Tech Tool Review: Co-Writer

Writing skills have been demonstrated as an important element, and even predictor, of academic success for students (Torrance, 2007). Unfortunately, students with disabilities and challenges in the area of written expression find writing tasks to be extremely frustrating due to the increased cognitive load that many students with learning disabilities experience during the writing process (spelling and grammatical challenges, handwriting/typing speed and legibility, word selection, organization, and other aspects) (Schock & Lee, 2016). Fortunately, assistive technology tools and features, such as word predictive software and dictation tools, have the ability to ease this cognitive load and the frustrations that students typically experience. Literature suggests that these applications can offer benefits to students with writing challenges in the improvement in either the production of or quality of text (Schock & Lee, 2016).

Co-Writer is both an iOS app and web extension tool that is one of the multiple educational technology products available from Don Johnson Inc. Co-Writer utilizes word prediction and speech recognition capabilities in order to assist students with writing difficulties as well as decoding difficulties (Ok, 2018).

Co-Writer is available as an iPad app, a Google Chrome extension, and a Microsoft Edge extension. Before use, a free trial must be initiated or an individual or school-wide subscription must be purchased. Once the program is downloaded, students have the ability to use Co-Writer features while typing in the Co-Writer notebook, Google Drive applications, word processing programs, and web browsers like Google Chrome. The program uses the Neuron word prediction engine, which follows natural thinking processes as well as content-specific dictionaries in order to offer a list of possible vocabulary words for students to use in their sentence production. This is helpful for students who many be completing writing assignments for other content areas like science and social studies. Co-Writer can be specifically beneficial for students who struggle with frequent spelling errors or who often have inventive spelling because it will recognize spelling errors and again offer potential substitutions to students.

Although the word prediction, spelling correction, and dictation features that Co-Writer offers are similar to the capabilities of other applications and built-in accessibility tools, Co-Writer stands out in its unique read-aloud abilities. Students can select words, phrases, sentences, or larger selections of their writing to be read aloud to them. Also, when the list of predicted words or possible corrections are offered, students can swipe on the individual word choices in order to have them read aloud and determine if any of the word choices offered are what they intended or would like to use in their writing. This can be a helpful feature for students in the editing and revising process of writing, especially for students with dyslexia and those who struggle with differentiating between different forms of root words. This artificial intelligence (AI) feature can also help students to revise their writing to choose more content-specific vocabulary that matches their topic, vary their word choice, and select between transition words and academic vocabulary.

Co-Writer is well aligned with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standards for Educators. ISTE has developed standards to guide educators as they assist students in becoming empowered learners with the enhancements of technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2020). Co-Writer is aligned with at least three of these standards or roles: designer, facilitator, and analyst. The designer role includes the substandard of utilizing technology to personalize learning experiences and to accommodate individual differences and needs. With the use of Co-Writer, educators can offer students’ a tool that will help to accommodate their writing or decoding difficulties and encourage independence. For instance, in a non-digital revision setting, a student with these difficulties might need a teacher, peer, or parent to read their writing back to them so that they can listen for potential errors and receive guidance with revisions. While collaborative revision is an important element of the writing process, this reliance on others’ can sometimes be a deterrent for students with writing challenges. However, with the use of Co-Writer, students are able to listen to their own writing independently and use the read-aloud word replacement feature in order to edit and revise their own writing.

Another ISTE substandard that Co-Writer connects to is the role of educators in modeling a culture of creativity in order to express ideas, knowledge, or connections (facilitator). Co-Writer supports this standard due to its ability to be used across multiple programs and browsers. When teachers offer a range of creative options for students to express knowledge (such as Prezi and digital storytelling) students with writing or decoding challenges can feel more comfortable in choosing the platform wish to utilize with the knowledge that they can use Co-Writer to support the written elements. Finally, this technology tool also aligns with the ISTE educator standard of “analyst” as it offers students an assistive tool to help them in demonstrating and reflecting on their learning. It also provides educators with data regarding student usage, such as writing quantity and amount of types of vocabulary usage.

