Assistive Technology To The Notetaking Rescue

In an educational context, assistive technology refers to software, apps or equipment that helps those with learning or attention differences perform better. This can be students with slower processing speed, working memory deficits, graphomotor delays, language-based learning disabilities, organizational challenges, anxiety or ADHD.

With notetaking in particular, these students often struggle once the volume and speed of material increases. For many, this does not happen until junior year of high school or even not until in college.

If your student struggles with notetaking, consider having them try one of the apps or tools listed below. They will likely benefit and, once in college, they will be happy to already be familiar with the technology.

Note that some of the tools that record a lecture will have to be approved by the school and teacher or professor. But they are becoming more and more common and receiving approval, especially if your child has a diagnosed learning disability, anxiety or ADHD.

There are just a few weeks of summer left so this is a good time to investigate any tools, technology or additional support that will help your student level the playing field once they return to school!
Five best apps / tools to help with notetaking
Free or low-cost assistive technology software, websites and apps to help with notetaking
MassMatch Assistive Technology Regional Center: Offices in Boston and Worcester
This free program for individuals with a disability has samples of equipment and will loan them out for a trial period at home. There is a searchable inventory and, as of now, they have several smart pens to loan.

Make Plans to Avoid the Summer Slide

Unfortunately, the “Summer Slide” is not a dance. It's a term used by educators to describe the very real phenomenon of students losing academic ground over the summer as they use their brains less vigorously. For students who plan to take the SAT or ACT later this summer or in the fall, or who want to start off strong in their classes, the Summer Slide can put them at a disadvantage.
So here’s an easy remedy: Read! 
Encourage your children (of all ages) to read as much as they can. Some may already have assigned reading from school, but reading can also take the form of pleasure novels, magazines, etc. What matters is that they read regularly.
Some students may also benefit from starting up with math or writing tutoring later in the summer to review what they learned last spring and preview what is coming in the fall. Those who struggle with organization and study skills may benefit from work with an academic coach as well.

For those motivated to work on their own, here are a few ideas/resources:
Khan Academy: You may know that Khan Academy now offers free SAT prep. It’s also a great place for students to work on various topics in math, science, computing, humanities, art, and economics.
Free Rice: Free Rice is a terrific site that also covers a wide range of subjects (math, vocabulary and grammar, sciences, humanities, geography, foreign languages, etc.). It is fun to use and correct answers donate grains of rice to third world countries!
Explore Interests: Summer is a perfect time to have your child try something new and discover what they are good at, what they like, and what they hate. Whether it is a part-time job, volunteering, or a home-based project, everyone should be doing something in the summer that will help them learn more about themselves as well as build responsibility, independence, and self-confidence. Your child may need your encouragement if they have not yet found something to dive into on their own.
Job shadow: Summer is a good time to have discussions about what your child finds interesting and then seek out an opportunity for them to do some shadowing to learn about a particular field. Try asking friends and neighbors if your child can spend a few hours at their workplace.
Finally, for rising seniors, there is college prep work to be done!

  • Complete a list of colleges to apply to in the fall / winter
  • Schedule additional college visits as needed
  • Prep for and schedule interviews as appropriate
  • Decide if additional testing is needed (if so, schedule summer or fall tests and continue test prep)
  • July – Complete the personal statement for the Common Application
  • July – Complete an Activity Resume if you have multiple extracurricular activities to highlight.
  • August – Fill out the Common Application and upload the personal statement
  • August – Look for any supplemental essays that your colleges have posted.

Believe me, come this fall, your child will be very happy to have completed this work in the summer! (You will be too.)

Which Numbers Matter Most?

For high school students, spring is a time filled with testing: SAT/ ACT and subject tests, AP exams, and end of year assessments, to name just a few.

Those going to college are all too aware of these scores – along with their respective GPAs – and how these match up with their peers. Unfortunately, not all students end up feeling good about these numbers.

The good news, though, is that these numbers are not as important as we once thought (especially those related to IQ). Yes, it is helpful to know which areas may be challenging so proper support can be provided, but there is no need to dwell on this.

Research has shown that social/emotional skills and character traits that can be taught are incredibly important for success in life.

I have seen it over and over – some students do much better in school than they “should,” based on what their testing indicates. Many go on to shine even more when they can put school behind them and gravitate toward their strengths.

It is their passion, perseverance, interpersonal skills and integrity that often makes the difference. These skills can be taught and continue to develop as students mature. Thankfully, colleges have started paying more attention to evidence of these “soft skills” in their applicants.

I have mentioned before a book that speaks to this researchGrit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth.

Recently, I listened to a Podcast with more stories on this topic. Very hopeful!
What’s Not on the Test” on the Hidden Brain podcast series by NPR. (May 13, 2019 edition)

Many students that have struggled throughout their school years have had to work harder and have learned to bounce back from multiple disappointments. As hard as that is, it is what will make college and working life easier to navigate, compared to those who have not experienced failure along the way.

So, while the testing numbers mentioned earlier do have some value, here are additional “stats” worth paying attention to:

  • How often has a student bounced back from a setback?
  • How often has a student been a loyal friend?
  • How often has a student pushed him/herself to stick with a difficult topic?
  • How often has a student realized he/she needed help and been willing to ask for support?
  • How often has a student found an area of interest and pursued it, even if it is not a traditional, “put-it-on-a-resume” activity?

In this season of test scores, let’s all keep the numbers in perspective and keep plowing ahead with helping to develop successful and happy people!