Research on Using Technology to Enhance the Writing Skills of Students With Special Needs -- The Journal of Special Education Technology (JSET)

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Published by The Journal of Special Education Technology (JSET), a Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). The study "Using Software to Enhance the Writing Skills of Students with Special Needs" examines the impact of assistive technology on the writing skills of students with disabilities. This research compared students' writing outcomes using word prediction and talking word processor tools to students' handwritten work samples.

Impact of Word Prediction Software on the Written Output of Students with Physical Disabilities

Don Johnston announced the publication of a new and independent research study by The Journal of Special Education Technology (JSET), a Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). The study "Using Software to Enhance the Writing Skills of Students with Special Needs" examines the impact of assistive technology on the writing skills of students with disabilities. This research compared students' writing outcomes using word prediction and talking word processor tools to their handwritten work samples.

Jennifer Cullen, Dayton Ohio Public Schools, Stephen B. Richards and Catherine Lawless-Frank; University of Dayton, performed the study to measure the impact of assistive technology writing tools on 5th graders' writing skills over a 7-week period at an urban elementary school. Don Johnston's Co:Writer® word prediction program and Write:OutLoud® talking word processor were chosen as the writing accommodations to support students during their daily district-mandated writing activities. The study demonstrated that the technology helped students improve their writing outcomes in four key measures: writing rubric scores, accuracy, spelling and number of words written.

The complete research study is available in the October 2008 JSET Issue, Volume 23(2), pg. 33-43. The online summary is: http://www.donjohnston.com/products/cowriter/research.html

Ben Johnston, Director at Don Johnston, said, "A high percent (65%) of students referred for learning disabilities have a writing disability. (Mayes, Calhoun, Crowell, 2000). Many of these students have physical, cognitive, or learning differences and can't reach their potential with conventional writing tools. This study demonstrates that students can thrive in the right environment provided they have the right tools. Over 20% of school districts use Co:Writer and Write:OutLoud as accommodations to support students who struggle in writing. We are pleased that more research is being done to match students to the right learning environment where they can excel."

In 2006, JSET published another study on the "Impact of Word Prediction Software on the Written Output of Students with Physical Disabilities", Volume 21, No. 3, prepared by Pat Mirenda and Kirsten Turoldo at the University of British Columbia and Constance McAvoy, Special Education Technology-British Columbia (SET-BC) Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This research examined the impact of Co:Writer on the written output of 24 students with physical disabilities. The study included surveys from students, teachers and adults after observing ten-minute writing samples in three modalities: handwriting, word processing, and word processing with Co:Writer. Two-thirds of students and over half of the adults believed that Co:Writer helped students spell better; use a wider variety of words; write faster; produce neater, easier-to-read work; and write more correct sentences. Another two-thirds believed that Co:Writer helped students write more with less fatigue and frustration and read what they had written. This research concluded that using word processing and Co:Writer together resulted in higher percentages of legible words, correctly spelled words, correct word sequences; and longer lengths of consecutive sentence sequences than by writing by hand alone.

Additional research and case studies about the benefits of assistive technology to support students with disabilities can be found at the Don Johnston website at http://www.donjohnton.com and at the Journal of Special Education Technology's website http://www.tamcec.org/jset/index.htm.

Resource Links:
Download this case study at: http://www.donjohnston.com/pdf/cowriter/cow_wol_research_study.pdf

Watch Co:Writer demo: http://www.donjohnston.com/media/flash/product_demo/cowriter/index.html.

Read a summary of this and other Co:Writer research and case studies: http://www.donjohnston.com/products/cowriter/research.html.

About Don Johnston Incorporated
Don Johnston empowers educators with specialized accessible technologies and supported reading and writing tools for students with cognitive, physical, and learning differences. Since 1980, the company has partnered with literacy experts, assistive technology specialists, speech language pathologists, psychologists, teachers, researchers, and scientists to develop over a dozen accessible technology products. The company also publishes Start-to-Finish®, a collection of paperback, audio and computer books for students reading below grade level.

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