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Microsoft has announced today that Reading Coach is now available for free

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Microsoft has announced today that Reading Coach, its AI-powered tool that provides students with personalized reading exercises, is now accessible to anyone with a Microsoft account.

Starting today, Reading Coach is accessible in preview on the web, with a Windows app on the way. Additionally, Reading Coach will soon (by the end of spring) integrate with learning management systems like Canva, according to Microsoft.

In a blog post, Microsoft writes, "It is well known that reading is fundamental to students' academic success; studies show that fluent readers are four times more likely to graduate high school and secure better jobs." "With the latest AI technologies, we have the opportunity to provide students with personalized, engaging, and transformative reading experiences."

Reading Coach builds on Reading Progress, a plug-in for the educational version of Microsoft Teams, Teams for Education, designed to help teachers promote reading fluency in their students. Inspired by the success of Reading Progress, Microsoft launched Reading Coach in 2022 as part of Teams for Education and Immersive Reader, the company's multi-platform assistive service for language and reading comprehension.

Reading Coach works by having students identify the words they struggle with the most and providing them with tools to support individualized and personalized practice. Depending on an educator's preferences, available tools can include text-to-speech, syllable splitting, and illustrated dictionaries.

After a student practices in Reading Coach, educators can view their work, including the words the student practiced, how many attempts they made, and which tools they used. Educators can also share this information with students if they wish.

Recently, Reading Coach received an enhancement in the form of a "choose your own story" feature, powered by Microsoft's Azure OpenAI service, allowing students to use AI to generate their narrative adventure.

Similar to the AI-generated story tool on Amazon Echo Show, Reading Coach's "choose your own story" feature allows students to select a character, setting, and reading level and have AI generate content based on these choices and the user's challenging words. (Microsoft claims that story content is moderated and filtered for aspects like "quality, safety, and age appropriateness"). Reading Coach provides pronunciation feedback by listening to the student read the story and assigns badges that unlock new characters and scenes as they progress.

Students who don't want to create their own story can choose from curated passages in ReadWorks, a library of reading comprehension resources.

"Reading Coach intrinsically motivates students to continue improving their skills in various ways," Microsoft continues. "With the effective, safe, and responsible use of AI, we believe that personalized learning at scale is within reach."

It should be noted that Microsoft's positive view of using AI for teaching reading comprehension is not shared by all educators. Experts say there is no foolproof tool on the market to measure comprehension, which involves assessing what students know and the strength of their vocabulary, as well as their ability to decode and pronounce words. Students may inadvertently influence assessments by pressing the wrong button. Or they might become bored with a task that a tool is presenting to them and disengage, leading to a low score.