Hear-and-see spellchecker

7th April 2000 at 01:00
KEYSPELL. Spellchecker program By Words Worldwide,tel: 020 8547 3419From pound;60 plus VAT

KeySpell is a comprehensive spelling checker which works under Windows independently or integrated into Word 7. Where it aims to differ from other spelling checker programs is by suiting the individual who is using it. This is done by allowing the user to aim the search for a "source word" at specific levels of difficulty or areas of interest.

KeySpell contains a 250,000-word dictionary (80,000 more than my Collins, half the size of the OED) which can be partitioned into 32 classifications, including 10 levels of difficulty. The first six are based on the Fred Schonell Spelling Guide, then come the Junior, Senior, Unusual and Obscure levels. An inexperienced writer could reduce the number of optional spellings by choosing a lower level.

The spelling mechanism is geared to support children and adults with specific learning difficulties as wel as containing features which could support users with a range of special needs. The program interprets spellings of words it "hears", through speech recognition. It is able then to speak out different words to the user allowing an audio, rather than visual, recognition. This has obvious use for visually impaired and unconfident readers and potential use alongside speech therapy.

KeySpell supports literacy strategy "word level" work with a "Phonix Window" which sounds out the phonemes of the source word (keeping appropriate "e"s silent). The "Concentrator Button" allows the user to fix letters they are confident of and intensify the search on letters they are not sure of. The Context Window provides Thesaurus type alternatives and provides contexts in which the word can be used. I can see many ways in which this program can be used to suppor differentiated activities.

Matthew Price is a primary teacher in East London

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