Fast ForWord® is offered by Scientific Learning, a company dedicated to developing products that improve cognitive, language, and reading skills. More than 3 million learners have used the company’s software products. Scientific Learning was co-founded in 1996 by four renowned scientists: Drs. Michael Merzenich (professor emeritus, University of California, San Francisco), Paula Tallal (Salk Institute and University of California, San Diego), William Jenkins (formerly of Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center), and Steven Miller (formerly of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University). Their work spans the fields of education and neuroscience; brain plasticity; auditory, developmental language, and reading impairments; psychology; behavioral algorithms; and multimedia technology.
Fast ForWord® itself is an oral language and reading intervention program that addresses memory, attention, processing speed, and sequencing skills by using a 3-part model that includes foundational language and cognitive skill building, deliberate practice, and real-time corrective feedback. Fast ForWord® can be used as a Pre-K–12 intervention at-home or in a clinically supported environment. It is appropriate for students with reading deficits, dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, special education needs, as well as for English language learners and those on the autism spectrum.
The program uses specialized gamification strategies to encourage active participation in the computer-based training exercises, such as points earned and animations. As with other programs, it recalibrates, automatically adapting to individual skill levels and responses, adjusting the learner’s training content. The online program also includes embedded coaching and instructions to help students progress more quickly and effectively without teacher intervention, and offers daily progress reports for teachers and educators.
Reports are delivered through MySciLEARN, an online data analysis and reporting tool that tracks individual learner, classroom, school, and district level performance. Progress reports, including diagnostic and prescriptive information, offer specific intervention guidance as well as recommendations to maximize the impact of the intervention. MySciLEARN also offers future forecasting with insights into the potential effects Fast ForWord® can have on a school district’s performance in future timeframes beginning at one year.
Because of the automatic recalibration to level, a reporting feature that allows teachers to monitor progress, and the ability for trained coaches to work in conjunction with instructional staff, the program can be used inside or outside of school hours—during classroom time, computer labs or resource periods, before/after school programs, and during summer school. For school-based settings, the initial training will get teachers started, while the company recommends further on-site consulting with a Fast ForWord® Professional Customer Success Manager who can work with teachers and students on classroom implementation. Remote consulting sessions are also available.
Fast ForWord® products, now adopted in more than 40 countries, use breakthroughs in brain plasticity as well as patented, computer-enabled, digitally-enhanced sound (to slow sound down and amplify transitions from sound to sound), helping students discriminate sounds of speech. This trains the student’s brain to develop increased processing speed and reading skills. Speech verification technology offers corrective feedback and guided reading support to students as they read aloud. Research-proven techniques are built into each Fast ForWord® exercise and include: frequency and intensity of trials; adaptivity of the levels to students’ performance; simultaneous development of multiple skills; and timely motivation to develop the basic cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. The Fast ForWord® products develop these cognitive abilities in the context of oral language and reading skills that students need to succeed academically, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, syntax, grammar, and morphology. Research studies of students using Fast ForWord® showed gains in executive function, language, and reading skills. Two recently updated products, Fast ForWord® Foundations I and II, include improved exercise introductions, built-in coaching and explicit instructions, and increased adaptivity.
Fast ForWord® won the 2014-15 eSchool News “Readers’ Choice Awards” for top K-12 EdTech products. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, it was named a “Readers’ Choice Top 100 Product” by District Administration magazine for K-12 products that help school districts nationwide excel in areas such as technology, instruction, and assessment. The program also won the 2016 Gold Readers’ Choice Award from THE Journal, for “Best Intervention & Remediation Software.” In 2018, the program was recognized with the Best Homeschooling Resources & Curriculum Award from HowToHomeschool.net.
KEY STUDIES SUMMARY:
Two hundred eight students in a quasi-experimental study. The experimental group participated in training 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 4-8 weeks, averaging 24 days on the product. Test subjects showed significant improvements on Executive Function assessments. (Scientific Learning Corporation (2004). Improved Language and Early Reading Skills by Students who used Fast ForWord Middle & High School. Product Reports, 8(2): 1-4.) http://www.scilearn.com/sites/default/files/imported/alldocs/rsrch/sbr/30054ffwmhprodrpt.pdf
OTHER RESEARCH AVAILABLE:
Gaab, N., Gabrieli, J.D.E., Deutsch, G.K., Tallal, P., & Temple, E. (2007). Neural correlates of rapid auditory processing are disrupted in children with developmental dyslexia and ameliorated with training: an fMRI study. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 25, 295-310. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17943007
Rogowsky, B., Papamichalis, P., Villa, L., Heim, S., & Tallal, P. (2013). Neuroplasticity-Based Cognitive and Linguistic Skills Training Improves Reading and Writing Skills in College Students. Frontiers In Psychology, 4. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00137 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00137/full
Stevens, C., Fanning, J., Coch, D., Sanders, L., & Neville, H. (2008). Neural mechanisms of selective auditory attention are enhanced by computerized training: Electrophysiological evidence from language-impaired and typically developing children. Brain Research, 1205, 55-69. doi: 10.1016/j. brainres.2007.10.108 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2426951/
Scientific Learning Corporation. (2005). Improved cognitive and language skills by students in the Niagara Falls City School District who used Fast ForWord products. MAPS for Learning: Educator Reports, 9(33