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Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group Presents
The WYNNing Word
January/February 2010


Study Reveals WYNN’s Voice & Text Notes Enable Significant Test Gains for Students

Cover of JSET - Journal of Special Education TechnologyResults of an independent research study indicate statistically significant test gains for both general education and special education students when using WYNN’s study tools. The research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), was conducted by the Center for Electronic Studying at the University of Oregon, under the auspices of Lynne Anderson-Inman from the University of Oregon.

The research evaluated the impact of digital note-taking on the reading comprehension of fifth grade students with and without disabilities in inclusive classrooms. The complete study, Exploring the Effects of Digital Note Taking on Student Comprehension of Science, may be found in the November 2009 issue of The Journal of Special Education Technology.

Collier County Schools Chosen for Study

Collier County school buildingCollier County School District in southwest Florida was selected as the research site. Collier was the ideal choice, as the district had an installed base of electronic reading systems, it had been actively involved with incorporating WYNN into their curriculum for years, and many of Collier’s teachers were already successfully presenting digital text to students.

The district’s commitment to digital text technology led Roberta Brosnahan, VP of the Learning Systems Group, to introduce Lynne Anderson-Inman to Bill Schulte and Sheri Wiseman, both Exceptional Student Education Instructional Technology/Medicaid Specialists at Collier. Schulte and Wiseman have helped to create a technology-rich learning environment in their school district. The district has been exceptionally dedicated to good teacher preparation, technology assistance, and research. After initial talks, Anderson-Inman, Schulte, and Wiseman agreed to develop a research plan for the project. Collier’s dedicated team worked closely with Inman-Anderson and the rest of the members of the project group - Mark A. Horney, Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes, Jen Katz-Buonincontro, and Mindy Frisbee, all from University of Oregon, and Keith Smolkowski of the Oregon Research Institute. Together both teams worked extremely hard to create the right environment for both teachers and students to implement a successful research study.

The team decided that a pilot study and a larger implementation study using the same research design, materials, and dependent measures would provide an environment with the greatest opportunity for a successful research project. The two studies were conducted to investigate:

  • The effects of Text Notes and Voice Notes on the comprehension of science texts by fifth grade students
  • Whether digital note-taking is an effective reading strategy
  • Whether one form of digital note-taking is more effective than the other

The pilot study took place in a fifth grade class in one of the district’s elementary schools. A full implementation study took place in 10 fifth grade classrooms in 10 elementary schools. In total, 232 students, 24 of whom were receiving special education services, were involved in the project. In order to work within the classroom curriculum, materials were taken from the district’s fifth grade Harcourt Science curriculum. The study focused on using Harcourt’s booklet-size supplements to the science textbook. WYNN was chosen as the software to be used to read the text in a digital format.

To ensure accurate use of the software, teachers and students received WYNN training. The teachers were trained by Schulte, Wiseman, and Jon Mundorf, the fifth grade pilot study teacher. Participating teachers attended two training sessions. The first session provided an overview of the project and general training in using WYNN. The second session provided teachers with more details about the study’s purpose and procedures, as well as follow-up training and practice with WYNN, including an emphasis on how to insert Text Notes and Voice Notes. They were also introduced to WYNN’s toolbars. In addition to training on how to use WYNN, students were given instruction focusing on summarizing science materials.

Text Notes
WYNN Text Notes
Text Notes provide an opportunity for students to type their own notes into their reading material. Each note is indicated with a numbered icon in the text. In this study students were asked to create notes that summarized each paragraph.

Voice Notes
WYNN Voice Notes
Voice Notes are similar to Text Notes, but the students record their thoughts verbally into the provided microphone. Some students do better with auditory processing, so WYNN provides both Voice and Text Notes.

In both studies each booklet, with permission from the publisher, was scanned into WYNN. This enabled the participating students to read the booklet pages in either Exact View or in Text View. In both displays, students were able to have the text read aloud and to toggle between the two views. Each study included two control groups. The groups alternated studying the material using Voice Notes and Text Notes.

Exact View
WYNN Exact View
Exact View is a picture of the scanned page that can talk. This view includes all the graphics, tables, and formatting in the original document.

Text View
WYNN Text View
Text View shows just the text on a scanned page, removing all graphics and formatting. Text View allows visual customizations of the page, including font size, line and word spacing, and colors. These allow each student to view material the way he or she needs it.

