Paul Cameron, Booktrack CEO
Last week we announced the release of Booktrack Classroom, a new educational tool that is quite remarkable. Not only are teachers raving about it but so are students – a rare claim for an educational technology product.
We officially unveiled Booktrack Classroom at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs which 5,000 Computer Using Educators attended this past week. Needless to say the positive response we've received from teachers, principals and administrators has been overwhelming, and it provides real validation of what we've undertaken and the importance of what Booktrack Classroom provides to teachers as a tool to make reading and writing fun for students.
On the weekend our team in New Zealand was at the Festival of Education in Auckland doing live demos of Booktrack Classroom. Kids of all ages – from tykes to teens – were trying out Booktrack and absolutely loving it, but the real reward came when they could hear the kids exclaiming to their friends "that was so awesome!" as they walked away. What were they doing you ask? They were reading!
How did we manage to get kids so excited about reading? Booktracks are different from regular eBooks in that they are set to synchronized soundtracks. It sounds deceptively simple, but it's amazing how taking the words on the page and adding music, ambient audio and sound effects work together to create absolute magic on a page when it comes to getting kids excited about reading.
We originally launched Booktrack as a niche publisher, working with well-known authors like Salman Rushdie and James Frey to produce eVersions of their books set to sound. Booktracks are not audiobooks – people still read the words on the page – but the eBook software itself is built in with an accompanying movie-style soundtrack synchronized to the words on the page, delivered algorithmically at the pace of reading. This marrying of text to sound has proven to be an effective aid for channelling the focus of readers and immersing them into the story. Since launching in 2011 we heard time and time again from kids and adults alike who remarked about how reading had always been a chore, but with Booktrack they were now finding themselves reading for extended periods of time.
It was this feedback that led to a study on Booktrack being conducted by New York University. The findings backed up everything that we'd been hearing anecdotally from our users: study participants who read with Booktrack retained more information, reported improved focus, and found it easier to follow the text that they were reading. This week The University of Auckland released a larger study, showing conclusively that Booktrack increased reading comprehension scores by 17% and reading engagement by 30%. These results were even higher for the group of study participants with learning difficulties. This is summarized well in this infographic.
In the meantime Booktrack had progressed. Our original offering had to be produced in-house, effectively making it only available to a select group of big-name authors, but in September 2013 we marked the launch of Booktrack Studio, a free online service where anyone can take their written work and easily produce a Booktrack version of it, effortlessly publishing their Booktrack to both the web and to Android and Apple mobile phones and tablets.
With the release of Studio the feedback from excited educational professionals was overwhelming to the point that we realised the need to create an educational variant that could provide all of the additional features required by teachers. We developed Booktrack Classroom to meet those needs, including the ability to set up walled-garden classroom environments so that students can safely publish and share their Booktracks with their classmates, and provide teacher control over the Booktracks students can access so that they're at an appropriate level.
At this point 40 ready-to-read titles are available on Booktrack Classroom and we expect this to grow significantly over the coming weeks. We also look forward to students publishing countless titles – everything from stories to science essays – to share with their peers on the web and mobile devices – helping to make reading and writing fun again for the next generation of students.
Teachers, use Booktrack Classroom for free! Sign-up now at booktrackclassroom.com.