Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group Presents
WYNNing at the University of Ballarat and Beyond
“An initiative of the Disability Liaison Unit of the University of Ballarat over the past two years has been the universal provision of the WYNN software to all students across Technical Education, Technology and Further Education (TAFE), and Higher Education Programs,” states Debra Hormann, Coordinator, Disability Liaison University of Ballarat, Australia.
As we learned from Dorothy Barrett in our WYNNing Word article, Vermont Tech Advocates Assistive Technology for All and from Jill Trianna, Cheryl Todd, and Crystal Burwell in our article, Meredith College Offers WYNN to ALL Students, there are colleges around the United States who are finding that WYNN serves not only the special needs population in institutions of higher learning, but all students enrolled in any course.
Dorothy Barrett, Writing & Communication Center Tutor at Vermont Technical College (VTC), explains, “We believe that everyone can benefit from Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and this is best provided with assistive technology. Therefore, we do not target any one population at our school for this type of help. Our goal is to help everyone to learn.”
Jill Trianna, Disabilities Services Coordinator at Meredith College, told us, “Disability Services provides Reading Technology, sometimes called text-to-speech software, to our students. Disability Services offers many options for students who want or require their texts in an audio format. This software is useful for students with and without disabilities as it proves to enhance comprehension of any print material required for class. This concept is referred to as Universal Design.” WYNN is the reading technology that was chosen to become part of the Laptop Program at Meredith College.
This same kind of commitment to providing excellent literacy software to all students is being implemented at the University of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia.
At the university, WYNN Reader is universally available to all students on the student computer network. This means that students with learning disabilities, students with low educational backgrounds, and students from non-English-speaking backgrounds all benefit from the software. Once a week, the university offers open training sessions to any students and staff wanting to learn how to use the software to benefit their studies. They are also working with individual schools, such as the School of Nursing, to present lectures to all commencing students on the WYNN software. The goal is to mainstream WYNN as a learning tool for all students, from Certificate to Doctoral level.
The Disabilities Liaison Unit services go beyond the walls of the six campuses of the university. “An initiative of the Disability Liaison Unit of the University of Ballarat over the past two years has been the universal provision of the WYNN software to all students across Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and Higher Education Programs. Included in this plan are student groups in correctional facilities enrolled in prison education programs,” states Debra Hormann, Coordinator, Disability Liaison University of Ballarat, Australia.
In June 2008, a report by the National Commission on Adult Literacy in the U.S. titled Reach Higher, AMERICA reported that about 43 percent of the U.S. prison population does not have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 56 percent have very low literacy skills. The statistics are similar in Australia but can be very much higher amongst indigenous inmates. This same U.S. report noted that 95 percent of incarcerated people return to live in the community and that it is extremely difficult for them to find jobs burdened with a prison record, but it is nearly impossible without the necessary education and basic literacy skills.
According to the Victorian Corrections Act 1986, every prisoner in an Australian prison is entitled to take part in an educational program. The University of Ballarat TAFE Division is responsible for providing these accredited programs at the HM Prison Ararat. The university understands that in order for most of the students to be successful in completing these courses, their literacy inadequacies would need to be addressed. We all know that these inadequacies can arise from such problems as learning disabilities, educational disadvantages, environmental situations, and now more often, English as a second language. While knowing the causes of illiteracy are important, Ballarat’s Disability Liaison Unit understands, “Accurate assessment of cause is of less importance than the response to the functional disadvantage experienced by the individual.”
Over the past two years, the unit has chosen WYNN as the literacy software that is available to the university’s students, including those in HM Prison Ararat. It has been an important initiative to reduce the burden of assessment and to provide significant learning support for students and inmates who may not be classified with any learning disability.
Why WYNN Was Chosen
Debra was introduced to WYNN by Trevor Boyd of Quantum Technology. Debra began using WYNN with students with learning disabilities at the University of Ballarat. She was so impressed with the success her students were having with WYNN that she felt the program should be available to more of the student body as well as to the faculty. Trevor arranged for Freedom Scientific, Learning Systems Group to provide a WYNN training at the university for their educators and the educators working in the Prison Education Program. Based on the reaction of the participants during the training, the Disability Liaison Unit decided to select WYNN to become part of their initiative to enhance the literacy skills of all students at the university and beyond – that is, also at the correctional facilities.
It was the intuitiveness of WYNN that was an important deciding factor. The idea that it could be used immediately for any student at any literacy level most influenced the decision of the staff. They concluded, “It is the immediacy of its usability that contributes to an exponential increase in confidence and motivation.”
The staff attributes the following WYNN features for the wonderful ease of learning the product:
- Bi-modal access to written information
- Highlighting of text as it is spoken
- Four color-coded, rotating toolbars – no pull-down menus that would require higher reading skills
- Individual customized settings to suit visual and auditory processing needs
Prison Case Studies
While the initiative has not collected empirical evidence as yet, all you have to do is read the reactions of the prisoners and staff to understand why the University of Ballarat’s Disabilities Liaison Unit considers this initiative to be “A WYNN for the Prison.”
Fred is of Pacific Island background. He grew up in New Zealand and left school at 14. After a fall from glory in a sporting career and a number of jobs that offered little stability, Fred found himself incarcerated in HM Prison Ararat. He never mastered his native language or the English language and had poor verbal skills.