Co-Writer also helps to support the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2020). For example, in the writing section of the standards, they note that students should be able to “develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.5). This program also supports a CCSS writing substandard that encourages the use of technology to produce and publish writing as well as to collaborate with others on writing projects (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.6). With the use of Co-Writer, not only are students able to be supported in producing and editing writing, they are also able to collaborate with peers and teachers by easily exporting their work to email, Google Drive, and other formats for review and suggestions. Co-Writer also increases collaboration because it allows for students with decoding or writing difficulties to take a more active and confident role in the peer-revision process as the reviser. Depending on the original format, student users can import writing projects from their peers into the Co-Writer notebook or access them through Google Drive and use Co-Writer’s features. Students can use the read-aloud features and word suggestion lists to be able to review their peers’ writing and offer positive feedback and revision suggestions. This helps to foster practical independence skills and build confidence for students, as they are able to more easily take on this role with the use of assistive technology.

Although Co-Writer offers read-aloud features and topic-specific word prediction intelligence that provide many benefits to students, it does include some limitations. One of these limitations concerns the accuracy of the word prediction and replacement lists that are provided. Sometimes the vocabulary choices provided are not the true replacements for a spelling error, which can cause further confusion for students with written expression challenges. Also, the topic-specific dictionaries can provide word prediction lists that are not the best-fitting word choices within a sentence or may be conceptually inappropriate for a student’s age and ability level. While Co-Writer aims to ease the process of writing production and vocabulary choice for students, this inaccuracy in the AI capabilities may further deter users.

Overall, Co-Writer is noted for its ability to alleviate challenges that students may experience in various elements of the writing process in order to be able to confidently express their ideas, which is of growing importance in classroom writing processes and writing workshops.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2020, June 25). ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS STANDARDS:WRITING:GRADE 6. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/6/.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2020, June 25). ISTE STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students.

Ok, M. W. (2018). Use of iPads as Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities. TechTrends, 62(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0199-8

Schock, R. E., & Lee, E. A. (2016). Children’s Voices: Perspectives on Using Assistive Technology. 21.

Torrance, M. (2007). Cognitive Processes in the Development of Writing Expertise. 7.

Tech Tool Intro: Co-Writer

Co-Writer is both an iOS app and web extension tool that is one of the multiple educational technology products available from Don Johnson Inc. Co-Writer utilizes word prediction and speech recognition capabilities in order to assist students with writing difficulties as well as decoding difficulties (Ok, 2018).

Co-Writer is available as an iPad app, a Google Chrome extension, and a Microsoft Edge extension. Before use, a free trial must be initiated or an individual or school-wide subscription must be purchased. Once the program is downloaded, students have the ability to use Co-Writer features while typing in the Co-Writer notebook, Google Drive applications, word processing programs, and web browsers. The program uses the Neuron word prediction engine, which follows natural thinking processes as well as content-specific dictionaries in order to offer a list of possible vocabulary words for students to use in their sentence production. Co-Writer can be specifically beneficial for students who struggle with frequent spelling errors or who often have inventive spelling because it will recognize spelling errors and again offer potential substitutions to students. Another feature of this program is its’ speech recognition abilities that allow users to dictate their writing through the app/extension.

Although the word prediction, spelling correction, and dictation features that Co-Writer offers are similar to the capabilities of other applications and built-in accessibility tools, Co-Writer stands out in its unique read-aloud abilities. Students can select words, phrases, sentences, or larger selections of their writing to be read aloud to them. Also, when the list of predicted words or possible corrections are offered, students can swipe on the individual word choices in order to have them read aloud and determine if any of the word choices offered are what they intended or would like to use in their writing This can be a helpful feature for students in the editing and revising process of writing, especially for students with dyslexia and those who struggle with differentiating between different forms of root words.

