There have been a number of issues influencing the utilization of Assistive Technology (AT) for high school students with dyslexia (Draffan et al., 2007; Bryson, 2013). Changes to Public Law 105-17 (2004) in the United States command that assistive technology be taken into account when planning a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for a student with dyslexia.
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Whereas this is presently not an obligation formulated in practice or policy for high school students (Herberg et al., 2012), the change serves to further legalize the utilization of assistive technology for high school students with dyslexia (Herberg et al., 2012). In some countries, specific financing for assistive technology (Shahtout et al., 2012; Bryson, 2013) has resulted in greater access to assistive technology.
Also, the technology is currently more effective and cheaper than ever. These associated factors have implied that there is more acceptance of the utilization of assistive technology (Hyde et al., 2009) and more high school students have access to assistive technology than ever before (Ramus & Ahissar, 2012).
For the purposes of this proposed study, the term “dyslexia” will be utilized as a general word that refers to considerable complexities in acquiring, interpreting, retaining or using information for any high school student (Draffan et al., 2007).
These may be affected by barriers in modality, cognitive or emotional performance. Much of the research in the utilization of AT has been done for high school students with dyslexia. This study consists of, but is not confined to, studies associated with assistive technology for high school students with identified dyslexia.
The advantages of assistive technology have changed the learning experience for high school students with dyslexia (Shaywitz et al., 2006). The potential of assistive technology to deal with learning needs for high school students with dyslexia is well documented (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012).
The utilization of digital devices and voice identification technologies provide high school students with individual access to the syllabus where access would otherwise have been complex, if not impossible (Peterson-Karlan, 2011; Verduin et al., 2012). The utilization of this assistive technology is designed to allow equal access to education opportunities and back-up for students with dyslexia (Romjue et al., 2011).
The impact of AT on the ability to effectively complete high school education is being accepted (Scherer et al., 2005). Its utilization has been indicated to provide a greater sense of self-determination and a significant reduction in student nervousness levels in addition to performance benefits (Printz et al., 2006; Romjue et al., 2011).
Whereas it is accepted that assistive technology can have an affirmative impact on students with dyslexia (Peterson-Karlan, 2011), the procedure for successful integration of AT into the education system is more complex (Draffan et al., 2007). A well identified gap exists between potential assistive technology and the needs for high school students with dyslexia (Bryson, 2013).
Lack of instructor time, limited teaching, access to support program, limited management and lack of a widespread goal or basis for assistive technology utilization are regularly cited issues (Herberg et al., 2012). One research found that as issues like these reduced, children’s utilization of assistive technology for high school students with dyslexia increased (Kaufman et al., 2011).
It has been found that the potential for assistive technology can only be achieved if teachers and those supporting assistive technology programs are trained in educational methods that allow assistive technology to be incorporated in a meaningful manner (Scherer et al., 2005; Draffan et al., 2007; Kaufman et al., 2011).
The problems involved in assistive technology program delivery require to be more cautiously considered and need a more complex understanding that goes beyond the simple access and process of the assistive technology device.
This research proposal is designed with two aims in mind:
- to research on kinds of regularly utilized AT software programs for high school students with dyslexia,
- to research on integration of assistive technology in high schools and concerns associated with a successful integration procedure, based on existing literature.
Assistive technology began as a supportive tool for the physically challenged when utilizing computer equipment (Draffan et al., 2007). Because of the design of word prediction devices, it has been assumed that these devices could aid students diagnosed with dyslexia.
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This research proposal details existing research into assistive technology and the requirements of dyslexic high school learners to see if there are correlations. The study query being dealt with is, “Can assistive technologies meet the requirements of dyslexic high school students when it comes to writing assignments?”
The first part of this proposal details the underlying literature to support the importance of the study query. The study methodology is then detailed through discussion of the queries, assumptions and approach of the study design provided.
Consistent with an investigation by Hyde et al. (2009), dyslexic high school students reported themselves as feeling more nervous and incompetent in their written assignment at primary school in relation to other learners.
Hyde et al’s research investigated self-worth and nervousness levels of dyslexic students. A number of students talked about how pessimistic memories of their time at primary school still influenced how they felt and performed when faced with diverse written assignments (Hyde et al., 2009).
Spelling mistakes mostly are of high concern for high school students with dyslexia. Literacy tasks like homework and assignments can lead to nervousness for students with dyslexia (Shaywitz et al., 2006), and in the event of a task that they feel they cannot complete, rather than requesting for assistance, they may choose not to turn in the assignment at all (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012).
The idea of assistive technology began as an easy assistive method to reduce the number of features essential for people with physical disability, making it simpler to communicate and less demanding for the user (Peterson-Karlan, 2011).
Word prediction devices include software that allows users to write one or more words and then select a word based on a chosen list to complete the sentence they were writing. Word prediction tools predict this sentence in context to the earlier words utilized (Lolich et al., 2012).
