Shorter Lines Facilitate Reading in Those Who Struggle. PLoS ONE , 8 (8).Abstract, 2013.
People with dyslexia, who ordinarily struggle to read, sometimes remark that reading is easier when e-readers are used. Here, we used eye tracking to observe high school students with dyslexia as they read using these devices. Among the factors investigated, we found that reading using a small device resulted in substantial benefits, improving reading speeds by 27%, reducing the number of fixations by 11%, and importantly, reducing the number of regressive saccades by more than a factor of 2, with no cost to comprehension. Given that an expected trade-off between horizontal and vertical regression was not observed when line lengths were altered, we speculate that these effects occur because sluggish attention spreads perception to the left as the gaze shifts during reading. Short lines eliminate crowded text to the left, reducing regression. The effects of attention modulation by the hand, and of increased letter spacing to reduce crowding, were also found to modulate the oculomotor dynamics in reading, but whether these factors resulted in benefits or costs depended on characteristics, such as visual attention span, that varied within our sample.
E-Readers Are More Effective than Paper for Some with Dyslexia. PLoS ONE , 8 (9).Abstract, 2013.
E-readers are fast rivaling print as a dominant method for reading. Because they offer accessibility options that are impossible in print, they are potentially beneficial for those with impairments, such as dyslexia. Yet, little is known about how the use of these devices influences reading in those who struggle. Here, we observe reading comprehension and speed in 103 high school students with dyslexia. Reading on paper was compared with reading on a small handheld e-reader device, formatted to display few words per line. We found that use of the device significantly improved speed and comprehension, when compared with traditional presentations on paper for specific subsets of these individuals: Those who struggled most with phoneme decoding or efficient sight word reading read more rapidly using the device, and those with limited VA Spans gained in comprehension. Prior eye tracking studies demonstrated that short lines facilitate reading in dyslexia, suggesting that it is the use of short lines (and not the device per se) that leads to the observed benefits. We propose that these findings may be understood as a consequence of visual attention deficits, in some with dyslexia, that make it difficult to allocate attention to uncrowded text near fixation, as the gaze advances during reading. Short lines ameliorate this by guiding attention to the uncrowded span.
Is Reading Impairment Associated with Enhanced Holistic Processing in Comparative Visual Search?. Dyslexia , 22 (4) , pp. 345-361.Abstract, 2016.
This study explores a proposition that individuals with dyslexia develop enhanced peripheral vision to process visual–spatial information holistically. Participants included 18 individuals diagnosed with dyslexia and 18 who were not. The experiment used a comparative visualsearch design consisting of two blocks of 72 trials. Each trial presented two halves of the display each comprising three kinds of shapes in three colours to be compared side‐by‐side. Participants performed a conjunctive search to ascertain whether the two halves were identical. In the first block, participants were provided no instruction regarding the visual–spatial processing strategy they were to employ. In the second block, participants were instructed to use a holistic processing strategy—to defocus their attention and perform the comparison by examining the whole screen at once. The results did not support the hypothesis associating dyslexia with talents for holistic visual processing. Using holistic processingstrategy, both groups scored lower in accuracy and reacted faster, compared to the first block. Impaired readers consistently reacted more slowly and did not exhibit enhanced accuracy. Given the extant evidence of strengths for holistic visual processing in impaired readers, these findings are important because they suggest such strengths may be task dependent.
The Effects of Visual Attention Span and Phonological Decoding in Reading Comprehension in Dyslexia. Dyslexia.Abstract, 2016.
Increasing evidence has shown visual attention span to be a factor, distinct from phonologicalskills, that explains single-word identification (pseudo-word/word reading) performance in dyslexia. Yet, little is known about how well visual attention span explains text comprehension. Observing reading comprehension in a sample of 105 high school students with dyslexia, we used a pathway analysis to examine the direct and indirect path between visual attention spanand reading comprehension while controlling for other factors such as phonologicalawareness, letter identification, short-term memory, IQ and age. Integrating phonemic decoding efficiency skills in the analytic model, this study aimed to disentangle how visualattention span and phonological skills work together in reading comprehension for readers with dyslexia. We found visual attention span to have a significant direct effect on more difficult reading comprehension but not on an easier level. It also had a significant direct effect on pseudo-word identification but not on word identification. In addition, we found that visual attention span indirectly explains reading comprehension through pseudo-word reading and word reading skills. This study supports the hypothesis that at least part of the dyslexic profile can be explained by visual attention abilities.
Order Matters: Sequencing Scale-Realistic Versus Simplified Models to Improve Science Learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology , 25 (5) , pp. 806-823.Abstract, 2016.
Teachers choosing between different models to facilitate students' understanding of an abstract system must decide whether to adopt a model that is simplified and striking or one that is realistic and complex. Only recently have instructional technologies enabled teachers and learners to change presentations swiftly and to provide for learning based on multiple models, thus giving rise to questions about the order of presentation. Using disjoint individual growth modeling to examine the learning of astronomical concepts using a simulation of the solar system on tablets for 152 high school students (age 15), the authors detect both a model effect and an order effect in the use of the Orrery, a simplified model that exaggerates the scale relationships, and the True-to-scale, a proportional model that more accurately represents the realistic scale relationships. Specifically, earlier exposure to the simplified model resulted in diminution of the conceptual gain from the subsequent realistic model, but the realistic model did not impede learning from the following simplified model.