Student-led technology: practical solutions to making technology work

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Student-led technology: practical solutions to making technology work.

  • Dr. Geraldine A. Price
  • School of Education
  • University of Southampton


  • Student Demographics
  • Widening Participation
  • ‘Diverse Learners’
  • Explosion in numbers
  • Impact on infrastructure
  • DSA Support
  • Role of Assistive Technology
  • Changes in HE:
  • Impact of SENDA
  • Human Rights
  • Equal Opportunities
  • Social Inclusion

Pedagogy: The Teaching & Learning Environment

  • Social Constructivist Paradigm
  • Collaborative Dialogues
  • Scaffolded Support
  • Student-led environment
  • Contextualised learning
  • Role of metacognition

Role of Technology

  • Tensions:
  • Educational Knowledge & Practice
  • Student-led Support
  • Contextualised Usage
  • Individual Differences
  • ‘Means of assisting’
  • Tharp & Gallimore, 1991:42

Best Fit The Importance of Getting it Right!


  • Not all software/hardware will help all dyslexic learners
  • Some software/hardware will frustrate some dyslexic learners
  • Do NOT be seduced by technology to the point of forgetting simple but effective solutions!

What are students’ needs?

  • Matching Tools To Needs
  • Contextualisation

Three Case Studies: Needs and Solutions

  • Student A (Medicine):
    • Management & Organgisation
  • Student B (Mechanical Engineering):
    • Blank Page Syndrome
  • Student C (Post-graduate Education):
    • Fears of Plagiarism

Supporting Writing: the role of technology

Aspects of the Writing Process

  • Collecting information – reading & note-making
  • Planning – macro & micro levels of operation
  • Drafting
  • Editing/revising
  • Proof-reading & neat copy

Three Dyslexic Students’ Use of Technology to Assist in the Writing Process

  • Data collected as part of phenomenological study
  • Semi-structured interview data and samples of writing are drawn upon for this paper.

Student A

  • Severely dyslexic
  • Female
  • Failed first year of Medicine and had to re-sit the whole year
  • Directed to Learning Differences Centre for assessment of difficulties and needs
  • Received support for academic skills from specialist dyslexia-trained tutor

Student A’s Perceived Difficulties

  • Never seemed to obtain results which reflected time and effort
  • Lacked self confidence in academic abilities
  • Could not process different types of information simultaneously
  • Essay writing was a source of anxiety

Student A’s Performance Levels

  • Spelling
  • 14th Percentile
  • Reading
  • 47th Percentile
  • Words per minute
  • 15wpm with 6% error rate
  • ‘I did my first essay, and I did really badly because I didn’t know how they wanted it to be written or I didn’t know the language and things like that.’
  • Needs and Preferences
  • Weak working memory
  • Multi-tasking slowed her down
  • Weak visual skills – proof-reading
  • Global Thinker
  • A step-by-step approach to work
  • Student ‘A’
  • Strategies
  • Worked on small chunks of text
  • Physical method of planning
  • Technology Use:
  • Inspiration
  • Text to Speech
  • Talking Thesaurus

Matching Technology to Needs

  • Inspiration
  • Text to Speech
  • Talking Thesaurus
  • 1. Flow chart work schedule
  • Content & rhetoric planning
  • Helped to prevent memory
  • overload
  • 2. Editing work
  • Supported weak linguistic skills
  • 3. Editing work
  • Supported weak linguistic skills

Technological Scaffold

  • Hooks:
    • Provided a scaffolded structure to her management of organising the process
  • Compensatory features:

Student B

  • Male dyslexic, 24 years’ old
  • Final year of Mechanical Engineering
  • Successfully completed apprenticeship and ONC/B.Tech.
  • Highly motivated to succeed
  • Searches for practical solutions
  • Wanted to move his grades from 2:1 to First

Student B’s Perceived Difficulties

  • Disappointed with grades
  • Grades did not represent his depth of knowledge & understanding
  • Spent longer than his peers on his assignments
  • Written work lacked structure
  • Difficulties with simultaneous operations
  • “It’s daunting because you’ll sit there looking at a white screen and how do you physically start?”

Student B: Technology Use

  • Word processing software
  • Adobe Acrobat software
  • Scanner
  • Mediated Learning Resources – Blackboard
  • Web information
  • Text-to-speech software (latterly)
  • Has high spec laptop

The Organisation Stage: “Making the technology work for me” Electronic Information.

    • His own electronic notes from lectures
    • On-line course information
    • Web searches
    • Electronic journals
  • Solutions
  • Simple word documents
  • Cut and paste facilities
  • Adobe Acrobat ‘find’ facility to search for key words + cut and paste facilities

Multi-modal assistance

  • Pen and paper Brainstorm – his working document
  • Set up separate files for each main heading
  • Series of random bullet points to be worked on separately

Electronic Information

  • The ‘bullet files’ helped to get him started with drafting texts
  • Could scan in or copy language from electronic sources to get him started on language construction
  • “It gives me a starting position”

Technological Scaffold

  • Hooks:
    • Provided a scaffolded structure to him management of organising the process
  • Compensatory features:
    • Reduction of memory overload
    • Ability to work on small chunks at a time
    • Helped to process and categorise information from notes and research reading

Student C

  • Severely dyslexic mother of two children
  • Mature, post graduate student – First degree English
  • Matter-of-fact approach to her problems
  • Confident technology user
  • “I think less words is harder. I have to go through the process of putting it all in and then taking it out!”
  • “Getting my ideas on paper is really difficult. I get stuck on things and they go round and round and round.”
  • “I have wonderful sentences in my head but to write means that I have to think about the shape of letters and the spelling.”
  • Needs and Preferences
  • Weak working memory
  • Multi-tasking slowed her down
  • Inappropriate note-making strategies
  • Difficulty with language processing and
  • in particular distilling information
  • in summary format
  • Paranoid about plagiarism
  • Global thinker
  • Student ‘C’
  • Technology Use:
  • Word Processor
  • Graphical Mapping
  • Kurtzweil
  • Dragon Dictate

Student C’s Performance Levels

  • Spelling
  • 10th Percentile
  • Reading
  • 27th Percentile
  • Written Production
  • 28.8wpm with 7.6% error rate

Matching Technology to Needs

  • Word Processor
  • Inspiration
  • Kurtzweil
  • Dragon Dictate
  • 1. Use of colour to support language difficulties in drafting
  • 2. Needed to brain-storm ideas to give her direction in her research
  • 3. ‘Threw’ ideas at page at speed using software during drafting process
  • 4. Used to help her edit her work

Plagiarism Solution: Colour coded notes

  • It is generally accepted that dyslexic children have a number of measurable differences from non-dyslexic. This implies that the dyslexic will require a different system of teaching, which should take into account these differences………
  • It is reasoned that after all they present like younger pre-readers so the incorrect assumption is that very often that more of the same will solve the problem. This could not be further from the truth (ref).
  • Dyslexia in general is considered, naively, a condition that only affects children (ref) and then only in reading, writing and spelling. However, dyslexia is a constitutional condition that cannot be ‘grown out of’ and persists into adulthood.
  • Add quote about dyslexic adult.

Technological Scaffolds

  • Variety
  • Flexible uses
  • Dove-tailing combinations of software to meet individual needs and cognitive profile
  • Colour coded text:

Multi-modal uses of technology

  • Individualisation is the key
  • Combinations to suit differences in profiles
  • Essential ‘kit bag’ suggests simple word processing facilities with use of a scanner
  • More sophisticated software used with caution
  • Learning to use ‘advanced’ facilities in Microsoft Word

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