One of the signs of dyslexia is poor word recognition, which could have a consequence on the learner’s performance. Poor word recognition may as well have a consequence on the learner’s self worth as illustrated in Hyde et al. (2009).
Whereas there are centers like the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP) and the Adaptive Technology Research Center (ATRC) that both support the utilization of assistive technology for students with dyslexia, there do not appear to be any instances of this being implemented, at least openly on the internet, as instances of more pronounced dyslexia indicate greater improvement (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012).
The electronic health dictionary defines dyslexia as “an expression utilized to describe a condition in which a person with ordinary vision is not able to accurately understand the written language. People can see and identify words but are not able to write words” (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012, p. 24). This thesis will be based on the signs of dyslexia that consist of poor writing.
A dyslexic student’s self worth is influenced later in life by the lack of assistance in secondary school (Shaywitz et al., 2006). Shaywitz et al. (2006) indicate that writing a task causes nervousness in high school students with dyslexia and if the task is viewed as complex, it may not be turned in (p. 279).
The National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP) and the Adaptive Technology Research Center (ATRC) both claim that dyslexia can be reduced with the utilization of assistive technology, but neither offer detailed examples of this utilization.
So the study query that requires to be tackled is, “What assistive technologies are available for high school students with dyslexia?” To deal with this query, two sub-queries are to be investigated:
- What are the needs for high school students with dyslexia?
- What are the working features of assistive technology for high school students with dyslexia?
Generally defined assistive technology refers to any technology that allows development, maintenance or enhancement of the practical abilities of a person with a disability (Scherer et al., 2005). In essence assistive technology utilization allows the individuals with a disability or education difficulty to improve their performance and write assignments more effectively and individually.
It may allow individuals the capability of completing assignments they could not otherwise complete at all. Not all AT is computer based. Vision aids and hearing devices are considered assistive gadgets. United States Legislation (IDEA) describes assistive technology using such a wide definition.
A number of examples of assistive technology offered by the Adaptive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) are: positioning devices that allow access to learning programs; day by day living aids and services, basic communication devices, assistive reading tools; visual aids like contrast improvement, magnification of words and adapted hardware (Peterson-Karlan, 2011).
Whereas such technologies are assistive to high school students with disabilities (Kaufman et al., 2011), the proposed study will only consist of assistive technology for high school students with dyslexia.
To further simplify the meaning of assistive technology, a number of researchers have delineated additional features by defining the purpose for which assistive technology is utilized (Hyde et al., 2009).
It can be utilized to increase a student’s abilities to compensate the consequences of dyslexia (Herberg et al., 2012), to offer an alternate method to write an assignment in order to compensate for reading and writing problems, and/or to circumvent the reading complexities altogether (Draffan et al., 2007).
Other researchers have described assistive technology utilization as being a “cognitive prosthesis” allowing for back-up to write an assignment more effectively and individually where otherwise complex or impractical (Draffan et al., 2007).
Dyslexia refers to a neuro-developmental disability defined by complexities in learning to read in spite of traditional teaching, sufficient intelligence and an impartial social background (Shaywitz et al., 2006; Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012). Dyslexia is the most widespread form of education disability. Reading complexities influence a student’s educational performance (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012, p. 24).
A number of high school students find it complex to learn to read in spite of having standard intelligence, suitable academic opportunities and lack of emotional problems. Such students have a reading age that is three or more years behind their normal age and have dyslexia (Peterson-Karlan, 2011).
The word dyslexia is utilized equally as developmental dyslexia (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012) and as explicit reading impairment (explicit meaning that development is standard except for reading) (Hyde et al., 2009).
It is based on the Greek words: “dys” indicating complex or hard and “lexia” on the expression “lexicos” which means pertaining to expressions; thus dyslexia denotes a complexity with reading (Ramus & Ahissar, 2012, p. 104).
There is presently some agreement that despite the contributions of other systems, dyslexia is a word-centered problem defined by complexities to read, spell and write, in which the main complexity in reading complexity manifests as an insufficiency at the level of word processing capabilities within the speech system (Herberg et al., 2012).
The core area of complexity lies in coding capability that involves decoding (identifying the sound of an expression) and encoding (identifying the letters which form the printed term), both words as well defined as identifying and reading respectively (Draffan et al., 2007).
Interestingly, high school students with dyslexia may not have obvious complexities with spoken language, yet do have obvious complexities with written languages (Bryson, 2013). The variation between spoken and written word is that spoken word is heard while written word is seen (Herberg et al., 2012). The fact that written is seen may elucidate why vision has at all times been related to dyslexia (Hyde et al., 2009).
High school students with dyslexia are distinctive, each having personal strengths and weaknesses (Romjue et al., 2011). Even though most of the past studies on dyslexia focus on its complexities, many students with dyslexia are in fact innovative, talented and are successful in a range of areas like law, technology, education and arts (Hyde et al., 2009).
