Custom Tailored Tech

When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I, like everyone, had to take electives. As an English major, my university would offer some interesting courses that would count towards our elective credits but were somewhat related to our major. For instance, one professor offered to teach “mystery novels” as an English elective course. I enjoyed that class–getting to read mysteries from Poe and Agatha Christie was great. Another elective course was “fashion history.” I like this course also because the professor was one of my favorites and kept the class interesting. It was in this class that I learned the word bespoke. I had heard the term haute couture before, meaning fashion explicitly tailored for women. Bespoke is the same, except it is usually about clothing tailored for men. When looking at this week’s question, that word–bespoke–came to my mind.

     Fashion came to my mind because this week, I am looking at ISTE for educators standard 5. On the ISTE website, that standard is categorized as “Designer.” So, just like a designer creates haute couture clothing for women and bespoke clothing for men, I thought it was an appropriate analogy. Moreover, I am focusing on 5a, “Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs” (ISTE). The question I want to ask related to 5a is, What technological tool is the most effective for student learning–meaning what can fit individual needs for each students’ goals? I know there is a lot of software for educators to accomplish many things, and finding different technology tools to meet students’ learning goals can be challenging. So, this week, I am going to look at just reading. Microsoft has developed a new tool focused on reading progress. When I say “new,” I mean that. Microsoft has only tested this software with a group of teachers. They are planning to release it before the next school year (2021-22 year).

     Reading Progress is meant to be used within Teams, Microsoft’s “chat-based collaboration platform” (more on Teams here). Many teachers must schedule in time to sit with their students and have them read a passage as they listen and look for mispronunciations, missed words, or reading at a steady pace. With Reading Progress, the teacher uploads a passage in Teams for the student to read. The student records themselves with audio/video or just audio on their own time. Teachers can adjust the setting to listen and grade as if they were sitting with the student in real-time, or they can use “auto-detect,” which will “quickly flag mispronunciations, insertions, omissions, repetitions, and self-corrections” (Handout). Check out this YouTube introduction to Reading Progress:

As a teacher of about 97% ELL students, I can see how Reading Progress can benefit them in their fluency–specifically in pronunciations. I appreciate this tool because Microsoft tracks the data through “Teams Education Insight dashboards,” so I would be able to see the progress over the year for the class as a whole or individual students. I can also see how, at the beginning of the school year, I could best differentiate the reading passages for the different fluency levels in my classroom. According to an article titled “The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom,” it is noted, “A child’s phonological skills can be affected by a wide range of factors, from primary language to home literacy environment to socioeconomic status. With personalized instruction, large percentages of students with lower phonological awareness can become proficient readers” (“The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom”). Microsoft’s Reading Progress could very well provide all the necessary tools for students and teachers to personalize learning for each student. One downside I would note is, as with any other A.I. tools, how accurate will Reading Progress? Some students’ accents are so strong that their mispronunciations may not be heard correctly, or maybe their omissions are not caught. Issues such as these may provide inaccurate data, which could be a possible downside–at least initially. Over time, this tool could prove to be very good in helping to individualize learner’s needs as teachers become “designers” of the future.

References

The Growing Diversity in Today’s Classroom. Digital Promise. (2021, May 10). https://digitalpromise.org/.

Introduction to Reading Progress. Microsoft Educator Center. (n.d.). https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/resource/50b18238.

ISTE Standards for Educators. ISTE. (n.d.). https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators.

Ray, S. (2021, May 4). Students have a new, less stressful way to improve their reading – and it’s easier for teachers, too. Stories. https://news.microsoft.com/features/reading-progress/.

Tholfsen, M. (2021, May 12). Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams – Improve student reading fluency, save time and track progress. TECHCOMMUNITY.MICROSOFT.COM. https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/education-blog/reading-progress-in-microsoft-teams-improve-student-reading/ba-p/2315377.

2 thoughts on “Custom Tailored Tech

  1. Vivian says:

    Hi Jeff, thank you for sharing your research on this new feature! I have the same wonder that “how accurate will Reading Progress? Some students’ accents are so strong that their mispronunciations may not be heard correctly, or maybe their omissions are not caught.” I would like to know more information on how their program design accommodates ELL students. Great post! Thank you!

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  2. Nick R says:

    I was excited to read your blog this week! I have been hearing rumors about this feature coming soon, so I was excited to read your take on it. I thought implied a great point that an educator does not have to be sitting with a student to support and assess reading progress. Differentiating content for a diverse group of reading levels is very time consuming, and it seems like this tool can help reduce that teacher planning lift. I do also wonder about its accuracy, though I am encouraged given that another tool like Immersive Reader does a pretty good job. Reading Progress may be a great formative assessment tool, but it sounds like there is still a need for a teacher to validate those assessments. Thanks for sharing!!

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