Results of Pilot Study

When comparing the results between Voice Notes and Text Notes, students who used Voice Notes made statistically significant improvement. Those who implemented Text Notes made a slight improvement on their posttest. Also, data suggested that Voice Notes were more effective when note-taking for students with disabilities.

Voice Notes Versus Text Notes:
Posttest Results
Voice Notes Versus Text Notes: Posttest Results flowchart

Voice Notes Versus Text Notes:
Special Education Population Results
Voice Notes Versus Text Notes: Special Education Population Results flowchart

Results of the Full Implementation Study

The table below lists the percentages of notes taken at different points in the text. Students were instructed to summarize each paragraph, so the paragraph column naturally has the highest numbers. Students were instructed to answer the questions, and few of them chose to do that with notes. They were given no instructions for call-outs, and few of them summarized those.

Illustration of Table 2 which shows the percentage of text elements on which notes were taken

The article called out a number of facts regarding Table 2. First, the students with disabilities who read "Heredity" produced significantly more Voice Notes than Text Notes, 73 percent versus 63 percent. These students who produced Voice Notes also showed a statistically significant improvement in their scores, whereas the students using Text Notes did not. The same effect was noted for students who had the highest gain scores on "Cells"—the students using Voice Notes also had significantly higher test scores. The article points out that "this suggests that there may be a link between the percentage of paragraphs for which summaries are produced and student performance."

Final Conclusions

It was determined that much can be learned from examining the types of notes students produced and to what extent they were consistently employed.

Briefly stated:

  • Scores on students’ posttests in both the pilot study and the implementation study revealed that they knew more about the science topics covered in the supplementary text booklets after reading and taking digital notes than they did before.
  • The findings suggest that recording Voice Notes is at least as effective as typing Text Notes, and perhaps more effective for some students in some situations.
  • Attempts to increase student learning through digital note-taking may do well to focus on how to promote effective selection of the main idea instead of on effective summarization.
  • Explicit instruction on a strategy for summarizing text significantly increased the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities.

Implications for Future Research

A significant advantage was found for some students using Voice Notes as opposed to having the student type notes. The study concludes that future research should explore this theory further and investigate the use of Voice Notes in other contexts and using different instructional strategies, especially for students with disabilities.

Suggested topics:

  • Investigate the use of Voice Notes in a range of text-based materials.
  • Investigate the use of different note-taking strategies.
  • Investigate questions related to the use of digital notes for the purposes of studying.
  • Investigate the underlying processes of digital note-taking and how to maximize learning through instruction.

Gold starRoberta Brosnahan expresses the thoughts of all of us at Freedom Scientific, Learning Systems Group, “Note-taking is a critical study strategy for students to master. We are pleased that the research shows WYNN’s note-taking tools, in particular our Voice Notes, are effective study aids for students.”

WYNN's Voice Notes First in the Field

WYNN was the first software product to provide Voice Notes as a study feature for students and teachers. WYNN's Voice Notes feature allows users to record spoken messages tied to specific areas of text. This feature is designed as a tool to allow students to verbalize their thoughts, providing a more interactive reading environment. For some students, as indicated in this study, verbal expression is a supportive strategy for the comprehension of written materials. Voice Notes can provide a scaffold for organization and summarization skills in both reading and expressive language tasks.

Additionally, teachers can create Voice Notes containing questions, messages, or assignments for students, thereby providing an interactive, engaging reading environment. Students can use Voice Notes to record answers to the teacher's questions, create reminders, summarize or paraphrase, or ask questions about the text.

Text Notes allow users to create written annotations for text material similar to “writing in the margin” of their book. Text Notes can be instrumental in helping students remember important material. “The combination of Text Notes and Voice Notes creates a powerful one-two punch to benefit many types of learners,” said Brosnahan. These features exemplify WYNN's motto: WYNN helps users use individual strengths to strengthen their weaknesses.

If you would like more information about this study, Exploring the Effects of Digital Note Taking on Student Comprehension of Science Tests, please contact us at:(800) 444-4443 extension 1032 or (727) 803-8000 extension 1032, or e-mail us.

Gold star
To view videos that provide examples of using WYNN's Text Notes and Voice Notes, please visit the WYNN Video Web page.


If you would like more information about WYNN, please visit our Web site at www.freedomscientific.com/lsg. If you would like to request a WYNN Demo CD, please click WYNN 5.1 Timed Evaluation CD.


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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.


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