REFERENCE: Zordell, J. (1990). The use of word prediction and spelling correction software with mildly handicapped students. Closing The Gap , 9(1), 10-11.
PRODUCTS: KeyWiz (Words+ Inc), MS Works (Microsoft)
Description of Research
CONTEXT: This study, undertaken in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada assessed the benefits of using word prediction software and a word processing program with a standard spell checker with mildly mentally handicapped elementary school students.
Most of the students (eight initially, six at the conclusion) had the following characteristics: from twelve to fourteen years of age, no significant physical disabilities, reading from a third to sixth grade level, significant spelling difficulties, unable to use a dictionary, very verbal, had some keyboard or typing training which they were not using effectively, and had no previous experience using the computer to write.
The goals of the project included improving the students' attitude toward writing; enhancing the quantity and quality of their written output; developing better language skills.
RESEARCH STUDY: The students were given general instruction in computer use, trained to use the word prediction program (Key Wiz by Words+) with the word processing program (MS Works), and then given direct experience in using the computer to write. They used the software programs for a year, starting in April, 1989. Three pre- and post assessment measures to evaluate student skills and attitudes included the collection of writing assignments completed prior to the project, a "cloze activity" in which the students had to provide the words omitted from a paragraph, and a questionnaire to assess their attitudes toward writing.
OUTCOMES/REFLECTIONS: The researchers provide quantitative data on each of the six students on the following pre-and post study measures: % of words spelled incorrectly, word variety, correct use of word endings, accuracy of sentence structure and improved attitude toward writing.
Staff observed that the students were all motivated by the novelty and ease of use of the software. Unexpectedly, they did not have to spend much time teaching the students how to use the software programs. The following generalized results and impressions emerged from the project:
1. Word prediction software served to improve spelling for several reasons:
If the student could type in the first few letters of a word, the word prediction software identified the word and eliminated the need to spell it in its entirety. The process of appropriate word selection was made easier and faster by having the prediction choices customized for each student so that each student had their own most frequently used words (e.g., names of friends and teachers) and vocabulary (i.e., specific to their age group and environment) on their personal copy of the program.
An unexpected finding was that word prediction software helped students to realize their errors as they occurred by relying on the "look" of the word. Realizing that their predicted words did not look like the words they wanted, some students would then experiment with other letter possibilities until it "looked right."
(The author and his colleagues did not determine how much of the improvement in spelling could be attributed to the use of word prediction software and how much was as a result of using a word processing program.)
2. The use of word prediction software led to a marked increase in the variety of words used in students' written language. The author suggested several explanations for this:
Perhaps by seeing and recognizing the words available in the prediction tables encouraged the students to select words they otherwise might not have used.
The author felt that, since the students were able to successfully select the correct spelling from the prediction tables, they were better able to put the words they wanted onto paper and did not feel compelled to use only those words they were comfortable with spelling.
3. The use of word prediction software apparently improved the frequency and correct use of word endings.
The feature in the word prediction program allows the student to add an ending automatically.
Inexplicably, results also show a reduction in the number of morphemes and words being used in each sentence when using the word prediction software.
4. For some students, the use of word prediction software contributed to an improved use of sentence structure.
For one student, the author felt that the lessened concern regarding correct spelling may have allowed for concentration in other areas of expression.
5. Results of a pre- and post questionnaire survey indicated that five of the six students were more positive about writing, and all students wanted to spend more time writing their ideas.
6. While specific data was not collected, the author was of the opinion that the speed of writing was improved for five of the six students as a result of using the word prediction or spelling checker software.
The author noted that those students who were able to improve their speed of writing using the word prediction software generally had mild visual and/or motor impairments, and were very poor spellers but could come up with the first 2-3 letters of a word.
FOLLOW-UP: The program has become an integral part
of the morning language arts program in this special education class. Each child has
twenty minutes of computer time for writing purposes and additional time as needed to
write letters, journals, creative writing and other individualized writing activities.
The author felt that staff members also learned a great deal in a short period of time and that this knowledge, as well as the equipment, would be used by other staff members. Many teachers and parents observed the program and have expressed an interest in getting involved. Staff planned to continue the project over the next two years. Since several of the students are using word prediction as a practical strategy for better written output and an improved self esteem about writing, staff anticipates the need to make the equipment available on a permanent basis.
CONTACT(S): John Zordell is a Speech and Language Pathologist-Consultant for the Fitzwater Centre at the Kamloops School District #24 in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.
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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts. NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013. Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information. If you do so, please cite NCIP. Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government. This site was last updated in September 1998.
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