Text-to-speech – Dyslexia & Reading Secondary Day

I had the pleasure today of talking to a group of secondary Support for Learning teachers who were attending a course on Dyslexia and Reading with Dr. Margaret Crombie.

I arrived late and in a panic as I’d suffered severe computer failure just an hour before heading over to the venue. Armed with a replacement computer and tightly crossed fingers I demonstrated some software and talked around a few of the issues and possibilities open to teachers. I was only scheduled to talk for 30-40 minutes but anyone who knows me………

Textease (part of the Softease Studio package in all our primaries) allows for text-to-speech output with just a single click. Ideal for pupils who are struggling with decoding but who are motivated enough to try to ‘get inside’ a piece of text. Read more here.

Wordtalk – a free-to-education add-in for Microsoft Word that facilitates text-to-speech as well as allowing for the saving of text as audio (wav & MP3) files. With text files stored as small MP3s it’s easy for these files to be shared by file exchange, email, or onto MP3 players such as iPods. Read more about Wordtalk and download it here.

Alphasmart word processors – these useful tools are often used by pupils for writing but are great for scribes too. If notes, etc. are generated in digital format they can be easily transferred into text-to-speech enabled applications or saved as MP3s. Banks of useful core notes might usefully be stored this way to ease future pressure on readers and scribes.

Some Text-to-speech options – click here for more information.

I also talked about generating MP3s by recording audio files through Audacity software that can then be exchanged, added to Textease pages, transferred to MP3 players/iPods. This is a very simple process that only requires the free software and a suitable microphone.

Our FirstClass email system (Client version only – not web version) actually allows for the sending of voice messages (actually in WAV format) which offers, potentially at least, some school to home transfer options. Recording can either be made directly into the FC voice recorder or by attaching an MP3 or WAV file. You can download a short video of how to do this from my public web space folder – click here.

While Read Out Loud for PDFs has been around for some time it’s now included in the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader 8. Users can listen to any PDF file with the Read Out Loud option enabled. Get it here.

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About Alan Stewart

I'm a teacher who changed direction after teaching visually impaired pupils. I became interested in how technology could assist young people overcome or deal with various disabilities. I've, since, been an Education Support Officer, an ICT Training Support Officer, and have been Coordinator of Highland's Assistive Technology Support Service for the past 20 years. I'm also the proud father of two young boys (2003 & 2008). View all posts by Alan Stewart

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