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SQA 2021 assessments and beyond - an insight into using technology

Posted by Paul Nisbet on the 29th April, 2021

Dyslexia Scotland have published an excellent video workshop by Dawn Roberts and Innes Roberts on the use of assistive technology in assessments, and more broadly . The video is well worth a view if you are a teacher, parent or student using digital technology in assessments this term.

Dawn is Principal Teacher of Support for Learning at Glenwood High School in Fife and Innes is a Dyslexia Scotland Young Ambassador. They presented a video workshop at the excellent 2020 Virtual Education Conference and a post conference film pack with all the presentations is available for a small cost from Dyslexia Scotland (more details below). Dawn, Innes and Dyslexia have kindly agreed to make their workshop free to view through the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit and on YouTube:

Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit Home page (in the New section)

Assessing and Monitoring (Under Further Professional development, at the bottom of the page).

In the video, Dawn and Innes talk about why digital question papers and assessments are so helpful and Innes demonstrates how he uses a computer reader (in this case, the free Ivona MiniReader) and Scottish computer voice to read the questions, and how he types and draws his answers.  Innes says:

I like digital papers because the exam answers will be more fairly compared to my peers because I know that I have read the question accurately and my spelling has been corrected for me.

What the pupils say..... I can hear the text as often as I like without the embarrassment of asking someone to read it again and again. I can listen to my own answers and change them if I want to. I can sit in the ICT room with my peers and look the same as everyone else. No-one knows what support I am using. I can use the background colour I prefer. I feel more relaxed because I know I won't mis-read the questions.

Dawn discusses the advantages of using technology compared to human readers or scribes, and the practicalities of organising the technology. She points out that:

Using a reader or a scribe is actually a very difficult skill to master. In an average secondary school there'll be very limited opportunity to practice this skill during class time. Human readers are also not permitted to be used in the literacy element of the National 5 exam but a digital reader is allowed.

Identifying the most appropriate additional support in class and for assessments is a crucial task for teachers and staff, especially now that so many students are identified as requiring additional support needs, and Dawn gives really useful insights into how this can be organised and how evidence for the need for Assessment Arrangements can be obtained. Innes says:

My assessment arrangements changed going from Nat 5 to Higher. In Maths for example I only had extra time in Nat 5. My teacher became concerned about the amount of silly errors I was making when doing my practice Higher questions in class. She suggested that I use digital readers to listen to the questions and this resulted in fewer errors.

As we all know, making technology work can be a challenge and it's essential that it does work for assessments, and Dawn details how they try to ensure the technology is reliable in Gleniffer.

Dawn and Innes emphasise that students must learn how to use technology and practice from an early age, and that assistive technology tools and accessible digital resources must be available in class. Dawn discusses free tools for accessing curriculum resources, including textbooks from Books for All and the role of audio books. This of course has become even more important over the past year when so many students were learning at home using technology.

Summary Teachers need to appreciate that it is our children's right to have reasonable adjustments made to their curriculum and assessments Young people need to know what AA's are available to them and which most suitable for their learning They need to be able to confidently use the technology as a support AA's should reflect their normal learning practices Our young people are the biggest pioneers of change

Dyslexia Scotland Education Conference

The 2020 conference was held online and featured:

Keynote speeches from

Workshops featuring:

  • two reading and writing workshops by Neil Mackay.
  • Shirley Lawson of CALL Scotland.
  • Edinburgh primary teacher, Blair Minchin.
  • Fife Council PTC Support for Learning teacher, Dawn Roberts and Young Ambassador, Innes Roberts

The film pack with all the presentations is available for £30 from Dyslexia Scotland.

The 2021 conference will be held (either online or maybe face to face!) on Saturday 2 October.


Online course - £30

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