“Glasses with colored lenses have been used as an attempt to assist children with dyslexia in reading since 1989,” says Szilvási. “However, when we got to know the Modern reader (Immersive Reader) built into OneNote, we asked ourselves whether this might help them as well.”
This learning tool, especially developed for children with dyslexia, allows them to divide a given text into syllables with a single click. Settings enable 1-3-5 line focusing, font size, and line-spacing adjustments. It can even read the text if required. At the April 2019 Education Exchange (E2) Conference in Paris, Microsoft Product Manager Mike Tholfsen revealed that although the reader was developed for people with dyslexia, its use has resulted in improved reading skills of all students.
“The most interesting feature for us is the ability to set different-colored backgrounds for various texts,” adds Szilvási. “Our hypothesis was that children with reading difficulties will be able to read faster and with fewer mistakes with the help of the Modern reader. We are starting the development program for students with special educational needs and students with integration, learning, and behavioral problems in the 2019–2020 school year, aiming to improve their reading skills 3-5-fold with this learning tool by the end of the school year as compared to the initial state achieved with traditional learning methods.”
The project’s preparatory phase was completed in the first half of 2019 in the Újpest school, during which time the teachers selected various practice and testing texts, assessed the students, and designed evaluation tables. The professionals also developed the methodology for measuring the degree of improvement under the guidance of Erzsébet Hornyák, Development Teacher at Homoktövis Elementary School. This process first required that they calculate the ratio of mistakes made and the number of syllables read. The improvement of reading skills can then be measured by dividing these ratios.
“So far, our measurements show that although the children read faster with a black background, their number of mistakes did not reduce significantly enough to bring about measurably significant development,” explains Szilvási. “Therefore, our task is to develop reading accuracy during the school year, which we plan to achieve by three occasions of 5- to 10-minute reading practice sessions per week.”
Currently one development teacher is performing the assessments in the school, but additional special education teachers and class teachers are planned to be initiated into the use of digital tools. During their tutoring lessons, these teachers could assess whether these learning tools could assist children who don’t have dyslexia, but have difficulties reading.
“We need to make sure the daily use of these tools be made possible at school and at home for students with dyslexia whose reading is really eased by this method,” notes Szilvási. “We have to get them acquainted with the use of the Modern reader so that they can also use it on their own.”
Szilvási adds that four other schools have already indicated their interest in participating in the assessment process upon seeing their initial results.