Overall, Co-Writer is noted for its ability to help students with writing difficulties with getting past their mechanical or grammatical challenges with writing in order to be able to express their ideas, which is of growing importance in classroom writing processes and writing workshops.

Ok, M. W. (2018). Use of iPads as Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities. TechTrends, 62(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0199-8

Tech Tool Review: Voice Dream Reader

As educational technology has expanded in recent years with greater access to more powerful forms of technology, the options for assistive technology programs and tools for students with special needs have also multiplied (Perelmutter et al., 2017). These options have seen even greater increase with the integration of the iPad into many classroom settings. Research has demonstrated that mobile applications and built-in features such as text-to-speech functionality may have potential benefits in supporting individuals with visual impairments and literacy-related challenges (Kirkpatrick & Brown, 2017). Literature also suggests that while these apps may have advantages for students with special needs as a form of assistive technology, they may also have significant value for all students within the classroom setting as an element of the Universal Design for Learning framework (Edge-Savage & Marotta, 2019).

Voice Dream Reader is an app that was originally created to support individuals with learning disabilities or visual impairments but also has features that could support diverse learners across various classroom environments (Ok, 2018). It is one of a few assistive tech apps available from the creator, Voice Dream LLC. The basic function of the app is text-to-speech and it also includes other features.

Voice Dream Reader stands out from other text to speech apps because of its ability to access and read various content that can be downloaded from many different places. Users of the app can have PDFs, Daisy Audio, Daisy Text, Webpages, Microsoft Word documents, and more read aloud to them. The app connects with content from Bookshare, a commonly used resource for free audio books for U.S. students with reading disabilities and barriers, as well as Gutenberg, scanned paper documents, and other sources of content. A Safari web browser extension is also available so that pages can be simply transformed into a Voice Dream Reader accessible document. This wide variety of content accessibility and compatible formats makes Voice Dream Reader a more versatile screen reader that can be used for a variety of resources and reading assignments provided by teachers as well as students’ personal reading interests and needs. With this $9.99 app, students could be less likely to have to switch between various text-to-speech apps or screen readers in order to have different material read to them.

Other noteworthy features of Voice Dream Reader include a large selection of both free and premium voices, ability to change voice speed, OCR capabilities, and the capacity to highlight text and create and save annotations. This last feature especially can create more of an engaged and purposeful connection between the text-to-speech function and the user. In addition, it also encourages students to be more involved with text as reading comprehension skills and annotation have become more important and utilized across various classroom content areas in recent years. Through this feature, students are able to add annotations on their own by selecting text and then typing or dictating a note. The iOS built-in accessibility feature of VoiceOver also works with this highlighting and annotating function for those with visual impairments. The app will also read any created annotations aloud for the user to review. Annotations can be added to a single word (perhaps to expand upon or question vocabulary usage), a phrase, sentence, or larger grouping of text. These annotations can be saved and exported in a variety of ways in order for users to demonstrate and share their thoughts about the text with others.

Voice Dream Reader is well aligned with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standards for Educators. ISTE has developed standards to guide educators as they assist students in becoming empowered learners with the enhancements of technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2020). The Voice Dream Reader app aligns with three of these standards for educators: leader, designer, and analyst. This assistive tech tool allows educators to fulfill a leadership role by advocating for equal access to digital technology and learning materials for students with various reading challenges. It also addresses the standard of “designer” as the use of Voice Dream Reader can help to ensure that students’ individual needs are being met. The user-friendliness and the numerous features available for personalization even within the app itself can meet individual reading preferences and needs and promote independence for students who struggle with access of printed text. Finally, the app also relates to ISTE’s analyst standards. Sub-standards within the “analyst” role suggest that educators should find different ways for students to demonstrate and reflect upon learning through the use of technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2020). Voice Dream Reader can help to achieve this through its ability for students to highlight and add annotations to text directly in the app, versus needing to annotate and demonstrate understanding of text on a printed version or through a separate app.

