Learning From Tech Giants

Everyone would be familiar with the big names of Google and Apple – two out of a handful of giant tech corporations who are leading today’s information technology industry. The Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), like many other organisations, relies on a variety of their products for its daily operations and essential functions. Hence, when the valuable opportunity arose in recent years for our DAS EdTech team to network with and learn from these big names, it was a chance not to be missed.

DAS & Google Staff at the Google Office in MapleTree Business City

  1. GoogleServe: Train the Trainer @ Google

As part of their annual volunteering campaign, GoogleServe, Google invited our team over to their office for a professional development session on 4th June 2019. Representatives from other teams were also with us for this prized opportunity. It was undeniably a novel experience to have a tour around the Google premises, one of the most coveted offices due to its unconventional design, unique functional spaces and neat common areas.

Excitement aside, the Google staff had lined up a packed schedule of training for the DAS staff present. For the next three hours, the Google team demonstrated in detail the various features of the G Suite for Education (now known as the ‘Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals’) which would be relevant in our daily work.

Summary of Training Content

  • Google team gives a general introduction about G Suite:
    • Connect with your working groups wherever they are: Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet etc
    • Create everything you need to bring your project to life: Document Editors, Sites, App Maker etc
    • Control and access files and data more easily and securely: Drive, Cloud Search etc
  • How Google employees work with G Suite on their daily life
  • Everyone should know
      • Gmail/Calendar tip
      • Drive & Docs tips
      • Google Sites tips
      • Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet tips
      • Google Lens & Google Earth
    • Heavy User
      • Forms + Apps Scripts tips
      • App Maker tips
    • Education oriented
      • Google Classroom tips

Getting Inspired

There were a few new features that caught our attention and we had the pleasure of trying them out in the training room itself. We were inspired and brought back this knowledge to use them in our lessons. In particular, we were impressed with Google Lens, Google Earth & Google Classroom which were relatively new features then. With the training provided, it has helped us apply them in our classrooms where applicable. A special mention to Google Classroom – which has played a vital role in our online lessons during this pandemic, making it easier for teachers and students to learn online. Google Lens on the other hand, has helped students learn about things they see on the go. Lastly, Google Earth has enabled our students to ‘travel’ and explore some of the places mentioned in their reading comprehension texts. This makes it possible for them to better visualize what they are reading, hence improving their understanding of the text.

Here are some of the useful Google features for learning in the classroom:

  • Google Classroom
    • Draftbacks to watch student progress:Draftback creates a little time-lapse video so you can watch it unfold. You will be able to see if they copy and paste in large chunks of text, and you will also be able to watch collaborators at work!
    • Adding Materials:If you want to add ‘static’ materials or resources, use the Material option.
    • Adding Topics to Your Classwork Page:Click on Classwork -> Create -> Topic (Add the topic) . This will help organize your topics and help students to locate topics easily.

How to:

  • Google Lens
    • Scan & translate text:This allows you to translate text realtime, look up words or call a number.
    • Find a look:Find a pair of look-alike shoes, furniture, etc by taking pictures and searching the web. It shows you where you can purchase them as well.
    • Looking for plants & animals:This allows you to search for the plant or animal you just saw by taking a picture of it in Google Lens.

How to:

  • Google Earth
    • Explore the whole world:allow you to look at places in 3D view & allows us to visualize and analyze satellite images of our planet.

How to:

  1. Apple Training: Accessibility Features for Learners with Dyslexia

IPads are often used in DAS classrooms for the integration of edtech tools for they are multisensory, they enhance students’ motivation and reinforce learning objectives in a fun, interactive way. While most educational therapists or teachers are usually familiar with an assortment of reading, spelling or writing apps, many may be less acquainted with the in-built accessibility features in the iPad itself. These accessibility features can come in handy for learners with dyslexia particularly in helping them work around some of their difficulties, enabling them to perform work or daily routines more independently and quickly on the device.

In early June this year, the Apple SG team reached out to our DAS Edtech team to offer a training session on these iPad accessibility features. Conducted via Zoom on 1st June, our team of iReps spent a productive morning learning about and trying out these features together with Chris Meller, who is the Regional Trainer For Technical Programs at Apple. Although we were not able to be in each other’s physical presence, it was no less an enriching experience as Chris was very welcoming and clear in his demonstrations, guiding us patiently as we explored the features on our own device.

Here are some useful updates to iPad accessibility features for users with dyslexia:

  • Speech and Voice Functions
    • Text to speech:You can have the iPad speak the entire screen, or only a selected part of the text to help with reading difficulties.
    • Typing feedback:You can have the iPad speak as you type and configure it to speak characters, words, auto-corrections and so on.
    • Pronunciation:You can dictate or spell how you want certain phrases to be spoken which is particularly useful for varying accents or colloquial language.
    • Voice:Choose a voice and dialect you would like to hear.

How to:

  • Display Functions
    • Reader view on Safari:Hide ads and all other distractions for a much more improved reading experience! Do take note that this feature works on a page with articles only.
    • Display & text size:Adjust the text size, screen brightness, colour and contrast according to your preference. Useful for learners with colour blindness or Irlen Syndrome.
    • Magnifier:This feature allows you to zoom in on an object like a magnifying glass. You will also be able to adjust the image while zooming in. Do take note that you need to take a screenshot if you would like to save the image.

How to:

  • Keyboard Functions
    • Dictation:You can dictate text instead of typing it, including punctuations! This can help reduce fatigue from spelling or motor difficulties.
    • Swipe type:Type faster with one hand and with fewer errors, without lifting your finger. Simply swipe over the letters of the word. However, this feature is more useful if you are using the iPhone, or if you enable the miniature onscreen keyboard on the iPad as it will be tricky to swipe over the full-width iPad keyboard.
    • Predictive text:Let your device predict the next word you are typing. You can accept or reject the suggested words. Suggestions are smartly made based on your recent activity on your device or information from your apps.
    • Text replacement:Save time by using this feature to produce words or phrases you would commonly use, by typing just a few characters or abbreviations.

How to:
All of the above features are based on the iPad OS 14. Availability may vary depending on your iPad’s operating software version.

Other useful website links:

Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals
Webinar on Google Workspace for Education
Apple Accessibility for User
Apple Accessibility for Developers
How to use Apple accessibility features

Kalphna Chandrasegaran
Senior Educational Therapist & Edtech Facilitator
Bishan Learning Centre
Learn more about Kalphna!

Hakimah Nur Diniyah
Senior Educational Therapist & Edtech Facilitator
Bedok Learning Centre
Learn more about Hakimah!