Read With Me Featured in Edudemic


Pick up the latest issue of Edudemic’s iPad magazine from the iTunes store and read about Read With Me.  The article talks about  the need to reengineer the reading assessment process, the history of Read With Me,  and our plans to launch. Here is a quick screen shot. Not our choice of design, but the idea comes through.







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Teachers Are Family Too

After wrapping-up our first video shoot to simulate the digitized good-ole’ running record, I felt how this tool truly creates the opportunity to use these assessments for learning, transforming the process from a teacher- to student- and family-centered one.

Through the shoot most of our ideas were validated but we also learned more about the interactions between the students, teachers, and parents with devices and were able to come up with some more solutions.

For this shoot my students were Francisco’s son, Lucio, and daughter, Sabina.  My two own middle school children were unavailable to shoot because they had a fun camping trip to attend while Mama stayed behind.

The Process with ReadWithMe

Before calling the student over to my desk I logged in to my ReadWithMe account, choose my class, the student, and new assessment.


Once this was done, I called the student to my desk and welcomed them. I explained briefly I wanted to see how they’re doing in reading and gave them instruction to wait until I said begin to start reading.

Then I gave them or entered the 3 number and letter token for them to pair our two devices.  Once the devices were connected I gave the student basic directions before asking them to begin reading.

Evaluation Screen

As the student read the passage, I followed along and tapped on whatever words they did not decode properly or any words they struggled with so much that I said the word for them.  The minute timer built in to ReadWithMe grayed out the screen when the minute was up and I double tapped on the last word they read.

Before excusing the student back to their desk, I briefly went over the list of misread words on the side of the teacher screen with the student, replayed some of the errors for them, and showed the student as I emailed  their parents the report of that assessment.  The student was excused, and I moved on to the next.


When using paper based assessments, before the student came to my desk, I would have to put in at least 1 hour of preparation photocopying materials to differentiate for the many students at the many different reading levels in my class.  Not only did I need copies of the teacher assessments, but of the student passage as well.   After photocopying I needed a timer, pencil/pen, calculator, and not to mention differentiated activities for the rest of the class while I was with a student at my desk.

When administering summative fluency assessments, their testing booklets come with two passages already, so I had no need to photocopy at the end of units.  But if I wanted those snazzy, color-coded graphs I had to fill out scantrons after calculating their scores.  Those snazzy, color-coded graphs of student scores are great but they don’t give a clear idea of the reasons behind the student’s performance; they’re only numbers.  So while the data is presented nicely, it may not be robust enough to inform my instruction, and I would still need to do my own data collection if I really wanted to understand who should be in what small group and why.  So getting students into small groups could take a day or two.

To only need an internet connection, any digital computerized device, myself, and my student this time when assessing with ReadWithMe was almost like a summer in Hawaii.

With the student at my desk there was no clutter, no noisy timer distracting students working independently, no pens, or multiple stacks of passages.  There was a clean, orderly desk with a welcoming, calm teacher adding to the calmness experienced by her student before an assessment as opposed to a preoccupied, seemingly scattered one having to sort through paperwork.

This time when I welcomed my students and asked whether they’d like to see how they’re reading was coming along I was authentically excited.  The student was also authentically excited because they’d been reading material at their level more often with their parents and peers.

Sabina had written her own passage which her father had lexiled and edited to make sure it was in fact at her reading level.  In this case this wasn’t a total cold read since she wrote it and it had been edited before she saw it again.  But I was fascinated to hear she had recognized how the passage had been changed.  It was amazing to see her so engaged with the text!

As a teacher I would love to spend my time helping my students write passages, lexile them for reading level, and contribute to cold reads for peers in younger grade levels.  This would add so much more meaning to their writing process and I bet as authors they’d be so excited to witness others learning from their writing!

At one point, while assessing Lucio, Francisco’s son, Sabina, was getting bored so we were left one iPad less.  There was no despair though because instead I paired my Android up with the iPad and continued assessing Lucio.  I was still able to use all of ReadWithMe’s available functions despite assessing from my smartphone and from two different platforms.

