“Winning hackaton project is now helping millions of people worldwide to read and write”


Hi, everyone. I was just on LinkedIn and just found out that Garfield Preparatory Academy in Washington, D.C. is using a Surface Pro and discovered Microsoft Learning Tools, a set of free features created to help improve reading and writing, especially for people with learning disorders. Immersive Reader, the tool’s main feature allows users to have content read aloud to them, change text size and background color, break words into syllables, immersive space between letters, highlighted are or more lives of text and highlight parts of speech. The tools are being read across applications and platforms in more than 40 languages. Their remarkable growth, from an employee hackathon project less than three years ago to a solution now used by millions of teachers and students worldwide, has surprise even their creators.


“We had IP”:

One in five children in the U.S. have learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and deficit disorder, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and up to 15 percent of Americans are thought to have dyslexia. Petty who joined Microsoft in 2014, was looking for ways to improve accessibility in Windows and saw an opportunity for reading assistance tools that could be into Microsoft technologies. He reached out to Microsoft’s Advanced Reading Technologies team and consulted with the groups’ research about what features would most help struggling readers. The team included engineers from Microsoft’s office had developed a prototype for a dyslexic made in One Note. The combined team created an extension for One Note that offered text formatting tools to make reading, writing and note taking easier. One Note Class Notebook, an app that allows teachers to collaborate with students and set up personalized work spaces in a combined digital notebook.

“How fast can you go?”:

After Immersive Reader launched in January 2016, Mike Tholfsen, principal product manager for Microsoft Education pushed to incorporated the functionality into as many apps, platforms and languages as possible, including One Note Class Notebooks. His passion for Immersive Reader was featured by the potential he saw for combining it with One Note Class Notebooks into a sort of supercharged digital content hub. “When you have a One Note Class Notebook and you put content in there, and you distribute it to students and then they can are Immersive Reader in a Class Notebook, for me that’s like utopia” he said . “And that’s the way a lot of teachers are experiencing it”.  “He helped support the project and he made space for us to finish it. There are a lot of hackathon projects that win, but sometimes the product don’t ship because there are too many other competing deliverable that the organization needs done finest”.

“Built in, not bolted on”:

In the months prior to the tool’s launch, Tholfsen began inviting to Skype calls where he would demo Learning Tools and get their feedback. Unlike other reading progress that are typically costly and can require schools to purchase individual licenses for each student, Immersive Reader is free and available across multiple platforms and applications, from Edge to Outlook and Word for Desktop, and One Note for Mac. There are plans to continue expanding Learning Tools to other Microsoft products, and efforts are underway to add more features based on feedback from teachers, students and reading experts. As Megiddo see it, making Learning Tools and Immersive Reader as broadly as possible is come to Microsoft’s mission at enabling every person and planet on the organization to achieve more.

“Where we see the impact these tools can have, it’s our responsibility and our duty to get them to as many people as possible”.



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