Microsoft has announced that its AI-powered tool, Reading Coach, is now accessible at no cost to anyone with a Microsoft account. Reading Coach provides personalized reading practice to learners. In addition, it aims to improve reading fluency and comprehension.
The tool is currently available on the web in preview, with a Windows app expected to be released soon. Additionally, Microsoft plans to integrate Reading Coach with learning management systems, such as Canva, in late spring.
Features and Functionality of Microsoft Reading Coach
Reading Coach builds upon the success of Reading Progress, a plug-in for Microsoft Teams for Education. The design helps teachers foster reading fluency in students. It offers learners the opportunity to identify words they struggle with the most. In addition, it provides tools to support independent and individualized practice. These tools can include text-to-speech, syllable breaking, and picture dictionaries. Educators can track students’ progress, including words practiced, attempt count, and tools used. As a result, they can share this information with students.
Recently, Reading Coach introduced a “choose your own story” feature powered by Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service. This feature allows learners to select a character, setting, and reading level. Additionally, AI generates content based on these selections and the learner’s most challenging words.
The Reading Coach provides feedback on pronunciation, listens to the learner read the story, and awards badges. As a result, it unlocks new characters and scenes as they progress. Alternatively, learners can choose from curated passages in ReadWorks, a library of resources for reading comprehension.
Benefits and Concerns
Microsoft believes that Reading Coach, with the use of AI, can provide personalized learning experiences at scale. Additionally, it will motivate learners to advance their reading skills. However, it’s important to note that not all educators share the same view on the effectiveness of AI tools for measuring comprehension.
Assessing comprehension involves evaluating students’ knowledge, vocabulary, ability to sound out and pronounce words, and more. Some experts argue that there isn’t a foolproof tool on the market for accurately measuring comprehension. Students may inadvertently affect evaluations by pressing the wrong button or disengaging from a task, leading to a low score.
Nevertheless, many educators believe that adaptive technology, like Reading Coach, can accurately assess students’ reading levels compared to non-adaptive software or traditional pen-and-paper methods. In a recent survey, 44% of educators expressed this belief.
Overall, Reading Coach aims to provide learners with personalized, engaging, and transformative reading experiences. Additionally, it leverages AI technology to support their reading practice and fluency development.