Once the passage showed up, I briefly went over the instructions and asked Lucio to begin once our devices were paired.  He read and made errors, but this time, he wasn’t distracted by pencil or pen marks and could barely see me tap on the words he misread.  He was not distracted or stressed out by feeling or watching me mark his errors.

The device screen grayed out letting me know the minute was up, without any annoying alarm, that potentially could distract the rest of the class or alarm the student reading.  I simply let the Lucio know that the minute was up and he stopped.

I was not only able to show the Lucio the list of misread words on my screen, but I replayed his voice to see if he could catch his own errors, and then emailed the report of results to his parents.

I loved being able to show Lucio that I was emailing his results to his parents right away.  This really made Lucio think about what was going to happen between he and his Dad when he got the report.  Since Dad was in the room, he asked if Dad could take him to get a Slurpee after the shoot.

We wrapped and Dad was nice enough to get the whole team some Slurpees!

You too can become a part of the beta ReadWithMe family by signing up at  Saturday we will post a day in the life of a ReadWithMe beta participant, so stay tuned!


Fluency: A Family Affair

Working on the development of Read With Me has been an amazing and exciting process, not only is there great potential for changing the way teachers assess and monitor reading progress, but also for the potential to bridge the assessment process to students’ homes. While initially I approached the design of this product from the teacher’s perspective, having spent years in the classroom trying to make the process more streamlined, hacking it where I could get away with it, and always with the idea that this tool should make the lives of teachers easier, I recently came to a startling conclusion testing the product out on my own elementary age children. I want to share my experience  with others who may only see this product from the teacher or reading specialist point of view and offer a window into what potential Read With Me has in changing our home reading dynamic.

Recording session featuring paired iPads

My Children as Guinea Pigs

Testing and debugging the product naturally meant that I began to use it at home. First of all, I had my 1st garde daughter write a passage about a New Doll. She wrote a simple one page story with typical 1st grade vocabulary. I edited it and ran it though some reading level calculators and was pleased to see that her passage clocked in at just the right level-First Grade.

From here, the passage was quickly added to the expanding Read With Me graded text sample for development purposes, just like any parent would potentially add their own text into the system.

Original First grade passage


Then it was on to testing. Both my daughter and my soon-to-be third grade son took turns reading and testing their fluency. Of course my son was eager to beat his little sister, but things didn’t turn out as expected. While we all knew that he read “better” , meaning he could decode faster, Read With Me helped reveal some important areas of weakness that his sister did not have.

Running the report at the end of the 1 minute evaluation not only gave an accurate measure of his fluency, like any typical running record, but having the list of miscues in bold red made both of us realize that he was making the same kind of mistakes over and over: he was skipping words he already knew how to read, words like “it” and “he” that when omitted repeatedly, made the passage harder to contextualize and decode. The report also made another fact clear: he was consistently dropping the -s in plural words. These results were confirmed by testing him with another 2nd grade passage.


Right away I had quantifiable, impossible-to-ignore-facts about his reading behavior that two teacher conferences and three report cards failed to identify. It was time to get to work.

“Now we have to work on some things,” I said. Staring at the report he understood well enough what it meant. He knew how to read those short little words and he was going to work on it.

It was then that we were able to focus in and set personal goals for him.

The Recording Session

Then it came time to shoot a live recording of Read With Me in action. With the live recording of the assessment session, a teacher or parent can save the assessment for immediate or future playback. Watching my son and fellow co-founder and teacher Reina go through the assessment turned into a whole new experience.

“Would you like to hear yourself read?” she asked and he nodded with some apprehension. 

The playback was paused while a simultaneous second read took place, at which point she would ask, “Notice what you read here? What does it actually say?” and so on. In this way they were able to debrief the assessment in realtime, turning what is usually a hoop children jump through, into a meaningful learning experience.

“Here are you errors. Let’s email them to your dad and you can work on these at home, OK?”


