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WHAT ABOUT ICT FOR STUDENTS WITH READING AND WRITING DIFFICULTIES?

T. Mølster

Hedmark University College (NORWAY)
Research on the relationship between ICT and student learning show conflicting findings. Despite huge investments in technology, we lack clear indications that ICT promotes learning in school. On the contrary, it seems that students using ICT most frequently have the weakest academic performance (Mølster & Nes, 2015). A recently international study shows that students who use computers moderately seem to have somewhat greater learning outcomes than students who use it rarely, while students who use it often perform worse in most areas, even when taking social background and demographics into account (OECD, 2015). A Norwegian survey shows that the digital lifestyle of the students is a challenge in upper secondary education (Krumsvik, Egelandsdal, Sara room, Jones, & Eikeland, 2013). It seems that the major digitalization of school has not been success so far. This has led to a highly polarized debate in Norway on technology's role in education (Haugsbakk, 2011).

The question we ask in this paper is what role digital tools play for students who struggle with reading and writing difficulties. Being able to read and write is fundamental for all learning. Therefore, it is important that the school and the teachers do what they can to help these students. That ICT is a valuable tool for learners with various kinds of disabilities has been well documented (Brøyn and Schultz 2005). We also know that ICT can be a valuable tool for students who struggle with reading and writing difficulties. Already in the eighties special education teachers realized that the computer could be used to effectively train students with different kinds of learning difficulties. Special education teachers started to use ICT as an assistive device to compensate for reading and writing difficulties. However, digital technology used to compensate for different difficulties has not reached the classroom fully (Jacobson, Bjørn et al. 2009).

This article is based on findings in the Norwegian research project The Function of Special Education (the SPEED project http://www.hivolda.no/speed ). The project has collected a broad range of empirical data from students, teachers and parents on level 5 to 9, including data on the use of computers in both the ordinary teaching and special teaching. A key finding is that ICT seems to play a modest role in everyday schoolwork for students with reading and writing difficulties. On the other hand, we find that both teachers and students report that ICT is very useful as a compensatory or alternative tool for this group of students. The article will attempt to explain this apparent contradiction and discuss what implications it may have for teaching and teacher training.