WorldView Software for Readers with Dyslexia

There are a few design features of WorldView Software’s social studies programs that make them ideal for learners with dyslexia.  We’ll go over them shortly, but first, let’s define what we mean by dyslexia.

In her seminal 1996 article in Scientific American, Dr. Sally Shaywitz defined dyslexia as a problem with language processing, not visual impairment:

[it is] a deficiency in the processing of the distinctive linguistic units, called phonemes, that make up all spoken and written words…The phonological model is consistent both with the clinical symptoms of dyslexia and with what neuroscientists know about brain organization and function.

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, some signs a reader might have dyslexia are the following:

    • Read slowly and with much effort
    • Are often the one to solve the problem
    • Can’t spell; have messy handwriting
    • Your writing shows terrific imagination
    • Have trouble remembering dates and names
    • Think out-of-the box, grasp the big picture
    • Have difficulty retrieving and pronouncing spoken words
    • Have excellent vocabulary and ideas

WorldView’s programs have features that can assist dyslexic learners.  First, all of our programs are visible in the web browser of your choice, which means that the reader can adjust the size of the font.  Compare a “normal” size — meaning the size I normally use — pictured here:

to the size the text becomes when it’s enlarged to 125% using CTRL+ (hit the CTRL key at the same time as the + key):

Second, as you can see from the previous screenshots, WorldView programs use a sans serif font for body text which is thought to be easier for people with dyslexia to read.  Third, our programs also use a colored background with a gentle gradient, which assists readers in keeping place when reading on screen.

Fourth, dyslexic readers often find that taking notes and composing writing assignments is also easier on a word processor or computer.  WorldView programs make that easy with our in-program guided essays and short answer questions. 

Finally, we include sound files with our chapter overviews, which allow readers to listen to the text as they read the written copy.  Just look for the sound buttons at the beginning of the section:

If you or your students have dyslexia and have suggestions on other ways to improve the presentation, please let us know in the comments!

BulbgraphOnOffClicking on an image in the overview brings up a larger image plus caption and credit information.

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Resource Highlight: The CORE Project e-textbook

The CORE Project e-textbook is an online textbook in Economics for college students created by economists from all over the world.  It’s a bit advanced to use as the sole text for high school students, but teachers should be able to use this resource in many different ways.

John Cassidy in The New Yorker writes:
The project is a collaborative effort that emerged after the world financial crisis of 2008–9, and the ensuing Great Recession, when many students (and teachers) complained that existing textbooks didn’t do a good job of explaining what was happening. In many countries, groups of students demanded an overhaul in how economics was taught, with less emphasis on free-market doctrines and more emphasis on real-world problems.

Of course, that criticism doesn’t apply to WorldView Software’s Economics — we’ve had the comprehensive Tutorial: Global Financial Crisis for years!

page explains CMOs, includes graphic
A page from the WorldView Software “Economics” Tutorial: Global Financial Crisis

Top Ten Posts in 2016

These were the posts on WorldView Software’s blog that were most popular over the past year:

  1. Home page / Archives – See the latest post here
  2. American Ancestry in Maps – there are LOTS of people with German ancestry
  3. Transgender People in History – definitions, historical examples, and more
  4. The Museum of Lost Objects – documenting antiquities lost to war
  5. How Do Polls Work? – when is a poll a valid measure of public opinion?
  6. Economic Indicators – non-traditional indicators of economic well-being (or not)
  7. Phases of the Moon – why we keep track of the moon
  8. Could You Come up with $1,000 for an Emergency? – a personal financial literacy issue
  9. Secular Homeschoolers – why WorldView’s materials are a good fit
  10. Using Pokémon Go to Teach Local History – how to work the fad into your lesson planning

Have a happy new year, and thanks for reading!

BulbgraphOnOffAlmost any current browser can be used with WorldView Software, making it accessible from a wide range of devices.

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Secular Homeschoolers

There are many reasons why families choose to homeschool.  And it may surprise you to know that the top reasons are NOT religious or moral instruction:

chart listing reasons by percentage of parents responding

But a recent article in The Atlantic discussed the plight of secular homeschoolers — parents who find it difficult to find materials that do not espouse religious points of view or explanations.  Most materials are aimed at the Christian market, as they make up approximately 2/3 of homeschoolers, meaning secular homeschoolers have to be creative.  As Jaweed Kaleem explains,

When Smith decided to homeschool her son and started searching online for resources, she realized most homeschool families are Christian. Eventually, she started following secular homeschooling message boards and Facebook groups to figure out which lesson plans are atheist-friendly and which science books and instructors will teach evolution. Finding non-religious resources has been difficult at times…Many atheist, agnostic, and non-religious kids and parents credit social media with helping them realize there are others like them.

This is likely to be a growing trend.  The number of atheists and agnostics is trending upwards in the United States.  The Pew Research Center says the religiously unaffiliated (which also includes people who believe in God) are now 23% of the adult population.

