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Posted 11th February, 2011 by Jocelyn Gronow

Research Report

Will changing the background colour of an electronic white board enable people to read black text more easily and more comfortably? 2009/10

 

Background

In 1980 Olive Meares reported how students experienced a lessening of visual perceptive difficulties if the printed word was covered with a tinted plastic sheet. In 1981 Helen Irlen’s research identified a sub-group of students who, “Had adequate decoding skills, good phonetic skills and an adequate sight vocabulary, but still found reading exceedingly difficult and avoided it wherever possible.” They described a variety of visual impressions when looking at black text on a white background eg “The white spaces form rivers which run down the page”, or “When I start to read, the words become a black line and I don’t see them anymore.”

Initially, this pioneering work was greeted with scepticism. It wasn’t until 1995 that Arnold Wilkins became intrigued by Irlen’s claims that coloured filters ease the symptoms of visual stress. In 2003   he published ‘Reading Through Colour’, where he describes the results of rigorous research that confirmed the ideas of Meares and Irlen. He describes the syndrome as MIVS, Meares Irlen Visual Stress.  Wilkins also developed Intuitive Coloured Overlays, used increasingly by schools and colleges, a free downloadable screen tinter, available to all via the internet and a Colorimeter to be used as a diagnostic tool by qualified optometrists.

Studies reveal that up to 30% of children and adults find coloured overlays useful, although only 5% have a severe degree of MIVS. In 2005 B J Evans stated that, “Visual problems are not the cause of dyslexia although they contribute to reading difficulties and many dyslexics have visual difficulties such as binocular instability and accommodative insufficiency.” In the same year, Helen Irlen stated that 65% of people who are dyslexic have MIVS.

Research

The research was undertaken at a college of further education. The teacher/researcher hoped that tinting the electronic whiteboard, so students no longer had to read black text on a white background, would prove an inclusive method of improving the learning environment for a large number of students without disadvantaging others.

252 people from 22 classes took part in the research; this included 33 members of staff. Classes ranged from Entry Level to Level 5, from craft, vocational and academic courses.  People were asked to read a text, based on Arnold Wilkin’s Rate of Reading Test, displayed on an electronic whiteboard, on first a white background and then to make a visual comparison between this and the same text on yellow, green, blue, orange and red backgrounds. People then read for a second time, the same text on the group’s preferred colour background. To eliminate the influence of practice, data from control groups, who read twice on a white background were collected.

Research findings

Results of the research showed that a light green background disadvantaged less people than other colours, including white, and advantaged most. Statistically, for most people there was no significant difference in reading efficiency on a white or tinted background. However, for the minority there was such a significant benefit they would be severely disadvantaged by not changing the background colour of the board from white to green. It was also interesting to note that students on lower level courses would benefit most.

 

Conclusion

This simple adjustment could provide a cost effective, inclusive learning support technique which can be replicated in all classrooms that have an electronic whiteboard.

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Posted 11th February, 2011 by Jocelyn Gronow

Book Review

For learners, parents and educational professionals

Improving Working Memory

Tracy Packiam Alloway www.tracyalloway.com

ISBN 978-1-84920-748-5

111 pages

Working Memory- Our brain’s Post-it note: this, the title for Chapter 1, so clearly encapsulates the meaning of working memory. From this, ‘light bulb’ moment, the structure of the book continues to illuminate the reader’s way through the chapters. Each chapter has subtitles throughout, a summary of numbered points and a list of further reading at the end.  Writing is visually punctuated with ‘Try It’ boxes, an opportunity to have hands-on understanding of the material; ‘Science Flash’ boxes, giving a snapshot of related current research; ‘Current debate’ boxes, which discuss relevant controversial issues; diagrams and data presented in visual form. Additionally, stories shared by teachers and parents with the author have been added to describe the challenges that learners face and inspire readers.

It is hard to put down this fascinating book which begins by exploring what working memory is, why it is important and how it relates to academic success. We are reminded of the many studies that demonstrate that working memory is a more reliable predictor of academic achievement than IQ, as a working memory test measures our potential to learn.