This option for students to engage with and demonstrate understanding of text through a different means than those typically provided also aligns with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines developed by the CAST organization. These guidelines are tools and suggestions that can be used across various learning settings to help educators with implementation of the UDL framework (CAST UDL Guidelines, 2018). This framework helps to ensure that options are inherently built into a classroom environment and curriculum in order for all students to be able to successfully access learning. The guidelines include that learning activities should provide multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. Voice Dream Reader aligns with all three of these guidelines under various sub-guidelines such as offering alternatives for visual information, minimizing distractions with its option of full-screen mode that hides all controls and buttons during reading, and optimizing access to assistive technology. The multiple ways in which Voice Dream Reader connects with CAST’s UDL Guidelines provides further evidence that it may have great potential as part of a built-in tool and option within a class or course design that all students have the choice to utilize.

Although Voice Dream Reader offers many features for personalization and meeting individual reading/visual needs and preferences, it does include some limitations. One of these limitations concerns the reading of dynamic text as plain text. Unfortunately, the app is only able to read dynamic features such as checkboxes and buttons as plain text (Leporini & Meattini, 2019). This may lessen engagement and motivation for some students and increase frustration, especially when trying to access interactive content that their classmates are working with or that teachers have provided. Voice Dream Reader also limits collaboration and co-use because only one user may access a single file within the app at a time. When working within group situations, students who utilize Voice Dream Reader have the option to access text and add their own highlights and annotations, save the file with the annotations, and easily export it to email, a printer, another app, or a storage option such as DropBox. However, other students will not be able to synchronously engage with the text within Voice Dream Reader and app their own annotations/highlights. While these features are extremely beneficial for individual assignment and assessment use, the lack of synchronous use does create challenges for collaborative work. Moving forward, this would be an important area of improvement for the Voice Dream developers in order for learners to be able to co-create and collaborate within this tech tool.

Edge-Savage, J., & Marotta, M. (2019). Spreading the word about assistive technology and universal design for learning. Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL, 284.

CAST. (2020, May 31). The UDL Guidelines. http://udlguidelines.cast.org/.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2020, May 31). ISTE STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students.

Kirkpatrick, L. C., & Brown, H. M. (2017). The Impact of a School Board’s One-to-One iPad Initiative on Equity and Inclusion. 29.

Leporini, B., & Meattini, C. (2019). Personalization in the Interactive EPUB 3 Reading Experience: Accessibility Issues for Screen Reader Users. Proceedings of the 16th Web For All 2019 Personalization – Personalizing the Web, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1145/3315002.3317564

Ok, M. W. (2018). Use of iPads as Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities. TechTrends, 62(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0199-8.

Perelmutter, B., McGregor, K. K., & Gordon, K. R. (2017). Assistive technology interventions for adolescents and adults with learning disabilities: An evidence-based systematic review and meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 114, 139–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.06.005

Tech Tool Intro: Voice Dream Reader

The tech tool I’d like to share about this week is one that is often used as an assistive technology app for those with special needs. Voice Dream Reader is one of a few assistive tech apps available from the creator, Voice Dream LLC. The basic function of the app is text to speech, along with various features, and it has potential to benefit students with learning disabilities or visual impairments (Ok, 2018).

Voice Dream Reader stands out from other text to speech apps because of its ability to access and read various content that can be downloaded from many different places. Users can have PDFs, Daisy Audio, Daisy Text, Webpages, and more read to them. The app connects with content from Bookshare, a commonly used resource for free audio books for U.S. students with reading disabilities and barriers, as well as Gutenberg, scanned paper documents, and other sources of content. This wide variety of content accessibility and compatible formats makes Voice Dream Reader a more versatile screen reader that can be used for a variety of resources and reading assignments provided by teachers as well as students’ personal reading interests and needs. With this $9.99 app, students could be less likely to have to switch between various text-to-speech apps or screen readers in order to have different material read to them.

