Research has shown that students who hear the teacher clearly perform significantly better on academic achievement tests. The TR-37 Portable Transmitter from Audio Enhancement allows instructors to communicate directly with students who are carrying portable receivers. The transmitter has audio inputs for both microphone and line (i.e., TV, VCR, CD player); the two sources also can be mixed. The unit operates in the FCC-approved band of 72 to 76 MHz, providing 37 channels of monaural audio. Instructors may clip the transmitter onto a belt, slip it into their pocket or wear it on a neck strap. Resembling a Walkman, the AE-6 Receiver features six pre-set channels, enabling students to easily move between classes or listen to presentations in different languages. The AE-6 uses two standard AA batteries and suits indoor or outdoor applications. Audio Enhancement, Riverton, UT, (800) 383-9362, www.audi'enhancement.com.
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Of course, to succeed in school students also need to be able to communicate back to the teacher. Sentient Systems specializes in making products for individuals who cannot speak. The DynaVox 2 and 2c Augmentative Communication Devices replace the traditional keyboard with a ìtouch-screenî display that leads one through a natural message-formation process. The durable, flat unit offers infrared capabilities for greater independence. With DynaVox software (Mac or DOS), teachers can customize communication pages using any combination of symbols, letters, words or sentences. For example, during a lesson on food, a student could point to various words / icons to indicate they like hot dogs, chicken, iced tea, etc. Sold separately, DigiTalk software serves as a starting point by teaching basic vocabulary and simple communication. Accessories include a padded carrying case and wheelchair mounting system. Sentient Systems Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, (800) 344-1778, www.sentient-sys.com.
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A lower-cost alternative, IntelliKeys from RJ Cooper & Associates can be programmed to work in conjunction with the firm's Spell-A-Word and Point To Pictures software programs. Large, colorful buttons, arranged alphabetically, remove the frustration of searching for keys. IntelliKeys connects to any Apple II, Mac or Windows computer. Another input device, the Switch-Adapted Mouse (SAM) lets students who lack hand coordination to control cursor movement and clicking with others parts of their body. SAM combines a trackball and switches, and plugs into standard ports. RJ Cooper & Associates, Dana Point, CA, (800) RJ-COOPER, www.rjcooper.com.
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Finally, Kurzweil Educational Systems (KESI) manufactures PC-based "reading machines" for the blind, visually impaired and learning disabled. The Omni 1000 converts printed words into speech using optical character recognition and AT&T's FlexTalk speech synthesis technology. Students can select one of 14 different reading personalities -- male, female, child or adult. At the press of a button, the unit speaks or spells words, scans text, defines unfamiliar words, adjusts speaking volume and speed, and more. The Omni 1000 integrates a Pentium processor, RAM, hard disk, CD-ROM drive, floppy drive, sound card, keypad and flat-bed color scanner. Another model, the Omni 3000 also scans images for visual reinforcement. Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., Waltham, MA, (800) 894-KESI, www.kurzweiledu.com.
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For more information, Scantron Quality Computers publishes a Special Needs Software and Hardware Catalog that lists technology products appropriate for the classroom. To request the catalog, call (800) 777-3642 or visit www.sqc.com.
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This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.