WOBURN, Mass., and BOULDER, Colo. – Aug. 19, 2009 – Pearson’s award-winning Web-based learning tool, WriteToLearn™, featuring Texthelp System’s embedded reading support technology, SpeechStream, is enabling students around the country to personalize their online learning environment and improve their reading comprehension and overall writing skills.
With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson’s state-of-the-art Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine. The KAT engine is a unique, automated assessment technology that evaluates the meaning of text by examining whole passages, not just grammatical correctness or spelling. WriteToLearn provides feedback on six traits of writing – ideas, organization, conventions, sentence fluency, word choice and voice – and allows students and teachers to focus on each of these important dimensions of writing.
Using SpeechStream’s text-to-speech capabilities, WriteToLearn meets a wide variety of learner needs for a diverse group of students, including support for programs for Title I, Response to Intervention, learning disabled, English language learners and at-risk learners. With SpeechStream, students can have online content read aloud with highlighting. The dictionary and spot word translation ability in WriteToLearn 5.0 enables students to instantly retrieve the dictionary definition or Spanish translation of words in a reading passage.
“Today’s schools are under pressure to improve the quality of student writing to meet important assessment goals as well as 21st-century guidelines for success in the workplace,” said Mark McCusker, CEO, Texthelp Systems Inc. “Texthelp provides a customizable set of literacy and language support tools with Web 2.0 capability that mirrors the personalized coaching teachers provide to students in a one-to-one learning environment.”
Research shows that students can improve their writing ability through the use of online reading and language support tools. Text-to-speech with synchronous highlighting has been shown to elevate reading levels by two years and to improve reading comprehension by up to 40 percent for struggling readers. [i] In addition, a recent study by Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., shows that students using these language support tools write nearly twice as much as students without the tools and demonstrate significant improvements in composition and organization.[ii]
Using Texthelp accessibility software embedded in WriteToLearn, students with learning disabilities have ready access to text-to-speech output and phonetically mapped writing support tools. “Some of my students will stumble over larger vocabulary words,” said Debbie Craven, special education teacher at Troutman Middle School in Troutman, N.C. With the text-to-speech output from WriteToLearn, they can put on their headsets and click on the words to hear them read aloud. “They appreciate having the resource at their fingertips, rather than having to ask for help in pronouncing and defining words,” she explained.
In addition, English language learners find text-to-speech output beneficial, she said. “I have a Spanish-speaking student who listened to the text in a WriteToLearn summarizing exercise in English so he could better understand what he was reading. It’s a great tool.”
“Educators today are faced with the challenge of helping students with a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds develop the strong writing and reading comprehension skills that they will need to be successful in school, higher education and in life,” said Lynn Streeter, president of the Knowledge Technologies group of Pearson, developer of WriteToLearn. “Through our collaboration with Texthelp, WriteToLearn helps schools reach their diverse student populations with a powerful tool for developing a clear understanding of language, learning how to comprehend the meaning of words and building strong communication skills.”
Pearson (NYSE: PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, reaches and engages today’s digital natives with effective and personalized learning, as well as dedicated professional development for their teachers. This commitment is demonstrated in the company’s investment in innovative print and digital education materials for preK through professional learning, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. The company’s respected brands include Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison Wesley, Benjamin Cummings, the Stanford Achievement Test series, the Wechsler family of assessments, SuccessNet, MyLabs, PowerSchool, SuccessMaker and many others. Pearson’s comprehensive offerings help inform targeted instruction and intervention so that success is within reach of every student at every level of education. Pearson’s commitment to education for all is supported by the global charitable giving initiatives of the Pearson Foundation. Pearson’s other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, go to www.pearson.com.
Texthelp Systems Inc., based in Woburn, Mass., and Antrim, Northern Ireland, is an educational software company specializing in the design of literacy support and assistive technology to help individuals improve their reading and writing abilities. The company has developed a range of award-winning software products, including Read&Write GOLD, Lexiflow and SpeechStream, which are marketed worldwide to individuals, schools, higher educational institutions and publishers. For more information, visit www.texthelp.com.
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[i] Journal of Special Education Technology. Alissa A. Lange, Queen’s University, Belfast, U.K., February 2006. “Assistive software tools for secondary-level students with literacy difficulties.”
[ii] 2005-2007 Washington State Technology for Learning Disabilities Grant Project – Evaluation Report, prepared for the Special Education Technology Center at Central Washington University by RMC Research Corporation, Portland, Ore., July 2007. http://www.cwu.edu/~setc/tld/pdf/TLD_Report_2005-2007.pdf