Other noteworthy features of Voice Dream Reader include a large selection of both free and premium voices, ability to change voice speed, OCR capabilities, and the capacity to highlight text and create and save annotations. This last feature especially can create more of an engaged and purposeful connection between the text-to-speech function and the user. In addition, it also encourages students to be more involved with text as reading comprehension skills and annotation have become more important and utilized across various classroom content areas in recent years.

Ok, M. W. (2018). Use of iPads as Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities. TechTrends, 62(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0199-8.

Annotated Bibliography Weeks 15/16

Ok, M. W. (2018). Use of iPads as Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities. TechTrends, 62(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0199-8

Ok’s article discusses the evolvement of assistive technology (AT) in recent years in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Specifically, the article details the recent use of iPads as AT devices for students with disabilities. It also outlines advantages of iPads such as their portability, built-in accessibility features, screen size, potential for personalization and customizing, and the fact that they are socially acceptable. The author summarizes recent literature on the use of iPads as AT devices and also shares some specific examples of AT apps that can be utilized. For example, the author discusses the use of iPads as augmentative and alternative communication devices using apps such as Proloquo2Go and Tap to Talk. Ok shares built-in accessibility features and apps that can be used to assist students with disabilities in various areas such as Siri, dictation, and Zoom for students with visual impairments. Overall, this article demonstrates the potential benefits of iPads as AT and suggests that multiple factors need to be considered to determine if an iPad would be an appropriate form of AT for each individual student.

Ok conducted a thorough search for articles pertaining to the approaches and effects of using iPads as AT for students with disabilities. After using databases with specific search keywords like “mobile device”, “iPad”, “disability”, and “technology”, Ok came up with 477 articles that matched the search keywords. Then, the author read the abstracts of the 477 articles and decided to include or exclude articles for the purpose of the current review of literature that this article shares. Ok also utilized a previously published reference list on the topic of iPads as AT to discover other possible studies that should be included within the current literature review. From all of these steps to search, review, include, and exclude, Ok came up with 20 studies that best fit the purpose of this literature review. These steps, although likely time-consuming, helped to refine the research that was included in order to specifically focus on iPads as recent AT tool via apps or built-in-features.

This article connects to my current research interests because it discusses the use of modern assistive technology, specifically iPads and apps, for students with disabilities. I especially appreciate the attention on the built-in-accessibility features of iPads that are discussed here and that they are categorized by the type of challenges they can help to overcome. I think iPads are a promising AT option not only for students with disabilities but also to encourage and facilitate Universal Design for Learning within classrooms through the use of built-in features.

Other articles read that pertain to current research interests:

Atanga, C., Jones, B., Krueger, L., & Lu, S. (2019). Teachers of Students With Learning Disabilities: Assistive Technology Knowledge, Perceptions, Interests, and Barriers. Journal of Special Education Technology, 016264341986485.

Bryant, B.R. & Rao, Kavita & Ok, M.W.. (2014). Universal design for learning and assistive technology: Promising developments. 10.4018/978-1-4666-5015-2.ch002.

Kirkpatrick, L., Brown, H., Searle, M., Sauder, A., & Smiley, E. (2017). The Impact of a School Board’s One-To-One iPad Initiative on Equity and Inclusion. Exceptionality Education International, 27(2), 26-53.

Young, Gabrielle. (2013). Assistive technology for students with learning disabilities: Perceptions of students and their parents. The Morning Watch. 41. 1-7.

Annotated Bibliography Week 14

Meluso, A., Zheng, M., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2012). Enhancing 5th graders’ science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers and Education, 59(2),497-504.

