Friday, March 27, 2009

Read this for me! Quick tools for text-to-speech help

Do you have younger students who need to have things other than stories (like certain texts or class info) read to them? Do you have older students who still struggle with reading independently? Do you have students who need to have directions read to them?

Those of you who have ever experienced these situations in your classroom understand the frustration a teacher may face because ultimately, we can't be 10 places at once. As much as we may want to individualize our instruction, it's not possible to always do it to the extent we would like all the time.

Well - as you might expect - I'm going to tell you about a couple of tools that can help you out with this reading dilemma a little bit.

The first is an extremely simple online text reader called ItCanSay. Simply copy and paste the text you want aloud into the box and click the "read" button. A fairly boring sounding computer voice will read it in a surprisingly understandable way. You can even download it as an mp3 file with the click of a button. ItCanSay is a site created for English language learners, but I'm sure it's obvious it has many other applications. There is nothing fancy about the sight - and I've just described it's only bells and whistles. There some ads on the page for wrinkle removers, but if you don't like that, just download the mp3 file to your computer to avoid it.

The second option is another online text reader called Expressivo. Expressivo uses text-to-speech technology called Ivona Voice. You can actually choose different voices (male or female with different accents) that you want to read your text. Same thing as ItCanSay, but slightly nicer computer voice. For short pieces of text - up to 200 characters - Expressivo is free - just use section #1 and go no further. If you want it to do long pieces you have to purchase it.

Of course there are other options for text-to-speech that are fancier, but I found these two in particular to be about as simple as possible, and FREE.

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