Speech recognition software for dyslexic students in NCEA

A group of dyslexic students from Kapiti College will be among those able to use speech recognition software during NCEA exams this year as part of a three-school trial.

The college of 1,500 includes more than 150 students with dyslexia, most of whom use an assistive technology called Dragon to overcome problems with reading, writing and spelling. 

Principal Tony Kane says the Dragon software is an “ideal” solution for students with dyslexia. “It’s fast, no problem adapting to accents, is highly accurate with technical language and is very easy to use.”

Dragon allows students to simply talk to create content and command a computer. Rather than focus on typing and spelling, it allows students to focus on content so that they can do their homework, complete assignments and essays and type up notes.

The college owns netbooks loaded with Dragon which are available to students in class and also in “Dragon Dens”, colour-coded spaces where additional technology is located. These can be booked for assessments or study time.

“More than 100 of our dyslexic students have now been trained on Dragon and we’ve found that while it doesn’t suit some, the vast majority have adapted fine.

“Their levels of usage vary widely – from occasional to very regular. For many of our regular users, they are producing work and evidence of learning of a quality which is far beyond their pre-Dragon days,’ says Mr Kane.

In 2016, Kapiti College hosted the Education and Science Select Committee and took them to see students working in the Dragon Dens. They were surprised by both the relatively low cost of this assistive technology and the work that the kids were producing.

“We also used Dragon in our mid-year trial in 2016 for Special Assessment Condition (SAC) students in the digital pilot of level one English, media and French. Dragon worked perfectly in this, though we were not able to use it in the final exams. However, NZQA have since been working on this and a small number of SAC students will be able to use Dragon for some exams this year as part of a three-school trial.

“At Kapiti, there’s no doubt that Dragon has greatly helped students with their learning, and along the way, boosted their confidence and self-esteem,” he says.

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