The challenge: increase students’ motivation to write – particularly those with literacy difficulties
Located in Romsey, Victoria – Candlebark is a private school catering to students from prep to grade 9. Self-described as an adventurous school with an alternative approach to education, Candlebark caters to a population of 100 students. Fifteen percent (15%) of Candlebark’s students are identified as special needs – or, as the school prefers to express it – “students who stand out for a variety of different reasons – academic and/or social”. The majority of these students have considerable learning problems, usually in the field of literacy. In addition, the school has another 15 or so students who need more than usual support – again, usually with literacy or with social issues.
To offer the best possible support to their ‘stand-out’ students, Candlebark has a strong history of employing innovative technologies and methodologies. These have included Claro read aloud software on all computers and education apps on iPads – particularly to enhance motivation.
Back in October 2010, the principal and staff of Candlebark were searching for new, more effective means to address the literacy difficulties of kids – who, for various reasons – were unable to read and/or write at anything near their age appropriate level. In addition, the school sought to reduce the physiological problems caused by excessive use of a keyboard. Moreover, the school wanted to make writing more motivating for all students and to increase their success level. In Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, the school saw not only a potential solution to many of these challenges, but also an opportunity to add another skill to their students’ ICT capabilities.
The solution and expected outcomes: Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.
John Marsden – the principal of Candlebark – was instrumental in bringing Dragon to the school. The following quotations – taken from John before the installation – provide insight to the expected outcomes of Dragon speech recognition software:
“I’ve been recommending Dragon NaturallySpeaking to the parents of dyslexic and language- disabled students for years. Most of our dyslexic kids are verbally fluent and articulate. They can tell great stories. To give them the opportunity to be fluent on paper is to offer them status and respectability, to enable them to compete on equal terms, to restore their pride.
But Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not just for kids with learning difficulties. It’s great ergonomically, and it’s also sensational for editing, because it’s virtually effortless. Another bonus is the improvement in children’s speech when they use this program. NaturallySpeaking requires kids to speak clearly and rewards them when they do.” Some 18 months down the track, Candlebark now has 60 to 70 regular Dragon users. So, did Dragon live up to expectations?
Outcomes: breaking down the barriers to writing
According to the principal John Marsden, the main result achieved by using Dragon at Candlebark has been an increase in motivation by students to write, especially “reluctant writers”, or the kids who find academic tasks difficult. There is also a noticeable reduction in the frequency of errors in the work they hand in, due to Dragon’s superior spelling skills.
The students see it as an exciting aspect of computer use and literacy. Here are some quotes collected from students:
“It’s quicker than typing” (this said by a number of students) “The more you train it, the better it is.”
“It’s like having a trained monkey doing your typing for you.” “It’s make me more aware of spelling and punctuation”.
Benefits for teachers, too
Whilst not all the teachers at Candlebark have started using Dragon for their own work, those that have are very keen – using it regularly for reports, letters, lesson preparation, curriculum writing and general purpose. Some indicative quotes from teachers:
“It’s reduced my keyboard fatigue by about 80%”
“I don’t make those embarrassing spelling mistakes anymore!”
“I need to keep training it but I’m gradually becoming quite a fan!”
Candlebark found that getting kids to take the time to “train Dragon” is all important. Some students’ became frustrated when they didn’t achieve instant success, with 100% accuracy. To overcome this issue, staff just stayed patient and kept encouraging the students to persist – with great outcomes. The teachers also found that the more Dragon commands students learn, the better.
The environment around the user needs to be carefully considered. In the days following installation, the noise in Candlebark’s computer room was excessive with so many students all trying to speak into the microphones at the same time. This issue was quickly overcome with students learning to moderate their volume.
Motivation towards using Dragon is, as John Marsden expected, very high for the “less academic kids”, but also (somewhat unexpectedly) the “highly academic kids”.
Outlook for the usage of Dragon at Candlebark School
According to Principal John Marsden, Candlebark will keep strongly encouraging students to use this program:
“We think it has lifelong benefits for them. We expect the take-up of voice-activated software to be almost universal in the very-near future.”
To discuss a Dragon NaturallySpeaking solution for your school, contact Quantum on 1300 883 853 or email@example.com and speak to one of our consultants.
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