Dyslexicon is an online resource developed to provide an accessible and convenient space for third level educators to learn more about dyslexia and the issues dyslexic learners face.
It was an interesting project to work on. It provided challenging design and development issues which were resolved with varying degrees of success. In the end I believe we delivered a resource lacking some of the functionality we planned for but which acts as a satisfactory “proof of concept” for the design. Given more time and resources I believe that developing a resource that fulfils 100% of the design specifications is achievable.
Dyslexia is defined by The Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia (Ministerfor Education and Science, 2001) as follows:
Dyslexia is manifested in a continuum of specific learning difficulties related to the acquisition of basic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, such difficulties being unexplained in relation to an individual’s other abilities and educational experiences. Dyslexia can be described at the neurological, cognitive and behavioral levels. It is typically characterised by inefficient information processing, including difficulties in phonological processing, working memory, rapid naming and automaticity of basic skills. Difficulties in organisation, sequencing and motor skills may also be present.
It affects between 8-10% of the population to some degree. Its causes are not fully understood but the current prevailing theories are that it is related to phonological deficit or some difference in vision processing or even the part of the cerebellum responsible for balance.
Third level institutions in Ireland have a statutory obligation to support access to services and facilities for people with disabilities. Though the third level sector has a good standard of support for people with visual disabilities it is still very varied between institutions. (Higher Education Authority, 2008)
There is a plethora of accessibility guidelines available to third level educators. Our group decided that an easy to access online resource that quickly guides third level educators to the information they want about dyslexia was a good idea.
We used the ADDIE instructional design model to design this resource. It provided a practical framework for us to build a resource around. We also considered the Dick and Carey instructional design model which we agreed was very similar to the ADDIE model but lacking its simplicity and clarity.
“On completion of this resource the learner will be able to highlight what level of understanding they have of dyslexia and dyslexic learners and will have the tools to:
- Improve that level of understanding using online resources
- Assess their own teaching practice and resources with regard to accessibility for dyslexic learners.”
Dyslexicon uses a Vygotsky’s constructivist approach to create a Zone of Proximal Development with the quiz acting as a virtual mentor to the student. The core design feature of Dyslexicon is an online quiz that learns what the user’s level of prior knowledge is in the area of dyslexia. The quiz scores the users responses and directs the user to a pre-determined bank of external online resources. The bank of resources has been categorised in to sub categories each focusing on a different aspect of dyslexia. Each subcategory is linked to certain questions in the quiz. As the user progresses through the course the quiz stores the user’s score for each question and on completion the user is presented with a page of links to external resources that correspond to the categories they displayed least knowledge of.
The user is then invited to access the external resources and then re-attempt the quiz to try to improve their score. This feature is based on Gagne’s learning principles of repetition and reinforcement.
A glossary is provided within the resource that should help the user with any unfamiliar vocabulary and also act as a useful resource for them to return to later should they need it.
There is a blog providing an online space for users of the resource to discuss, debate and reflect on the issues and themes explored within the resource. We hope that this social constructivist element to the resource will counter-balance its otherwise highly automated design and provide for a deeper more engaging experience.
The first stage in development of the resource was to choose what software we would use. The resource needed a robust and easy to use online quiz. Options that were considered were mindflash, surveymonkey, hot potatoes and articulate. All of these options had positives and negatives such as each of use to develop, user interface customisation, complexity of quizzes, accessibility and compatibility with eportfolio.
We decided to choose articulate. It had in-built integration with Microsoft PowerPoint. This would allow us to design our user interface within Powerpoint which was a software that all group members felt comfortable using and which we had access to. The quiz engine in articulate is user-friendly and the output is an exported flash player presentation which would be easily accessed by the majority of web users and could be embedded our online e-learning portfolios.
Through out the development of the resource group decisions were made based on what we felt we could achieve within the time contraints of the module. We each had different skill sets and outside commitments to consider and these were discussed openly and frankly. As a team we each tried to contribute to each aspect of developing the resource and not just in aspects that we were already comfortable with. The majority of decisions were made unanimously and quickly as we were fortunately all united on what we wanted the resource to be. We met outside of college hours a number of times during the design stage. This allowed us to have a strong shape to begin developing the resource with and we communicated via group emails and texts otherwise.
The second stage of development was to develop the quiz. This required us to source questions that would be appropriate for measuring an educator’s understanding of dyslexia. In conjunction with this we would need to find external resources that would match the topic of each question. This proved challenging as we were unable to source many high quality online resources that dealt specifically with adult dyslexic learners. We sourced our questions on the quiz from a number of online quizzes and limited the number of questions to 15. These 15 questions covered four categories:
- Definition of dyslexia and basic information
- Tools and Strategies for educators
- Causes and Effects of Dyslexia
- Challenging attitudes towards dyslexic learners
This resulted in our having to use external resources that were less than ideal and which were often poor matches for the specific questions we were using in the course.
The resource was implemented by uploading the exported articulate files into a public folder using one of our drop box accounts. This was a technique which the class had been shown in an earlier presentation by a second year MSc student who faced similar limitations with using Mahara.The articulate file could be linked to from this public folder from any web source. Neither Mahara nor WordPress have the server-side capacity to upload and host articulate file so this was the most elegant solution to using a flash based resource with Mahara.
Evaluation and revision occurred at several points during the design process. Beginning with the scope of the project at the storyboarding stage. We soon realised that the scope of the resource was too large and that there was considerable scope for refinement.
The second point at which we evaluated the design was during the development stage and it resulted in changes to the target audience of the resource. We found while researching external resources that narrowing the audience would simplify the sourcing of resources. So with this in mind we decided to target third level educators, as we believed that was where the most robust resources would be. In retrospect the vast majority of online resources available are targeted at the parents and teachers of dyslexic children and I would use primary educators as our target audience.
The final point of evaluation came while working with articulate. It does not have the functionality to direct users to specific slides with specific links. A work-around may have included using 4 quizzes in the resource to target each category of resources. This would have changed the shape and usability of the resource and developing it fell outside of our time scale.
Working with my peers in the group allowed me to express my ideas on what the resource could be to an engaged audience who would provide me with valuable feedback. It also helped me develop my organisational and time keeping skills as we worked towards internal deadlines. The group members had different strengths and recognizing them and applying them in the most beneficial way for the group was also a valuable learning experience. Negative aspects of working in a group are that debate and discussion take time and energy and when working in a group compromise is essential. But these are also valuable to the development of a balanced and robust learning tool and should be encouraged.
Higher Education Authority. (2008). Dublin: National Office of Equity of Access to Higher Education,.
Minister for Education and Science. (2001). The Report of the Task Force on Dyslexia. MinistER for Education and Science.