www.kurzweiledu.com • Retail Prices: Kurzweil 3000-firefly Web license 1 year, 1 user, $700; 2-9 users, $400 per license; 10-29 users, $200 per license; 30 users, $3,000; site and school-wide use, $4,000.
Products available in the Kurzweil 3000 (K3000) family include standalone and Web-license versions for Windows and Mac, and a network version for Windows servers. With K3000 Web, you also get a free subscription to firefly, an online application available to any licensed user with Internet access or the free firefly iPad app.
Quality and Effectiveness: K3000 is designed to benefit users of all skills and abilities, particularly those with dyslexia or dysgraphia who struggle with reading and writing, or those who prefer audio access to digital text. It also benefits English Language Learners. Important new features include several high-quality, a capella, text-to- speech voices, the ability to provide text-to-speech output in 18 languages and dialects, and support for the EPUB file format. It also includes a picture dictionary with 12,000 Widgit images, representing more than 40,000 words, templates for reading and writing, and provision for Tier 2 academic vocabulary.
Ease of Use: Schools can install the Web version of K3000-firefly on multiple computers. K3000 tools work only from within the program. K3000 does its best to simplify program use and make its features easily accessible.
Creative Use of Technology: K3000 is a robust program with many tools for teachers and students. For example, during scanning, teachers will appreciate the fact that K3000 is “smart” enough to understand the layout of a typical classroom handout. If the document has captions, sidebars, and graphics, K3000 notes each block of text in its own numbered reading zone. With features such as “Speak as Typing” and “Customize Color,” selected digital text can be converted into an audio file. An “Extract Notes and Highlighted Text” feature allows students to capture all notes and highlights for review or use in another program. For students who need visual cues for reinforcement, there are highlighters and text magnification features as words are spoken.
Suitability for Use in a School Environment: The award-winning Kurzweil program is still the only Electronic Text Reader allowed for the high-stakes Massachusetts comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests in ELA Composition, mathematics, and science and technology/ engineering. Yet there are other reasons why this software suite enhances student learning throughout the United States. Developed from the ground up with Universal Design for Learning principles in mind, the Kurzweil program offers multi-modal access to curriculum materials. Any digital text can be read aloud or converted to a sound file for later use. It also features dictionary lookup and translation support for multiple languages. While translations are not always perfect, the program does a pretty good job of translating most words.
• Uncluttered toolbars provide easy access to program features.
• Program tools can be customized to meet the needs of individual users.
• Companion firefly application enables students to read text aloud from several different browsers and to open, annotate, and have read aloud several types of digital documents from any computer with Internet access.
OVERALL RATING: While no digital technology can teach users to read and write, some digital tools can lend a helping instructional hand. With K3000’s comprehensive tool suite, students can access a host of audio, visual, and text-based tools to support independent, self-paced, reading and writing.