The Voice Reading Ability Drill

Chatterbox was a friendly name for the Voice Reading Ability Drill, and the name of the character speaking.

If you had worked with as many diligent but dyslexic teens as I have, you too would have invented the VRAD!

When I was a special ed teacher, I taught people of all ages and exceptionalities.  In response to a need for more speech and reading practice for my dyslexic teens at Long’s Peak JHS in Colorado, I began a project to develop a speech interactive application enabling vocalizing rehearsal in decoding words. At that time we built Chatterbox, the first speech-interactive educational software product. It actually prompted to user to read and speak the words on screen, and assessed the replies. It even included student progress tracking!

It contained a vocabulary of 800 words organized in consonant-vowel-consonant combinations, along with images. Advanced modules taught consonant blends and sight words.  We contracted with students at Denver’s Colorado Institute of Art, students in the first classes devoted to the new field of computer graphics. They created 1000 Apple-friendly images for Voice Reading and Voice Math.

It included the Voice Reading Ability Drill for dyslexics, Voice Math, and the Chatterbox Dictionary, running on the Echo and the Apple IIe. The Echo content had to be custom recorded since speech synthesis was n it’s infancy, not to mention speech recognition.  CASP by RJ Cooper in 1985 was definitely the first phonetic recognizer / pong game that was ever programmed and sold!

Chatterbox was a featured software application at Apple’s booth at many educational trade shows in 1986 and ’87. And several excited young graduate students did masters research about then emerging field of adaptive technology, championed by the Council for Exceptional Children. AFB, and other forward-thinking educational technology advocates. With their feedback and encouragement, we developed Voice English, and then Hummingbird Speech Method.  You can view historical videos of the 1986 Chatterbox and 1992 Hummingbird on our site.

The software, coded by Jay A Miller, then of TRW, to run on 64K of Apple memory, on the Echo speech synthesizer and the Voice Input Module.

At the time, at least two Masters theses included consideration and assessments of the system effects on bilingual and handicapped learners.

Active reading is also known to linguists as neural processing, where the body (voice and mouth) and brain are engaging in a sensory feedback loop which better imprints word and sound patterns and links them to meaning.  So every word or phrase is simultaneously read, spoken and heard.  This is the same technology we are enhancing for connected speech, seeing and saying is a proven technique for beginning English readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>