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KeyStone Speechmaster & Dragon Naturally Speaking Case Study

Mark College (CReSTeD SP), Somerset

Mark College is a CReSTeD SP secondary school situated in Somerset where boys with a dyslexic condition between the ages of 11 and 16 are taught. Since its foundation in 1986 the College has gained a DfES 'Highly Effective School' certificate, DfES Beacon school status, the Independent Schools' Association's Award for Excellence and a National Training Award for its pioneering teacher training course for dyslexia.

Dragon Naturally Speaking The College aims to teach to the whole child, taking into consideration their strengths, weaknesses and individuality. All lessons in all subjects are geared to the needs of the student so that problems such as short term memory, writing speed, reading difficulties and organisation are addressed consistently and continuously.

Mr Malcolm Litten, a teacher at Mark College says, "the college aims to make learning enjoyable, rewarding and successful". One of the tools the school uses is KeyStone SpeechMaster, which helps, "develop each boy's confidence in himself as a capable learner and to give him the skills to overcome his specific learning difficulty."

Many specialist teachers in the field of dyslexia have had some experience with voice recognition systems in the past, with mixed results. Malcolm Litten believes that success depends on well-structured training for both teachers and pupils. Words Worldwide Ltd has produced a PowerPoint Presentation and user guide that comes with the SpeechMaster package and also provides free support. "Anyone who's taken on the challenge of learning to use a sophisticated software package will know the difference help of this kind can make", states Malcolm Litten.

Keystone Speechmaster A vital factor in achieving success with voice recognition at Mark College has been the use of KeyStone ScreenSpeaker. This is a fully integrated screen reader, included in the SpeechMaster package or available as a stand-alone product. ScreenSpeaker is text-to-speech software, specifically designed to work with Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Dragon Dictate and capable of echoing everything on the screen. Malcolm Litten believes that, "This software removes the need for a user to be a good reader and allows a level of independence which I consider to be very much part of the success."

KeyStone ScreenSpeaker is of particular value in the initial training sessions when a new user has to enrol with Dragon software. The pupil, if desired, can repeat back the training story, word-by-word or phase-by-phase, after ScreenSpeaker has read it out loud. The benefits of this to someone who struggles with their reading are obvious, and Malcolm Litten adds, "The importance of KeyStone ScreenSpeaker can best be explained by saying that I did not attempt to use voice recognition with my pupils until I found it."

Keystone Screenspeaker & Dragon Software A further part of the SpeechMaster package is the ability to use teacher-customised training stories with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This means that by controlling the content of the stories teachers can ensure that the training text is relevant and interesting to the student, while ensuring that the vocabulary is suitable for individual needs.

Lastly, KeyStone SpeechMaster incorporates a specifically designed dyslexic spell checker called Ellipsis. Again, this can be used as a stand-alone piece of software or as part of the package. By suggesting spellings for most phonetically spelt words, this spell checker is ideal for use by pupils with dyslexia. When using Ellipsis with ScreenSpeaker, the program will read out aloud the alternative choices and word definitions and the contexts in which the word should be used.

In the instance of one pupil at Mark College, his English teacher reported, "SpeechMaster has freed him to express fully his sophisticated ideas. Handwritten work was almost impossible to read due to his handwriting and spelling. The difference in quality between work produced in this manner was immense."

Finally, Malcolm Litten would like to issue a challenge to anyone involved in teaching pupils with dyslexia who has not given this tool a fair test, "I want to ask why. I have seen individuals whose performance in school has been transformed by it. I have seen others significantly helped. It does not have to be a perfect tool to achieve dramatic results."

Mark College - Somerset (01278) 641632

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