Thursday, February 28, 2013

Free Online Speed Reading Tool

I have blogged before about learning strategies for reading faster and speed reading, as well as optimal silent and oral reading rates--both of which have proven to be popular posts. In that light, I was recently introduced to a free online tool called Spreeder, developed by 7-Speed-Reading. The objective of this tool is to help improve reading speed and comprehension. This tool could be used to help students practice reading at a faster rate, helping them to avoid the sub-vocalization that often occurs in their reading which, in turn, slows reading down.

To use the tool, first, paste the text you'd like to "speed read" into the box.

Then, select from a drop-down menu the settings you'd like to use. Settings include the number of words you would like displayed on the screen at a time, words per minute, background color, etc.

When you click "start," the text will flash across the screen at the rate prescribed in the settings, allowing the reader to read the text at that designated reading rate.

If you want to try out this tool, copy and paste some text you would like to read from the internet into the Spreeder tool. Or, copy and paste the following reading passage about Mark Zuckerberg. (This passage originates in the Reading Horizons Reading Library, published by Reading Horizons, and it is used here with permission*.) Optimal silent and oral reading rates are provided in a previous blog post and can be accessed here.

Founded in February 2004, Facebook quickly became the world’s most popular social networking site. By February 2012, more than 845 million people across the globe had registered for free accounts and were actively logging onto the site each month. An estimated 42 percent of the population in the United States alone has registered for a Facebook account. Many people visit Facebook to share messages or photographs with both old and new friends. Others stop by merely to rate music or to play online games during slow periods at work. The brains behind it all belong to an entrepreneur named Mark Zuckerberg, whose innovative ideas made him a billionaire before age 30.

Mark was born May 14, 1984, in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He is the oldest of Edward and Karen Zuckerberg’s four children. He became interested in computers as a young boy. At age 12, he developed his first software program and called it “ZuckNet.” It was a messaging system that the Zuckerberg family used to communicate with each other around the house. Mark also developed a hobby that involved using drawings that his friends had made and turning them into new video games.

Within a few years, Mark’s parents enrolled him at Phillips Exeter Academy, a preparatory school in Exeter, New Hampshire. During his time at this school, he excelled in his literature studies. He learned to read and write in French, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, too. He was also captain of the school’s fencing team. Nevertheless, he remained primarily interested in working with computers. In his free time, he continued to work on new programs. One of Mark’s creations was called Synapse, a music software program that many major companies expressed an interest in buying. He was even offered a few high-paying jobs upon graduation from high school. But he declined these offers and instead went on to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Enrolling at Harvard in 2002, Mark soon gained a reputation among his classmates as a computer “whiz,” or genius. In his sophomore year, he created a program called CourseMatch. This was designed to help his classmates register for their courses based on the choices made by other users of the software. Additionally, Mark came up with a program called Facemash. It compared photographs of two students and allowed users to vote on which of the pair was the more attractive. Facemash was popular with Harvard students but was later deemed inappropriate and was shut down by school administrators.

His name now well known by almost everyone at Harvard, Mark was soon approached by three classmates. They had an idea. They wanted his help in creating a new social networking Web site which they called the Harvard Connection. It was meant to be a dating Web site for Harvard students. But Mark soon dropped out of the project. Instead, he worked on a different idea with his friends Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin. From Mark’s dorm room, they designed a Web site of their own. On it, users could create profiles, post pictures, and send messages to each other. They called it The Facebook.

At first, access to The Facebook was offered only to Harvard students and to those at other Ivy League schools. “The” was soon dropped from the site’s name. By then end of 2004, there were one million Facebook users. Mark dropped out of school to work on the site full-time. He moved its headquarters to Palo Alto, California. In 2005, the decision was made to offer membership to other colleges and to high schools. Before long, membership shot up to 5.5 million.

In 2006, Mark was sued by the three classmates who had originally asked him to help them develop the Harvard Connection. They claimed that, with Facebook, he had stolen their idea. The matter was dragged out in court for a number of years. But it was finally settled in 2011. In addition, author Ben Mezrich wrote a book called The Accidental Billionaires in 2009. It was highly critical of Mark’s methods and of the rise of Facebook. Mark argued that many of the book’s details were inaccurate. In 2010, the book was adapted into the film The Social Network. It received eight Academy Award nominations. It won three of them, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In spite of the challenges and the critics, Mark continued to improve and to add new features to Facebook. At the same time, the site continued to enjoy great success and to accumulate millions of new subscribers. In 2010, Time magazine named Mark its Person of the Year. That same year, Forbes magazine also ranked him at number 35 on its Forbes 400 list, which tracks the 400 richest people in the United States. At the time, his personal worth was estimated to be close to $7 billion.

Since he was fortunate enough to acquire such a sizeable fortune, Mark has made sure to involve himself in many charitable causes. In 2010, he donated an impressive sum of $100 million to the Newark Public Schools in New Jersey. In December of that same year, he signed the “Giving Pledge,” in which he promised to give away 50 percent of his personal wealth over the course of his lifetime.

*No part of this reading passage may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the expressed, written consent of Reading Horizons.


  1. This is really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Becki. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. A fantastic learning tool, not just for me, but also for my students. This is a fun, more interactive tool than the old finger along the page technique. Thank you for the recommendation.

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for visiting this post, Raoul!

  3. It is really an awesome post regarding learning.Great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. Thank you for sharing such a useful post.