As a parent AND teacher I was awestruck at a feature of Read With Me that I had totally underestimated or simply overlooked. Recording a session seemed like a good idea for a parent, or for future scoring of a passage, but not for immediate feedback. In essence, what began as a regular fluency assessment turned into a brief student-teacher conference that set clear goals and expectations as well as a student-teacher-parent conference without the parent having to be physicially present!

It was then that I realized we had more than a new-and-improved test. Read With Me goes beyond the mobile assessment, or online learning sphere to reach the home reading space, where children and grown-ups can work together to achieve reading fluency, hopefully making Read With Me something that they quickly outgrow.

Using Brainwaves to Assess Reading: Neuroscience in the Classroom

I’m JeanCarl and I’m a developer behind Read With Me. Since Reina and Francisco are laser-focused on making fluency assessments more student-centered, I’d like to discuss the technology we’ve been exploring that could help change the way reading assessments are conducted and how reading behaviors are analyzed. Very exciting stuff!

After an eventful couple of days in San Francisco during Google I/O last week, I attended the Android Dev Camp Hackathon last weekend in Santa Clara. This was a two-and-a-half day hackathon instead of the 24 hours we had to develop Read With Me at AT&T.

There were a number of sponsors that provided hackers with devices to use to develop their ideas that were pitched on Friday night. They included the Zeemote, a Bluetooth game controller that can be used on Android and iOS devices; NeuroSky’s MindWave headset that monitors brainwaves and provides continous data points like attention and relaxation levels; HTC with their Lockscreen API functionality; and a Near Field Communication (NFC) card reader. Fun gadgets and technology that many teams used to make some impressive demos.

As a developer, all these pieces of hardware are exciting to play with and find ways to improve existing products. Reina and Francisco couldn’t make it to the hackathon, but a new team I worked with really focused our attention on the MindWave headset to determine the user engagement while rating ads. Is the user really engaged with a certain graphic selling a particular product? Are they relaxed? Bored? It was fascinating how it required some concentration to get to certain levels of each attribute.

The Blew-My-MindWave

The MindWave is similar to headphones but with an arm that wraps around the forehead and a clip on the earlobe. Decades of EEG research has led to this technology in an affordable device for many purposes. After being paired up, an application starts reading data streamed over a Bluetooth connection. Before, electrodes had to be placed carefully around the brain and connected to expensive technology. This device can be put on and taken off with ease. It currently sells for $100, essentially taking neuroscience out of the lab and putting it in the hands of teachers, reading specialists, and parents.

What really struck me was how this headset could be used with Read With Me to provide a whole new depth of reading assessment data in real time.

Recently the Read With Me team tested some young children with a new version of our app featuring some exciting ways of reading. The unexpected results and our analysis, experience, and video will be shared on this blog in the near future. Stay tuned. It was truly eye opening to really observe how a young child processes and struggles while reading a passage. Sometimes their facial expressions and tone of voice indicated they were struggling, but sometimes I was unsure what was happening for them when they were silent.

So They Struggle to Decode, But Why?

The paper reading assessments and our app record what words the student struggles with. However, teachers, reading specialists, parents, and/or special education teachers are the expert that determine why they struggle. But since so many factors can be an obstacle for students, and the experts have so many students to assess, they could miss why one student couldn’t decode a certain word. In the Read With Me App, we’re trying a video component that aids the experts by providing the ability to endlessly replay the student errors and successes, which can be hard to capture and analyze robustly while assessing them.

In addition to video and audio playback, the headset could provide more nuanced data on attention and relaxation levels that could help us understand each student a little better. Were they paying attention and really didn’t know the word? Did their attention level spike, working all their cylinders, figuring out what that one word really is? Were they distracted by some other factor in their environment? It is a similar situation with the relaxation level. Are they stressed out by being assessed? Uncomfortable because they have to read when reading isn’t what they really want to be doing? Or the opposite, are they really relaxed because they get to read a passage about Star Wars! Use the force, Luke! Hmm, sorry. Perhaps they perform better when relaxed?

