School closures due to the pandemic have interrupted the learning processes of millions of kids, and without individual attention from teachers, reading skills in particular are taking a hit. Amira Learning aims to address this with an app that reads along with students, intelligently correcting errors in real time. Promising pilots and research mean the company is poised to go big as education changes, and it has raised $11 million to scale up with a new app and growing customer base.
In classrooms, a common exercise is to have students read aloud from a storybook or worksheet. The teacher listens carefully, stopping and correcting students on difficult words. This “guided reading” process is fundamental for both instruction and assessment: It not only helps the kids learn, but the teacher can break the class up into groups with similar reading levels so she can offer tailored lessons.
“Guided reading is needs-based, differentiated instruction and in COVID we couldn’t do it,” said Andrea Burkiett, director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction at the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Breakout sessions are technically possible, “but when you’re talking about a kindergarten student who doesn’t even know how to use a mouse or touchpad, COVID basically made small groups nonexistent.”
Amira replicates the guided reading process by analyzing the child’s speech as they read through a story and identifying things like mispronunciations, skipped words and other common stumbles. It’s based on research going back 20 years that has tested whether learners using such an automated (Read more…)