David Boulton
David Boulton is an inventor, entrepreneur, and pioneering educational researcher, specializing in elementary education and the teaching of reading.

He has founded five companies, been awarded four patents, and presented his research at hundreds of educational conferences.

Perhaps his greatest contributions have been two websites that are freely available knowledge bases for those interested in the state of the art in teaching reading.

The first was learningstewards.org, created in 2007. Its focus is learning in general and how we can improve it. Boulton strongly emphasizes the economic value of education.

This concept of "human capital" goes back to the 18th century and Adam Smith, who included in his definition of capital "the acquired and useful abilities of all the inhabitants or members of the society". It was popularized further in the 20th-century work of Gary Becker and others in the Chicago School of Economics.

Boulton's second website is childrenofthecode.org. There Boulton published interviews with dozens of leading figures in the field of teaching reading as he tries to define the state of the art and get beyond the divisive "reading wars" between theories of teaching reading and their powerful educational publishers.

Beyond the online website, the Children of the Code project has produced a three-hour Public Television documentary series, a ten-hour series of DVDs designed for teachers' professional development, and a series of teacher and parent presentations and seminars.

But Boulton's most valuable contributions to the teaching of reading may be his development of several interactive web tools embedded in his websites that demonstrate various phonetic rules, going far beyond talking or writing about those rules.

Boulton's clever tools enable teachers, and no doubt advancing readers, to see and hear how single-letter and multi-letter phonograms can have many alternative sounds, including the 44 or so sounds of English that cannot be represented with the 26 letters of the alphabet/

Conversely, the 44 sounds can be represented by more than one combinations of letters. These departures from the alphabetic principle of one letter-one sound are the bane of teaching the English language. Without them, English spelling could be 100% regular. The linguist Leonard Bloomfield estimated that English is already 80% regular.

Adding a few phonics rules, like the "silent-e," the l- and r-controlled vowels, the "two-vowels walking," the c or g before i or e, and others invented by several elementary school teachers over past decades, can increase regularity to 90%.

And in her 2011 book Understanding the Logic of English, Denise Eide has developed thirty-one phonics rules that make English spelling even more regular.

Adding 26 single letters to 49 multi-letter phonograms and her 31 phonics rules, Eide claims these 106 facts about the logic of English can make our language over 98 percent regular.

Instead of mastering these 106 facts and rules, Boulton's approach is to allow us to see and hear these facts in action. Given that every fluent reader has effectively internalized all these facts and rules, rewiring their brain neurons between the visual cortex, the auditory cortex, and the prefrontal cortex as Stanislas Dehaene has shown, we can perhaps design materials that would optimize the learning process, minimize the time needed to train the brain, and eliminate the pain and suffering of teachers and students?

If we do, Boulton's amazing online tools will be part of the training.

Perhaps his most dramatic tool is his dynamic Interactive Orthography. We have had phonetic alphabets, pronouncing dictionaries, spelling reforms, and orthographic reforms, but never anything like Boulton's colorful, almost musical orthography which uses font styles and colors, with letters raised, lowered, and rotated to indicate the pronunciation and stress/emphasis of every word on the children of the code website!

Here's an example. We clicked on the word understanding.

When we click on the graphic icon that he calls the WordExplore button (or just click again), Boulton opens pages with word definitions, synonyms, word roots, and access to his toolset Wordscape.

These are part of what Boulton calls his "online support net" with acronym OLSN. He writes...

Imagine how much easier and more effective online learning would be if the words themselves could teach readers to read and understand them. If, when readers encounter unfamiliar words, they could simply touch them and instantly receive whatever support they need. Imagine no further, try it. Every word on (his OLSN) page is its own help button.

But OLSN, featured on his learningstewards.org website, contains still more powerful tools. Here's a link to a two-minute animated demonstration of OLSN on You Tube. youtube.com/watch?v=gvqP2jIyIY0

If this is not enough for the work of a lone creative educator, Boulton tells us that OLSN is just the "ground floor layer" of a comprehensive system that is part instructor, part training wheels, and part safety net that he calls the Magic Ladder.

You can enter Boulton's Magic Ladder Library here.

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