. Read more about reading, comprehension, writing and testing with Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

Technology Can Help

With the growing number of students arriving from all over the world, we must each be prepared to meet these students’ needs. Kurweil 3000-firefly technology provides the supports and flexibility needed to reach each student from newcomer to advanced levels. Don’t take action because it’s a federal mandate, but because we your daily work in the classroom will provide our students with the opportunity to make choices in their future, instead of it being chosen for them.

Join us during the below free webinars, or download a free trial, to learn how technology can support the growing number of ELL students.

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Kurzweil Education: A New Era Begins


The change from summer to fall often marks the time of great change. A time of new beginnings. As the summer of 2014 begins the transition to fall, it is clear that change has been in the air here at Kurzweil Education.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but our name has changed to reflect our reinvigorated efforts towards the learners and educators we’re honored to serve. Kurzweil Educational Systems is now Kurzweil Education. You may ask, “What’s in a name?” Our answer would be, “Quite a lot, actually!” The Kurzweil name itself carries better than thirty years of positive results for those we serve, dating back to the first reading machine created by Ray Kurzweil in the late 70’s. Of course, the core of our focus is education, so we couldn’t leave that out. However, with change in the air, it was time for fresh start here at the old, new Kurzweil Education.

In some ways change is what we strive for, changing people’s lives. When students and teachers share their stories about the difference Kurzweil Education makes for them, you hear the power of transformation, the newfound confidence that comes with literacy success, and the personal pride in achievement. We are proud that our technology changes lives. Today and for the future, we are embarking on a new era of service, support and innovation—one that enables real learning to happen and helps unlock each learner’s unique potential.

KurzweilEdu_new-releaseEarlier this summer, as the weather really shifted into high gear, we released updates to Kurzweil 3000-firefly. In all, there were more than forty enhancements in one update! From thirty new voices representing eighteen languages to academic vocabulary lists to updated dictionaries, it is all about enhancing learning for the users of our products. Whether that learning be for educational, professional, or personal purposes, we are single-mindedly driven to bring the very best solutions and tools to learners anytime, anywhere.

As summer gives way completely to the fall and winter months, stay tuned as firefly and the iPad app continue their metamorphoses into full-fledged solutions for reading, comprehending, and demonstrating knowledge; through enhancements to existing features and the addition of new tools to support change in our user’s lives, which will continue into the future. These are, indeed, very exciting times at Kurzweil Education.

Tune in as you prepare for the back-to-school season to learn more about how we spent our summer break!

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It’s Here! Meet the Latest Version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly


Close to 40 updates were made to Kurzweil 3000 for Windows, Macintosh and the web-based firefly. While Kurzweil 3000-firefly users have had access to many of these enhancements with monthly updates, as part of their on-going subscription, users of only Kurzweil 3000 will now have the opportunity to upgrade their software starting today. Contact us for more details on the latest version or call 1-800-894-5374.

What Does “Close to 40 Updates” Include?
Kurzweil 3000-firefly has been updated to provide an enhanced experience for both students and educators. It is now easier than ever to provide support for students throughout the entire learning process—both in the classroom and at home. Here are some of the new features added to further enhance the overall experience.

Enhanced Reading Experience

    • Readers will enjoy the highest-quality, Acapela Text-to-Speech voices—with options from English to Spanish to Canadian French, and many more. Hear the difference, get a free trial.
    • Learners can access text in graphics or images with the Image Reader tool
    • Students with Dyslexia will have an easier time reading and writing with newly added OpenDyslexic Font, a research-based font that can also help with comprehension

Deeper Student Comprehension

    • American Heritage dictionaries were upgraded to the latest version to provide the most accurate and up-to-date references available
    • 12,000 Picture Dictionary graphics from Widgit were added; representing over 40,000 words helping students develop a deeper understanding of word meaning
    • Updates to Vocabulary Study Guides enable a “click creation” of vocabulary lists with associated definitions, also supports bilingual dictionaries (French, German, Italian, Spanish)
    • Expanded built in dictionaries, translation support and vocabulary lists help complex text comprehension

Enriched Writing Supports

    • 10 New Writing Templates assist with organization
    • Updates to Word Prediction will enable struggling spellers or non-touch typists to write more in less time, and help them to demonstrate command of the English Language
    • Academic Vocabulary List, built in to the Word Prediction tools will facilitate the use of higher level vocabulary in written assignments

| Learn about the latest version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly

What does this mean for current Kurzweil 3000-firefly subscription customers?
The great news is that you have had access to many of these updates since your subscription started. As a subscription customer, you receive new features at no cost as they become available, often every month! A DVD with these updates has already been mailed to you to ensure you have the latest edition for the 2014-2015 school year. Visit our website for a list of complete features for Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

| Join us for a free webinar tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET to learn about these latest updates. Additional webinars will be held July 22nd and July 29th. 

If you have an older version of Kurzweil 3000 what should you do?
Contact us! We would be happy schedule a one-on-one webinar to show you some of these new features and work with you to determine the best solution to fit the needs of your students. Learn more about the latest edition of Kurzweil 3000 and Kurzweil 3000-firefly for schools.

Success Starts Here!
Sign-up sign-up for a 30-Day free trial today, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to learn about the latest details of the new version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

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Are You Compliant with Proposed SPED Regulations?

new-criteria-SPEDThe U.S. Education Department is calling for increased oversight of special education with hopes to improve academic success of students with disabilities. New criteria will focus on outcomes as a way to determine if states are “doing enough.”

“Compliance with procedural requirements . . . is important, but it is not enough,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan explains. “It’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math at a level sufficient to graduate from high school.” (Washington Post)

How will the Department of Education Measure Outcomes?
The department of education has developed a complex matrix to determine if states are in compliance. One of these factors is how well students with disabilities score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Additional factors include:

  • Standardized test scores
  • Gap in test scores between students in general education and special education
  • High school graduation rates

What Effect Does this Have on Schools?
New stringent regulations for educating special-needs students reduces number of states (jurisdictions) in compliance from 38 to 15. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that although states are in compliance, they fail to allow access for students with special needs (emphasizing ADHD and dyslexia) to a robust curriculum. In addition, more rigorous standards will be applied that will impact future funding.

What Steps Can Schools Take to Help Their Students AND Maintain Compliance?
The first step is to ensure all students have access to the supports they need to succeed. This can be an especially daunting task considering the diversity and varying learning needs in today’s classrooms. Technology can help. Based on the principals of Universal Design for Learning, Kurzweil 3000-firefly is a cost-effective solution to help educators meet the many needs of all students.

    • Built-in tools for reading, comprehension, and demonstration of knowledge enable all students to learn from the same materials as their peers
    • Web-based and computer installed software provides anywhere, anytime access to materials and promotes independent learning in the classroom and at home
    • Usage reporting provides visibility and helps educators to make informed instructional decisions
    • Centralized and flexible user management, combined with a cloud-based library, allow educators to focus on what matters most—their students

Take the First Step
Contact us today to learn why thousands of educators across the U.S. — and worldwide — are choosing Kurzweil 3000-firefly as a cost-effective solution for helping their students become independent learners and achieve academic success.


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