Reading & Remembering – Two Tools. Synth and Sans Forgetica

Reading. It’s been something I’ve been passionate about as an educator. Probably ever since I picked up a copy of Frank Smith’s “Understanding Reading” in anticipation of Teacher’s College some 30+ years ago.

In the interm, I’ve read, studied and become convinced that technology can very much help struggling readers. English language learners (ELLs) included in that group.

I won’t pontificate but here are two tools that can be used to help students “learn to read” and “read to learn”.

1. Synth

See my example recording below.  Synth is a tool that allows you to record (or upload audio) and get a nicely transcribed version that plays as closed captions as someone listens (even edit the auto transcription).

So what’s so cool and good about that, you say?  Well, I think it is ground breaking.  Not only because it provides a transcript to support student listening but groundbreaking because it is a tool that will transform the way we teach students how to read or how students “learn to read”.

Many readers struggle to learn to read because phonemic awareness (the connection between sound and sign or text) isn’t developed through the student’s, the child’s own known language.  The text students read is usually foreign, not of their own spoken resource.  Thus, there is a big hurdle to get over to develop phonemic awareness when the student also has no real understanding of the semantic and meaning of the words.

With Synth, a developing reader can speak their own words (which they already know the meaning of) and then see those words read as sound.  This is groundbreaking as a learning to read tool.  Now, Synth isn’t providing the transcript automatically yet – but I think it might get there (takes a few minutes to generate).

I do hope the guys at Synth see the potential of the tool for helping students learn to read.  It’s still in Beta and just getting off the ground but I’m sure they’ll get things right.

Of course, it is also a great tool for student discussions and reflection. You can have audio replies in threads. The teacher or student just has to start the prompt. Even add a photo like Voicethread.

2. Sans Forgetica

This font was recently created and research suggests that when students use it for reading – there is a 7% improvement in retention of information compared to traditional fonts like Arial, Times Roman etc …..

I think with ELLs using this font, that number might even be larger.  It’s more important for students to “fill in the gaps” when reading and focus more on bottom up processes so they can develop as good readers. This font would help that.

You can install in your Chrome browser or input some text to output as Forgetica HERE.   Developed by RMIT, it really does have a promising educational application. Check out this video describing the font.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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