The updated version 3 of MyStudyBar from the Regional Support Centre – Scotland, is out for those of you looking for more options for students with difficulties in reading, writing and organizational skills. While this is not nearly as robust as Kurzweil 3000, it certainly has tools that can be easily utilized and is FREE, FREE, FREE. This version appears sleeker than its predecessor.
When installed (and I suggest that a flashdrive is the way to go for portability, independence and differentiation), a floating toolbar allows you handy access to 15 open source tools to support brainstorming, sticky notes, writing (including conversion to mp3 – Ha!) and vision screen tools for reading. And to think that I’ve been juggling an array of single apps.
Under Writing, Balabolka is a text-to-speech tool that can read files in MSWord, RTF, PDF, HTML. Once read, the program has an option to convert the text to mp3, wav, ogg, or wma. I can hear your wheels turning now — this means that your students can access their content via their mp3 players or ipods. If a piece of text is large, the program can split the recordings into section chapters. It does not come with a dictionary but one can be downloaded from the Balabolka website. Once installed and the program relaunched, you have the ability to change the pronunciation of words if they aren’t correct. Another win!
The Planning button shows a dropdown menu revealing a graphic organizer program like bubbl.us, a portable calendar (to keep those homework “to do’s”) and sticky notes for your desktop.
Xmind is a graphic organizer program that allows for visual connections and organization of thoughts. It has the ability to insert images, hyperlinks and offers a variety of graphic organizer structures. To save the created web (called a workbook), you will need an account with Xmind. However, you can export it as an image, html, or text to use in other work like Google Docs.
Hott Notes are sticky notes that you can use as reminders. They sit on your desktop while you work. For example, if you are working on writing piece, you can record a sticky note to yourself to focus on a particular writing element.
Sunbird Calendar is an interesting option as it provides an internal calendar for all those notes that students may forget to add in their planners. I’m not sure that this is better than having a google calendar (web-based) but could serve as another tool for students to organize their work and home life.
There is much here with MyStudyBar. Tell us what your experiences are with this little app. What else would you like to see included?