Using technology to read and write
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Examination Tools

boy headphones computerTaking exams using digital solutions

Speaking Solutions is dedicated to giving students the ability to complete written work and examinations without the use of a scribe. The tools are readily available to do this. To sit digital exams a student needs to be literate in reading and writing. He or she must also have the cognitive ability required to operate the relevant digital tools; i.e. computers with specialised software.

In 2005, we organised the first digital examinations to be held in New Zealand at a secondary school in Auckland. A set of six Year 9 students sat their exams using digital tools, with just one support person in the room. This provided a huge cost saving in both people power and the space that would normally have been required for six students and six reader/writers. In 2011, more than 20 students at the school are using this method to sit their exams. 2014, 30 plus students per exam session completed papers using digital tools. 2014 reintroduced Dragon voice recognition software as a tool.

In 2005 and 2006, Speaking Solutions visited Paul Nisbet and Alan Wilson at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland ( They have been contracted by the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) to provide digital examination facilities in all Scottish schools which request them. We would love to see the Ministry of Education provide the same support for New Zealand students.

Through Digital Learning, we aim to help students with literacy and provide them with independence.

Read all about Digital Exams being organised by Speaking Solutions in NZ  and supported by Sacred Heart College. Louise Oliphant HOD is a key component.  INTERFACE – Issue 50, Sept 2013 – Digital exams

2015- CallScotland is working with SQA to trial use of speech to text in examinations. A secondary school here in NZ is making some exciting moves with Dragon speech to text. I have been fortunate enough to train students and staff in Dragon NaturallySpeaking at the school and was impressed with the goals and dedication.

In New Zealand  NZQA is trialing digital assessment with text to speech.

Some of the evaluation tools we use:

The SETT (Student, Environment, Tasks, Tools) framework developed by Dr Joy Zabala. This is used by schools when applying for funding for assistive technology through the Ministry of Education. Speaking Solutions has attended many training sessions with Joy, who will be a keynote speaker at the Spectronics conference in Australia 2012. It can be useful for parents and students to see the criteria the MoE uses to decide on funding. You can see these on Joy’s website:

RW2RW (Real and Wacky to Read and Write). Louise Oliphant and Naomi Forrester developed this as a quick way to interact with students we are working with in schools. We ask the students to imagine any device or system that might help them with reading and writing. They are then directed to the tools available and can experiment to see what works best for them.

Speak to Spell. If you can speak it, you can write it. Using these programmes requires some training and support, but it’s quick and straightforward and clients can then take responsibility for their own spelling/writing.

Typing Tutor ( This is web based, free and works at home or on a school network.