A Look at ... Literacy and Writing Resources

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AMONG the most fascinating developments in language arts technologies are those driven by programs often called "engines." This article takes a quick drive around the block to examine some of these engines, beginning with those found in web-based programs. The cruise then continues with a quick view of some interesting new web and CD-based software, as well as some computer-related devices using other developing technologies. The final stops on the tour will be some interesting and useful electronic devices for language arts learning.

When the term "engine" comes up, I'm old enough to think of cars, airplanes, and trains. In the technology world, however, engines are basically computer programs that can be inserted into various models of web- and CD-based software to "drive" them as they perform their programmed functions. Put another way, a software engine is a computer program (engine) whose output is computer code (fuel) that becomes the input for another computer process.

This article will present as many program types as possible, but it will not provide a full review or an examination of every available product. Pricing information will be given as available; however, many of these companies have complex pricing plans that require a phone call to obtain pricing for a specific situation.

INTERNET-BASED PROGRAMS

Achieve3000 Programs

Achieve3000, Inc.

www.achieve3000.com

Achieve3000 offers an excellent set of web-based literacy products for elementary and middle school students (KidBiz3000), middle and high school students (TeenBiz3000), and adult learners (Spark3000). The programs are driven by a software engine that enables individualized instruction; learners can work at their own pace and reading level.

The program's LevelSet feature provides an online summative assessment tool that sets each student at his or her own Lexile level to improve vocabulary, comprehension, reading fluency, and writing skills. Using this feature, all of the students in the same class can be working on the same assignment with material at different reading levels.

Additional program features include motivational, interesting content and reporting and management tools that allow teachers to use performance data to guide instruction. The Achieve3000 Series can be used for after school, summer school, special needs, and ESL programs. Licensing fees for the three programs are based on enrollment.

WriteToLearn

Pearson Knowledge Technologies

www.pearsonkt.com

WriteToLearn is another outstanding example of a web-based program with a software engine. The program features Pearson's automated text analysis technology, the Knowledge Analysis Technologies (KAT) engine. KAT enables programs to read, assess, and score content. The engine provides detailed feedback on style, mechanics, and grammar, and it evaluates how well students cover key ideas. KAT also flags writing that borrows heavily from an original source.

WriteToLearn uses the KAT engine to promote writing skills and reading comprehension. The program enables educators to automatically evaluate and teach writing (with the Intelligent Essay Assessor essay function) and reading comprehension (with the Summary Street summarizing function) in any subject area. The program is web-based and aimed at grades 4 through 12. Prices start at less than $20 per student per year.

phase-6

phase-6, AG

www.phase-6.com

phase-6 also uses an engine designed to complement instruction. The program's methodology is based on brain research and the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. The theory behind the program is that, after initial memorization, only about 20% of information is remembered over the long term. Repetitions are offered at increasing time intervals to strengthen connections in the brain, producing long-term memory. …