Wednesday, 13 January 2010

13. Supporting students

Following on from the blog of yesterday, I receive an email which raises something that have been a concern of mine for some time. With permission (thanks, A) I quote the following "I have found that people with dyslexia are given the technology to help them, but not given support on how to use it. I was give a number of things to help me, but was "NOT" shown how to use it and a few other dyslexics have told me the same thing. To me this is just a waste of money, because if you cannot use it, because you have not been shown or can work it out for yourself, you do not use it. I think this needs highlighting too." So the question is not just where is the support, but what is effective support, and how do you ensure the right support is given to each individual? Clearly, a standard one-off technology needs assessment is not the right answer.

In iSHeds (, a project supporting dyslexic students in university in the Balkan countries (Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania), the "solution" has been to develop e-learning for both those supporting dyslexic students and the students themselves. Of course it cannot cover all aspects, but in a region where currently there is nothing, it offers a starting point, a kind of lifeline, to many who would otherwise have nothing. The irony is that those Balkans students could end up with more support available than what many students currently receive across the UK.

The iSheds material is, apparently, due to be available in about a month, and will be in English as well as the languages mentioned. And it will all be free. However, the concept mapping tool developed as part of the project is already available at


Rachel said...

It does seem to be the case that a lot of educators are in the dark whe it comes to helping dyslexic students (unsurprising, I suppose, when you consider that most teacher training courses devote very little time to the subject of learning difficulties).

It seems fairly obviou, though, that if you're going to provide students with assistive technology, their tutors should be familiar with that technology too! If they aren't, how can learning be a collaborative process?
I'm currently involved in the deveopment of a package of free classroom materials for teachers and pupils, accessed online (if you're interested, email us - there's a link here: ) to use in their literacy lessons, and we've collaborated with teachers and children at every stage. It would make no sense to introduce the technology into the classroom if the teachers didn't know what was going on!

Chris Jackson said...

Should University students getting equipment through the DSA not get instruction in its use as part of the package? I've seen that agreed in an Assessment of Needs. said...

Hi Chris,
Yes the funders are at least clever enough to specify that some form of training should be provided. But there are two issues - 1) not all training providers are themselves sufficiently trained in the use of the ICT they are using for training. This may be for a number of reasons, including that they are not familiar enough with all the latest software or latest manifestations, and that they only ever use it for training, and never have to use it in a manner used by students. (I have seen to many trainers giving presentations on using mind maps where the subject is either "A mind map on making a mind map" or "A mind map on assistive technology." Too few are on construction of essays such as "The heart" or "The role of photography in development of National Parks in the USA."
2) There is little long term support, though training itself can be over, say, a ten week period. Yes, we have moved on from "Here is your box. Use what is inside." to "Here is your box. This is how you use it." But I see little evidence of "Let's review how you use it in six months time."