TEDx Talk by Markus Gross on Dybuster’s Software

TEDx talks are the local version of TED, conferences that spread ideas and bring in speakers on a large range of topics.

One of the speakers at Zurich’s event in 2015 was Markus Gross, head Computer Graphics Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich and instrumental in the founding of Dybuster.

Markus told of his own experience as the father of a dyslexic and as a computer scientist looking for ways to help students with dyslexia.

Below you can watch this short dynamic introduction to the multi-modal learning developed by Markus and Dybuster. Learn how the struggles of Markus’s son Adrian with dyslexia led to the development of intervention software Orthograph, and eventually to the use of the same approach applied to dyscalculia in Calcularis.

Dybuster Orthograph Featured on Acapela Blog

People express themselves in so many ways: through the clothes they wear, their taste in music and television shows, and, very importantly, the words they use. Our vocabulary makes up an intrinsic part of who we are. There are the words we use with our family, the words we use at school, and the words we use for work. This mix of words is unique to each individual.

When we developed Orthograph it was important to us that students with dyslexia could practice not just standard vocabulary but their own words. We wanted them to be able to build lists of the words necessary to them in all areas of their lives. The program allows dyslexics to build those lists and then reads the words back so they can be practiced.

The voices behind the words are provided by Acapela. The Acapela blog ran an article featuring Dybuster Orthograph last week and we’d like to share the article with our readers. You can read the article here or try Orthograph for yourself on our website.


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.

[bctt tweet=”What age Groups can Benefit From Orthograph?” username=”@dybuster_EN”]

Dybuster: The Beginning

It began with a father trying to help his son. Adrian is dyslexic, and despite trying each day to improve his spelling and reading, he never got through a writing exercise without making multiple errors.

“It broke my heart,” says Adrian’s father, Markus Gross. “He was trying his best under enormous psychological strain.”

Adrian's corrected homework.

Adrian’s homework with corrections.

That strain is familiar to the millions of children and adults with dyslexia, a learning disability that involves chronic difficulty with reading and writing. Markus and Adrian tried therapy after therapy – some of them very costly – but none resulted in any lasting improvement.

Over time Adrian even became disillusioned with school as a whole because he had to read and write for almost every subject. He started to lose motivation for learning altogether.

“As parents,” Markus mentions, “we put high pressure on ourselves, too, because we were afraid of the limitations on Adrian’s life choices due to his dyslexia. That put even more pressure on him.”

It was at this point that Markus decided to come up with an approach that would fit Adrian’s strengths. Adrian could remember how to spell words if he associated a word with something more concrete and geometric.

Markus Gross is head of the Institute of Computational Science and the Computer Graphics Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. He began working on a computer program that associated letters with colours, sounds, and shapes. The exercises were sorted into learning games so that the program would be as fun to work with as possible.

The software, built with Adrian’s feedback, finally helped Markus’s son to make lasting improvement in spelling and reading. This success raised the question: could the program help other children as well? As the program was tailored to Adrian’s needs, Markus was not sure it would be applicable to other forms of dyslexia.

Case studies were performed at the University of Zürich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The results were clear: the software could be used to generally aid children with dyslexia. Overall, the children involved in the studies improved their reading and spelling skills drastically after only a few months of working with the program.

The program was dubbed Orthograph, now distributed by the company Dybuster, formed by the researchers, developers, and teachers behind Orthograph’s creation. The software is currently used by thousands of children in Swiss schools, and by others worldwide.

“It is very rewarding,” Markus Gross says, “to see how this private project spread so widely and allows us to help so many children – and their parents – cope with the difficulties that my son and myself experienced.”

How do the Orthograph Learning Games Help Children with Dyslexia?

Orthograph software was developed around the concept of a link between dyslexia and difficulty in mapping spoken language to written language. This difficulty is known in neuroscience as the phonological deficit.

What does this phonological deficit look like? Basically, the brain areas responsible for automating phonological processing are less populated by neurons in people with dyslexia than in people without dyslexia. This means dyslexics have difficulty converting the spoken word to written, and the other way around.

The brain processes information through various channels. Dybuster Orthograph‘s concept is based on activating new channels for learning. Words are not just depicted as black letters on a white background but shown in specific sequences of colors, forms and sounds. The syllables within a word are presented in 3D, so that a spatial aspect is introduced into the learning process.

This is explained in more detail in this handy video we put together:

Using the program allows the brain to be able to link, process and combine the information from these newly activated channels. The result is that a dyslexic child is better able to map spoken language to written language and the phonological deficit we discussed above is decreased.

Results of using Dybuster OrthographIn a study involving 80 children, the results of using Orthograph software were compared against the progress of children who did not use the program. Playing through the learning games for a few months resulted in the users making 33% fewer spelling mistakes than previously.

Orthograph software can be tried for free: just click here to access the trial version. The games are meant not only to be fun but to allow dyslexic children to make lasting improvement in reading and spelling.

[bctt tweet=”How do the Orthograph Learning Games Help Children with Dyslexia?” username=”@dybuster_EN”]

Dybuster Schools: Visiting Students Where They Learn

Swiss schools where Dybuster software is used.

Map of Swiss schools where Dybuster software is used.

Since its founding in 2007, Dybuster has had the privilege of working with over 1000 schools and more than 35,000 children (discuss: dyslexia and dyscalculia is produced by Dybuster International). In May 2015 we went to visit a couple of the schools that use our software made to help children with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Getting to meet some of these children was the best part of our school visits!

Though Dybuster software is used around the world, the programs were initially developed in Switzerland at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. So our learning games for both dyslexia and dyscalculia really took off first in Switzerland before spreading to other countries like the U.S. and Canada.

The first stop on our road trip was Uttwil, a tiny town in the canton of Thurgau. The school is also small: only 160 students in the first six grades. Our software has been part of their curriculum since 2011. The village is right on the shores of Lake Bodensee and a lovely place to visit. After first consulting with the school´s special education teacher, our CEO Christian Voegeli spent some time in the classroom.

Dybuster CEO Christian Voegeli gets feedback from a young learning software user.

Dybuster CEO Christian Voegeli gets feedback from a young learning software user.

Speaking with teachers is an important part of our school visits. Learning software does not replace traditional learning but is meant to enhance and support instruction from a teacher. By meeting with teachers in their classrooms we can find out what they need and how better to suit their requirements.

Mirjam Rutidhauser, classroom teacher at school in Uttwil.

Mirjam Rutidhauser, classroom teacher at the elementary school in Uttwil.

Next stop on the trip was Nidererurnen, another small town, this one nestled in the beautiful mountains of canton Glarus. Here we visited another elementary school and talked to the kids about the programs. They were obviously happy to see us:

Student at elementary school in Niederurnen

Student at elementary school in Niederurnen

These visits were a highlight of the end of the school year for us. In the midst of rolling out new features such as the Orthograph Module Editor and the Dybuster Cockpit, it was great to take some time and meet with the people the software is actually for: children and their teachers. Many thanks to the students and teachers who shared their school day with us!

[bctt tweet=”Dybuster Schools: Visiting Students Where they Learn” username=”@dybuster_EN”]

© Copyright Dybuster blog – edtech, dyslexia, dsycalculia - Theme by Pexeto
Try our digital learning games
Digital learning games, free trial