Here at #DigiWomen we are always excited to hear about women making waves in technology. #SheDIDIt is a collection of these stories which we hope will inspire other women to step forward and take pride in their contributions.
Would you like to share your #SheDIDIt story with us? Get in touch and let’s spread the word about women’s achievements in technology. If you are planning to attend Web Summit next week, we’ll be there too so visit us at our exhibition stand and share your story in person.
#Digiwomen: Patricia, tell us a little about your background.
Patricia Scanlon: I have a PhD in Speech technologies and until last year worked as an engineering research scientist in Bell Labs Ireland, Alcatel Lucent. My role in academia and industry over the past 17 years was applying speech technology and artificial intelligence to innovative products. In 2013 I founded MeowTek with the aim of applying state of the art technologies to educational products for kids.
#DigiWomen: Why did you choose to focus on educational products rather than, say, clinical products?
Patricia: Some time back I decided to teach my daughter to read using the synthetic phonics approach. My first task was to introduce her the phonic letter sounds. While there are many fantastic apps and web services that teach Phonics she often got confused between the subtle differences in some letter sounds when listening. I was surprised that none really demonstrate correct pronunciation using visual aids like lip, mouth and tongue movements.
#DigiWomen: Did your research into the available apps reveal anything else?
Patricia: Another surprising limitation of the available apps and software was that few apps encourage children to pronounce phonic sounds and words aloud. Even fewer were successful in encouraging this practice consistently. It is well known that active participation in a lesson really enforces learning and the ability to recall and is routinely used by teachers in the classroom.
“Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I will learn.” – Confucius
— Patricia Scanlon (@MeowTekEdu) October 21, 2014
#DigiWomen: How did you bring your research and experience together?
Patricia: I decided to use my background in audio and visual speech technologies to create novel apps to support the Phonics approach to reading. MeowTek’s first app ‘Phonics with Phonzy – practice letter sounds and words aloud!’ concentrates on introducing children to phonics or letter sounds in a fun an engaging manner. Phonzy, an engaging 3D character, demonstrates correct pronunciation both audibly and visually using detailed mouth, teeth and tongue movements. Phonzy encourages kids to practice their sounds and words aloud. Interlaced throughout their practice are engaging animations and fun interactions with Phonzy.
#DigiWomen: First app… I like it! So when does the app go live? What are your plans for Meowtek’s future?
Patricia: Phonics with Phonzy will be released to the app store in the next 2 weeks. In MeowTek we plan to continue making a series of novel education apps for children learning to read that will take kids from the basics of phonics right through the more advanced stages of learning to read.
#Digiwomen: Sounds like there’s a lot of exciting things happening?
Patricia: Yes! I have also recently secured significant funding to commercialise an adaptive learning platform for kids learning to read within the Learnovate Technology Centre in Trinity College Dublin . We will spin out a new company next year based on this commercialisation work. I am currently hiring for 2 key positions for this part of the project.