In this article, the authors discuss their research study that investigated the effects of collaborative and single player game conditions on science learning content as well as science self-efficacy for a group of fifth-grade students. The article begins with an introduction of the problem and states that while educational gaming was a growing field of use and interest in STEM education, research that existed at the time still demonstrated conflicting findings concerning its effectiveness with increasing learning gains. It also introduces the importance of self-efficacy as a predictor for science success and future science careers for students. Meluso and her colleagues then describe existing literature concerning gaming and science learning increases as well as studies that demonstrated no difference in learning outcomes. They also outline studies that have found promising research concerning educational gaming and increases in self-efficacy, but state that more research is needed in both areas. Then, the authors share details on the game used for the study, Crystal Island, as well as their measurement tools (pre and post-assessments and questions adapted from self-efficacy scales) and data collection methods. Finally, they discuss their results that gaming conditions (single player versus collaborative) did not impact science content knowledge or self-efficacy. They share possible limitations to their study such as the idea that their directions for the collaborative condition may have not been specific enough as should have designated roles to players, for example. They end by stressing areas for future research.

Meluso and her colleagues offer a well-developed literature review that connects directly to the research problem they are seeking to investigate. Their first area of inquiry is on gaming conditions and science content knowledge, which connects to the first section of their literature review. This section points out positive findings in existing literature as well findings of no difference in content knowledge improvement, which also demonstrates a need for their study. Their other area of inquiry concerns gaming conditions and science self-efficacy. They also connect this directly to their literature review by sharing the studies that had begun to look at gaming and self-efficacy. Finally, although it appears that no previous research may have existed on the specific impacts of collaborative gaming on science content-knowledge and self-efficacy, the authors manage to establish relationship between the three concepts by sharing studies that found positive effects of collaborative gaming and stating that the specific effects remained to be investigated.

This article connects to my current research interests because it discusses impacts of learning conditions (collaborative versus single-player gaming) on learning outcomes and self-efficacy. As I have lately had some interest on how motivation can be impacted through the use of assistive technology for K-12 students, I connected with the authors’ study of self-efficacy effects in particular and I liked seeing how they measured this. I will keep this in mind as I further develop my personal research ideas.

Annotated Bibliography Week 14

Dede, C. (2011). Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. Computer games and instruction, pp. 233-250. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

In this blog article, the author describes and her five personal assumptions relating to research agendas for educational gaming and simulations (usable knowledge, collective research, what works, treatment effects, and scalability). She notes the importance of these underling beliefs in formulating a research plan and making decisions. Then, she provides a detailed explanation of each assumption, how its actual practice is conflicting to the existing literature and research agendas of that time, and how the assumptions would benefit educational gaming research and practice. For example, concerning the assumption “what works”, Dede notes that a research agenda for educational gaming needs to look at what works in specific scenarios in real practice versus just determining if a game or simulation is effective in a broad and general sense. The author cites references that support the great variability and individuality in learning and stresses that instead of a “one-size fits all” approach, research in this area needs to utilize multiple perspectives and pedagogies to see how an instructional medium can best fit certain groups and learning conditions.

In sharing his personal assumptions, Dede offers a useful criticism of current research agendas for educational gaming and simulations. Instead of just describing the shortcomings of the research plans and literature that currently existed in this area, he shares alternatives for how these research agendas can be specifically improved in order to be most useful in practice and theory. These assumptions could help to make educational gaming research more useful in actual application in the classroom.

This article connects to my current research interests in its practical suggestions for research agendas that I think could be applied to many fields of educational research. For example, Dede discusses the idea of treatment effects and the fact that a great deal of research focuses on if a significant difference exists between an educational intervention and what is considered to be standard practice. This is followed by the fact that many studies find “no significant difference” between the two. I appreciate that Dede shares specific research design flaws that might contribute to this such as an intervention period that is too short or a sample size that is too small. As I look to research the area of the effects of assistive technology, I would like to keep these ideas in mind as a great deal of special education research examines effectiveness of interventions.

Annotated Bibliography Week 13

Greenhow, C. (2011). Youth, learning and social mediaJournal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2),139-146.