Draffan et al. (2007) carried out two surveys (utilizing paper-centered questionnaires) of high school learners who were supplied with assistive technology. Their study was mainly focused on the process of evaluation and was limited to high school students with dyslexia; of the two studies carried out 21 (45.5%) of the 48 in one study and seven (36.3%) of the 22 in the other study were recognized as having dyslexia.
The outcomes indicate high levels of agreement with the evaluation procedure and the assistive technology provided.
When requested to state the academic or technological aids that had the biggest influence on the students’ educational lives, of the 19 in the bigger survey who replied, 14 identified general items (mainly general purpose assistive technologies but as well specialist instruction support) and six identified specialist assistive technology (p. 9).
Because of the skewed nature of the assumptions, the study for the sub-queries fits into an ideographic model. Ideographic approaches place significant emphasis upon getting close to one’s topic and investigating its specific background and history (Herberg et al., 2012).
High school students’ needs with homework completion are based on their own individual view, and as such cannot be explored from outside the mind of the learners (Wajuihiah & Naidoo, 2012, p. 26).
A case research in the form of interviews will be carried out to collect data on learner’s needs. Such interviews will be carried out with 10-15 high school learners and one or more instructors who instruct and appraise assignment that such students submit. The learners selected will all have an average level of dyslexia as described by their medical reports.
The age clusters of the learners will be divided equally with at least one student aged 12 years, and at least one student aged 14 years. This will establish if the learner’s needs have been accommodated for through the experience of high school.
There will be limitations to the number of learners that will be interviewed because of the limited time to accomplish this study and thesis. Whereas a bigger group, across more peer groups and various schools might offer a better outcome, this is impossible at this time.
The study for the sub-questions fits into a homothetic methodology which Hyde et al describe as laying “emphasis on the significance of basing study upon methodical process and method” (Hyde et al., 2009). Because of assistive technology being an innovation, it will be examined to see if its functionality meets the needs of the high school students with dyslexia.
A case research evaluates an incident in its physical setting, engaging multiple techniques of data compilation to collect information. Peterson-Karlan (2011) stated that “the distinct need for case research arises out of the need to comprehend difficult social events” (p. 43). Bryson (2013) states that there may be descriptive, investigative or exploratory case research (p. 431).
Because of this study asking a “what” query, it fits into an exploratory case research. There are a number of factors that go into the structure of case studies. These consist of setting and data gathering techniques (Kaufman et al., 2011).
The factors that affect a single case structure as well dictate the site selection (Printz et al., 2006). Site selection may be derived from the characteristics of locations.
In the case of this present work, finding a high school with at minimum two dyslexic students, that attend a public high school of an average social and economic standard, will aid to allow the outcomes to be generalized if the learners investigated do not attend the same high school (Romjue et al., 2011).
Data collection and analysis
Draffan et al. (2007) state that several data compilation techniques are usually utilized in case studies (p. 5). Ideally proof from three or more studies will converge to back-up the study findings (Draffan et al., 2007; Romjue et al., 2011). Data gathering techniques within case studies consist of documentation, survey, observation, and archival records.
As a part of the study plan, and considering the social model of disability and the self-support movement, the opinions of the high school learners themselves are more critical than observed activities or outcomes that may have been compiled by instructors or a psychologist (Peterson-Karlan, 2011).
As such, archival records and interviews, if provided, would not be utilized for the purpose of this proposed research. The two data gathering techniques utilized will involve direct observation and reviews (Printz et al., 2006). A baseline research will as well be completed to assist explain the questions utilized in the interviews.
The interviews will be carried out orally always, because of the nature of dyslexia, and will involve open-ended queries. Such interviews will be recorded, but after the data are analyzed will then be demolished to keep the privacy of the participants (Printz et al., 2006).
This informality will be utilized to gain an ease from the participants whereas increasing the safety that the participants feel to talk about this individual subject (Peterson-Karlan, 2011). The direct observation will be utilized in monitoring the participant’s emotional expression like eagerness, defensive attitude and hesitance (Draffan et al., 2007). This will be recorded prior to, during and even after interviews.
The ontological assumption is described utilizing the model for paradigmatic evaluation as suggested by Printz et al. (2006). Such assumptions assume that dyslexic students avoid words that they cannot write, and thus an assistive technology would aid to complete assignments.
Because of dyslexia being an instruction complexity, it exists in the mind and is thus subjective (Ramus & Ahissar, 2012).
Negativism maintains that the socio-economic world “can simply be understood from the perspective of the people who are directly involved in the activity which is to be investigated” (Hyde et al., 2009). To understand the needs of such high school students with dyslexia, interviews will be carried out to understand the views and perceptions of the learners, therefore taking a negativist stance.
There will be limitations to the number of participants that will be interviewed because of the limited time to accomplish this study and thesis. Whereas a bigger group, across more peer groups and various schools might offer a better outcome (Peterson-Karlan, 2011), this is impossible at this time.
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