Malcolm Bruce MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, launched Phoneme Machine 6 at BETT 2009, writes Sally McKeown. The software is part of the suite of programs developed by THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills), a very popular synthetic phonics system used by many schools.
The project is a joint scheme between THRASS (as part of its corporate social responsibility programme) and SMART Technologies.
The program will be free and can be downloaded from the THRASS website.
Phoneme Machine 6 uses Cued Speech, an international language tool which uses eight handshapes in four positions near the mouth to clarify lip-reading. In the program deaf pupils can see a video clip showing the movement of the lips – together with the cue which enables them to see which phoneme is being used. The software demonstrates all the 44 phonemes of English; the different spelling choices for each phoneme and how these combine into words. They will also be able to match this to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
The program was trialled at Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education and Cued Speech tutor, Cate Calder (pictured above with Malcolm Bruce), provided the Cued Speech for the videos. A pupil from the school, Zoe Aldred, showed how easy the system is to use. It is multisensory, using the visual and tactile skills of the deaf pupils and can improve understanding of phonics by up to 6 years after less than 100 hours of teaching.
Malcolm Bruce welcomed the development. He has a personal interest in deafness as he has a 32-year-old deaf daughter and felt that she could benefit from Phoneme Machine 6.