Digital Transitions #3: Editing Tech Skills & Activities

It is close to the end of the school year, which means test taking time.   Many students who are visually impaired or blind were given online, adaptive assessments; for many students, this year (2015-2016 school year) was the first year to take ‘paperless’ assessments.  In our 21st Century classrooms, students are using 1:1 technology throughout the day to complete assignments and accessibility of educational materials and online assessments is improving.  Dr. Langley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Washington State School for the Blind, administered the online MAP growth assessments to her students for the first time in the fall of 2015.  Dr. Langley shared, “The online assessment identified not only content knowledgeable, but also the students’ tech skills, showing which tech skills the students need to learn or improve on.”

Educators, administrators and students have participated in numerous discussions about online assessments and the tech skills that students need to successfully complete these assessments.  The vast majority of students who use screen readers demonstrate age-appropriate general tech skills and are successfully using basic commands to complete tasks such as reading, writing, emailing, and searching the Internet.  Navigating through the test questions was not an issue.  However, some students were not familiar with the more advanced tech skills required to successfully complete language arts questions that dealt with identifying punctuation, grammar and spelling errors.  Many students – especially those who have 1:1 devices and who use their technology to complete daily assignments – demonstrated strong tech skills.  There were some students who demonstrated gaps in their tech skills – many of these students use technology for some tasks but were not using technology to complete daily writing assignments.  This Digital Transitions post will focus on activities to strengthen tech skills related to editing. 

Editing – and the more advanced navigational shortcut commands necessary to efficiently edit –has been identified as an area where some students need more training.  This post is specifically geared for younger students using an iPad running VoiceOver.  However, the same activities can be done with computers or other tablets and any age-appropriate Word worksheets can be substituted for older students.

iPad Settings

First, make sure that the desired features are set.

  • Typing Feedback:  Especially for students who are learning to write, spell and/or keyboard, it is often beneficial to hear each character or word as the student types.  To change the Typing Feedback, go to:

Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Typing Feedback > then choose Software Keyboard (for the on-screen keyboard) or Hardware Keyboard (for paired Bluetooth keyboard).  The options are: Nothing, Characters, Words or Characters & Words. 

For most writers, select Characters & Words.

  • Rotor Settings:  The rotor is available only when VO is on.  For editing purposes, be sure that Characters, Words, Lines, Speaking Rate and Punctuation are all checked.  To select items in the Rotor, go to:

Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor then check Characters, Words, Lines, Speaking Rate and Punctuation*

*Typically, punctuation is set to Some Punctuation.  However, when checking for punctuation errors, use the rotor to change Punctuation to All Punctuation. See Punctuation Errors below for more details.

  • Auto-Correction:  Auto-correction is when you misspell a word and it is automatically corrected. When taking tests – especially spelling tests – auto-correction must be turned off.

Settings > General > Keyboard then turn off Auto Correction

  • Spell Checker: Spell Check is different than auto-correct.  When a word is misspelled, the misspelled word is indicated by a red line (and VoiceOver should announce ‘misspelled’). When taking most tests, spell check must be turned off.

Settings > General > Keyboard then turn off Spell Check

Spelling Errors

Remember, auto-correct and spell checker are typically turned off when taking tests.  If taking a classroom quiz or test, the student should know how to turn off these settings.  Often, the teacher will then lockdown the iPad so that the student can only access the test (and not the Internet, books, study guides, etc.) Some testing apps will automatically restrict the student to that app during a test.  When taking online assessments, the assessment typically locks the student’s device during the assessment.

When looking for spelling errors, students who use screen readers often listen to the full paragraph/story first. The student may then choose to listen line-by-line.  There are also Bluetooth keyboard commands to navigate by paragraph, to the beginning/end of a line, etc.  When a possible spelling error has been identified, the student can move to the desired word by changing the rotor to Words and moving word-by-word to the misspelled word.  The student then changes the rotor to Characters in order to move character-by-character.  In a Word document, the student may delete the word and retype the whole word, or the student may delete the misspelled letter(s) and correct just the wrong letter(s). 