Carefully collecting these data points during a reading assessment creates various opportunities to make this a student-centered assessment for learning. We believe we can more efficiently provide personalized interventions to students. We can also help make the student feel more comfortable and focused on the words. We also wonder whether the gadget will help motivate and engage students, and if so, how long that will last?

HTC One Lockscreen with an animated clock

Reinforcement Anytime Anywhere

HTC has opened up the capability to use the lockscreen on their devices through the Lockscreen API in the OpenSense SDK.  This allows the user to add content that can be accessed without having to enter in a passcode.  This is an interesting idea.  

Say you’re in the store with your child waiting in line at the checkout. In lieu of having to enter a password and wait for the page to load, which could take the whole time in line, you hand them your phone with Read With Me App already loaded, showing words that they misread. You can use this otherwise wasted time to reinforce words through simple activities based around them.

Tap to share

Hackers also got to explore Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.  This one is exciting because Read With Me could take advantage of the action of tapping two devices together.  Instead of entering pairing codes or having a student log into our service, the teacher could simple touch devices together and immediately send or share the assessment to the student’s device. Or when a group of students goes into the computer lab they can tap their Read With Me card to a learning device running the Read With Me App and launch an assessment automatically.  A sort of identification card.

Or when parents, teachers, and support staff meet for an IPE, they can easily tap devices together and get a shared Read With Me report about the student’s performance and analysis.  Each person can have full access to make the meeting as productive as possible.

Controlling with a Zeemote

The Zeemote is a game controller that is small enough that you can take it with you.  We’re still exploring activities that the student can do based on the miscues and content they need improvement on, but believe the Zeemote could be used in the process.  Your quick triggered sheriff could press the trigger button when the word they see on screen is not the word they hear.  Simple activities that can reinforce the thought process can engage the student into new ways of using the words and provide different context and meanings besides just the one they didn’t comprehend.

Final thoughts

There are lots of innovative products being developed that can be used in this process of student assessments.  We look forward to seeing how attention and relaxation data points factor into the assessment process when we integrate this headset with our app.  We also hope to make the whole process easier to administrate and use.  The paper method is archaic and a waste of precious resources and of educational time.  We are at an exciting time in the digital age and are taking full advantage of that.

If you have a product that could be used in a similar fashion, please let us know. We are interested in making student assessments more than just an evaluation.  One day we hope to find the root causes of recognition and comprehension issues and solve them for good.

For more information or to reach out to us, email

“The basis of science is being comfortable with not knowing and willing to be wrong.”
- Joel Parker – SwRI (Southwest Research Institute)- Science Operations Center Manager for LAMP

ReadWithMeApp Goes to ISTE 2012

Originally we planned to put more screen shots of the app up this weekend, but I thought we’d enjoy these a little more first!

Francisco and I just got back from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2012 conference in San Diego, Ca so I’d rather blog about our learnings, networkings, and partyings there…but don’t worry Robin, more screen shots of the app will be up soon enough!

Francisco and I have been collaborating in the educational technology front for close to 3 years now.

We met when I landed at Tyrrell Elementary for one of my long-term sub stints in Hayward Unified.  Since then I’ve been teaching 4th grade at Cox Academy (Education for Change) in Oakland while he stayed in Hayward, but the force has a way of keeping Leah and Luke with the Rebellion, fighting against the Evil Empire.  (I know that since we’re with a Charter Management Organization that might sound dubious to some of you, but I am all for breaking down assumptions that lead to stereotypes.)

Turns out  Francisco is migrating to Education for Change as the new Technology Instructor for Ascend.

Since I’m also in the middle of a transformation as the new Technology Instructor at Lazear that means we’ll not only be collaborating on ReadWithMeApp, but we’ll also be developing student curriculum and professional developments in educational technology for our organization.

So that means we got to go San Diego, his home town, and geek out for 5 whole days on everything eduTechy at the ISTE Conference 2012!

