American Literacy Council

American Literacy Council News:
What ALC is Doing

The American literacy Council supports projects that promote literacy, preferably through the reform of English spelling but, also, by other promising means. We have several such projects ongoing.

1. A Study of E-Readers Do e-book-readers with quick–access dictionaries improve reading and vocabulary? Popular models such as Nook and Kindle allow you to tap a word to select it, and then Dictionary on the menu that then appears, and instantly see the pronunciation and definition. This is so easy, compared to laying your book aside and picking up a heavy dictionary and spending a minute looking up the word, that readers should do it far more often and thus learn more and faster. ALC has supported a study by a graduate student at the University of Colorado Psychology Department to find out. Half a class got a Nook for half the year and their progress was compared to the other half; the other half got a Nook and a comparison was made again. The test was finished this June 2012 but a final report has not been written. Unfortunately, no difference was found (either positive or negative) in reading comprehension or vocabulary improvement in the groups that had the Nook. However, the Nook groups did read more both on the Nook and on paper. It is surprising and counterintuitive that no difference was found in the learning rate. The department believes that the third grade students tested were simply too young to benefit much from the Nooks. They would like to repeat the test, perhaps using students in the sixth grade or Junior High.

Below is a note from one of the students. Eighteen of twenty said they preferred the Nook to paper books.

"Dear Mrs. BG,

Thank you for leting us use the Nooks. My favorite part was when we got to use the dictionary because wen you get stuck on a word you can look at the dictionary and see wats it means

Have a good sommer Mrs BG"

2. An Immersion English Video Course A school with a teacher is too expensive for billions of the world's poorest people. But 20 students in front of a television set watching educational videos on DVD or over the Internet costs almost nothing per student. If kindergarten – 12th grade (K – 12) videos were made in all the world's 6000 languages then everyone could afford education. But 6000 languages times 13 years = 78,000 class years of videos – a daunting task! On the other hand, if everyone could learn English first only 13 class years would be needed, and with online education gaining ground in the US these may already exist – or soon will. The 6000 language courses – English for speakers of Spanish, French, German… Swahili… are also too much. Fortunately we need only one, a single year of Immersion English where the teacher walks in and says Hello and from that point on children pick up the language naturally. A one-year course in Immersion English, 180 video lessons of 50 video minutes each, can prepare children for first grade in English (and then they learn the rest of English as they progress through the grades.) ALC is paying for the production of this course. To summarize, our course will prepare children for first grade, and then they may access a complete education from there through University. Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, MIT and many other schools are posting videos of their best lecturers on-line for free.)

The New York Times, New Scientist etc are reporting that a quarter of a percent of US K-12 students are now learning entirely on-line, many more are taking some courses, and the trend is accelerating rapidly. Khan Academy offers free on-line tutorials in most subjects. So there will be courses for those who learn English.

Thus, the Immersion English course is the keystone of a bridge to an Oxford education for the poorest people in the most primitive village in Africa. And it is happening!

ALC contracted with Doug Sadler, a pleasant and charismatic teacher of English, a member of TESOL (Teachers of English as a Second Language), and an instructor who teaches other teachers how to teach English. And a good videographer. He has produced 70 lessons so far (see samples at http://www.americanliteracy.com/video/ALC.wmv.wmv). We will post the 70 hours shortly.

English spelling has wandered far from the principle of alphabetic writing that you make sounds corresponding to the letters you see. If "knight" were pronounced as it is spelled it would sound like "Ka – ni – ghet". For huge numbers of our words the spelling treacherously misguides pronunciation. Reformed spelling is vastly better. The ALC version of this course is in reformed spelling "SoundSpel", with consistent correspondence between letters and sounds. Near the end of the course we will use the double line system to transition students to regular spelling. DoubleLine:

The knight slew the gnome with a sword.

Th niet slue th noem with a sord.

ALC hopes SoundSpel will sometimes be used by foreigners to write helpful signs (This wae to go thru th casel.), and tourists will see them and associate them with romantic "International English", and eventually ask themselves why we write thru "through" ("thro-oogah" or however "through" is logically pronounced.) ALC does favor spelling reform.

Doug Sadler is also producing the same lessons with regular spelling, and he will own this version and provide it at a modest cost. ALC's version will be free on the Internet and available at cost on DVDs.

3. SoundSpel and DoubleLine on-line If you go to http://www.actolap.info/betterspell, you can type in one box, click an icon, and have SoundSpel or DoubleLine appear instantly in the other. Or you can Copy a novel downloaded from Guttenberg.org, paste it in the first box, and get the translation in seconds in the other box.

4. Teaching Struggling Readers Using DoubleLine ALC is financing the work of Roberta Mahoney, retired teacher and principal. She is producing a series of videos showing how to use DoubleLine to teach children who struggle to read in regular spelling. Get the DoubleLine Software Program. She also works with such children, to see what works and what does not.

5. Android App to Read Aloud to Functional Illiterates Some 20 million adult Americans cannot read. Try as we will to teach everyone, there will always be those who cannot learn. They will get a letter and not know what is in it, see a warning sign and not know what it says. If only someone would read it for them! Or something…

For many years there have been big expensive machines that could scan text, perform optical character recognition (OCR) and read it aloud. Recently the same programs (applications or "apps") have been made to work on cell phones. Many are mobile offices, capable of taking input from a camera, website or file, and saving it, e-mailing it, translating it or reading it aloud. Because there are so many options they require pushing a long series of buttons before you can take a picture of a letter and have it read to you. ALC told an app developer that if he would simplify it for functional illiterates then we could recommend it. He agreed, provided we made a video showing how to use it.

Now the illiterate just taps the icon for this program on his cell phone. The app appears and he taps one button. Then he takes a picture of the text (most smart phones have a built-in camera). In seconds the app reads the text aloud. Problem solved. Practically everyone owns a smart phone now, and the app costs a very affordable $2.79. Watch the Reading App Video.

ALC uses its income and endowment to do projects like these. If you have good ideas please send them to us. Or join us – – we need members most of all.

 


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