Weekly roundup: educational technology

Headlines

pencilsThe Edmentum blog has been running a series of posts on special education and last week featured an article on educational technology in special education. The article gives an overview of various aspects of learning that have been affected by technological developments and how this has impacted special education. Check out this quote from the post’s author Winnie O’Leary regarding individualized learning:

Personalized learning is the true value of technology for special education—it allows for a unique learning path to be created for every child, based upon the unique situation and needs.

As the programs developed by Dybuster are designed to give students a customized independent learning experience, this thought from O’Leary mirrored our own convictions on the importance of technology in allowing each child to learn according to his or her needs. Read more.

Resources

What types of technology exist for use in special education? What resources best suit which learning differences? EdTechReview has a listing of types of learning disabilities and the kinds of software and other tools that could be used to address these disabilities in the classroom. Read more.

To our teacher readers: what types of educational technologies do you use in your own classrooms?

Dyscalculics: the famous, the successful, the inspiring

As the condition is rarer than dyslexia, dyscalculia is less present when it comes to information and resources on websites and blogs. Dyslexics, for example, can find extensive lists of famous people who have or were reported to have had dyslexia. Dyscalculics are left more on their own when looking for such sources of encouragement and inspiration.

Famous dyscalculic: singer Cher.

Famous dyscalculic: singer Cher. Source: Wikicommons.

A search for famous dyscalculics does turn up a few names. American actor Henry Winkler is mentioned as having both dyslexia and difficulty with math. Singers Cher and Mick Hucknall are both dyscalculic. Actress Mary Tyler Moore is also included on lists of celebrities with dyscalculia. These lists however are much shorter than comparable ones dealing with dyslexia.

When faced with such a dearth of information, dyscalculics may instead have to look elsewhere for inspiration. Namely, among themselves. As awareness of dyscalculia grows, so too does awareness of the challenges faced by people with this learning difference and respect for how they deal with those challenges.

Learning about dyscalculics like Jack Harley-Walsh, who didn’t let his learning differences keep him from scaling either educational or actual peaks, can inspire other students with dyscalculia to push their own limits. It can be enormously encouraging to read blogger Savannah Treviño’s article on her own success as a student because and not despite of her dyscalculia.

To our dyscalculic readers: who are your role models and inspirations? If you would like to share your own story about what gives you motivation and encouragement please chime in via the comments below.

Weekly roundup: learning disabilities

Headlines

Dybuster weekly roundup learning disabilitiesA month ago the U.S. Senate voted to designate October National Dyslexia Awareness Month (read more). The news was greeted with enthusiasm on blogs and social media accounts focused on learning differences. That was balanced last week by this article in the Huffington Post by Jessica R. Toste. A sobering look at education equality, the article argues the need for not only inclusion for individuals with learning disabilities, but also the special educational resources they require to succeed. From the article:

…the supplemental instruction required by students with learning disabilities needs to be delivered in smaller group sizes…[but] one should not misinterpret the demand for specialized instruction as dismissive of the critical importance of inclusive schooling.

Toste argues that the push for inclusive schooling has sometimes resulted in students with learning disabilities being unable to keep up in the general classroom. What are your experiences with inclusive schooling? Thoughts and comments? Read more.

Resources

If the details of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are difficult to navigate, hop over to the Edmentum blog and this post on learning disabilities classifications. The article gives a detailed overview of the categories of learning disabilities as defined by IDEA. A diagnosis within one of these categories paves the way to an in-depth evaluation and an individualized education plan.

Technology and teachers: not interchangeable

dybuster children in classroom

The first title for this blog post I had in mind was Will computers replace teachers? …until I realized just how many articles already exist with that exact same title or variants thereof.

This question – whether technology will ever take the place of teachers in the classroom – seems to pop up on a regular basis and has been doing so since the 1970s when learning software PLATO began to be widespread in schools. PLATO was useful because it performed the time-consuming task of checking students’ answers to math problems. PLATO was not a teacher, but simply evaluated whether an answer was right or wrong.

Today, as the market for education software is booming, the same question persists. There has been speculation that the role of a teacher will change from that of instructor to a coach, or guide. This article from the New Yorker argues that not just learning methods but the very content of education will change. As computers take on ever more tasks, students will focus more on skills that cannot be automated by a computer, skills such as critical thinking and communication. A teacher, not a computer, is capable of imparting these skills.

