Company: MindPlay Educational Software Co., 440 S. Williams Blvd., Suite 206, Tucson, AZ 85711. Phone: (800) 221-7911; Internet: www.mindplay.com.
Price: $350 per workstation, Network version. $250 for 5 to 9 connections, internet version. Volume discount pricing is available.
Audience: Students 6 years and older, able to read and comprehend at least first grade reading material.
Format: Interactive Web-based program with scrolling technology and sound.
Minimum System Requirements:
Windows systems: 1 GHz processor, 256MB RAM, 3GB free hard drive space, and Windows Millennium.
If more than 10 workstations are using the program at the same time, the Windows server version is required. The system requirements include 500MB free hard drive space, a 256MB RAM baseline, and 256RAM for every 20 to 30 workstations simultaneously using the program. Check with MindPlay for additional server requirements.
Macintosh systems: G4 processor, 256MB RAM, 4GB free hard drive space, and Mac OS 10.2.
The Macintosh server version requires a TCP/IP-based network with a static IP address and 700MB free hard drive space. The Mac workstation requirements listed above are needed, as are a 512MB RAM baseline and at least an extra 256MB for every 15 to 20 workstations.
Both platforms require an 8x CD-ROM drive, 16-bit color monitor, sound capability, speakers, a mouse, updated browser, as fast an internet connection as possible, and Flash Player 9.2. FLRT works with a modem internet connection, but it is initially slow. A faster-than-modem connection is much better.
Optional equipment includes earphones (recommended), microphone, and a printer.
Description: Fluent Reading Trainer is a Web-based program that helps students increase reading speed while improving or maintaining reading comprehension. FLRT trains the eyes to move from left to right efficiently and to sweep in one movement over increasingly difficult passages. The program boosts reading skills by improving the reading speed of students who’ve already mastered sounding skills and aids administration by providing excellent management and report options.
Report Card ****
Ease of Use A
Product Support A
Installation: The network administrator should install the network version. Individuals can install the workstation version from a download using the easy-to-follow instructions.
Once the needed software is installed, teachers or administrators can set up log-in access for classes and modify various program features to individualize FLRT for their students.
The program requires newer computers to operate effectively; users should be sure their computers meet all of the program requirements.Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: When computers first became available for classroom use, the existing software did some of what FLRT does, but that software didn’t work all that well, and it wasn’t very appealing. FLRT brings the power and advantages of the internet together with scrolling technology and management tools to create an outstanding product.
The program is a viable option for single computer classrooms or labs. FLRT can help improve the reading skills of any student older than 6 who can read on at least a first grade level, whether a high school student, adult, ESL learner, struggling reader, or any student who needs to increase reading speed. The program can be used with an entire classroom or with individual students.
FLRT improves eye-tracking by training the reader’s eyes to move from left to right efficiently and to sweep in one movement. According to the company, students can improve their reading speed from 50 to more than 300 words per minute, while improving fluency and comprehension in "hours not years."
The initial screen allows control of the reading speed in words-per-minute and activity level for grades K–12.
The first activity, Word Match, can be set at a basic, intermediate, or mixed level. For this activity, students click on words that are spoken aloud.
The next activity, Eye Tracking, can be controlled by grade level and speed; levels include beginning, intermediate, advanced, or expert. Levels vary in the number of shapes (squares, triangles, circles, etc.) or numbers per line. The progression from beginning to expert increases the distance the eye has to travel to see the next shape.
Two activities involve reading quality at grade level. FLRT includes 500 "content-rich" authentic passages with 10 to 16 questions for each story or passage (and more available). Generally, each passage can be read in 6 minutes or less so that students can complete up to three stories per class session.
The Single-Line reading activity presents a grade-level reading passage, one line at a time. Words fade in and out, moving across the line at a selected speed designed to keep the eyes moving in the correct direction.
The Multi-Line reading activity presents an entire page of text, and it translates the skills learned in the Single-Line activity to the full page. The students’ eyes are directed by words that disappear after a certain amount of time.
Students can choose to have a clue provided for errors. They also can choose to have preview questions given before they see a passage. The program doesn’t progress to the next question until the student provides a correct answer, whether a clue is given or not. When each activity is completed, students can see their scores.
At the completion of grade-level work and training with the program, students can print simple certificates showing their names and successful program results.
In general, FLRT allows students to progress through the program at their own pace and to work at an appropriate level of instruction. The story passages are of varied lengths, and they include narrative and expository text. FLRT generates random stories with each use.
Teachers can choose to use decodable stories with students who need practice decoding. The varied question-and-answer techniques encourage and monitor comprehension. The Sight Word activity improves the automaticity (automatic recognition) of high frequency and sight words.
Teachers and administrators will find FLRT useful to obtain a baseline reading rate and to monitor ongoing progress for individual students and classes.
Program reports include student or class performance by question type, improvement statistics from the baseline testing date to the current date, effective words-per-minute rate, and sight/high-frequency word statistics for struggling students. The reports are available in PDF. Reports can be sent to parents by email, or they can be printed in color or grayscale.
At the time of this review, a stand-alone version of the software was in production. Content/Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: FLRT provides clear instructions. Once installed, the program worked flawlessly. It is extremely easy for teachers and students to use. Ease of Use Rating: A
Product Support: Toll-free telephone technical support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., MST. The tech support is free for the first year. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: Fluent Reading Trainer is an outstanding addition to any school’s reading instruction toolbox. I highly recommend the program at any level for K–12 schools.
FLRT could even prove useful for first-year college or adult ESL students who need to brush up on reading skills and speed.
All in all, Fluency Reading Trainer is an excellent product. Once installed, it works flawlessly with a pleasant intuitive interface. The relatively short lessons and easy-to-see progress will keep students interested. The only question may be whether or not this type of activity actually works to improve reading; I think it does.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, media specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.