A look at beneficial uses of technology for students with ADHD
There is a common myth according to which technology (in particular video games and social media) cause a worsening of ADHD symptoms and could be the reason for the rise in diagnostic of ADHD among youngsters.
However, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not an illness that could be caught nor developed solely because of external factors. Second, while some mechanisms that can be used in video games and social media can be distracting and focus on rewarding the user frequently, which can encourage a shorter attention span, they are not inherently bad or good for students, and It is the same for students with ADHD.
Regarding school and studying, technology can actually be helpful for students an assist them in a variety of tasks. Here is a list of practical tools for different activities:
- Text summarizing tools and automatic emphasizing of key words assist the student in isolating the most important information in a text,
- Automatic reading of the text can support the student in following and understanding a text; instead of focusing on the proper pronunciation for each word, the student is free to focus on the structure and meaning of the text,
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools and image to text conversion tools, in general, allow to convert printed material into digital text format. This allows the student to format the text in the most appropriate way for them or take notes digitally and gather all their course material in one place, on their computer,
- Some programs read aloud the text found in images directly without image to text conversion, such as Microsoft Learning Tools (which is a module available on OneNote).
- Spelling, syntax and grammar checking programs can help the student spot their own mistakes and improve their text,
- Writing assistants can suggest the student to use specific words depending on what they are typing,
- Speech recognition allows the student to speak out their text for the computer to type.
- Geometry tools support student who may have problems with fine motor skills completing their geometry exercises by helping them not focus their attention too much on tracing shapes and allow them to focus on logical thinking. Such tools include Geogebra.
- Mathematics programs can help students type their formulas faster thanks to shortcuts (such as Mathtype). It helps students focus on mathematical reasoning rather than losing all their energy on writing or typing formulas.
- In addition to shortcuts, a mouse with several buttons can help students access mathematical formulas quickly by assigning each button on their mouse to a symbol or to a formula.
Organization and time management skills:
- Virtual calendars and timers such as Tomato app can help the student plan what they have to do and stay on track on their schedule,
- Mind mapping can help students organise ideas together by using words or images (for example Mindmeister),
- Smart or connected pens automatically save the notes the student is taking manually on the cloud to make sure they do not lose them, or to make it easier to reorganise them later on (such as Wacom Bamboo Slate),
- Several tools can help students to organise their course material digitally: portable scanners (Iris Scanner Anywhere), organised note taking programs (such as OneNote or Evernote) that automatically store data into the cloud or other cloud storage platforms (such as Google Drive).
Most of the supporting functions listed for reading and writing can be found in the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, OneNote Microsoft Learning Tools) or other similar tools.
The main idea of using these tools in school activities is not to replace the students’ skill altogether, but to compensate for the extra energy and focus they need to apply in some of the tasks. Even in the case of an automatic spell checking, for instance, the student has to choose between the different options proposed by the program. In that sense, using technology at school does not mean that the student learns nothing, but it makes it easier for them to focus on the main point of an exercise rather than on all the details surrounding it.
The same goes for tools assisting in mathematics: in high school, for example, students need to use several formulas to solve one problem. In that respect, it is better to allow the student to focus on mathematical reasoning rather than on spending all their time remembering each detail of the formula. The student still needs to know what formula can be used in a specific context.
Bearing all these factors in mind, it is important not to demonize technology: not only could you risk antagonising your students by implying that what they like is not good, but you could also miss the opportunity to accompany them in discovering useful tools for their studies that they will even be able to use in their professional life. As they are already using technology on a daily basis, it can only be beneficial for students to learn how to turn their computers and their smartphones into allies!
Logopsycom is taking part in the Erasmus + project “Empower Me with Sufficient Attention and Tempered Hyperactivity” to spread knowledge about teaching students with ADHD in VET.”