Here are our top 2 favorites from each corner of the ISTE ’12 world.

The Playground

Aside from the massive Exhibition Hall where everyone is trying to sell you something, the Playground was a neutral space to explore and try out new things. I can’t wait for one of our students’ playground to look like this!

1.  3D Printers – Any 3D printer made STEM really come to life for me.  I can only imagine how these machines are going to make my students’ engineering, design, science, and math ideas come to life.  These printers range from $695 to $15000 plus:  the more expensive ones make working parts!

2. 4-H Youth Development Program – A University of California Youth Development Program where youth develop citizenship, leadership, and life skills by building relationships with caring adults.  Established through the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the program has many facets, one being the Technology Leadership Team.  I had the pleasure of meeting some of these extraordinary youth in action.

The Exhibition Hall

I honestly thought I’d witness the second coming in this temple of eduTech doom: sales pitches, presentations, free give-aways, raffles, brochures, prizes, QR codes, scanners, etc.  Francisco spent much more time than I could in the asiles, exploring and searching for everything from hardware and software to online curriculum and class management tools.

I was ecstatic to meet Mobi from one of my favorite online resources for students: BrainPop!

1.  SK Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories – Under the hip tag of TeacherGeek this company has a slew of goodies for the teacher who would like to begin to introduce some hands-on activities for their students.  This is also good for the teacher that is not a part of a formal STEM curriculum yet and wants to help their students bring science to life.

2. NEO - Common Core Standards are broad and give teachers more freedom, but they also infuse technology in the skills that students will need to master.  Well the Neo2 is a keyboard that’s connected to the teacher’s smart board to engage students in a more interactive way, the teacher can take a poll during a lesson, administer a spelling test, print reports and send them home all in the same day.  Students learn keyboarding and can turn in their essays for the teacher to grade without having to carry all of that work home.



Full list of just small presentations right outside the Exhibition Hall. These were student/teacher/researcher presentations highlighting innovations with technology in education across the globe.

The menu was scrumptious! For a rookie like me it became overwhelming very fast, but I figured out workshop hopping in a flash (no pun intended)!

1.  Free STEM Resources for Mobile and Desktop Devices from the Concord Consortium Collection - The coolest thing about this workshop is that the Concord Consortium is creating free applications that mix the virtual world with the real world.  They have a temperature application, for example, that reacts to ice cubes or a hair dryer.

2. Engage, Retain, and Thrive – Getting Girls into Tech - Workshop hopping wasn’t ideal, but I was able to get more bang for my buck because some of the really cool sessions I wanted to attend were recorded or the presenters have everything online!  Flipping my classroom was a relief!  Check out the link for these presenters wiki.


Francisco covered the networking front for ReadWithMeApp as I covered the day job frontier.  He did an amazing job at recruiting some teachers who’ve signed up to be a part of our BETA this coming 2012-2013 school year.  You can also sign up here now!

1. Demo Lesson - We had the pleasure to meet Mandela Schumacher-Hodge co-founder of Demo Lesson, a start-up that lets teachers put up demonstration lessons when they’re looking for a gig and administrators search for teachers to fill the job.

2. The Disruption Department - Need I say more? The Disruption Department will create a sustainable model of change by putting teachers in control of their own professional development, as well as innovation in their own classroom.  What I love the most about these guys is their progressive, grass-roots approach of infusing technology in inner-city schools.


Great networking is about building new relationships.  Mandela from DemoLesson resides close to us which means we’ll continue learning from her insightful experience on start-ups, but thank goodness for Twitter et al that will allow us to remain tight with our new friends from The Disruption Department as well.

1.  Google event – Of course Google sponsored the after party!  It was a great night of screaming over loud music, wailing lyrics, and Soul Train dancing lines.

There was a photo booth with props, we couldn’t help ourselves.

2. EdTech Karaoke @ ISTE 2012 event – Even though the conference attendees weren’t blessed with our performances for the night, it was THE ISTE 2012 event, so we made sure to get in some photo-ops.