Multi-sensory learning helps students approach a subject like spelling or maths through the use of different senses. When playing the Colour Game in Orthograph, Dybuster’s software for children with dyslexia, students associate letters with colours and also with sound. This activates new learning channels in the brain and helps children to map spoken sound to written letters, something that is difficult for dyslexics.
The video below shows the game in action and provides a voice-over guide. You can test the game yourself for free by visiting the Orthograph Trial page. No download is necessary; you can access the program in your browser.
infoDev is a program created by international development agencies, including the World Bank. It concentrates on the use of ICTs (information and communication technologies) in developing countries to address a variety of issues. Among these issues is that of education. The program has in the past supported pilot projects to promote the use of ICTs in developing countries and now focuses on research and training.
In 2007 infoDevput together a survey looking at ICTs and their use in education in Africa. The report was based on country surveys from 53 African countries.
Continuing our series focused on edtech in developing countries, we are looking today at the potential in technology for furthering girls’ education. According to UNICEF’s entry on Girls’ education and gender equality, providing education to girls in developing countries comes with a host of positive impacts. Women who receive an education are more likely to delay childbirth, earn higher wages, and avoid HIV and AIDS than women who do not.
Keeping girls in school remains a challenge in many nations around the world, as does training female teachers and role models. What role could information and communications technologies (ICTs) play in furthering these goals?
Below is a video from UNICEF Activate Talk that took place in 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A panel of five speakers present their views on the power of bringing technology to bear on education and the possibilities this opens up for girls and women around the world.
All Children Readingis a project launched in 2011 by USAID, World Vision, and the Australian government. Its purpose? To promote literacy in developing countries through technological innovation. In a quote from the official website, the organization states:
…a 2013/2014 UNESCO report indicates that 250 million children across the globe are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.
In a first round of grant awards, All Children Readingchose 32 projects in over 22 countries to support. From interactive whiteboards in Haiti to a low-cost digital platform for mother-tongue educational material in Zambia, the projects all strove to bring the power of reading and writing to disadvantaged children. A full list of the grant-recipients along with project descriptions is available here.
There is no doubt that education is one of the most potent tools for combatting poverty (see this U.N. report on Education First for more information). Yet the need for teachers, school supplies, and other resources remains dire in many countries.
We are going to be doing a series of posts on educational technology in developing countries here at the Dybuster blog. We warmly welcome readers to share their thoughts and experiences as we begin to explore this topic. Leave your comments at the end of a post or get in touch via our contact form.
Our first research on edtech in developing countries led us to the EduTech blog on the World Bank website. Written by Michael Trucano, the blog is a must-read for anyone looking for insights into the use of ICTs (information and communication technologies) around the world.
Trucano lists what he considers to be top considerations for designers looking to create devices for populations in developing countries. His first five priorities:
Read through the article to get the full picture on each of these attributes. However the author’s perhaps most salient point comes right at the end:
If you really want good answers to these sorts of questions, you should ask the people themselves to whom you hope to sell such devices. Better yet: Work with them (observe them, talk with them, hire them, fund them) as part of your design process.
Dybuster software is designed to allow children to practice reading and math independently. Orthograph and Calcularis guide the user through a series of learning games that increase with difficulty according to a child’s progress and learning needs. The software has been shown to help children with dyslexia and dyscalculia improve their spelling and math skills.
However the software is not designed to replace teachers or therapists. Teachers and parents are the most important guides of a child’s learning path. To give those guides the best possible overview of a student’s progress, we include Dybuster Coach with every school and home license of our software.
Both Orthograph Coach and Calcularis Coach give parents access to in-depth feedback on how often their child has used the software and how long each session has lasted. Reports include which words or math problems have been practiced and which ones still pose difficulties. Statistics predict error probabilities. The Modules feature in Orthograph Coach allows parents to create lists of words tailored to their child’s practice needs.
Teachers and specialists can use the analytics in Dybuster Coach to track an entire classroom’s progress, compare how different students are doing, and create individual reports. They have an immediate overview as to which students are developing what skills, as well as information on length and frequency of the practice sessions. This detailed feedback can then be used to supplement a teacher’s other instruction or to aid in a dyslexia or dyscalculia intervention program.
Judging quantities, performing simple arithmetic, picturing numbers on a number line: all of these tasks can cause severe frustration to someone with dyscalculia. Math problems that pose no difficulty to their peers, can seem incomprehensible to dyscalculic children.
When children with dyscalculia play the Dybuster Calcularis learning games, the software gradually helps the brain to develop new learning channels and to automate mathematical processes. User studies have shown these games to be very effective: students using the software over a period of three months improved their addition skills by 30% and subtraction skills by 40%.
The games are designed to develop both numerical understanding and arithmetic operations. Students practice numbers as quantities, number words, Arabic numerals and positions on a number ray. Children progress from comparing amounts, to adding and subtracting with colored blocks, to multiplying and dividing. As their skills increase, dyscalculics also gain confidence in their own number abilities.
The results of the users studies involving Dybuster Calcularis were published in the following peer-reviewed publications:
Study about the neurplastic changes: K. Kucian, U. Grond, S. Rotzer, B. Henzi, C. Schönmann, F. Plangger, M. Gälli, E. Martin, M. von Aster. Mental number line training in children with developmental dyscalculia. NeuroImage, Neuroimage, 57(3):782-95, 2011
User adaptation, improvements in HRT (Addition/Subtraction): T. Käser, A. G. Busetto, G.-M. Baschera, J. Kohn, K. Kucian, M. von Aster, and M. Gross. Modelling and Optimizing the Process of Learning Mathematics. Proceedings of ITS (Chania, Greece, 14-18 June, 2012), pp 389-398, 2012
User adaptation, study 2011: T. Käser, G.-M. Baschera, J. Kohn, K. Kucian, V. Richtmann, U. Grond, M. Gross, and M. von Aster. Design and evaluation of the computer-based training program Calcularis for enhancing numerical cognition. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 4: 489, 2013
But our favorite reviews come from the parents, teachers, and students who use our software:
“As a mother, I am extremely impressed by Dybuster.” – Katharina, mother
“I like the fact that I can use Dybuster on my computer at home instead of having to visit a therapist.” – Jonathan, 12 years old
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.
The first title for this blog post I had in mind was Will computers replace teachers? …until I realised 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.
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.