When we develop software for dyslexia or dyscalculia intervention, we do not intend this software as a replacement for teachers. The programs are meant to make a teacher’s job easier, to free up her or his attention for tasks the software cannot do. None of our learning programs take away the need for special education experts, therapists, or teachers.

But if a country is facing a shortage of teachers, as is the case in many places around the world, technology can greatly assist in filling the gap. This article from the World Bank provides a global look at the role of computers in education.

Is the role of teacher changing? This seems highly likely. But there is one aspect of a teacher’s job that does not change: human connection. There is no doubt that teachers can touch their students’ lives in a deep and personal way that no computer can ever do.

Reading anxiety and the fear of letters

Plenty of dyslexics can empathize with reading anxiety, or a phobia related to reading. This anxiety is marked by a student’s avoidance of reading, feelings of dread when asked to read, and a general disbelief in her or his own ability to read.

Though dyscalculia is less well-known than dyslexia, there are significantly more articles and research available on math anxiety as compared to reading anxiety (see our article on math anxiety). A quick Google search for math anxiety will turn up plenty of hits, while the results for a similar search for reading anxiety veer off into anxiety conditions in general. (Scroll down to read more.)

Symptoms of math and reading anxiety.

Symptoms of math and reading anxiety.

Different factors could effect the onset of reading anxiety. As children are expected to attain literacy skills at ever younger ages and ever earlier points in their educational careers, pressure on both students and teachers mounts. A child who is developmentally simply not ready to read may be made to feel inadequate when he or she cannot meet reading requirements that would pose no problem in another year’s time.

There is also no doubt that learning disabilities such as dyslexia can result in a child having a fear of reading and of letters, especially if there is a lack of diagnosis and intervention. How sad that children come to associate books with fear and shame, instead of exploration, imagination, and learning.

For more resources on dyslexia, including intervention possibilities, have a browse through our blog and feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments.

Weekly roundup: dyslexia

Headlines
A new study released by researchers at University of California – Davis and Yale University has found that early intervention in dyslexia is crucial to narrowing achievement gaps in reading ability. Psychology professor Emilio Ferrer at UC Davis and Bennett and Sally Shaywitz at Yale conducted a study with students up through twelfth grade and found waiting for testing until a child is in the third grade is generally already too late. Reading differences appear much earlier on and the researchers recommended that reading intervention take place already in the first grade or in kindergarten. According to Ferrer:

“If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, or even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition.” Read more.

For your weekly dose of charm, check out this article featuring origami artwork by children with dysgraphia and dyslexia. The Unicorn School in Abingdon has put together an exhibit that both furthers creativity and helps dysgraphic students work on their motor skills. Read more.

honey dybuster blog discuss: dyslexia, dyscalculiaResources

Blogger, parent, and educator Hannah Roberts has put up a useful post over on the Learning Success blog: “Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?

The post has practical suggestions for at-home activities that can further a child’s reading skills. One of the activities involves brownies so you know it has to be good.

What age groups can benefit from Orthograph?

This is a question we get from time to time here at Dybuster: can older students and adults benefit from using Orthograph? Or is the software just meant for younger children?

Most of the user studies examining the results of using Orthograph were done with children. The first study involved eighty children between the ages of nine and eleven. The next user study was again conducted with children, forty of whom were dyslexic and twenty-seven of whom were control subjects who were not dyslexic. Both studies showed conclusive results that the software helped dyslexic children improve their reading and writing skills by activating new channels for learning in the brain.

To test the software’s benefits for adults, another study was conducted at the University of Zurich with adult dyslexics as the test participants. The study found the following results:

  • Participants made significantly fewer mistakes after three months of using the software
  • After a four month break the improvements were still measurable
  • Adults with a higher rate of mistakes at the beginning benefited most from the software

Those are pretty encouraging results! There haven’t yet been any research studies involving Orthograph and older students (teenagers and high school students). However some of the schools that include Orthograph in their curriculum have also used the software with students up through the age of eighteen. These schools have seen improvement in these students’ reading and spelling skills.

So we do think that dyslexics in all age groups can benefit from using Orthograph. Seeing children and adults alike make progress in reading and spelling through using our software is what inspires us here at Dybuster.

 

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