Japón: PCs empower kids with learning disabilities

Asia/Japón/Octubre de 2016/Autores: Toshiko Kuba, Yomiuri Shimbun /Fuente: The Japan News

RESUMEN: Los jóvenes estudiantes que tienen dificultad para aprender a leer y escribir usando los materiales impresos están descubriendo que las computadoras personales y las tabletas son una ayuda importante. Las escuelas han comenzado a introducir estos dispositivos, pero las pruebas en muchos casos siguen siendo fijados en el papel, la prevención de los estudiantes con discapacidades de aprendizaje de tener su capacidad académica evaluada con precisión. Los ensayos que utilizaron ordenadores para los exámenes están atrayendo cada vez más atención. Una característica de audio que lee el texto en voz alta, permite a los estudiantes que tienen discapacidades causar letras y caracteres que aparecen con formato incorrecto o tienen otros problemas, para entender el contenido. Los que tienen dificultad para escribir correctamente caracteres puede introducir texto mediante un teclado.

Young students who have difficulty learning to read and write using printed materials are discovering that personal computers and tablets are a significant help.

Schools have begun introducing these devices, but tests in many cases are still administered on paper, preventing students with learning disabilities from having their academic ability evaluated accurately. Trials using PCs for exams are drawing increased attention.

Using audio feature

An audio feature that reads text out loud enables students, whose disabilities cause letters and characters to appear malformed or have other problems, to understand content. Those who have difficulty writing characters correctly can enter text using a keyboard.

A law to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities, which took effect in April, prohibits discrimination by the central and local governments, businesses and other entities. It requires that reasonable consideration be extended when the removal of barriers to social activities is requested, provided that the request does not pose an undue burden. Businesses are obliged to make an effort in this respect.

Education ministry guidelines cite the provision of PCs for instructing and testing young students who have difficulty reading and writing as good examples of “reasonable consideration.” The guidelines also cite “differences in evaluation due to particular circumstances” as an example of unfair discriminatory treatment.

The so-called textbook barrier-free law (see below), which took effect in 2008, promoted the digitization of textbooks. Multimedia Daisy Textbooks, provided by the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, boasted 3,092 users as of October. However, initiatives to address testing by which learning results are measured have been delayed, and many students are unable to demonstrate their true abilities using paper tests. But concerns have been raised about testing using PCs: Does it allow for a fair assessment of a student’s abilities? Can the student gain the understanding of those around him?

To address these questions, the DO-IT Japan project, sponsored by the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, evaluates barriers and offers advice when young students request the introduction of PCs to their schools for exam-taking. Its goal is to guarantee learning through the use of information technology.

According to a 2012 study by the education ministry, it is estimated that 2.4 percent of elementary and junior high school students in standard classes across Japan — more than 200,000 students — exhibit no intellectual developmental problems but have considerable difficulty reading and writing. Introducing PCs so they can take exams and proceed on an academic course suited to their academic abilities has become a hot topic.

The approved use of PCs by Kanagawa Prefecture for its 2015 public high school entrance exams is cited as one example. Some entities, such as a board of education in the Kinki region, take a more cautious approach. “We’ve used surrogate readers and writers, but we have no examples of PCs being used for this purpose at present,” the board of education said.

However, Satoshi Sakai, a professor of special needs education at Kagawa University, said: “If students use PCs or tablets, they can take their exams under their own power. It is also technologically possible to prevent cheating.”

Such considerations provide a level playing field for those with disabilities and those without. Rapid diffusion of the use of PCs in testing is needed so students do not miss educational opportunities.

Key benefits of using PCs for exams

■ Exam questions are read out loud.

■ Students can input answers using a keyboard or a voice input device.

■ Adjustments can be made to the size of letters and the brightness of the screen.

■ Students can answer questions at their own pace more easily than with surrogate readers or writers.

Student: Evaluations conducted fairly

Midterm exams are held in late September at a public junior high school in Tokyo. Answer sheets labeled “English” are passed out, and one 14-year-old student feeds his sheet into his computer using a small scanner. He then inputs his answers onto the screen using a keyboard. When the end of the test is signaled, he prints out his answer sheet using a printer next to his desk and hands it to the teacher.

The student has a learning disability, which affects his ability to write. His characters were reversed or they overlapped. He could not even write his own name correctly until the third grade of elementary school. He started using a tablet before graduating from elementary school, but he was given a paper exam for his first tests in junior high school.

He was tested in a separate room and given 50 percent more time to complete an exam. However, writing took a great physical and mental toll on him, and on his last day, he panicked and cried when he returned home. At the student’s request, the school authorized the use of a PC for exams.

Now, he takes his tests in the same room as his classmates and finishes within the prescribed time. The computer has no internet connection, and the dictionary and spelling check features are turned off in advance, so there is no possibility of cheating.

The school principal said, “We can verify his actual knowledge and understanding,” while the boy said, “I feel like I’m being graded fairly.”

A 14-year-old student at a municipal junior high school in Yokohama has long had difficulty writing characters. All his tests in elementary school were on paper.

“I could never finish within the time limit. It took me so long to write, and people around me kept asking, ‘Why can’t you do it?’ It got so bad I didn’t want to go to school.”

He has received approval to use a PC not only for lessons, but also for tests with questions requiring written answers of 30 characters or more. “If I don’t use it, my score is reduced by as much as half. Thanks to this, my personality has changed, and I have made some friends, too,” he said.

There are also cases in which students who have difficulty reading use a tablet device. The Daisy Association, created by students at Ritsumeikan University, has been collaborating with public elementary schools in Kyoto since 2014. Members read out and create recordings of test questions. Students connect earphones to a tablet device, listen to the questions, and respond.

Students who previously gave up after several minutes by saying “I just don’t understand” are now able to think about the test questions and respond within the allotted time. University senior and Daisy Association member Airi Nakatsuka said: “Being able to demonstrate their true abilities lights a fire under these children. They think, ‘I want to learn more.’”

■ Textbook barrier-free law

Enacted in 2008, this law seeks to ensure that all students receive an equal, proper education regardless of disability. Textbook companies are required to provide digitized data for elementary, junior high and high school textbooks to the education minister and other people. Volunteer organizations and other bodies creating large-print and audio textbooks receive this data from administrative bodies designated by the minister.

Fuente: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003290607

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