In this journal article, the author discussed the uses for and the impact of social media on both formal and informal learning for youth. The introduction is built through discussion of the growth of social networking sites and the different platforms available at the time. Greenhow also specifically points out the potential benefits of social media, including positive effects on cognitive, social, and emotional skills, but notes that because research was lacking in this area, it was still unclear if SNS for learning could be beneficial or detrimental. Then, the author discusses five articles that have recently explored the effects of youth’s social media use in both informal and formal learning constructs. Studies range from exploring the connection between teens’ use of SNS and their reported social capital to the impact of media multitasking and video content on reading comprehension ability. The author concluded by noting the important aspects that the mentioned studies investigated and by stating that many possible complications concerning the use of social media in education remain still to be explored. 

In a brief introductory article, Greenhow offers a well-varied view of the uses of SNS in both formal and informal contexts. Though only five studies are mentioned, they are reviewed in sufficient detail to give the reader a perspective of the many uses of SNS and their potential academic, social, and emotional gains. The studies also range across a variety of disciplines such as Language Arts, sub-groups’ perceptions and uses of SNS, and exploring if predictors such as internet access and parent use effect SNS participation for youth. This review of studies, as well as Greenhow’s assertions on the lack of research, help to give a thorough introductory understanding of SNS and youth education and endeavors for future research.

This article connects to my current research interests because it discusses the potential impact of SNS for education for youth. I am interested in the uses of technology for classroom differentiation, particularly at the middle school level, and social media could be a useful tool for offering different ways that knowledge can be constructed in order to meet the needs of all students.

Annotated Bibliography Week 12

Carter, E., Williams, J., Hodgins, D., & Lehman, L. (2014). Are Children with Autism More Responsive to Animated Characters? A Study of Interactions with Humans and Human-Controlled Avatars. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(10), 2475-2485. https://doi-org.cmich.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2116-8.

In this article, the authors used four conditions to observe and compare the responsiveness of twelve children (ages 4 to 8) on the autism spectrum. The authors began by reviewing current literature and theory surrounding the use of Computer-Assisted Technology and responsiveness and engagement for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. They noted that current literature and parent feedback seem to indicate that students with autism perform better and make more improvement with interventions that are computer-assisted. This is based on the assumption that non-human interventionists are preferable and do not induce as much anxiety. They also noted the increase in the creation of Computer-Based Interventions (CBIs) in recent years but also pointed out that research actually comparing student performance with CBIs to human interventions was limited. Carter and the research team described the specifics of their study and how the children’s interactions would be observed with a human interventionist, an avatar from the game Turtle Talk with Crush, cartoon characters from Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, and a human actor imitating the avatar from the game. They evaluated attention as well as gestural and verbal responsiveness in each of these four conditions. Their results demonstrated that the children had the most responsiveness with the human therapist, mid-level responsiveness with the avatar and the human actor, and the poorest responses with the cartoon characters. The researchers also discovered that attention levels were consistent through all four conditions. Their discussion reviewed possible limitations such as small sample size and also indicated connections to theoretical questions in this area.

Carter and the other authors demonstrated a clear need for their research questions in their literature review. They discussed the assumptions of previous research that CBIs would create improved social and communicative responses for students on the autism spectrum due mainly to their non-human characteristic. They also discussed the large increase in development of CBIs in recent years. They built off of these citations to demonstrate that although this is a particular intervention for students with autism that has been seeing a lot of growth, research actually comparing response to CBIs with human intervention is lacking. The authors also provided an in-depth description of each of their conditions, which provided clarity on the specific setting for each condition, how they were all modeled to be similar to the game/avatar, and how they worked to elicit responses from the children. This is beneficial for future replication of studies and generalization purposes.

This article connects to my current research interests because it addressed the topic of a specific type of assistive technology: Computer-Based Interventions. Other research details the beneficial uses of avatars to increase communicative patterns and social responses and I was interested to see if avatar use had similar effects for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Also, student engagement with assistive technologies is an area of research that specifically interests me. I have the assumption that CBIs would increase engagement for students on the spectrum, but this article’s results demonstrate that to be untrue as the children had similar attention levels in all conditions.

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