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Kurzweil Education: A New Era Begins

KurzweilEducation_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

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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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Reading from Afar

 

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Written by Debby Frohbieter

Most grandparents want their grandchildren to live next door. We want the grandchildren close by so we can spoil them, then send them home when the damage is done. For me, though, I have to find other ways to maintain a relationship with my granddaughters, two and five, who live 2,000 miles away.

Technology is indispensable for this. My older granddaughter, Isabelle, and I Skype once a week. Since she’s barely five, it only takes a minute or two to have a conversation, so after hearing about what new moves she learned in dance and who she had a play date with, she and I read books together. If my dream world existed and Isabelle lived next door, I would be reading to her all the time, not only for my pleasure but to help instill a love for reading. I believe it’s vital to teach young children to love reading because without it, their world would be smaller and less interesting.

Isabelle and I each have a copy of the book we’re reading together and bookmark the page where we left off the previous week. Before we start to read, she settles on what sound I’m going to make to tell her to turn the page. (Boing is the favorite page-turning sound so far.) I read one or two chapters during each Skype session. Our first book was Adventures of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. Now we’re reading Angelina Ballerina’s Storybook Treasury. Next will be The Big Green Book of Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss. At the suggestion of an educator, we’re also going to read the David books by David Shannon and some Roald Dahl books. And I just sent Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren to read in the future. Isabelle wants to read Harry Potter but we’re going to put that off for a few years!

My granddaughter loves the time we spend reading and tells everyone she knows, and even some strangers, that she and her nana read books over Skype. I love this time with her and am so pleased I can contribute to Isabelle’s love for books. When her sister, Zoe, is older, she and I will read together, too. I can’t wait.


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Content Makes Challenging Close Reading Material a Breeze

close-reading-kurzweil3000fireflyFun Ways to Incorporate Media into a Close Reading Assignment

As an educator, how many times have you been surfing the net and found content (video, song, infographic) that you thought would be a fit for an assignment? The web is a rich resource for supplementing lessons with fun and informative add-ons. For close reading assignments, these additions can make challenging reading more accessible to students who struggle.

What is Close Reading?

According to A Close Look at Close Reading, close reading requires thoughtful, “critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc.” This is exactly the type of reading that can be perplexing for struggling students and those with dyslexia and ADHD. This is why tying fun and informative content to the reading assignment can be key for success.

Close Reading Can Be Fun

Suzanne Feit – with 35 years of experience with adaptive technologies – highlighted an easy way to use Kurzweil 3000-firefly to accomplish the above strategy in a recent webinar, Close Reading: How to Help Struggling Students Succeed with the New Educational StandardsWatch Suzanne’s webinar on-demand.

Here is how it works. Suzanne embedded a link of  They Might Be Giants: “Meet the Elements” YouTube video into a chemistry text that had been uploaded into Kurzweil 3000-firefly. The students completing the science reading assignment would engage in this media by clicking the embedded link at the appropraite point. They would then watch the quirky and amusing song song that is complementary to the lesson to deepen their comprehension of the elements in the periodic table. Take a look:

Take the Close Reading Lesson Further

close-reading-strategySuzanne was then able leverage the content of the video for the close reading assignment by creating a study guide and word bank based on the lyrics. After finding the lyrics online and copying and pasting them into a word document (that was then easily opened in Kurzweil 3000-firefly), she was able to identify the element names and block them out. This let her create an assignment based on the reading and the song in a matter of minutes. She also created a word bank that lists the names of the elements in a side window, allowing students to click and drag the words back into the blank spaces on the worksheet.

Sounds like a cool way to make close reading fun reading.

Watch Suzanne’s Close Reading Webinar On-demand

This is just one the many techniques Suzanne reviewed to help struggling students have fun with close reading. You can watch the full webinar on-demand to see more tips from Suzanne, or visit us online to learn how Kurzweil 3000-firefly supports the Common Core anchor standards.


