Cicero Kids logo In our Q&A series, we are very pleased to have had some time to discuss with Bert Zahniser, Vice-President of Technology of the American Institute of History Education, and Laureen Hungo-Brady, Instructional Design and Curriculum Editor of CICERO Kids™ . The American Institute for History Education’s (AIHE) mission is to provide substantive, engaging historical content and activities for teachers to use in their classrooms that will dramatically increase students’ comprehension of historical events, personalities, issues, and trends. The American Institute for History Education was founded to provide history teachers with high quality professional development programs, firmly anchored in rich historical content, along with substantive historical lessons, activities, and resources to use in their classrooms. AIHE recently launched CICERO Kids™ which is a convenient and cost-effective, anytime classroom tool that is comprised of five online units (sold separately or in modules). Each unit is a complete and comprehensive program designed modularly so that it may be added to other units to expand the series. An interactive museum is the setting for students in Pre-K through 5th grade to learn about American history and social studies from the first explorers to the early 20th Century. CICERO Kids™ lets students explore a great lobby and meet a cast of interactive characters who are waiting to share their “Did you Know” facts. Since CICERO Kids™ lessons are available on a subscription basis, they created a special demo page where you can see and listen to ReadSpeaker in action. Roy Lindemann (ReadSpeaker): Why did you add ReadSpeaker to your CICERO Kids website? Laureen Hungo-Brady (AIHE): I’ll discuss the educational reasons first and then hand over to Bert. There are 2 reasons for which we believe ReadSpeaker is a useful tool for the children who use our site. We have a wide range of students from pre-kindergarten to 5th grade with different levels of reading comprehension going from non-readers to more advanced readers. The children use our website with the help of teachers and at other times by themselves. With the help of ReadSpeaker’s listen button, all children can now listen actively to the different text contents we have in our interactive musuem. ReadSpeaker provides the right breadth so that all our students can use it easily. The second reason is that ReadSpeaker helps struggling readers validate what they are reading. The dynamic conversion of text into high quality speech enables these readers to hear if they are reading the text correctly from a phonetic point of view. The synchronized highlighting of the words as they are being read enables a better comprehension of the written content. This helps empower non readers, beginner and struggling readers as well as students with English as a second language. Bert Zahniser (AIHE): From a technical point of view, the 2 fundamental reasons that made us choose ReadSpeaker are the synchronized highlighting of the words being read and the quality of the text to speech voices. We also like the various voices that are available. Laureen Hungo-Brady: Can I add that another reason of importance in adding ReadSpeaker, is the current focus on literacy, in conjunction with the National Common Core Standards. The synchronized highlighting as the text is being converted to speech improves literacy by helping the eye track the words that are being spoken thereby associating sound and meaning. Roy Lindemann: What has the feedback been so far? Laureen Hungo-Brady: It’s been absolutely great. Teachers really see the value in the highlighting and tracking of the words as they are being speech-enabled. Roy Lindemann: How easy has it been to add ReadSpeaker to the CICERO Kids website? Bert Zahniser: It went very smoothly. We implemented ReadSpeaker on our development, staging and production sites and it worked nicely from the start. We got good support from your technical team to deal with the sign-in aspect of our site. Our pages were speech-enabled in a couple of hours and it took only about 2 weeks to fully test and fine-tune aspects of the player such as the look and the positioning until we were ready to release to the public. Roy Lindemann: How did ReadSpeaker cope with the pronunciation of your written content? Bert Zahniser: We were pleasantly surprised how accurately ReadSpeaker interpreted the pronunciation of our content including names. As a history provider, we have lots of names of people and places that can be hard to pronounce. I expected quite a few pronunciation issues but thus far have had only a couple that we needed to have corrected. Roy Lindemann: To what type of content owners would you recommend our service? Laureen Hungo-Brady and Bert Zahniser: Any website that targets struggling readers, beginning readers or language learners would greatly benefit from adding a service like yours.