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A study into students’ use of digital technologies to support writing difficulties, with a particular emphasis upon text prediction

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Digital technologies now exist which support and assist writing activities for those who have difficulty with its production. These include the development of specific technologies such as text prediction, text to speech support, speech recognition and more recently applications on mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets. However, research into the contexts in which these are used and who actually uses them is limited. This qualitative research explores the potential affordance of technologies with individuals who have been unable to construct text either efficiently or independently through other methods. It is a journey of discovery about the specific needs of the individual, the technologies they try and the affordances they offer. Yet, how these have been used has not only been influenced by the individual needs of the user, but the contextual considerations of the environment and the perceptions of literacy in which they are situated.
Using a participatory methodology, the study sought to take into consideration a social and cultural understanding of the settings in which textual production took place. It offers a valuable insight into the contexts in which technologies have been used and how individuals have been able to exert choice and autonomy. It does not dwell purely upon successful implementation but demonstrates the problems, frustrations and barriers some have encountered as they have endeavoured to strive for productivity. The significance of the tools they eventually used to compensate or overcome the issues they faced is of significance. Importantly it examines whether concepts of learning difficulty and impairment are exacerbated by a lack of contextual consideration and not with individual deficit.
The study also considers how some schools have lacked awareness and knowledge of the availability of different types of digital technologies specifically designed to support the writing process. It argues that the pen and pencil as tools for expression of literacy competence induce difficulty for some students. It examines the issues of those who cannot use these specific tools, but who are able to produce textual meaning through other modes. Yet, how they are able to do so is affected by contextual considerations of the environment, attitudes and perceptions of literacy that impact upon their utilisation.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2014

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