Saturday, March 8, 2008

Smart Talk (for ESL) for Intensive Special Needs

The Smart Talk is a learning device designed for ESL/ELL students. Basically you put a photo card into the Smart Talk and each of the three buttons lights up one at a time to guide you through hearing the word, hearing the definition of the word and hearing the function of the word.

My class received a Smart Talk as part of a Donors Choose grant focusing on vocabulary development. I thought the Smart Talk would be fun and very educational for some of my students who need lots of vocabulary development. I was surprised to learn its application when beyond that. The addition of the function of the word when you press the button is great for one of my students who is working on both putting words into sentences and understand broader definitions of words, like category and function. Something none of the press tells you about the Smart Talk which is also great is that on the reverse of each card is a smaller version of the same picture and the text of what each of the buttons says. My one student who is a second grade level reader loves reading the words on the card as the Smart Talk reads it. At the other end of the spectrum, one of my student even enjoys the Smart Talk for the cause and effect value of just pressing the buttons and hearing the speech.

Along with the Smart Talk we received all three boxes of photo cards, which is fantastic. The come in sturdy boxes, already divided into categories and color coded. My student who loves to tear paper was unable to rip the card he managed to hide away after using the Smart Talk to attempt o destroy later. He did manage to wrinkle it up pretty well.

I would love to see the makers of Smart Talk, or a company like Enabling Devices or Ablenet, adapt the Smart Talk and add switch jacks to each of the buttons and/or an option of scanning the three buttons with a single switch. Of course if you or someone you know has the skills you could do at the very least the addition of the three switch jacks yourself.

However a you could use the Linda Burkhart method of adapting a talking picture frame to make the smart talk more accessible by placing the bottom of the Smart Talk in a binder with a rubber bumper opposite the button you want pressed.

All that being said if you do make (or have some else make) the Smart Talk switch accessible you would still need a buddy to change the cards, perhaps when the Smart Talk user presses a voice output switch asking for the card to be changed. That could be fun.

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