2001 Conference Proceedings

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HOME ECONOMICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY: RECIPES FOR READING SUCCESS WITH L&H(TM) KURZWEIL 3000.

DAVID BRADBURN
DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT
LERNOUT & HAUSPIE SPEECH PRODUCTS
KURZWEIL EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS GROUP
52 THIRD AVENUE
BURLINGTON, MA 01803, USA
TEL: (781) 203-5018

Millions of people around the world struggle with reading everyday. In fact, 1998 figures from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) indicate that some "10 million children have difficulties learning to read." Their research goes on to say that anywhere "from 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school; only 2 percent complete a four-year college program." Perhaps more daunting are the "surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records [that] show that about half have reading difficulties. Similarly, about half of youths with a history of substance abuse have reading problems."

Despite all the gloomy facts and figures, there is hope. Long-term studies conducted by NICHD have shown that between 90 and 95 percent of children with reading difficulties can be helped to overcome their impairments IF they receive appropriate treatment at an early age. Once a reading disability has been identified, treatment may take the form of "phonics" instruction or "whole language." Despite some very strong views on which is the best approach, research conducted by NICHD found that "children taught with a combination of both methods make the greatest gains in reading" and that "they fare better than children taught with only one method at the exclusion of the other." By way of a disclaimer, I suppose, NICHD stresses that for a reading impaired student to be successful, the different approaches to reading "should be taught in an integrated manner."

As many people know, Ray Kurzweil invented a life-changing piece of technology in 1975: a reading machine for the blind that could scan and convert printed text into speech. Costing close to $50,000 at the time, the "Kurzweil Reading Machine" (KRM) changed the lives of print disabled people forever. That single technological achievement was the beginning of what is today referred to as the adaptive technology industry. You see, the KRM was a combination of text-to-speech (TTS), optical character recognition (OCR), and scanning technology. And Ray Kurzweil invented all three things.

Fast-forward to the late 1980s. Ray Kurzweil's company had long since been sold to Xerox Corporation and the Xerox Imaging Systems (XIS) company was formed to further development of scanning technology. At about this time, XIS introduced a software-based scanning and reading solution for people with learning disabilities. It was called BookWise. Although it only worked in MS-DOS (pre-Windows operating system, i.e, non-graphical), BookWise generated a lot of interest for its ability to scan, but more importantly, for its ability to read text aloud while reading units (line, sentence, paragraph) were highlighted onscreen. Plus, struggling readers could obtain dictionary definitions of new or unfamiliar words.

Now, fast-forward again but this time to January 1996. Ray Kurzweil was back on the scene with a new company, Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. (KESI), and 2 new scanning and reading solutions called Omni 1000 and Omni 3000, respectively for people who are blind or reading disabled. With a name change a year later to Kurzweil 3000, Ray's latest contribution to the world of computerized reading was set to change even more lives.

Nowadays, L&H(tm) Kurzweil 3000 has lots of loyal friends -- teachers and students alike -- who rave about the way it has changed their lives.

For the many dedicated teachers who use L&H(tm) Kurzweil 3000, it is often the case that some of their students have difficulty reading and require additional attention with their work. Because they are dedicated, those teachers are happy to help their "special" students but typically find it increasingly difficult to balance their time equally among all students in the class. With L&H™ Kurzweil 3000 in the classroom, struggling readers can work independently with fluency training and phonemic awareness. The L&H™ Kurzweil 3000's audible and visual feedback of words and phrases also help to increase reading accuracy and speed.

At the middle school level, L&H(tm) Kurzweil 3000 enables active reading in which students create questions and vocabulary words before reading the text. This can be done through the L&H™ Kurzweil 3000 study skills tools and guide. Mastery of information through the summarization of notes and written material becomes easier using the L&H™ Kurzweil 3000 through the manipulating information in electronic format. Plus, a test-taking and form fillout allows students to type answers right onto a scanned test or worksheet, listen to them, and then print out the page complete with their answers.

Kids too, tell that L&H(tm) Kurzweil 3000 is life changing. They enjoy the feeling of empowerment that comes from working independently on a reading or writing assignment, and then handing in their completed work. They love the fact that reading is something they can now do for pleasure and knowledge. Old feelings of frustration spent trying to decode new or unfamiliar words are replaced with an "I CAN" attitude that is most evident in their smiles of accomplishment.

For anyone, the written word is the gateway to extraordinary knowledge. It bridges time, geography, culture, language, and it unlocks some of life's most exquisite treasures. But for those with reading difficulties such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder (ADD), the simple act of reading becomes a challenge for many, an insurmountable obstacle for some. Now, L&H™ Kurzweil 3000 is helping to meet that challenge and overcome that obstacle.

Today's hands-on computer lab session will take everyone on a special reading and writing adventure, made easy courtesy of L&H(tm) Kurzweil 3000.

REFERENCES

"Why Children Succeed or Fail at Reading" -- research from NICHD's Program in Learning Disabilities.


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