After she struggled to pass her precalculus final exam, my roommate and I celebrated by turning her notes into paper airplanes and flying them into the dumpster. Like 5–15% of Americans, she struggled with dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to read, write, and spell. Math was especially difficult and frustrating for her, and unfortunately, there weren’t many supports in place to help.
Nearly 15 years later, her children are entering the school system, and I can’t help but wonder if they will struggle the same way. Luckily, as technology becomes more prominent in the classroom, students and teachers are more able than ever to accommodate individual learning needs, and many people are noticing the benefits of edtech for dyslexic students.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is one of the most common language-based learning disabilities, and of people with reading difficulties, nearly 70–80% are thought to have a form of dyslexia. Some of the most common symptoms are number reversals, difficulty copying from the board, and delayed reading skills. Children with dyslexia may also be uncoordinated or have problems following multifaceted verbal commands, and may become embarrassed and withdraw from school to save face, as is often the case with childhood disorders.
Dyslexia and Technology
The goal of intervention techniques is to improve reading and writing through evidence-based teaching and instruction. And technology can play an important role here:
- Text-to-speech is helpful for kids with reading issues. Many products enable students to highlight text and have it read aloud, which can be especially impactful for students with dyslexia.
- Dictation capabilities in software can help students who struggle with writing.
- Spelling- and grammar-checking software are also improving enough to catch syntax and inversion mistakes that students struggling with dyslexia commonly make.
Benefits of Edtech for Dyslexic Students
Understandably, parents and teachers of students with disabilities wonder if education technology products will help or hinder their learning. Much like other technology available today, edtech can provide essential tools to improve learning for students of all abilities, including those who have dyslexia.
- Recorded lectures are one of the biggest benefits of edtech for dyslexic students. No longer do students have to bring tape recorders to class; now they can rewatch the lectures at their leisure. Products like Edgenuity Courseware™ offer short videos of real teachers walking students through a lesson. Students who have dyslexia or other learning disabilities can return to the video as many times as they need, and no longer have to refer back to an overwhelming wall of writing that might appear in a textbook.
- Offering students extended time to complete their assignments is easier than ever with edtech. By simply adjusting a few settings within the course, students can have additional time on assignments without calling attention to them in front of the rest of the class.
- Access to lecture transcripts. How many teachers write down exactly what they say in front of a class? With edtech, there is a transcript of every recording, which can help students refer back to key terms and phrases whenever they need.
Helping Students with Dyslexia
Arguably one of the most important benefits of edtech for dyslexic students is the time it gives their teachers to give them the one-on-one attention they need. With lectures delivered via video and assignments auto-graded for the most part, teachers can work individually with students. So, “instead of making sure all the kids get the same thing, individual kids get what they need,” says one virtual instructor. And that personalized attention can make all the difference in educating these students so that they are not so frustrated they resort to gleefully destroying their notes.
Edgenuity. (n.d.). Individualized learning meets students’ needs. Retrieved from https://www.edgenuity.com/video-library/?vid=6084748333001
Martin, J. (2015, October 23). Why I celebrate technology as a go-to for kids with dyslexia. Understood: Expert Corner. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/community-events/blogs/expert-corner/2015/10/23/why-i-celebrate-technology-as-a-go-to-for-kids-with-dyslexia
Society for Neuroscience. (2004). Dyslexia: What brain research reveals about reading. LD Online. Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/10784/