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The BETT Show Tech Roundup: Tech that helps dyslexic students.



The BETT Show is one of the largest education and technology exhibitions I have every been to.  It could just possibly be the largest in the world.  Based at London Excel, the BETT Show showcases technology for every aspect of education and some of the largest companies in the world exhibit there such as Microsoft and Google.
If you are a parent, teacher or supporter of a dyslexic learner then this article will give you some pointers on useful tech that will empower learning.  Read on for more...

So what about technology that helps dyslexic students?

Abi James addressing delegates at The BETT Show
I visited the show yesterday to see which companies where actively showcasing products that support the learning of dyslexic thinkers in school and whilst this wasn't a focus for BETT, I did find some companies that I will tell you about shortly.

I also got to see a brilliant talk from the British Dyslexia Association's Abi James about technology for dyslexics.

Abi James is dyslexic herself and is the chair of the New Technologies Committee at the British Dyslexia Association.  She explained to the audience how technology can be so useful for dyslexics in supporting them through education and onwards into the workplace.

Abi explained that many dyslexic thinkers benefit from support with organisation and planning as well as word processing.


For many, simply switching from having to physically use handwriting to using a laptop to write is less exhausting and more productive.  This is something that I observed with my daughter when she received her laptop for school work.
Abi mentioned that there is technology available for using dictation to write e.g Dragon Dictate is a common program that is used.

Another form of technology which is used commonly is 'Text To Speech' software which is great for proof reading and gaining access to digital text books.  Good examples of these technologies are SprintPlus, TextHelp and Claro.

The video below shows how text to speech works.




 With so many reading resources available that can support dyslexic thinkers, statistics show that of all the students that are eligible for using technology for reading in schools, as much as 20% don't use it for a number of reasons such as:

  • Perceived budget issues within school.
  • Concerns about reliability.
  • Understanding how to use it especially if teachers need training to support their students.
  • Concerns about being able to type fast enough to catch up with class.
  • Concerns about pupils actually wanting to use it i.e making pupils stand out because they are using technology amongst their peers thus highlighting their challenges.
  • Concerns about the availability of text books in digital format ( this is not a real concern as the RNIB Bookshare has an awesome resource that dyslexic students can take advantage of.  Free digital curriculum based text books are available for those with a 'print disability'.

So does technology make a difference for dyslexic students?

Abi, stated that studies have shown that using text to speech software delivers sustained improvements in:
  • Reading Speed
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Behaviour
  • Confidence 
  • Independence
I can't stress enough what a difference technology makes in helping with studying.  Technology is everywhere and used so much, so it seems to be a real win for students to be allowed access to it to unlock their educational potential.

Read on to find out about other types of technology that is available to support dyslexic thinkers...

The Studying With Dyslexia Blog Tech Round Up.


Notetalker

Have you ever sat in a class and heard your teacher say something and whilst it was really useful for some reason it didn't stick and your forgot it shortly afterwards?  This can be a real problem for
Click here to visit the Notetalker website.
dyslexic thinkers as sometimes teaching can move at a pace that is faster than that of one's ability to process the information.  So why not record it and use bookmarks to remind you of where the good stuff in the lecture was?  What's more, how about being able to make some notes in that moment, which are attached to what the teacher said in your recording and colour code your note for easy retrieval?  This is learning on a number of different levels and I was pleased to take a look at the Notetalker software at BETT.

This software gives the student a second chance to listen again to what the teacher said and to absorb that information.  This is also great for revision.

Scanning Pens

I met with Jack Churchill from Scanning Pens and he showed me how using a pen shaped device you can run it across some text and the device will read out what it said.
This is a quick and easy way to access text that can be listened to with headphones and is a great solution for exam reading.

Want to find out more about this type of device?  Click here to go to the Scanning Pens website.


Mind Mapping

Find out more about Mindview - Click here.
Followers of this blog will know how much I love Mind Mapping as a way of getting ideas out of one's head and into a document e.g for essays and reports.

I had the pleasure to visit the Matchware stand where they were showing their software, Mindview.

This is a product that I use regularly and I use it with text to speech technology.  The idea being to take the stress away about spelling and grammar by simply getting out ideas onto a mind map in a fun and visual way and then converting that mind map into a word document that can then be proof read using a program such as SprintPlus.  I wrote a blog article that specifically explains mind mapping which can be found here.

Free Technology That You May Not Be Aware Of.



Are you a user of Microsoft's Office 365 suite?

Then you may not be aware that Microsoft have built in a load of really useful features that support neurodiverse users when studying. This means that for current users of Office 365 you will have free access to features that have been specifically designed to support learning for students with learning difficulties that stem from dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia etc.
 Microsoft call these 'Learning Tools' which are increasingly becoming available across all the 365 products.


The full list of features can be seen below:


Click here to find out more about the Microsoft Learning Tools.

Final Comments


When you visit a show like the BETT Show it is amazing to see how much technology there is available to support learning of all styles.
A statistic that springs to mind is that 10% of our population is likely to have dyslexia and at a guess if you put all the neurodiverse conditions together then there is a good percentage of the population that would benefit from products developed with these conditions in mind.
I would love to see secondary schools be more proactive in seeking out new technology that could support our dyslexic learners, as these technologies definitely increase engagement for these kids at school and better academic outcomes which is good for the school and is fantastic for the individuals.

Both my children use technology to support their learning at university level which helps them to unlock their academic abilities, perhaps with better funding and a less complicated EHCP system, our local education authorities and schools could find a way to make technology available to all that need it.

So what are your thoughts?  Do you use technology like that described.  What difference does it make to you or your child?  Please comment below or send me your comments by clicking here.

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