An eleven-week study of eighteen dyslexic children suggests OneNote can positively impact behavior and reading comprehension. The British Dyslexia Association assessed the impact of OneNote's immersive reading feature at Knowl Hill School in Surrey.
The functionality combines dictation and text highlighting to make it easier for students to follow a passage. It's part of Microsoft's Learning Tools project, which has roots in the company's annual hackathon.
Out of the eighteen students, sixteen were better behaved. A further eleven showed improvement in reading comprehension. It's thought that hearing the words makes it easier for students to spot mistakes. As a result, teaching assistants can focus their attention on other places. Knowl Hill headteacher Jan Lusty says this brings its own benefits:
“It gives them more independence,” she told Sky News. “If they're really dyslexic and they can't read really much at all, then they have to have someone else interpreting for them the whole time, reading and scribing. This puts that into their hands. They can do it themselves. And that's the key thing for me and I think that's why we saw an increase in their confidence over the period of the trial.”
Despite the success, the BDA is aware that the trial is a small one. The focus now is on future implementations.
“What I think is really exciting is that – through this partnership between the users and the developers, and the pace at which technology is moving – I can foresee within the next five years or so tremendous progress,” said Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association.
Microsoft certainly seems willing to run further tests. A firm scientific basis would likely give the application more traction in such scenarios.
“We've learned a lot from how young people have fed back into the reading, in terms of comprehension and fluency. We're always feeding back into our product,” said Ian Fordham, director of education at Microsoft UK.
The next natural step is a large-scale study, which will hopefully provide not just evidence, but a road to further improvements.