It is estimated that one in five students has dyslexia, yet there are likely far more who have not yet been identified in today’s classrooms. These students, whose language based learning difference causes a deficiency with phonological processing when learning to read, are often mistakenly labeled as having a learning disability and, as such, make up approximately 70 to 85 percent of today’s special education classes. Their teachers and parents don’t often have the resources or training to help, however passionate they may be. Without the proper support in formative years, a struggling student’s confidence and love of learning can fade. History has shown these great young minds can bring tremendous gifts to the world – like the many great dyslexic innovators, artists and leaders before them – if they feel empowered and learn to see dyslexia differently.
That is why today, we are honored to be the first company to sign the Made by Dyslexia pledge: to give the 700 million people with dyslexia around the world access to technology that empowers them to excel in their academic journey, and in life. The pledge calls on partners to build a better future for those with dyslexia and, together with Made by Dyslexia, we aim to democratize dyslexia support, so that every dyslexic child is understood and given the right support to realize their brilliant potential.
To achieve this goal, we are expanding our Microsoft Education training materials, research and products that support dyslexic students. Products like Learning Tools are free to educators and students and are already helping more than 14 million people improve their reading and writing comprehension. Starting today, we pledge to expand access and improve ease of implementation of these tools.
Click below to jump to details on our commitments and new updates:
- Developing materials and training for educators supporting dyslexic learners
- Helping students to write with their voice using the Dictation Tool in Learning Tools
- Inviting all learners into the conversation with Immersive Reader in Flipgrid
- Helping students read math problems with Immersive Reader
- Supporting students in their native language with real-time translation in Immersive Reader
- Helping students sound out words, in partnership with the University of Washington
- Making the web more friendly to all learners with updates to the Microsoft Edge browser
- Capturing text from anywhere to read in Immersive Reader with Office Lens in Android
Research shows90 percent of children with dyslexia can be educated inside an inclusive classroom [PDF link] when teachers are trained in early dyslexia identification and intervention. To make this possible, we will be partnering with Made by Dyslexia to build free teacher and parent training materials on our Microsoft Educator Community in late January, 2019. The training will consist of short, informative and inspirational film modules that introduce educators and parents to dyslexia, as well as specific materials that focus on reading instruction. There will also be specific instruction around reading and dyslexia.
Dictation (speech to text) is an important technology that allows people to easily type with their voice. It is especially helpful for those with dyslexia, dysgraphia or mobility impairments. We launched Dictation for Office 365 Desktop Apps earlier this year. In the coming weeks, Dictation will expand so that it’s freely available for Word and OneNote Online in any browser.
In Flipgrid, educators can create social learning communities based on topic stimuli. Learners of all ages can share their ideas, stories, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds through short recorded videos. But when a learner struggles to read and understand the foundational discussion topics, it proves difficult to share their voice and participate comfortable in these discussions. By bringing Immersive Reader into Flipgrid, we’re making this powerful social learning tool more accessible to all learners, giving them the option to use Immersive Reader to access topic text. Starting today, Immersive Reader will work with any accounts being used with Flipgrid, whether connected to Microsoft or Google.
Some dyslexic students struggle with math – not because they aren’t good at math, but often because they have difficulty reading math problems. Other students experience focus issues, or have dyscalculia, a specific learning disability in math. Later this week, Immersive Reader will begin rolling out support for math, which includes read aloud, line focus and page theme colors. When using OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote Online, students will be able to use any of the Immersive Reader capabilities. We will continue to focus on growing math capabilities in Immersive Reader in the coming year, including making it possible to easily take content from the Math Pane – typically a mix of text and math – and use it in Immersive Reader later this fall.
The ability to access text in any language is an important area of inclusion. An example might be an English-language learner who is also dyslexic, trying to access content in another language. Using Microsoft Translator, we are adding the ability for anyone to translate a page, word, or sentence into another language, in real-time and inside of the Immersive Reader. This new capability will support Read Aloud, Syllables, Parts of Speech and Picture Dictionary.
We will begin rolling out later in fall with support for full page and word translations, with sentence translation to follow. Real-time translation will be available in Word Online, OneNote Online, OneNote for Windows 10, OneNote iPad, OneNote Mac, Outlook Online, Teams and Flipgrid. You’ll find the list of supported languages here.
The English language is notoriously tricky with its use of more than 19 sounds represented by 5 vowels (and sometimes “y”). Together with The University of Washington’s Brain Development & Education Lab, we will begin to develop and test new tools designed to help struggling young readers sound out words that would otherwise be difficult. This project is part of a larger partnership effort with the University of Washington to understand the different factors that contribute to reading difficulties, and to design technology that accommodates the individual.
As part of the October 2018 Windows Update, the Microsoft Edge browser will have a number of big improvements that will support students of all abilities. The new capabilities include:
- Built-in Dictionary for ePub, PDF, or Reading View in the Microsoft Edge browser
- Expanded page colors for Reading View and ePub files
- Line Focus feature for Reading View
In addition to iOS Office Lens Immersive Reader, Immersive Reader is coming to Office Lens on Android starting today. Once students and teachers take a photo of a book page, or worksheet, they can send it to Immersive Reader, which uses optical character recognition (OCR) on the image. This allows the user to turn the image into accessible text content and use Read Aloud, Voice Speed, Text Spacing, Font Size, and Forward/Backwards. Now, students can gain independence with Android phones, tablets and access text from anywhere.
With these new materials and technology, we’re excited to help the people at Made by Dyslexia take their important awareness and advocacy work to a new level of action and impact in today’s schools.
To get started with these tools, visit our Inclusive Classroom Guide for free.
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