Chapter 2- Diagnosing working memory: looks at ways to test working memory; detailing the benefits and drawbacks of available tests and signposting the way forward.

The following chapters then describe a range of learning differences that impact on the way that people learn; the relationship between each one and working memory. In short, how poor working memory affects people with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and those on the Autistic Spectrum. It is disappointing that this range of differences is described as disorders but that should not deter the reader from becoming engaged with the findings.

The final chapter outlines a range of strategies to encourage students of all ages to become more independent in their learning. It also discusses whether it is possible to train the brain, improve working memory and improve learning outcomes.

The book is the culmination of many years of research undertaken by Tracy Packham Alloway, in conjunction with others, regarding working memory and related issues.  Professionals will find much that they recognise as well as new information; it is always reassuring to see ones hunches proved and ideas progressed.

A copy can be purchased on the internet for a little over £15.00, which makes this book easy to obtain by parents, learners and educational professionals.

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Julie Baister

Posted 6th February, 2011 by Julie Baister

As a pre – school child in the late 1950s, some of my fondest memories are of waiting for the arrival of the Warwickshire mobile library van. Before it arrived my mother and I enjoyed a cup of tea at a neighbour’s house whilst they discussed the books they had read. I can still remember every detail of the van and how the driver always helped me to find suitable books. This experience really helped to foster a love of reading.

Mobile libraries are now a thing of the past and most public libraries have been re -branded as information points. This is a far cry from my own memories in which books were the focus, but it is still alarming that such facilities are under threat.

I am heartened that an article in the Independent highlights growing opposition to threats to close local libraries and describes recent action taken in Northamptonshire:

‘The genteel protest is part of a National Day of Action in which thousands of supporters attended events in 95 libraries across Britain, in an attempt to stop what they fear is a mass cull that could see one in five libraries close during the next four years.’

The article can be found at the link below:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-day-the-bookworms-turned-2205737.html#Scene_1

As practitioners we often see that difficulties with reading prevent dyslexic learners from engaging with written materials. This in turn impacts upon their written and spoken vocabulary and can be a real barrier as they progress to Higher Education. Howewer, with reading support strategies in place, many of my learners have been encouraged to read for pleasure. It seems such a shame that they may now be robbed of that opportunity.

Please share your views.

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Posted 24th January, 2011 by admin

Pearson have recently released Dash 17+, a test that can be used as part of dyslexia assessment to give insights into hand eye coordination and fine motor control.

Here is June Page’s review of it. Please add a comment to say what you think.

Dash 17+

The Pearson website notes that this assessment ‘can identify students with slow handwriting and may assist in providing evidence for extra support, such as Access Arrangements in examinations’

‘It consists of five subtests, each testing a different aspect of handwriting speed. The subtests examine fine motor and precision skills, the speed of producing well known symbolic material, the ability to alter speed of performance on two tasks with identical content and free writing competency.’

I tried this with a number of people age 17 to 50+ (including the Level 5 Literacy Subject Specialists group who I teach on Wednesday evening.  This is what I found:

Continue reading this article… »


Julie Baister

Posted 21st January, 2011 by Julie Baister

Recent research at Princeton University suggests that if new information is presented in a font which is harder to read then the extra effort expended in reading the text leads to greater retention of the subject matter. Details of this research can be found at the link below:

http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S28/82/93O80/index.xml?section=research

These research findings contradict the widely held view that easy to read fonts assist dyslexic learners both with speed of reading and comprehension. Ariel and Verdana fonts are generally adopted as dyslexia friendly options but in this research Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva and Comic Sans Italicized were used.

The Princeton researchers acknowledge that if the texts are too difficult to read then this may discourage some learners from continuing to read the information. Interestingly they also suggest  that the adoption of harder to read fonts would be a cost effective means of raising attainment!

I am sure this research will arouse strong opinions amongst fellow dyslexia practitioners.  Please use our discussion area to share your views.

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