Can speech tech boost reading?

August 25, 2022

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Missed the article, “Can tech boost reading? Literacy tools come to classrooms” earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal? It’s a behind-the-scenes look at why speech recognition technology is at the center of how literacy will be taught in the future in American classrooms.

As WSJ education reporter Sara Randazzo explains, the goal of using speech technology in reading programs is to help mediate the decades-long reading crisis and help every child achieve reading proficiency by third grade. 

She then explains step by step how it works:

  1. Speech technology listens to a student reading, analyzing it down to the individual words and sounds. The timing of each utterance is also tracked.
  2. By the time the reading passage is completed, the speech technology has mapped the student’s reading fluency level.
  3. Fluency level data populates the teacher dashboard in real time, so teachers can see at a glance which students have progressed or need help with specific reading skills.

Sara mentions how this fall PreK-12 students could be using literacy programs powered by speech technology like SoapBox’s and highlights our new phonemic awareness features, which can assess children’s pronunciation of the smallest of utterances (i.e., letter names and letter sounds).

The benefits of speech technology in the classroom

Though technology can’t “substitute for good quality teaching,” there are many benefits of speech technology in the classroom outlined in the WSJ piece, including:

  1. Automated formal and informal reading assessments that save teachers time.
  2. Personalized feedback on each student’s reading that allows teachers to see where a student is struggling so they can support the development of specific literacy skills early on.

Shawn Smith, Chief Innovation Officer at McGraw Hill discusses his company’s commitment to launching a reading program powered by SoapBox’s speech technology in Spring 2023 and explains that “every teacher can become their own data scientist and know in their own classroom what’s working and what’s not.”

With speech technology, every teacher can become their own data scientist and know in their own classroom what’s working and what’s not.

Shawn Smith, Chief Innovation Office, McGraw Hill

Speech tech for kids

The piece also features SoapBox Founder Dr. Patricia (Trish) Scanlon who founded SoapBox Labs in 2013. 

While Trish was watching her young daughter play educational games on a tablet, she realized how powerful it would be to build speech technology for kids that allowed them to learn and play using their voices.

Children’s voices also vary greatly from adult voices. As Sara notes, “children have thinner vocal tracts, squeakier voices and often don’t follow language rules,” which off-the-shelf speech recognition systems struggle to understand. 

Want to learn more about speech technology for reading?

You’ve come to the right place! SoapBox has lots of valuable and free downloadable resources for you:

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