Independent Inquiry: Thomas Watts Explores Dyslexia through App Design

Thomas Watts (Grade 11) recently presented his progress and aspirations for an iOS app that he wishes to develop as part of his Independent Inquiry research. In preparation for following through to a final product he has researched dyslexia, studied application development and consulted with a professional software consultant. Thomas shares his experience below:


I came up with the idea for my independent study after avidly seeking accessible remedial help for my dyslexia. I have struggled with dyslexia all my life and was just diagnosed a few years ago. Dyslexia is, by definition, a learning difference—not to be confused with a learning disability.

A dyslexic’s brain, as the difference is neurobiological in origin, has trouble quickly decoding written language. The issue comes down to fluency. My new-found understanding of my condition, through extensive research, along with my desire to help myself and those like me, culminated into the initial idea for my independent study: to create an iOS application that would focus on improving the user’s fluency.

I began my research by taking online courses in iOS application development and by reading into dyslexia remediation. Self-directed learning was a new experience and it wasn’t easy. I had to find new ways to motivate myself, but the experience was far more rewarding once I had made it through the initial push.

Once my project gained momentum, I moved on from online classes and research to apply my knowledge and begin building the content for my app. On weekends, I sat down and went through the process of laying out my ideas for content, app design and target age group for which the app would be designed. After brainstorming, I went to the building process where I came up with structured lesson plans for my potential students based on the latest research in teaching dyslexic and non-dyslexic high schoolers.

Around this time, I planned a meeting with a former software designer and current consultant. I gave him everything I had up until that point and he told me all about professional software design while reviewing my approach. Although he liked my ideas, he recommended that I try a method that would follow the professional model for building software. I had a month until I was scheduled to present my independent study, so I planned to showcase my process and content rather than going straight to development of the app itself. My independent study has now become a more long-term project that will aim to take the content I have created and form it into an actual application.

Independent self-directed learning was hard at first but only because it was new me. Eventually, I fell into a rhythm, which I believe is attainable for anyone who wishes to embark on a study of their own. I have learned so much about my own learning process and have felt the accomplishment of concluding my own independent study with a strong presentation. For anyone interested, take it from me, the independent study program is both fulfilling and rewarding. (Thomas Watts, Grade 11)

You can read more about the Independent Inquiry program on our previous posts.