Reading’s been on the radar of education for, well, forever. As literacy is one of the generally accepted keys to collective social success, ensuring functional reading has always been a major focus of education as an organized institution. Because basic literacy has been both so important and so difficult to achieve on a systematic level, almost all of the pedagogic and curricular emphasis has traditionally been placed on it, which has often dissolved into a series of parochial disputes over conflicting ideologies. However, those readers – adults and children alike – with basic proficiency who simply wish to improve their skills haven’t been so fortunate. Given the re-emphasis placed on the written word as a medium by the Internet, and the unchanging bent of the Information Explosion, expanding reading speed can only be seen as an essential objective for just about any student.
Although speed-reading programs have been around perennially, the older ones we’re familiar with have used primarily outdated technologies. With their AceReader reading improvement program, StepWare, inc. has produced a state-of-the-art means of skills enhancement suitable for readers of all ages. Unlike many of the products reviewed here, AceReader isn’t really a tutorial program. Essentially, it’s an updated version of the old Tachistoscope: pour text files into the application and it flashes them word by word on a viewing screen at variable rates of speed. Once you’re done reading, a quick test will inform you as to exactly how successfully you were able to process the material.
While that sounds simple enough, the folks at Stepware inform us that two important technologies are used here to benefit the user – “rapid serial visual presentation” and “tachistoscopic scroll presentation.” Essentially, by keeping ones eyes in a text box the center of the screen, the brain is forced to work faster and more efficiently to decode and cognize the material. In “productivity mode,” the user can simply dump in as a text file anything they need to read quickly and efficaciously. On the other hand, simply undergoing this process trains the eyes and cortical centers to operate more expeditiously, which is why the product also has its “educational mode.” A series of suggested drills is given to exploit this phenomenon, and, after undertaking one, I can honestly say that it not only exercised my reading capacity, but acted as a general mental hotfoot as well.
Other valuable uses for the product exist, though. ESL and foreign language students can benefit by using rapid-fire tachistoscopic presentation of vocabulary to increase fluency, and the visual techs employed are ideal for low vision special education students that need to eliminate strain on their optical systems. For more information and a free demo, log onto www.acereader.com.#