Teacher Note: When using a braille display, the student can quickly navigate the cursor to the misspelled letter by pressing the routing key below and one to the right of the misspelled letter. 

When taking an online assessment, the misspelled word may be identified for the student.  The student reads the sentence and then navigates to the multiple-choice answers to select the correct word.  The student will have to navigate character by character through the answer choices in order to identify the correct spelling.  Teacher Note:  With homonyms, VoiceOver will pronounce the words the same way but the words are spelled differently.  An example of homonym words might be:  two, to, and too.

Punctuation Errors

When checking a document for punctuation errors, set the rotor to Punctuation.  Use the down arrow to move through the choices of No Punctuation, Some Punctuation and All Punctuation.  Typically, the default is Some Punctuation. When typically reading text, you want VoiceOver to give a slight pause when there is a comma, but you do not want VoiceOver to say the word ‘comma’.  However, when you are looking for errors or in a test situation when you have to correct punctuation errors, you do need VoiceOver to state all of the punctuation in the text.  Set the rotor to All Punctuation and VoiceOver will announce all of the punctuation.  All Punctuation Example: “There are many alternative energy sources colon wind power comma solar power comma geothermal power comma and hydroelectric power period.” (VoiceOver announced all of the commas and the period in this sample sentence.)

When taking an assessment, students may be asked to read a paragraph or a short story.  The story may have a marked word or phrase and the student may have to determine which answer choice is correct.  Example: “The dogs ball bounced across the yard."  In this example ‘dogs ball’ is underlined.  The answer choices might be:

A.    Dogs ball   (d o g s)

B.    Dog’s ball   (d o g apostrophe s)

C.   Dogs’ ball   (d o g s apostrophe)

D.   Dogs balls  (d o g s; balls plural)

When set to Some Punctuation, VoiceOver will announce the first three choices the same.  In order to understand the differences, the student will need to change the rotor to All Punctuation and then move character by character through the choices.  VoiceOver will now announce the apostrophes in the B and C choices.

Teacher Note:  When No Punctuation is selected, the braille display will NOT display any punctuation symbols.  For example:  When a period appears in the text, the braille display will not show the period – dots 2, 5, 6.  When Some Punctuation is selected, the braille display will show the braille symbol for period (dots 2,5,6).  When All Punctuation is selected, the braille display will show the word ‘period’.

Teacher Note: Most assessments have a variety of questions, meaning that one question might be a comprehension question, the next question might be a spelling question followed by a punctuation question.  Students should know how and when to navigate by characters or to change punctuation settings.  Students should NOT have the All Punctuation set for the entire language arts test! 

Navigating Commands for Editing: Bluetooth Keyboard and Refreshable Braille Display

Students should be using their editing skills on a regular basis, for normal tasks such as emailing, texting and classroom writing. Note: Even if using dictation to text, students should ‘proof’ their texts before sending!  Proof reading and editing should be a habit before using these skills on a high-stakes online assessment!

There are additional navigation commands available when the iPad is paired with a Bluetooth keyboard or refreshable braille display.  It is critical that students learn more than just iPad gestures!  Example: When using a Bluetooth keyboard, students can quickly jump to the beginning of a line to check that the sentence begins with a capital letter.  The basic navigation commands for the Bluetooth keyboard and the refreshable braille display are listed below.  Attached is an accessible version of this navigational chart.

Navigation Commands for the Bluetooth Keyboard and the Refreshable Braille Display

Daily Editing Practice Activities

Any digital editing worksheets can be used to practice these basic editing skills.  The attached 'Fix It Up' editing documents are designed for young readers (kindergarten level).  These documents are available free through Teaching Biilfizzcend.  This website has additional free and paid worksheets available.  Paths to Technology has been granted specific permission to modify these worksheets to make them accessible and to publish these worksheets so that educators can use these worksheets with students who are visually impaired.

Teacher's Note: When creating accessible digital materials, be sure to add the image description (alt tag).  To add the alt tag, left click on the image and select Insert Caption.  Alt tags should be placed above the image (typically the default is to place the alt tag below the image).  Image Descriptions are critical when the image provides additional information that is NOT included in the text.  Students using a screen reader should have opportunities to listen to alt tag descriptions at early ages when the description is not critical to understand a concept or to answer a question.

