Using assistive technology to support students with dyspraxia

This post was created by PGCert participants in Team Jupiter as part of their assessment for Unit 1 of the course. The brief was to evaluate technologies that could help students with specific learning needs to learn more effectively.

Whether standing in front of the class or sitting as the host in a Zoom session the job of the lecturer is to provide the key parts of knowledge, whilst the students make notes. Although many find this a simple task there may be those that struggle. There will be those that listen and connect every word you speak with their fingers, whilst they write (or type) and there will be others sitting and waiting for something to click. Dyspraxia may be the cause of a student’s misconnection to the taught material. A neurological ‘disorder’ that affects an individual’s ability to plan and to process motor tasks, remembering and organising.

‘The nationwide poll of teachers highlighted that dyspraxia is ‘under the radar’ […]. 65% said that awareness of dyspraxia in their schools was poor or very poor […] 71% saying that lack of awareness and understanding affected children’s opportunities and achievements.’ (Dyspraxia Foundation News, 2017)

We know dyspraxia exists, whether or not it is revealed to be in the classroom it is best to be prepared for the day one’s awareness is challenged, ‘Modifications to the educational environment and adaptations to facilitate learning are essential for many students to succeed in school as well as in college’ (VanBergeijk et al. 2008 cited in: Kinnealey et al. 2012). The need for a tool to simplify and take personal struggle out of the equation is needed for the modification of the educational environment, allowing for the self ‘transformation’ in learning.

Once the struggles of note taking and connection with material is erased, independent thinking could be the result, “fostering greater autonomy in thinking is both a goal and a method for adult educators,” and “achieving greater autonomy in thinking is a product of transformative learning” (Mezirow, 2000: p. 29). Mezirow championed the individual’s path in their learning experience, one that is infused by the knowledge shared by their facilitator of that learning. Knowledge that is ultimately owned by the student. But there must be more simple ways to help those that deal with dyspraxia achieve the level of transformative learning they deserve.

Audio to Otter is the assistive tool that can take away the upset and confusion that a student dealing with dyspraxia could have. Note recording applications such as Otter are simple apps that learners of current and future education can use to cut the difficulty out of their experience. Otter claims to distinguish individuals within. Its note taking abilities can help dyspraxia students with poor memory, difficulties with concentration, difficulty’s in listening, these notes can have imagery linked to them helping learners visualise better. It also gives the opportunity for users to sync their notes with an online calendar such as google calendar or even Zoom (as it is the most popular learning tool currently used in the higher education environment). Features can set reminders for recording events, help organise notes taken through the app and allows this information to be shared. It is imperative to break down barriers asnd such apps can help with difficulty in planning and organising thought, with those who struggle with time keeping and poor memory.

As a result of using such apps and AI software, all students can benefit and enhance their learning abilities. As students enter the higher education stratosphere, their adaption must be quick and in the current environmental situations their adaption to higher education material is also connected to the rapid onslaught of online learning. By helping this transition, it can ensure that no learner is left behind.

References

AdvanceHE. (2012). The Equality Act 2010: implications for colleges and HEI’s revised. (Accessed on 26th January 2021)

Kinnealey, M; Pfeiffer, B; Miller, J; Roan, C; Shoener, R; Ellner Matt (2012) ‘Effect of Classroom Modification on Attention and Engagement of Students With Autism or Dyspraxia’. In: American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol 66. pp 511-519. DOI: https://dio.org?10.5014/ajot.2012.004010 (Accessed on 22nd January 2021)

Merriam, S. (2004). ‘The Role of Cognitive Development in Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory’. In: Adult Education Quarterly. Vol,55:1. Pp60-68. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/07414604268891 (Accessed on 22nd January 2021)

Mezirow, J. (2000). ‘Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory’. In: J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds), Learning as transformation. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass

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