|REPORT CARD |
|Overall Rating:||4 Stars|
|Ease of Use:||A-|
Company: Soliloquy Learning, 144 Gould St., Needham Heights, MA 02494; Phone: 877/235-6036; E-mail: email@example.com; Internet: http://www.soliloquylearning.com/.
Price: $229—basic stand-alone package for a single computer; $599—basic stand-alone package for three computers in a classroom setting.
Each package includes an anthology CD-ROM and a headphone/microphone with noise reduction. Additional anthologies can be purchased for $59 for one unit, or $149 for three units.
$2,000—network version with all anthologies, five users; $17,000—network version with all anthologies, 50 users. Site licenses also are available.
Audience: Publisher recommends elementary grades 1-6. The program could be used for remedial work in middle school. It also could be used at home, but is marketed primarily for school settings.
Format: CD-ROM, Macintosh or Windows versions, standalone and network editions.
Minimum System Requirements:
Windows: 400-MHz Pentium II or equivalent (800-MHz recommended), Windows 2000 or XP Home/Professional, SoundBlaster PCI/AC97-compatible sound card with DirectSound support, 4-MB video card with DirectX support.
Macintosh: Apple Macintosh G3 233-MHz processor (much higher processor recommended), Mac OS 9.0.4 or OS 10.1, 1024x768 display with thousands of colors, QuickTime 4.0, USB audio adaptor, and USB port.
Both Windows and Macintosh versions require 128-MB RAM (256 MB recommended), 300-MB free hard drive space, a 10/100-MB Ethernet LAN port, a CD-ROM drive, and specific fonts. Both systems require Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher (IE 6.0 or higher recommended) or Netscape 6.2 or higher. Macintosh systems can use Safari 1.0 as well.
The server (network) version requires a dedicated Windows 2000 or 2003 server with a 1.5-GHz Pentium II processor or equivalent, 512-MB RAM, 80-GB available hard drive space (120 GB recommended), and a CD-ROM drive. This version also requires a Static IP address and most of the requirements listed above for the Windows workstation.
Both standalone and network versions require the headphone/microphone combination sold with the package. Program selections are read by the software to students or are recorded as students read with intelligent computer intervention.
Description: Soliloquy Reading Assistant 3.0 helps students improve reading skills by providing additional practice at reading aloud at school, supplementing teachers' reading lessons. The program listens to students as they read, provides intelligent intervention when needed, and reports student performance to the teacher. Both grade-level reading material and excellent managing software is available.
Installation: I used this program on a 966-MHz Windows computer that met all of the system requirements. The software installed and operated with no difficulty.
The stand-alone version requires installation from one CD-ROM and one anthology disk. Once the manager portion of the program is installed and the headphone/microphone is plugged in correctly, the program operates without the installation CD-ROM. An anthology CD is requested once users are logged in.
The network version requires network installation of the program and the use of a library CD-ROM. Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: Soliloquy Reading Assistant 3.0 is excellent, well-thought-out, and well-executed. The core idea behind the program is that more oral reading practice with intelligent intervention will make students better readers. The company has an extensive amount of research to back this theory and I—a teacher for 34 years with about 20 years spent as a remedial reading teacher—agree with them, with one reservation.
I have had students who were excellent oral readers who couldn't remember what they had read, and, conversely, I have had students who were excellent silent readers who became so nervous in oral reading situations that they sounded awful. However, the additional oral reading practice made possible by computerized instruction can only help. At the very least, word recognition should improve. And the process of recognizing strings of words and reading them—orally, intelligibly, and with help when mistakes are made—will help most students improve comprehension as well.
Soliloquy Reading Assistant 3.0 does all of this very nicely. The installation puts two programs on the workstation computer—Reading Assistant Administration and the reading program itself. Once the software is installed, teachers log on and set up their class by giving each student user names and modifying some of the process as needed.
Next, an anthology CD-ROM is put in the CD-ROM drive. Students then log in with their user name and pick up wherever they left off. After logging in, they can choose a fiction, nonfiction, or poetry selection from a menu. A microphone check is done; students are instructed to get an adult to help if there is a problem.
The program's "reader" helps students work with selections in a variety of ways, including reading aloud, listening to a recording of themselves reading, listening to various word definitions, or listening to a narrator read to them. When students have completed a selection, a quiz tests their comprehension.
A Progress Report shows the student how many Power Points he or she has earned for a selection. Power Points reflect quiz performance, completion, fluency, fluency rate, amount read, and comprehension of personal glossary and review words. Teachers can log on at the student logon page to access and/or print these reports. Teachers can also access a manual, go online, and work with several other functions.
Currently, four anthologies are available at three levels. The first three anthologies consist of illustrated nonfiction, fiction, and poetry selections from Cricket magazine and classic literature at three levels: grades 1-2, 2-3, and 3-5. The fourth anthology is a single titles collection of five historical fiction and nonfiction chapter books from Learner Publishing. The selections are excellent, interesting, and engaging.
In fact, the entire package is excellent, interesting, and engaging. Soliloquy Reading Assistant 3.0 is a high-quality product that works well in nearly every way. It is exciting and valuable to find a way that teachers, while working on other classroom tasks, can give students quality extra oral reading practice. Content/Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: With an adequate computer that meets all system requirements, the program is easy to use. The classroom manager program may have a slightly longer learning curve for less experienced teachers, and younger students may need a little more practice and supervision than older students. Ease of Use Rating: A-
Product Support: Technical support is available by phone at 877/235-6036 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The company's Web site includes a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section; the documentation is detailed, clear, and generally excellent. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: Soliloquy Reading Assistant version 3.0 is an outstanding and useful piece of software that I recommend for grades 1-6 at every elementary school.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, many school districts may be experiencing financial problems. While there may be working, useful computer labs in every elementary building and at least one computer in every classroom, these machines may not be new enough or fast enough to run this software. And, even in schools with adequate computers, limited software budgets may prohibit the purchase of bigger ticket software products. Hopefully, however, the improving economy will permit more schools to take advantage of excellent programs such as Soliloquy Reading Assistant. Highly Recommended.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, Elementary Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Central Elementary School, 509 S. Broadway, Hastings, MI 49058; 616/948-4423; email@example.com.