If you’re a secular homeschooler, take a look at WorldView’s programs.  WorldView is a secular company, and all our products are based on scientific and historical evidence.  [The name of our company predates the use of the term by evangelical Christians to denote “an overarching approach to understanding God, the world and man’s relations to God and the world.” (from )]  We also provide supports for homeschoolers including curriculum guides, progress trackers, and correlations to state standards.

BulbgraphOnOffProject the multiple choice questions and have your class use clickers, tweets, or texts to answer. Then use the mini-lesson answer to kick off discussion.

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Digital Textbooks vs. Online Schools

For K-12 students, online-only learning is likely to leave more people behind than it is to help them advance.  According to a recent report from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, online pupils fell far behind their counterparts in the classroom. In math, it was the equivalent of pupils having missed an entire year in school.

The study’s findings: far too little teacher/student interaction time and low levels of student engagement (for a medium that requires MORE student engagement to work):

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction.

  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day.

  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge.

  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction.

Read the complete study here.  It’s clear that online-only, while it has its uses, is more limited than supporters would have you believe.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it was already tried at the college level.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were the hot new flavor some time ago.  San Jose State University’s partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider, ended in a “breather” several months later when it turned out that their students needed more of everything that can only be delivered by a teacher in person.

BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

Using Software for Home-Schooling in Social Studies

There’s a bewildering amount of software out there, especially if you’re home-schooling your child (or children) in social studies — how can you decide what’s best for your needs?

First, you should look at what your state requires students to learn.  These state standards can be found on the state department of education websites, and all publishers work to correlate their products and programs with these standards.  The correlations indicate whether or not a particular standard is covered in the program, and in how much depth.  For all WorldView products, just go to our website, select the product you want to use, and then choose the state from the drop-down menu to see the correlation for that product.

Next, take a look at our curriculum guides to get a start on how you would plan your curriculum: what you want to cover, when, and how.  Once you have an idea of the scope and sequence of your curriculum, check out the program and see how you would incorporate specific activities and assessments.

Homeschool users have free access to lesson plans for each type of activity, blueprints for planning the day.  These lesson plans were developed by experienced teachers, with well-defined learning and behavioral objectives that can be measured.  They also give alternatives for students who are having trouble with the material, as well as for those who have breezed through and want more challenging work.

[Featured image is “Mother and daughter in kitchen” by Jason Kasper from Harrisburg, USA – Modified version of 100_4456. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

BulbgraphOnOffWhen assigning students an internet project, remind them they can refer to the “Internet Research Primer” tutorial for help.

Designing Educational Software, part 5

Product Scenarios, continued

Case #3: Credit recovery

This scenario envisioned the program being used by a student who had failed a class or was attending summer school or an alternative school program (for those who have discipline or other problems fitting in with mainstream students). In schools, these “credit recovery” plans are much less supervised than the normal curriculum.

The student takes a formative assessment test of the chapter and receives a failing grade, thus requiring further interaction with the chapter. S/he then reads the overview and glossary, opening one or two associated documents, art image, maps, or graphs as assigned by the supervising teacher. After answering the open-ended questions on the ancillary material, which is graded by the teacher using the answer key, s/he self-tests on the factual, conceptual, map/graph, and chronology questions. Confident that s/he now knows the material, s/he takes a summative assessment test that is  graded.

This scenario assumes that the product is not available to students outside of the computer lab and that the lab is monitored by a non-subject area expert. The student will be motivated by the desire to not get left back a grade. It is not expected that s/he will learn more than the bare minimum required to pass the assessment tests.

Case #4: the homeschooler

Homeschooling, or teaching one’s children at home, is becoming an educational option for many more people due to the resources available through the internet. According to the National Home Education Research Institute’s Homeschool Population Report 2010, there were 2.04 Million homeschool students in the United States, an increase from the 850,000 there were in 1999 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In this scenario, we imagined a student being homeschooled by a parent who is not a subject-matter expert, and who has varying motivations for homeschooling their child.

The student takes a formative assessment test of the chapter and receives a failing grade, thus requiring further interaction with the chapter. S/he then scans the overview and glossary, opening one or two associated documents, the art gallery, maps, and graphs as the mood strikes. After noodling around in that chapter for a while (up to a certain parent-determined amount of time — for example, they have a week to get through the chapter), s/he self-tests on the factual, conceptual, map/graph, and chronology questions. Confident that s/he now knows the material, s/he takes the summative assessment test that is  graded.

This scenario assumes that the product is available to students outside of any supervision, but also that the content is useful to this student more as a research resource for parent-directed projects.

This list of case studies is by no means exhaustive. In particular, we did not flesh out the consideration of the use of our programs in online-only courses, whether massive online open courses (MOOCs) or institution-based courses. This actually became more of a consideration in the latter stage of product development, when we were designing the management system. There are issues of compatibility with schools’ pre-existing management systems, some of which are proprietary platforms such as Blackboard, while others are highly customized and based on open-source platforms, such as Moodle.

BulbgraphOnOffIn a flipped classroom, have students read the overview on their own, then go through the “Questions for Thought” in class as starting points for discussion.