Monday, April 7, 2008

WriteOnline- Software as a Service

About two weeks ago I gave a presentation at the New Jersey Education Computer Cooperative 2008 Conference and spoke on the topic of the state and trends in the field of assistive technology and where I saw the industry headed. A large part of my

presentation was looking at the impact that Web 2.0 applications were having on the field and how that had ramifications for software developers who were developing software for the assistive technology industry. One of the trends that I see that should come as no surprise to other educators who have been following the avalanche of Web 2.0 applications is that students need access to their tools 24/7 and the way to go about doing that is to deliver them through the browser. As I speak to educators I am learning that more and more of them are relying on services like Google Docs to support students with their writing. Being able to collaborate and give students feedback on their written work on any computer connected to the web is a very powerful feature. There are many excellent applications that have been developed that run within the browser and if you search my blog you can find examples of them. When software companies begin to create their assistive technology applications that run within the browser the whole model of distribution will change. Companies will now offer subscription models based on the number of students in the school district or building. From an IT perspective software as a service will lighten their load since the applications are running in the cloud. As new features get added to the software there is no need to install service packs or updates everything is done at the server level by the publisher. That part is pretty sweet! Of course there is always the issue about storing files on someone else server and confidentiality which we will have to wrestle with.

As I was perusing the Crick Software UK website I came across a soon to be released software application called WriteOnline. When I delved into the website I learned that WriteOnline is a new writing tool that is delved on line complete with word prediction, text to speech and word level supports. What is unique about the application is that it will be available as a subscription and will run within the browser. Wow! So now students can access WriteOnline from any computer connected to the web and pull up their files with all the supports right there for them that they need. Now students can start projects at school and access their saved work at home with supports that you would find on standalone applications. Going froward I'm sure that many publishers in the assistive technology space will be offering their software as a service-but for now hats off to Crick Software for getting the ball rolling. I for one can't wait to preview WriteOnline.

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