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Microsoft pledge to develop EdTech for dyslexic students has great potential for India

The big news from the technology space this week was Microsoft signing the Made by Diversity pledge to develop educational tools and resources needed by people with dyslexia.

The announcement was made at the first global summit held by the charity Made By Dyslexia, which aims to change attitudes towards dyslexia and create solutions to help dyslexic children in schools.

The charity has been co-founded by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson and led by other prominent dyslexics.

Microsoft is the first corporation to sign the pledge, which in the words of CEO Satya Nadella, "will ensure that the rights tools and technology get to the 700 million people with dyslexia."

So, how is Microsoft proposing to achieve this? The details are given in their blog, but here is a bare outline to give you an idea.

Here are the key points:

  • The materials will be available for free to educators and parents.
  • Microsoft will work with researchers and partners in the dyslexia community to find ways to use technology for early intervention.
  • Learning tools will be updated to help students write with their voice using speech to text and use Immersive Reader to take part in discussions, better math scores, build comprehension skills, browse web content easily, use Office Lens to capture text from anywhere, to name a few.

Dr Nandita C Singh, a cognitive neuro-scientist with the National Brain Research Centre says the applicability of the materials being developed will be huge for India, which has an estimated 30 children with dyslexia. Many of them slip through the cracks for want of screening and adequate intervention.

This is certainly a space where children would benefit a lot. We think this could be very valuable not just for children with dyslexia, but for all children. The technology uses a multi-sensory approach - visual, tactile and auditory - which is very helpful. - Dr Nandita C Singh, National Brain Research Centre

Dr Singh, who led the project to develop DALI, India's first regional language screening tool for dyslexia, is looking to raise support to build education technology games in regional languages, "so that all kids, even those in rural areas, get access to it. Like developing simple but crude games to teach sound letter mapping."

The beauty of technology, as she points out, is that it enables mass scaling and appeals to multiple senses.

A lens that allows technology to be built in such a way that it caters uniquely to each community.

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