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Top 9 Concepts for Teaching Reading, Writing and Study Skills

Teacher Assistive TechIf you could do only 3 things to teach your students to read, 3 things to teach them to write, and 3 things to develop their study skills, what would these be? I got the pleasure of checking out Scott Marfilius’ webinar on the Top 9 Concepts for Reading, Writing and Study Skills. Scott has more than 30 years of work in the field of cognitive and learning difficulties, so when I heard he was surveying his contacts to identify what they feel are key features for helping struggling students succeed, I knew the results would be a commendable list.

Here are Scott’s top 9 concepts framed within Kurzweil 3000-firefly:

Top 3 Tools for Reading

  1. Customizable Text-to-speech Aids Auditory Processing
    Different students process sound, pitch, tone and language differently. That is what’s great with Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s approach to audio files – they are totally customizable. You can turn it off completely, you can speed it, slow it down and there’s numerous voices to choose from. Some students will listen to pleasure reading at a faster rate because the can process the content faster than they would their biology text book. Teachers should check in with their students to know what they prefer for reading speed and voice.
  2. Visual Processing Enables Students to Connect with Textkurzweil3000firefly-new-highlight
    Just like with audio, visual information can be processed differently by different users. Too much visual change can make it hard for students to engage. Again, customization is key here. Kurzweil 3000-firefly controls visual components making it simpler for students to connect with the written word. An example of this is highlighting preferences. Students can follow along with highlighting features that can be tailored to highlight the individual word being read, the line or the entire sentence, based on preference.
  3. Interacting with Text Encourages Active or Close Reading
    Reading is not passive. Scott mentions that his nephew wouldn’t get excited if you read history to him. But when he learned he could access his favorite skateboard magazine in Kurzweil 3000-firefly, and have that content read to him, he became actively engaged. We don’t want students to just read text and not interact. Kurzweil 3000-firefly delivers study skills toolbar that make the content interactive. An example Scott cited included a school in New Jersey where the teachers have a process of turning headings into questions to get the students to engage.

Top 3 Tools for Study Skills

  1. Highlighting to Interact with TextK3000_Highlight_Extraction-to-Notes_2
    We mentioned highlighting as it applies to reading, it is also key for studying. Learning Information by highlighting words or phrases (whether these be names, facts or additional supporting information) call attention to where to focus learning. By highlighting electronically what they need to review later – students can save time and be more focused, not having to reread an entire document. Students also enjoy the ease of extracting highlighted text to create a study guide or a vocab list with a click of a mouse.Creating a review for studying for a particular exam has never been so easy. Students don’t even have to print materials out to carry home because when they are done, they can save it to their cloud library to access at school, home or the library.What is also easy with the vocab guide is the students don’t have to look up the definitions. Their highlighted words can be saved to a new document that automatically populates the meaning next to the word.
  2. Footnote and Voice Notes to Assist Student Thinking
    Students use Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s footnote tool to type in what they learned. But for those who struggle to write there is even a voice note option that through clicking easily creates and attaches an audio file.
  3. Side by Side Documents are More Productive
    This feature opens 2 documents using tile windows so students can read on one side of the screen (or have copy read to them) while taking notes or forming outlines in the other window. What makes this really appealing to students is the click and drag feature. Students who don’t like to type can just highlight text from one window and drag it into the other – making note taking a breeze.

Top 3 Tools for Writing

  1. Use Speech to Monitor Writing for Improved Results
    For students to proof their work, a reading spell check comes in handy. Many students don’t like the program to read their letters while generating text. Again, customization lets students tailor the word or sentence they want to hear. This not only keeps them engaged, but also allows them to identify misspelled words and grammar mistakes when the sentence is read back to them.
  2. Don’t Start with a Blank ScreenK3000_Brainstorming_Compare_Contrast
    85% of students try to write in final form. Teachers know that outlining before starting to write is a much better approach. Kurzweil 3000-firefly provides writing tools that can help the visually-minded student create a graphic to organize their thoughts, then automatically view these thoughts in an outline form.
  3. Writing Path and Writing Templates Guide Effective Writing
    Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s writing path can provide unsure students with instruction on where to go next with their writing assignment. Allowing them to cross check there efforts.Writing templates provided by Kurzweil 3000-firefly provides students with detailed notes for what they should include into the type of written assignment they are producing. For example, if they are putting together a persuasive paragraph, the solution will provide them with notes on the structure for what crafting a persuasive position.