He is now enrolled in the Prison Education Program and is finding success in improving his literacy skills. “It is not good to be in jail, but I think it is a good time for me to be back at school. WYNN improved my reading and writing and it meant I have used a computer.” Fred hopes to improve his skills to the point that upon release from prison, he will be able to help his son with his homework.
Joe can read, but not spell. He has been using WYNN for about six months and says, “WYNN has improved my spelling. My reading as well. Now I know more words.” The staff attributes Joe’s improvement in speeding up the writing process to his use of WYNN. This in turn has reduced his frustration level, which he has been struggling to get under control. WYNN helps stop this cycle.
Joe feels that WYNN is helping him to use a computer, which will enable him to be successful in taking a computer course. Staff reports that Joe has been reading Sweeney Todd with the help of WYNN.
Upon arrival at the prison, Christian enrolled in English classes. He reports, “I find WYNN program much better than what I have before with learning English. This WYNN is for other people from countries who don’t speak English or English is a second language. If they got chance to use WYNN program they will learn much quicker and easier.”
In his autobiography, which was a class assignment, Christian wrote, “I am doing my English study that I started early this year, and compared to how long I have been here, I am learning more now than at any other time of my English studies. The reason is, here in prison, I am using a program I did not use before when I was studying at AMES. It is very interesting: the software program that I am now using is called the WYNN program. It is a good name but it is even better than the name, especially for those students where English is their second language. It has helped me to improve my reading and writing and it would help others too, not only in language school. This program could be useful even in the university where study documents could be saved into the program then have the software read the document aloud so that those students who are slow readers could have the study notes read to them. This software program has been a WYNN-WYNN for me as I am winning in my learning.”
Teaching Staff Reactions
The educational staff at the prison is also very impressed with the improvements they have seen with the use of WYNN by inmates. Adrian, Prison Education Centre Program Manager, John, prison educator and former primary school principal, and Athol, prison educator, all feel very strongly about literacy software. The gentlemen speak of its ability to engage students with learning any subject matter. They point out that motivation speeds literacy development. The educators are also impressed with the ability of the literacy software to facilitate the introduction of computers into the lives of the prisoners. The students can learn the language-based environment of computing without the frustration of interpreting written words.
Debra explains, “John advocates for the use of literacy software across all prison education programs. He goes further and advocates its use in our primary schools, as the earliest possible intervention in overcoming low literacy levels in our community.”
It is society’s job to enhance the education of all its citizens. If we are to communicate and survive in a global environment, we must improve the literacy skills of all people of every nation. We must leave no one behind. It may not be a statistic, but when you hear that a man who has never been able to read or write is now reading stories, you forget to worry about percentages or other statistics. When for the first time in his life, this man is taking an exciting, independent journey across the written word, you smile and move on enthusiastically to help the next person. Nothing is more motivating than success for student and teacher alike.
The University of Ballarat, Disability Liaison Unit, Prison Education Program is to be commended for achieving such wonderful results as they strive to improve the education and lives of university students and beyond!
Photographs courtesy of Drew Burns.
Keep an Eye on the News
For information on literacy in some of the U.S. correctional facilities, please visit the following links:
New Training Videos from Atomic Learning
Short Videos for WYNN's Features
WYNN has always been accepted as the easiest product of its type to learn and use. A new video series from Atomic Learning reinforces WYNN's ease of use with step-by-step instructions for every feature. Peggy Dalton, Freedom Scientific's Director of Professional Development, says, “The Atomic Learning videos extend WYNN's ease of learning and ease of use, making them a valuable tool for people who want to learn about WYNN. WYNN combined with Atomic Learning makes learning the product’s many features a breeze!”
Please follow the link to Atomic Learning Videos for more details about content and pricing. Don’t miss this opportunity for WYNN training at your convenience!
Tip of the Month
Accessing the Many Languages Available in WYNN
One of WYNN’s features that make the software very appealing to indigenous populations is our languages component. For example, Australians can listen to what they read and write spoken in an Australian English voice. This feature also greatly enhances the learning experience for those students dealing with English as a second language.
This graphic shows the Australian English RealSpeak™ Solo voices that are included on the U.S. WYNN program CD and on the 'RealSpeak Solo Additional Voices' CD that comes with every WYNN product. There are even more choices available with the SAPI 4 synthesizer, also included with WYNN. For more about WYNN voices, select WYNN 5.1 languages and voices.
To access another language from within WYNN, do the following:
- From the Settings menu, choose Speech Settings.
- Choose a language from the Language list box.
- Choose a voice from the Voice list box.
- Click OK.
If you are teaching spelling patterns in a foreign language, the Spell button is an invaluable multisensory tool. Listen to WYNN say the word, spell the word, and say the word again. This is an excellent method used to teach spelling and automatize spelling patterns, which is extremely helpful when learning a new language.
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About Freedom Scientific LSG
Freedom Scientific, Learning Systems Group provides products that are acclaimed for their easy-to-use interface, innovative technology, and flexible but powerful features. Designed by educational experts to enhance the learning process for struggling students, WYNN provides reading and writing solutions. Freedom Scientific LSG also created TestTalker, which provides test-taking preparations and worksheet completion. To find out more about our products, please visit us at www.freedomscientific.com/lsg.