Learn to read the fun way

Super Why is an interactive, educational reading game for preschoolers based on the hit PBS Kids show of the same name, featuring (much to the delight of Super Why fans, no doubt) many of the original sounds, games, and characters from the show.

Super Why gives you four different character-narrated, touch-based games, each with a different task for kids: Super Why's Story Saver (picking one of three words to correctly complete a sentence), Princess Presto's Wands-Up Writing (identifying letters by sound to spell a word, then tracing those letters with your finger), Alpha Pig's Lickety Letter Hunt (… Read more

'Character amnesia' hitting gear-obsessed kids

Who was the last person you ever saw write anything? You know, with a pen. For me, it was Terrell Owens, when he removed his Sharpie during an NFL game, signed a ball, and thrust himself into greater posterity.

People type these days. They don't write. The issue, however, has been further exacerbated in China and Japan, where languages based on characters, rather than the alphabet, are apparently simply being forgotten by those who have dedicated their lives to keypads and screens.

An interesting Agence France-Presse expose offered a look at just how serious the problem has become. Here'… Read more

Kindle? Here comes the Talking Book!

Everyone's talking about the new Kindle, but here's a product that may present an even more radical innovation in the e-book sector: The Talking Book, created and distributed by the non-profit Literacy Bridge, is a low cost audio player/recorder with special features for Knowledge Sharing and Literacy Learning. It was developed entirely by volunteers and costs less than $10. The device involves an ecosystem to produce and share locally relevant audio content, allowing users to record their own messages and distribute them within local networks through a device-to-device copying capability. Other features include slow play for reading … Read more

Sticky gecko feet inspire new medical bandage

Science teachers everywhere have had always had to face the question, "Dr. T., when are we going to use this?" In pop culture, it has always seemed to me that the general public is science-phobic, unless they are shopping for beauty products. Then it's "bring on the polypeptides," no matter how dubious the product's claims are.

But a new discovery has promise to deliver a genuine benefit, and brings nanotechnology into real life. Last week's edition of NPR's Science Friday explained that geckos use nanotubes to stick to glass surfaces. Now researchers … Read more

Karaoke for literacy

Wonderful things can happen when you are open to unexpected possibilities. That's one lesson I take from the story that starts with a software program called Singing Coach. Carlo Franzblau had wanted to learn to sing since he was an off-key teenager with musical theater aspirations. In 2000 he developed Singing Coach, software with an American-Idol-in-training vibe. Users sing karaoke-style into a microphone and the software tells them whether their pitch is too high, too low, or in tune.

While performing quality-control tests on Singing Coach, Franzblau received some unexpected feedback: one of the first testers was a middle school student named Ashleigh who happened to be a struggling reader, and her mother reported that the singing software was improving her daughter's reading.

Franzblau pursued this unexpected finding with gusto. He teamed up with literacy professor Dr. Susan Homan at the University of South Florida to conduct a research study to see if Ashleigh's finding represented a genuine effect. Dr. Homan found that struggling readers benefited greatly from the program, raising their test scores by more than a whole grade level after nine weeks of training with the singing program, which has been redeveloped specifically as a reading intervention called "Tune In to Reading." The kids who used Tune In To Reading sustained their gain, continuing to make progress six months later even when they were not using the program.… Read more

Welcome To Media Sphere

After Matt Smith at the SF Weeklyfirst reported on this project last week, a broad swath of engaging questions about this endeavor began to spring up. While I don?t have all the answers quite just yet, I think this would be a good opportunity to disavow those merit-less suspicions that festered after I tried to talk about this blog without revealing anything prematurely. So here goes:

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