Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Working with an Imperfect Medium: Speech Recognition Technology in Reading Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Working with an Imperfect Medium: Speech Recognition Technology in Reading Practice

Article excerpt

This study focused on the read-aloud and attendant behaviors of learners working with an experimental computer-based program, which made use of speech recognition technology to provide reading practice with immediate feedback for beginning readers. The study drew on data from 13 participants, who used the software as part of their twice-weekly schedule for six to eight weeks at an adult basic education site in New York. Each user's data were analyzed using various interrelated coding and analytical schemes to uncover the nature and value of the user-software interactions. In addition, observations and interviews were conducted. The analyses, based on over 10,000 practice instances and numerous responses to comprehension questions, were done in terms of two broad categories; patterns of interaction, and influence of reading practice afforded by the software. The findings showed that there were metacognitive as well as word level patterns of interaction; that the users were most commonly engaged in attempts at self-correction, and that reading and/or pronunciation tended toward the target as practice ensued. Guidelines were suggested for software improvement and the applicability of speech recognition technology in literacy instruction.

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The purpose of this study was to explore the use of speech recognition technology in oral reading practice. The study focused on read aloud and attendant behaviors of 13 adult learners working with "Reading Partner," an interactive computer-based program that made use of speech recognition technology to provide reading practice with immediate feedback. At the time the research was conducted, the software was in its development stage at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in New York.

The role of computers in literacy instruction for children in and out of school settings has been studied from various aspects since the early 1980s (Mehan, 1989; Bergin, Ford, & Hess, 1993; Labbo & Kuhn, 1998; Reinking & Watkins, 2000; Smith 2001). However, though speech recognition has emerged as a promising technology in computers' ability to comprehend oral reading (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 2000), very few studies have been conducted to explore the potential of this technology for literacy instruction. While examples of the use of speech recognition technology in educational settings in general are few, studies on its use in reading practice are based on only two exploratory projects: Carnegie Mellon's Project LISTEN, and IBM's Watch-me!-Read (Mostow & Aist, 1999, 2001; Williams, 2000).

The scarcity of systematic research on such use is partly due to the fact that the technology itself has only recently become feasible for usable applications. Automatic parsing of continuous speech into meaningful chunks is extremely difficult due to factors such as the variety of accents, slurring of short words, and modification of beginnings and endings of words in what is called "coarticulation" (Bahl, as cited in Lerner, 1994). It is much more of a technical challenge for a computer system to respond to oral reading than to "listen" and record it. Nevertheless, software companies have put out products that claim to make use of speech recognition to help teach a foreign language (1) or provide guided reading (2) for young learners (though children's speech input is harder to recognize due to their particular speech habits; see Nix, Fairweather, & Adams, 1998). Therefore systematic explorations of the use of this technology are necessary to actualize its potential, if any, whether for young learners or adults. Rigorous research could provide guidance and direction that is much needed for integration of such innovative technologies into education.

Research on the use of any type of computer technology in adult literacy instruction is fairly recent and not extensive (Hopey, Harvey-Morgan, & Ruthmeyer, 1996; Rosen, 2000; Sabatini, 2001). …

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