Here is my comparison of three AT Software programs:
Software name: Inspiration
Company: Inspiration Software, Inc., founded in 1982, mission is to provide software that increase visual thinking and learning
Cost: Ranges from $70 for a single license to $895 for 20 licenses
Features: Allows students to plan assignments by graphic organizers, concept maps, webs, and idea maps
Pros:Has on-demand training videos, improves writing proficiency, helps students visualize difficult concepts
Cons: This technology would not be helpful to the blind or visually impaired.
Software name: Kurzweil 3000,a comprehensive reading, writing and learning software solution for any struggling reader, including individuals with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder or those who are English Language Learners.
Company: Kurzweil Educational Systems, leading developer of reading technology for people with learning difficulties and those who are blind or visually impaired.
Cost:$395-$2695 (1-5 learning stations)
Features:can access any information, reads to students in a human-like voice, provides visual and auditory feedback, includes highlighting, text circle tools, bookmarks, voice notes,has audible spell checker
Pros: can access info. whether it is printed, electronic, or on the web,increases reading fluency, and teaches study skills
Software name: ICommunicator
Company: Interactive Solutions, Inc. (ISI), a subsidiary of Teltronics, Inc. since 1999.
Cost: $6500 with significant cost for annual support and upgrades
Features: Converts speech to text, speech/text to video sign language and speech/text into a computer-generated voice for those who are hard of hearing or deaf, built-in dictionary/thesaurus
Pros: enables the deaf to attend regular classes without a translator and independently communicate with others, encourages increased literacy, etc.
Con: very expensive
How can I implement technology in my school or library?
From working on my tech plan, it is apparent that implementing technology in a school library or in any setting should involve thorough planning. Collaboration and leadership are key to the process of implementing AT. I don't think that a SLMS should try to do this on their own, but need support and input from many different people. This idea is suggested in Jurkowski when the process of forming a tech planning committee is discussed. I would do a lot of research, visit other schools who are using AT, and discuss the needs of the district with many teachers, IT specialists, and with representatives from hardware and software companies. I think that to implement AT effectively, I would adopt hardware and software a little at a time and on a trial basis before purchasing a bunch of equipment.