What are the criteria for selecting a writing assistant technology for those with dyslexia?
What should be the review process?
Which features/capabilities are the most important?
How do I review and grade different writing assistant packages?
Dr. Robert Iakobashvili, Ghotit CTO: I have been asked this question numerous times. Here is the list of my recommendations for reviewing writing assistant solutions and finding the solution that fits you best.
1. Choose your own text samples.
Test the dyslexia software with your own text samples. The solution needs to assist your writing, so collect samples of typical text written by you or your targeted user group, and test these text samples.
2. Use text samples from multiple sources.
It is recommended to use numerous samples from diversified sources written on different subjects. Using a large enough and diversified corpus takes more time, but it has a real value in understanding what each solution can deliver to you or your institution.
3. Don’t use any published text samples in your reviewing.
Why? Many software companies collect published samples. These companies then optimize their algorithms to make sure that the published text samples produce good scores. You don’t want to be fooled by such targeted optimizations.
4. Make sure the solution is self-learning.
Don’t you want a solution that with time will understand you better? Make sure that the solution supports intelligent algorithms that learn your writing and offer improved suggestions the more you use the solution.
5. Make sure the vendor provides additional value compared to MS-Office, Pages, Windows, Mac or iOS platform tools.
For most people (those without dyslexia), the standard Windows, Mac or iOS spell checker and word-prediction are good enough. Why spend money on a writing assistant solution if you already have a good one? Take your text samples and compare the results between the Windows spell checker and the selected writing assistant. Write your phrases with word-prediction and see if you get the right predictions faster with less typing using a software tested than using the standard tools and if it’s easier to comprehend and select the right prediction.
See also if there are specific features offered by the writing assistant software vendor (word-banks, topics, dictionary with definitions, read-out-loud, etc.) that provide you even additional value.
6. The more users are testing the solution, the better.
If you are reviewing a software for an organization or a group of users, try to engage in the evaluation process as many potential users as possible. The different users should be asked to provide their inputs in different areas: correctness of the algorithms, user experience, features, etc.
7. Be precise in defining the reviewing goals and criteria of success.
The success criteria can include:
– Correctness of the suggested words upon text correction
– Improved grammar and punctuation
– Increased speed in typing due to an effective word-prediction technology
– Ability of prediction to cope with spelling/typing errors
– Feature completeness – e.g. integrated dictionary, read-out-loud.
8. Make sure that the solution inter-operates with your targeted environments.
Does your customer base use Windows? Macs? iPhones? Android devices?
Make sure, the solution supports all of the different devices that you need.
9. Confirm that the vendor is a credible supplier.
Many basic spell checking algorithms are published and can be easily programmed. Verify that the vendor is a credible vendor with a real business that offers support when needed.
10. Make sure that your vendor is dedicated to the dyslexic community
There are many writing solutions out there. Some of them are generic spell checkers that are positioned as solutions for the people with dyslexia. But children and adults with dyslexia require more sophisticated writing adaptive solutions. Make sure that your vendor is familiar with the specific challenges that those with dyslexia face reading and writing text, and that the company is dedicated to the learning disabilities market.