Today we have a guest post from my friend Melissa Baines who is a freelance writer and researcher living in London. Thanks Melissa!

This thread is designed as a bit of advice and guidance for educational professionals or anyone home schooling, with regard to helping ADD students.

Much has been documented on classroom techniques for managing students with ADD to help optimize their performance and ensure they remain focussed in a wide variety of lesson environments. With the advent of information technology and the range of educational equipment including notebooks and interactive whiteboards the general landscape of most lessons has a different aspect and one which lends itself much better in the support of learning for ADD students. There are certainly many good examples of how ICT is used to support ADD students, but also many examples where the technology is misdirected and the outcomes are poor.

Having worked closely on a number of projects to monitor the performance of students with a wide variety of learning styles through the use of technology there are some clear lessons to be learned. In particular with regard to ADD students there are some very clear do’s and don’ts with in respect of the use of technology.

Let’s clear up some of the don’ts first. Although they may seem obvious it is important to make sure that they are not an obstacle which fouls up the whole process in the first instance.

Don’ts

Use of MSOffice seems to be held religiously at the forefront of most ICT lessons. Although this software is important it is designed to be used by adults in offices and largely inappropriate for the classroom, and in particular for ADD students. Two particular packages to be avoided are MSExcel and MSAccess. Tasks designed around these software packages tend to be long term projects with slow step building product creation. Although there are some instances in which they can be adapted to engage ADD students using them in the format for which they are designed usually leads to extended repetitive tasks which are difficult to focus on.

Don’t use MSWord for extended writing tasks. It may seem like a sensible approach for scripting and editing a story, or a piece of non-fiction text, but is not the correct approach for an ADD student and there are a large variety of writing strategies which can be employed to help improve focus and performance. Using MSPowerpoint to create mind maps, or storyboards and constructing the text on alternate slides is a far more efficacious way of building up a piece of text and although it will take longer overall, the results will be a happier child and quite often a superb piece of written work.

Effective use of software

There are many pieces of free or relatively affordable software which ADD students find more engaging due to the structure, performance and products that they make.

Flash (Marcomedia MX – Adobe CS5)

This software which can be obtained in a number of formats (from the current Adobe CS5 version to the Macromedia MX version) and is at the top of the list for engaging students with ADD. The software is fragmented into panels and there are a lot of areas to divert focus. For a hungry active mind the working between the stage, timeline, properties panel and layers using the software is like having four different activities on the spin at any one time. The development of frame-by-frame animation is a straightforward and engaging process. Once the routines for adding keyframes in the timeline and then developing the images on the stage have been learned then movies can be developed with some alacrity by those who have the energy and enthusiasm to do so. This is also a great alternative to the written text and cartoons or movies, constructed correctly, with a narrative and clear beginning and end are equally as good a method of communicating ideas as a straightforward written text.

Windows Movie Maker

This free bolt on, which comes with windows XP and later editions, is another excellent tool for helping students to focus on tasks and engage them over an extended period of time. The software is drag and drop friendly, is broken into panels and relatively easy to use. It has useful prompts and hints in each of the frames to help guide the user, without being excessively wordy or complicated. Creating movies from clips is an excellent way of focussing the student in short term tasks. Using short family videos to construct montages or using some free to download clips from the internet gives the nice short clear focussed activities which are engaging and stimulating. It is important to set tasks which are short in outcome (like a 30 second advert, or 1 minute montage for youtube) and using clips which are short to work with (3-10 seconds long). The timings can obviously be adjusted to suit the task and the user.

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Melissa Baines is a freelance writer and researcher living in London. When she’s not working, she loves nothing more than taking her baby daughter out in her Quinny and visiting the local museums and galleries.

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