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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Using e-readers to assist students with reading disabilities

A recent Education Week article discusses how e-readers may be able to help students with dyslexia and reading disabilities. To date, there is not much research to confirm that e-readers can improve reading skills but the devices are still evolving and many educators believe that there is true potential. Some of the benefits that e-readers on the market today can provide are: text-to-speech functionality, the ability to change the size of the type, and a built-in dictionary that can help students look up words and pronunciations. In addition, children may feel more comfortable using the devices in front of their peers because e-readers were not specifically designed for students with disabilities, students may need less assistance from teachers and parents, and the devices could help reduce the time it takes for students to receive the content they need in the format that they require.

Along with these benefits, there are additional capabilities that could be added to e-readers to make the devices more powerful. David H. Rose, the founder and chief education officer for the Center for Applied Special Technology, says, for now it is imperative to bring together the manufacturers of e-readers, as well as educators, policymakers, and experts in educational technology, to determine what features e-readers could and should include.

Lotta Larson, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Kansas State University, pointed out that professional development will also be required. "I don't think the e-reader in itself is going to make a difference, but if it's used with effective instruction, then it can make a huge difference.”

As the devices evolve and more experiments are implemented, we can expect that additional research will be conducted to determine if e-readers can improve reading skills and assist those with reading disabilities.

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