Results are in!
How can one year with the use of HumanWare's new portable
digital talking book player the ClassMate Reader, change
reading outcomes for college bound students with Learning
| Over the course of an academic
year, integrating audio books and the use of the ClassMate
Reader led to significant increases in students' phonetic
skills, listening and reading comprehension, as well as fluency.
The results were surprising for the instructor who oversaw
the assistive technology program. It was the first time students
had been able to read material commensurate with their intellect.
"Non-readers can now experience what a fluent reader
can; reading for pleasure. I can now teach critical reading
skills, and teach students how to engage with text and truly
comprehend it. The ClassMate Reader allows students to be
independent. They can read, when and where they want, for
the first time," claims Alison Gammage Reading Specialist.
|A total of 29 college bound students identified
with severe language based learning disabilities and or ADHD,
ranging in grades from 9 -12, participated in the study over
a period of 24 weeks at the Lab School of Washington, in Washington
DC. All the students were instructed in the use of and had
access to a ClassMate Reader as part of a 45 minute assistive
technology lesson everyday. For 12 weeks students were able
to take the ClassMate Readers home and work independently.
A student sharing his experience said, "Now I know why
people read books; it's like a movie but the pictures are
in your head. If I have a ClassMate Reader I can do my homework
The weak reader is always playing "catch up"
for the years of reading experience they have already missed.
With the integration of the ClassMate Reader, students started
reading for pleasure and finally understood the pleasure
When introducing the ClassMate Reader to the students,
it was important to examine what we meant by reading. The
natural inclination of the students was to believe that
using an audio text was 'cheating'. By examining the nature
and purpose of reading, students recognized that the value
of reading lies in comprehending text and not merely in
having good decoding skills. Analogies to how braille is
used for the blind, helped students see the role of using
an accommodation to fulfill their potential.
|The role of audio text as a form of remediation was also
important for students. They needed to realize that interacting
with audio text was more likely to improve their skills than
avoiding reading, or reading very little. While listening
to the audio, students also tracked the words with their eyes,
so visual processing was taking place inadvertently, increasing
their decoding and comprehension skills. With increased exposure
to the text, students' sight memory of words increased.
This data highlights one of the greatest changes in students
reading development. Unlike their teachers, students' natural
medium for reading is with electronic text. However, there
are important differences in the way students read this
material. The type of reading most students are familiar
with is purposeful and information driven, with a short
engagement time. Students' comprehension skills for this
type of reading are radically different than the skills
they need to read print. Reading is much more complex with
narrative and a defined organisation of ideas.
|When using the ClassMate Reader, students were, for the
first time using electronic text in a different context. They
were reading for pleasure not of necessity. Many students
with a learning disability rarely read for pleasure and therefore,
lack some basic comprehension strategies. They had to be taught
how to interact with the text. Most were passive readers,
not visualizing, predicting or reflecting on what they were
reading. Many also wrongly guessed at words they could not
read which had become the primary reason for their low comprehension
scores. Hearing the text immediately corrected this.
Classroom observation quickly showed that it was essential
for students to see the text as well as to hear it. Not
seeing the text compromised comprehension in three ways.
Firstly, the majority of the students had auditory processing
difficulties and seeing the text was a visual reinforcement
to what they were hearing. Secondly, the majority of students
also had a diagnosis of ADHD/ADD and seeing the text improved
their ability to stay focused.
Lastly, it was important for the student to see the text
for the purposes of remediation. When they saw the word
as they heard it, they were then able to recognize a word
in print format, which they would have typically been unable
to read. The majority of the students had weak phonetic
decoding ability, and relied on sight memory to read.
An unexpected benefit from the project was an increase
in students' comprehension scores which had been low due
to poor fluency. It was clear that some students' comprehension
was affected by the inability to divide and switch attention
between decoding individual words and processing the meaning
of what was being read. Hearing the book, removed the need
to use decoding skills at the same time as comprehending;
this allowed the student to focus more working memory on
higher order comprehension skills, influencing, cause and
effect, predicting etc. This use of the ClassMate Reader
changed the nature of the task, by reducing the need to
multitask; more working memory was freed up for comprehending.
|The above may be the most significant factor
that contributed to the improvement of the scores in 'letter
word ID' and 'fluency' subtests of the WJ raw scores.
It is clear that there was significant remediation through
the use of the assistive technology. The majority of students'
sight memory for words increased throughout the year. Being
able to see the word at the same time they were hearing
it allowed the students strong visual skills to compensate
for their weaker auditory discrimination and processing
skills. It was also possible to see students who had good
comprehension, obtain greater gains when they could access
the text, as opposed to students who had comprehension difficulties
due to other cognitive factors.
It is evident from this project that students benefit from
the use of the ClassMate Reader making a difference in their
reading fluency and comprehension skills. With the proper
implementation of assistive technology and training, we
continue to see the results of improved reading comprehension
and fluency skills. There are a variety of studies done
with similar results. HumanWare would like to thank the
Lab school of Washington for their support of the students
and a special thanks to Alison Gammage for providing the
students with the resources to implement a technology program
that produced these results and for compiling the results
of the study.
HumanWare is the global leader in assistive technologies
for the print disabled. HumanWare provides products to people
who are blind or have low vision, and persons/or individuals
with learning disabilities. HumanWare offers a collection
of innovative products, including BrailleNote, the leading
productivity device for the blind in education, business,
and for personal use; the Victor Reader product line, the
world's leading digital audiobook players; myReader2, HumanWare's
unique "auto-reader" for people with low vision;
and the ClassMate Reader, the only portable book player
to offer synchronized text and audio for individuals.