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Live From the T+L Conference: Day 1

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Hello from Seattle, where I am reporting from the National School Board Association's T+L Conference. So far since I've been here, I've picked up the new copy of Digital Directions, talked with several ed-tech companies about the newest products on the market today, and brainstormed about the educational value of using cell phones and other mobile technologies in the classroom with chief technology officers from around the country at the Consortium for School Networking's CTO Forum.

In addition to a panel discussion about how those mobile technologies can successfully be used in the classroom, COSN launched two new initiatives today: Green Computing, led by Rich Kaestner, and IT Crisis Preparedness, led by COSN's Linda Sharp.

The Green Computing initiative will focus on three target areas: purchase and disposal, energy use, and reducing waste. To help school districts become more "green" in those areas, the new initiative will gather information about sustainable computing practices, best practices, and tips for school districts. The Web site also includes an energy calculator so districts can figure out how much energy they're using—and how much they could save by adjusting the way schools run.

The IT Crisis Preparedness initiative is working to help chief technology officers take a lead role in disaster preparedness plans—whether they be natural (like a hurricane or forest fire) or man-made (like a cyber security issue.) The Web site includes resources for school districts to be better prepared for disasters, profiles of innovative school districts who have tackled this obstacle well, and tips on how to recover from a disaster, if one should happen.

I'll be attending many more sessions tomorrow, so stay tuned to Digital Education for more about what's coming out of this year's T+L Conference.

1 Comment

In today's school and business environments, the most common means of communication is reading and writing. People that don't master those communication methods are usually left behind.
5-17% of the population suffers from dyslexia, a neurological problem that affects those peoples' ability to write and read freely. In addition, approximately 1.5 billion people are left behind due to the fact that English is their second language.
The common number one writing assistive technology, the standard spellchecker, is not effective for people with dyslexia and people that use English as their second language. This failure is due to two structural limitations of all spellcheckers:
a. The fact that a spelled word needs to be very, very close to the target word in order to get corrected spelling
b. The fact that the text is checked word by word, disregarding any contextual considerations
From a technical perspective, most of the spellcheckers use a very limited editing distance, which is defined as the number of operations required to transform one word into another. For example, the words 'happy' and 'hapy' have an editing distance of 1 (one missing letter) and will, therefore be attuned successfully, but the words "happy" and "apy" have an editing distance of 2 and therefore will not be treated successfully. In addition, standard spellcheckers will regard the sentence "I will be happy to meat you at 8 o'clock" as a legitimate expression, disregarding the intention of the writer, which is "I will be happy to meet you at 8 o'clock. The word "meat" will not appear as a misspelled word since it is found in the dictionary.
For many years Natural Language Processing (NLP) researchers developed advanced models in order to analyze spelling from a contextual wording perspective, but unfortunately these models were not able to hold water in the real world.
Today a company named Ghotit comes and changes it all. Ghotit's mission is to move people with writing and reading problems towards the main stream, the general population that do not have any problems with reading and writing. Ghotit's solution is an online context sensitive spellchecker which copes effectively with spelling mistakes that regular spellcheckers can't cope with, and a capability to identify misused words and offer the appropriate corrections based on a contextual analysis of the sentence.
In order to further assist the user, Ghotit offers both a Text to Speech service, which enables the user to request his text to be read out aloud, and online definitions of each word, so that the user can easily select the correct candidate word.
Ghotit was founded by Ofer Chermesh, a lifelong dyslectic and entrepreneur who for years had envisioned in his mind the exact assistive technology solution that would address his writing and reading hardships; and by his friend Dr. Robert Iakobashvili a high performance computing expert that undertook the challenge of translating Ofer's dream into a reality.
Ghotit web site launched February 2008 after more than a year of research and development. Current testing of a corpus of dyslectic English demonstrated 90% correction success for Ghotit. This is in comparison to academic research reports that state that the best spell checkers success rate is under 35% (e.g. a recent Ph.D. study http://www.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/research/recentphds/pedler.pdf).
Ghotit plans in the near future to integrate Ghotit to different word and email editors such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs and to improve its context spell checker by adding grammar corrections and text enrichment capabilities. Each user will manage a personalized dictionary that can be accessed online from any computing device. Further plans include self-optimizing algorithms that optimize the context spellchecker algorithms based on specific user behavioral patterns.
Ghotit plans to contribute its error-collected corpus to the academia for research purposes.
For a review of Ghotit please go to SpeEdChange.
About Ghotit LTD:
Incorporated 2008
www.ghotit.com; Web site launched February 2008
Ofer Chermesh CEO
Dr. Robert Iakobashvili CTO & VP R&D
No investment rounds

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