Listen to Scott’s Webinar On-demand

Learn how to simplify your day, watch this free webinar now to learn more about Scott’s 9 concepts for reading, studying, and writing. You are invited to schedule a one-on-one demonstration with one of our consultants today.


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Dyslexia Doesn’t Go Away

I was Diagnosed with Dyslexia in the 3rd Grade

dyslexia_study-skills_kurzweilLearning disabilities always make life difficult for students who have them. I know firsthand how difficult having a learning disability can be. I was first diagnosed with dyslexia in 3rd grade, at which point I had a 1st grade reading and spelling level and a 2nd grade comprehension level. Even high school was very difficult but I was able to work my way through the challenges and actually graduate with honors. Before I left for college I was retested to see where my disability was at and, unfortunately, none of my levels had increased any since my first diagnosis back in 3rd grade.

Dyslexia Made College Seem Impossible

With this disability it made it seem almost impossible to try to take on the challenges of college, or the workforce for that matter, but I was lucky enough to be introduced to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), who in turn introduced me to an adaptive consultant who taught me about assistive technology. He introduced me to two programs —Kurzweil 3000-firefly and Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This experience might be one of the most significant events of my life. With the introduction of these two programs, my educational and personal experiences completely changed. Instead of going to grandparents’ and neighbors’ houses to get help with homework and have them read books to me, I was finally able to be independent and do much of my own homework without any additional support. After my 1st semester in college of using Kurzweil 3000-firefly and Dragon, I was able to obtain a 4.0.

Assistive Technology Helped with My Dyslexia

I realized that now that I had these tools, I could get involved in other aspects of college that I never believed would be available to someone like me who simply had to spend all their time on homework. The next semester I began joining social groups and networking clubs. The following semester I got a job and was able to work while going to school. By the time my final semester came, I was in 6 social groups and officer of 3, I was in the honors program for the University and taking honors classes, as well as carrying an 18 credit class load while still maintaining my grades and working between 35 and 40 hours a week. The technology didn’t only give me the flexibility to be independent and complete projects on my own, but it helped me develop confidence and strengthen the person I could be. In addition, the technology gave me the time to develop other aspects of my life like a traditional college student does by working and getting in social groups. After 3 ½ years I was able to graduate with honors from my university. At that time I chose to be retested before entering the workforce to make sure I knew where I was with my disability. After only 3 ½ years of using this technology I had increased my reading and spelling levels by two grade levels and had increased my comprehension capabilities by over 13 grade levels. And doing this all while not getting any additional individual remediation. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the software and would have never made it through college without these tools.

Helping Others Find Success Despite Dyslexia is My Passion

Now 11 ½ years after my original graduation for my undergraduate degree, I have dedicated my life to helping others like myself find the relief and strength that comes from having the right solutions in their lives. While working full-time for a technology consulting company called Adaptive Technology Resource in Wisconsin, I was able to get my Master’s degree at night and still graduate in the top 20% of my class, all the while using Kurzweil 3000-firefly. To this day, assistive technology is a big part of my life and I use Kurzweil on a daily basis to read all of my emails, do research on new products, produce and proof reports, and so many other features I couldn’t list them all.

If there are individuals out there who have the will and the desire to be successful in the face of diversity such as a learning disability, there are tools that can help them overcome their disability and allow them to be independent and successful. I truly feel like I’m living proof of that and never imagine my life without my assistive technology tools. In many ways these tools are like the best friend I never had growing up. They are always there for me and don’t judge me when I make mistakes.

Join Me for a Webinar to See how Kurzweil 3000-firefly Helps with Dyslexia

I would love to share my personal experience with you. Register for a free webinar on May 20th at 12:00 PM Eastern when I will show you how I use Kurzweil 3000-firefly in the workplace.

“Takin’ Care of Business” – Success in the Workplace Even with Print Disabilities
Tue., May 20th, 12:00 PM ET

Written by:
Nicholas Hanford, MBA
Manager, Educational Sales & Training
Adaptive Technology Resources, Inc.

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