Texthelp: Bringing Literacy to Life

Martin McKay, CTO & Founder The education technology landscape is constantly changing, providing both challenges and opportunities to educators, students, and district-wide support teams. As a way to meet digital-native students where they are, today’s educators are embracing technology-infused classrooms. However, the growing need for learning analytics, the use of artificial intelligence, and a mixture of operating platforms have spawned complexities in the education arena that require expert guidance from the industry’s most innovative companies. Texthelp™, an edtech literacy support company, addresses the challenges that CIOs, admin teams, and educators face, as they move toward a digital learning environment that is truly beneficial to students across all demographics.

“Quite a bit has changed in education technology platforms in recent years, with models and solutions being disrupted. Five years ago we were in the middle of the mobile apps revolution and currently the use of Chromebooks with G-Suite and Google Classroom is the most recent wave of change. Managing large IT implementations through periods of change is difficult. Education technology has shifted away from aiding just a handful of students, to district-wide, student-centric initiatives,” says Martin McKay, CTO and Founder of Texthelp. As a ‘go to’ brand for literacy, language, and more recently, STEM support software for education, Texthelp assists students and teachers in unlocking the real benefit of learning by offering a bevy of support software solutions that drive greater comprehension across reading, writing and math literacy.

Texthelp began as a software company focused on solving learning challenges among the special education community, but their leadership quickly realized the innovative impact that technology could have on the full breadth of students and educators. McKay explains, “If we can provide the necessary tools to improve literacy support and comprehension among students in the classroom and at home, schools can be made a more effective place. We provide easy-to-use tools that support the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at a cost that is manageable for districts and school systems.”

A Comprehensive Suite of Literacy & Language Support Tools

The company has harnessed the unique challenges relating to the trends in education technology by developing a full suite of education support tools aimed at improving student outcomes. Texthelp is best known for its Read&Write tool—a software toolbar with support features and functions needed to push literacy forward and deliver a personalized learning experience to all students. It offers a variety of assistance including highlighting any text on the screen and reading that text aloud simultaneously.

“Research shows that when reading is supported using audio and synchronized visual highlighting that comprehension is significantly elevated. The purpose of students attending school is for them to learn. Using our tools, we can see that more of what they read is understood and remembered.”
Read&Write also lends a necessary hand when students are writing, through its word prediction feature. “We suggest completions and grammatically appropriate words that might follow the typed word, giving students more opportunity to express themselves and their ideas,” he shares. Over seven million students use Read&Write worldwide because of its powerful benefits and the value it adds to the overall learning process.

Texthelp understands that not every student has the same reading or writing ability and those with impediments like dyslexia are at a disadvantage in the traditional classroom setting. Read&Write gives students and educators an opportunity for early intervention, which ultimately leads to a generation of more confident readers and fluent writers. It’s now seen by many as a gold standard for supporting diverse learners and universal design for learning, and inclusion. Putting the power back in the hands of the students underlines Texthelp’s focus on the student-centric learning model that drives their mission to enable better literacy and education outcomes across the board.


The tools we have developed and are developing are truly different; and they are easy enough for students and educators to deploy quickly


In addition to Read&Write, Texthelp constantly works toward developing other software tools that tackle the issues surrounding educational trends such as learning analytics. With Wri-Q™, an innovative data collection and assessment tool, the difference between learning and usage is made more apparent. The zero-cost tool combines scoring of student-writing with data-tracking to provide an in-depth look at the various metrics of a student’s writing, including text maturity, vocabulary, and diversity in composition. Through Wri-Q, Texthelp gathers the data necessary to benchmark a student’s writing against national norms in real-time which ultimately offers a perspective on the health of overall writing. With this data, actionable steps can be taken to give students the opportunity to get back on track with their writing skills. “It’s about observing how students write, how support tools are used in the process, and how outcomes are improving with those tools,” McKay notes.

Success in Serving Diverse Districts

Texthelp has grown rapidly since its inception, and the company has experienced success in a variety of school districts and systems throughout the world. With offices in the UK, the US and Australia, Texthelp has a global footprint and is a well-respected brand in the education technology environment. In Canada, a large school district approached Texthelp to develop a universal design learning model within its education policy, focused on supporting students at all levels with their literacy initiatives. They adopted Texthelp software and deployed it to the entire district, where it quickly became a tool used daily by students to help them improve their comprehension, reading, and writing. The 120,000 students in the district have reported greater confidence and independence as well as demonstrable academic improvement in assessments, and their educators obtained valuable insights into the learning patterns of their students.
Texthelp has seen similar success with school districts spanning a myriad of locations, sizes, and demographics, including large urban districts and small, rural systems. The ability to improve learning outcomes for students is made possible through the company’s ease of deployment and overarching business model. The pain normally experienced by CIOs in adopting and implementing new technology is taken away by Texthelp’s focus on interoperability. Whether a district is utilizing Google, Microsoft, Apple or other technologies, the simple tools offered are designed to work seamlessly across different platforms— Chrome, Edge, Windows, Mac, iPad and Android. Network administrators can push out the software in a smooth, simple way, and students are not required to create a new user ID or sign-on to access the tools they need. “All students have to do is click. The user experience is simple and intuitive for all, and we know the product has to work with all the content and curriculum they encounter,” McKay points out.

The company’s driving force lies in bettering the learning environment for all students, regardless of ability or location, and to do so, most of its tools are offered to districts under a freemium model. “We’re committed to delivering help directly to students, and so we plan to continue offering free core services to both teachers and students. The onset of cloud-based learning must be cost-efficient, with a low expense per student. Texthelp is ahead of this trend by focusing on easy sharing and collaboration through seamless integration,” he adds.

"If we can provide the necessary tools to improve literacy support and comprehension among students in the classroom and at home, schools can be made a more effective place"

The success of Texthelp is also notable in its use of collected data. While learning analytics is becoming a more necessary component of the education environment, student privacy and data protection should be at the top of the priority list. Texthelp understands the sensitivity of student data and works diligently to be in compliance with various student privacy laws around the world. Data is de-identified, encrypted when at rest and in transit, and developers are highly trained in data security, all in an effort to safeguard student information and help propel the use of Texthelp tools forward.

The Future of Texthelp

In April 2017, the company plans to launch education support tools focused on serving students in math and science learning and comprehension with its new EquatIO™ product. This new Chrome extension helps to take the pain out of creating digital equations, formulas, graphs, and math quizzes. It also calls upon the principles of universal design learning by digitizing math concepts and giving students a way to engage with the material in the way that works best for them. The extension offers a way for students to achieve the same improved outcomes delivered through Texthelp’s other support tools in different areas of study, pushing forward the mission of the company. In addition to rolling out EquatIO, McKay shares his excitement about the future of Texthelp, stating, “The tools we have developed and are developing are truly different; and they are easy for students and educators to deploy and use quickly.” In the upcoming months, Texthelp is also planning to continue localizing its services, offering different languages for its software and continuing to push the envelope of education technology for all students.

Company
Texthelp

Headquarters
Woburn, MA

Management
Martin McKay, CTO & Founder

Description
Creates smart, easy-to-use support technologies that enable students and adults to read and write with confidence and independence

Texthelp