Editing Activity

The first image shows a portion of the original Fix It Up worksheet, with the directions:  "Rewrite each sentence correctly.  Begin each sentence with a capital letter and add punctuation."  This original document was made with the intention of giving students a print copy of the worksheet and to have the students use a pencil to complete the workshop.  (Note: Low vision students could use an anotation app to digital complete this original worksheet.)  This original worksheet is not accessible as is for a braille reader or a student using a screen reader.  

Original Fix It Up Book worksheet that includes lines for student to re-write the sentences.

The next image shows the accessible digital version of this activity.  This document has been recreated on a computer using Word.  

Transcriber's Note:  The modified goal of this activity is for students with visual impairments to learn how to navigate to and edit the original sentence; the goal for this lesson is not to practice writing skills.  If the goal is for the student to write the sentences, then re-creating the worksheets using Google Forms' short answer textboxes would be a better way to produce an accessible version of the worksheets.  

Teacher's Note:  When using a Word document, the student can make changes to the actual document, meaning that the student can accidently delete a word or sentence.  When using Google Forms, the student types answers into a textfield.  The original document can not be altered.

Attached is the accessible version of the Books worksheet in the image below.

Accessible digital version of the Fix It Up Book worksheet.

With this worksheet that contains short sentences - approximately 5 word sentences - students can navigate line-by-line.  When using a Bluetooth keyboard, make sure that Quick Nav is off (right+left arrows) then use the down arrow to read line-by-line.  The first line is the title ("Books").  Use the down arrow to read the next line ("Name:").  The student should be taught to type in his/her name after the "name colon".  Use the down arrow to read the directions and to read the first sentence to be edited. Command+left arrow will move the insertion point to the beginning of the sentence.  Navigate character-by-character should announce the punctuation such as "cap" for capitalized or "period" for the period symbol.  If not,  change the rotor to Punctuation > and then select Some or All.  (Note:  In iOS 10, moving by character will announce the all punctuation even when Puncutation is set to Some Punctuation; however, moving by word or other means will not announce the punctuation.)  Practice the various navigation commands in the chart above to navigate through the sentences as you edit the sentences.

Teacher Hint:  Share this worksheet to your student.  Have him/her open it in the Pages or Google Docs app.  In order to edit, the student must press the up+down arrows to activate the text field. Activating the textfield will make the flashing cursor appear and will automatically turn Quick Nav off.  


Students need to learn and practice editing skills - including the commands to navigate - in order to efficiently edit.  Provide multiple opportunities to navigate and edit in a variety of different formats and activities.  Remind students to edit their own stories, proof-read peer's writing, find and correct errors in paragraphs, and select multiple choice options.  Remember, online assessments will contain questions that require the student to read a sentence, paragraph or short story and choose the correct spelling, grammar or punctuation from a multiple choice format.

Here are the accessible versions of the Fix It Up worksheets (used with permission) to help you get started!

Book 1

Recess 2

New Pet 3

Owls 4

Squirrels 5

The Field Trip 6

The Pet Shop 7

The Zoo 8

My Kite 9

Sports 10

Education World has Every Day Edits - free, single-paragraph editing resources.  Many of the free online editing worksheets were initially intended to be printed and completed as a paper and pencil activity.  These free materials can be made into accessible materials for students with visual impairments by copying and pasting into a Word document.  Be sure to provide credit to the original website and include a link to the website! The Daily Edit Nevada worksheet is one example of free resources on the Education World website.

If you have free accessible worksheets that can be shared, please share with us!

Editing with a PC and JAWS

Want to know how to edit a Word document on a PC running JAWS?  Check out Kaleigh's video as she demonstrates how to create, navigate and edit a Word document.  The activities listed above can be done with a younger student who is learning to edit using JAWS.  Other materials including age-appropriate homework assignments or functional writing activities can be substituted as needed.


Collage of editing tech skills and activities


Add new comment