Making education more attainable to the millions with learning impediments is a noble goal. In this pursuit, Microsoft has partnered with Made by Dyslexia, a global charity that supports research, education, and proper information dissemination about the condition.
On October 15, 2018, Microsoft signed the Made by Dyslexia pledge, solidifying their commitment to creating technology that benefits dyslexic individuals.
Currently, Microsoft is providing learning tools for free to students and educators. There are an estimated
14 16 million people using learning tools. Developers at Microsoft are also stepping up their game by committing to expanding the tool’s usability and ease of access.
Microsoft has and is currently taking on numerous undertakings for this. They include:
Text-to-Speech Tool development
Dictation tools have been around for a while. The ability to allow a person to put their words directly into text by using their voice is an invaluable asset for individuals suffering from mobility impairments or dyslexia. Microsoft has made the tool accessible on Word and on OneNote Online. This is a feature that will be accessible to users from any browser for free.
Immersive Reader Expansion
Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, a part of OneNote Learning Tools, is being further developed to aid those with learning disabilities. At present, the Immersive Reader is already an exceptionally useful tool for individuals with dyslexia. It allows students to read alongside a voice that can be customized in terms of speed. Also, it lets students highlight particular types of words by changing colors. It has a built-in picture dictionary to help kids learn word meanings without having to go through a dictionary.
Helping learners with math
To build upon its functionality, Microsoft is integrating OneNote’s math pane into Immersive Reader. The math pane is a OneNote Tool that can convert written mathematical problems into text and solve them at the same time show solutions. This will help students struggling with math especially those with dyscalculia or dyslexia.
Foreign Language Translation
Microsoft is also taking on the challenge of making multiple languages accessible on Immersive Reader. Users will be able to translate entire sentences into and from other languages in real-time within Immersive Reader. This will be integrating syllables, parts of speech, picture dictionary, and read aloud functionalities.
Flipgrid is an interactive social learning platform that helps people learn through topic interest. Learners can share and learn about a wide variety of topics, beliefs, ideas, perspectives, cultures with the use of recorded videos and text.
And while this platform has incredible potential to help people with foundational knowledge and learning capacity to learn, it is still difficult for individuals with learning disabilities to use. To remedy this, Microsoft is taking Immersive reader into Flipgrid. By doing this, Microsoft aims to make Flipgrid even more accessible by giving learners with certain learning disabilities access to topic text on the platform.
Making text in the environment more readable
Microsoft has rolled out Office Lens for Immersive Reader. This lets people capture text from books, worksheets, or the immediate environment via mobile phone camera. From there it sends the image to Immersive Reader which converts text via optical character recognition. The converted text can then be subject to the full use of Immersive Reader, helping a learner to fully comprehend text.
In further developing tools to benefit differently-abled individuals, Microsoft is currently partnering with VictoryVR and is taking Immersive Reader onto a virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) platform. This aims to aid learners with ADHD, autism, weak vision, and dyslexia. Studies have shown that by limiting distractions and creating an immersive environment such as VR, retention can increase by as much as 35%.
Free Training for Educators
Training material developed by Made by Dyslexia is now available for free at the Microsoft Educator Community. The material is separated into five modules which also incorporate numerous films.
The modules are designed to aid parents and educators gain a better understanding of dyslexia, the challenges it presents, and the potential strengths of individuals with the condition. The materials provide insight on how to create dyslexia-inclusive learning environments. Five more modules are expected to be released later this year.
Making learning opportunities more accessible to people with dyslexia is without a doubt a noble aspiration. If you want to learn more about how you can help, visit www.madebydyslexia.org. And to learn more about Microsoft’s efforts in the area of education, visit their education blog at www.microsoft.com/en-us/education.
Youtube: Satya Nadella announces pledge with Made by Dyslexia & new product features to empower students
YouTube: New Microsoft Devices and Solutions for Education
Photo Credit: All material shown is owned by Microsoft or their respective partners. We received those with permission for press usage.
Editorial notice: Update Feb 14 – The number of people using the learning tools has been updated from 14 to 16 million after we received the latest data from a press representative.