Mobile devices enable reading in those with dyslexia

The widespread advent of electronic books is beginning to break down barriers that previously restricted access to high-quality content for education, needed to support the economic betterment and well being of peoples worldwide. Even as electronic books promise to improve access to text, many will nevertheless be unable to benefit from these advances because of neurological disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) that make reading a struggle. In this presentation we describe new research that shows that when handheld mobile devices capable of displaying text (e.g., smartphones) are configured in prescribed ways, many with dyslexia are able to read with less effort and more quickly, with better comprehension, making fewer errors in reading. Virtually no training is required on the part of the reader to benefit from this effect on mobile devices. However, for the method to work, text material must be prepared and displayed in specific ways, and this requires an understanding of the relevant parameters at play.  The Smithsonian Institution in the US has initiated an outreach program to help educators learn how to use mobile devices in this way, and are seeking help and guidance from participants of UNESCO Mobile Learning Week to help disseminate this information outside the US.

Matthew H. Schneps

Dr. Matthew H. Schneps is the director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). A founding member of the Science Education Department there, Schneps has been carrying out research and outreach in science education since 1983. He is well known for his work in educational television media that includes the award-winning programs "A Private Universe", and "Minds of Our Own" broadcast worldwide (famous for scenes of Harvard and MIT graduates struggling with concepts about the seasons). In recent years he has been conducting research in cognitive psychology to investigate how individual differences in neurology, including those associated with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders, effects how people learn science. An outgrowth of this work is the development of an innovative technique for reading for people with dyslexia using mobile devices, research carried out through funding from the National Science Foundation in the US, and other sources. Schneps was awarded the George E. Burch Fellowship in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences in 2010 – 2012. Schneps has been continuously employed at the CfA since receiving his PhD in physics from MIT in 1979.

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