Assistive Technologies and Strategies for Writing in Middle School
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Content-area writing in middle school requires the ability to extract key points from the content and transform information into a written product. However, students with learning disabilities (LD) often lack the skills needed to develop written products within the content areas, which in turn affects their academic success (Evmenova et al., 2016). Researchers have invented assistive technologies that can be used in the classroom setting to assist learners with writing in content areas. The purpose of this study was to review existing research studies investigating assistive technologies and instructional strategies aimed at enhancing the writing skills of middle-school students. We examined studies that used randomized control trials (RCTs), within-subject, and single-case designs to explore the effectiveness of assistive technologies and note-taking strategies for improving content-area writing of students with LD. We used electronic databases Eric and PsycINFO to find prior research in these areas. Additionally, we conducted hand searches and reference searches to augment the studies obtained from the database search. After screening 144 studies using eligibility and inclusion criteria, we were left with a total of four studies. Among these, two studies examined the effects of computer-based graphic organizers (CGBOs) as an assistive technology in middle school classrooms. The other two studies investigated strategies for writing in middle schools such as mnemonics, 'Cued prompt', and Technology-Based Graphic Organizers (TGBOs). Findings suggest CBGOs, TGBOs, and note-taking strategies such as cued prompts and mnemonics improve writing and note-taking quality for students with LD as measured by overall word counts, the number of sentences in note-taking, and writing essays. While the long-term effects of assistive technologies remain uncertain, findings from our literature review suggest significant and measurable benefits for middle school students when technology interventions are used for writing.
Evmenova, A. S., Regan, K., Boykin, A., Good, K., Hughes, M., MacVittie, N., Sacco, D., Ahn, S. Y., & Chirinos, D. (2016). Emphasizing Planning for Essay Writing with a Computer-Based Graphic Organizer. Exceptional Children, 82(2), 170–191.