Managing Dyslexia with Gamification
Gamification is a trend on a constant rise in education, owing this primarily to its positive influence on students’ engagement and motivation. What if gamified learning was used to tackle the many challenges facing efforts to provide affordable support to students with learning disabilities?
One of the most common forms of learning difficulty is dyslexia, with a prevalence of at least 10% of any given population. The condition is often hereditary and primarily associated with impaired ability to read, write, and spell. Termed a hundred years earlier as ‘word blindness,’ it was not until recently that the role of language processing and difficulty in processing the sounds in words were recognized as the primary features of dyslexia. Functional magnetic resonance imaging findings have shown that the brains of people with dyslexia develop and function in a different way, suggesting a neurological feature of the condition.
Individuals with dyslexia are often described as highly creative with strong problem-solving abilities. However, in a world where norms are set by the majority of society, dyslexia affects not only academic success but also self-esteem and social-emotional development. Therefore, although our understanding of dyslexia may evolve with new research, this learning condition clearly impacts a significant amount of the world population with far-reaching consequences across life domains.
Interventions provided by teachers trained in dyslexia are only effective when applied early and over an extended period. However, students with dyslexia remain too often undiagnosed throughout their school years.
Indeed, public schools are often limited in terms of providing adequate schooling to children with dyslexia owing to several factors: (1) limited knowledge about dyslexia, (2) limited systematic teacher training, (3) lack of awareness of cost-effective, modern solutions, and (4) lack of available teachers in general.
In many cases, capable families are obliged to change their environment or life to provide their affected child with the required effective interventions, which are often offered exclusively at expensive private schools.
To upgrade the school support of children with dyslexia from luxury to basic, new, simple, cost-effective, and fruitful methods need to be developed.
It is worth noting that children with dyslexia are capable of playing video games despite their learning disability. This is suggestive of the plausibility of a successful outcome from experimenting with gamified education in students with dyslexia.
Recently, ClassDojo, a gamification platform, was used successfully by students with dyslexia transitioning from primary to secondary school, with the goal being to improve their engagement and motivation.The study further highlighted the importance of well-trained teachers who are capable of adapting gamified educational platforms to students depending on the tape and severity of the condition.
The effect of gamification on students with dyslexia may not be limited to motivation. To support this notion, a recent study has proposed action video games as means to help children with dyslexia to read faster and more efficiently. The senior author of the study, of the University of Padua and the Scientific Institute Medea of Bosisio Parini in Italy, has stated that “Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment,” concluding from the study’s findings that children with dyslexia “learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly.”
Without purely promoting video games as the gold standard tool to manage dyslexia, these findings may be the first scientifically based initiative toward developing new educational programs that can mitigate symptoms of dyslexia, or even prevent dyslexia if applied to children at risk very early on.
One of the added advantages of gamified education is the fact that it allows students to receive their feedback through a computer; this apparently spares them the unwelcome embarrassment that is often encountered in the classroom. Moreover, in one way or another, digital educational methods bring students closer to the educational process, at an almost constant rate, while requiring little commitments at a time. This translates into a lower overall cost for therapy, thus resulting in availability to a wider number of people with varying economic circumstances.
While gamified education may be beneficial to students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, it has been reported not to have any negative effects on the education of students with optimal educational abilities. On the contrary, it may even have overall beneficial effects on the outcome of students overall, regardless of their learning capacities.
This said, it ay be worthwhile to explore the benefits of gamified education in the context of learning disabilities, particularly in dyslexias.