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Thanks to @nwinton for the photo.

Here is my talk on Digital Storytelling and Dyslexia that I gave at TeachMeetLothians11 last night and here’s a wee summary for those of us who can’t bear audio files (me!):

I talked about the false dichotomy between the purists who regard anything but print as being beyond the pale to the techno-zealots who declare that print is dead. This debate is only useful if it challenges assumptions and makes us think about literacy now.

I quoted extensively from Bill Boyd  here when I said that the ability to read in itself is meaningless as it begs the question, ‘The ability to read what?’. The ability to read and the ability to access texts in all their forms are not mutually exclusive.

My thesis was a familiar one – at least to this audience: we must teach children to thrive in this century rather than preparing for the last. The need for creative and critical thinkers is never more desperate – and it is learners with dyslexia who are often able to think laterally beyond the confines of the conventional. That’s why I like them!

I talked about membership of the ‘Literacy Club’: membership of which in the past was dependent on children’s ability to move through a set of hierarchical skills – something that learners with dyslexia find hard. Reading is a life long endeavour which develops in confidence and competence the more it is practised across increasingly more diverse and difficult texts. The children I teach have often failed spectacularly at traditional reading but  flourish with the broader range of texts we are urged to use in Curriculm for Excellence.

I went on to talk about digital storytelling, Inanimate Alice in particular; reprising some of my thoughts already posted on this blog (all in 7 minutes!).

I finished with the wonderful quotation from Thomas West and make no apology quoting once more:

We should encourage diversity,

  • not only to be civil,
  • not only to be respectful,
  • not only to be humane,
  • not only to be just,

 but also because we have  a particular stake in diversity.

We want there to be people who have

  • abilities that we have not ever tried to measure because we didn’t know that we needed them,
  • abilities that may be in no way associated with the abilities and talents that we now measure by formal or informal means,
  • abilities we don’t yet know we need.


 TM was at the Scottish Book Trust’s headquarters on the Royal Mile. What a beautiful venue! And thanks to Fearghal and the team for organising such an invigorating event.


Great CDP opportunity on Literacy and Numeracy

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Spelling Matters

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Bill Boyd has, once more, presented me with something to think about in his recent post on spelling.

I have actually used the misspelled text described in the video to illustrate to non-specialist teachers that spelling is not as crucial as some people may believe.

Actually in my experience, most teachers are fairly relaxed about poor spelling as long as the student presents learning legibly and intelligently. They understand and teach the distinction between formal and informal writing. They try to ensure that their students are aware of the importance of a well presented piece of writing in certain circumstances. They are tolerant of ‘text-speak’, the use of images and symbols and other personal abbreviations when notes are being constructed.

However, numerous youngsters themselves seem to be very hung up on getting it right first time. This always strikes me as odd as I am sure the message that perfection is the only option is not conveyed by any but the most hidebound of teachers.

Spelling is of course the activity which causes most difficulty for learners with dyslexia and for them it is even more paramount that they are enabled to get their message across without any inhibiting factors.

Making the distinction between composition and transcription is the most effective strategy. This reduces the overload on the memory which occurs when a writer is trying to use interesting ideas and content while remembering the secretarial skills of spelling and punctuation. This is well nigh impossible for most dyslexics.

So, planning a piece of writing using key concepts and much imagery and colour is the 1st step. Then you might be able to get some poor schmuck to scribe your brilliant ideas for you if dictating it straight into an MP3 or video file or making a presentation  is not an option.

Word retrieval, fluency, of processing, difficulties with sequencing and directionality are at the heart of the problem for learners with dyslexia. Poor spelling is a mere casualty of the different wiring system in the brain. But all contribute to huge amounts of stress if not recognised and catered for.

A good speller can see the trees; a learner with dyslexia can see the wood.