Cathkin High School was given the opportunity to trial DocsPlus. The trial was set up by Crick Software in collaboration with the Schools Managed Service provider, RM Education, and was supported by South Lanarkshire Council.
Cathkin High School is a mainstream school in South Lanarkshire Council, in Scotland, with around 1,100 students. I am the Special Education Lead Teacher and support students with a wide range of support needs, for example students with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, etc. I also work to support staff in ensuring students’ special educaitonal needs are met within the classroom.
We have found DocsPlus to be a more multifaceted technology resource than we have been using so far. DocsPlus can be used by students with varying needs and abilities to progress and work more independently. So, for example, the spellchecker picks up on the phonics problem the students have:
“The spellchecker really helped. It helped me believe in myself, and gave me confidence with my writing.”
We used DocsPlus with a freshman English class as part of a transition exercise we do where the students write Christmas letters to the middle school students about things to look out for, things to look forward to, and hints and tips before they move up to high school. Verbally, the students can easily give you lots of ideas and examples but committing these ideas to paper is much harder for them as they struggle with starting extended writing tasks and structuring them.
The spellchecker really helped. It helped me believe in myself, and gave me confidence with my writing.
For some students this process of moving from a blank piece of paper to a coherent piece of writing is a real struggle. So, DocsPlus does something other word processors can’t: it gives them that scaffolding, that frame so they have a starting point with their thinking. DocsPlus is great as it has many ready-made templates or Wordbars which staff can use or edit.
We created banks of useful vocabulary and writing frames, which are called "Wordbars" in DocsPlus, to help the students with their work. We found they were a great way to provide accessible, topic-specific phrases and sentences for the students to use. This hugely improved the speed and accuracy of their writing! With the letter task I mentioned earlier, the Wordbar tabs were organized to guide the students through the entire letter writing process:
“The different sections of the Wordbar were really helpful; it helped you write the letter in order and gave ideas about what to write next.”
DocsPlus made it so much easier for them to structure and order things – it gave them confidence in their writing.
I think one of the loveliest comments we got was to do with the word predictor. One of the children said:
“When you started to write a word at the bottom, the word appeared, and you just clicked on it to add it. If you didn’t know how to spell a word, if you put in the first couple of letters, it would just come up. It let me use bigger words I wouldn’t be able to spell.”
DocsPlus was helping to improve the quality of their writing too and gave them the confidence to use the sophisticated vocabulary they knew in their heads but couldn’t get down on paper before. It was great to see!
Children in South Lanarkshire already have access to Clicker at the elementary school level, so they are used to having a writing support tool in place. It would make a lot of sense for them to transition to an age-appropriate tool like this when they move into high school.
When you started to write a word at the bottom, the word appeared, and you just clicked on it to add it. If you didn’t know how to spell a word, if you put in the first couple of letters, it would just come up. It let me use bigger words I wouldn’t be able to spell.
There’s no doubt that DocsPlus had a massive impact on the students during our trial. It improved their self-esteem, confidence, and motivation with writing tasks. Certainly in the English department we found that their level of writing improved significantly. The letters the students wrote were comfortably receiving higher grades – so there was definitely a tangible improvement in the quality of their written work.
Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is get students working and achieving independently. We want them to be actively doing things for themselves; increasing resilience and independence, and I think DocsPlus really helps with that. I think this would be a fantastic tool for all high schools to have access to.