"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are You Listening??

When was the last time you saw someone under the age of 30 walking down the street without wires coming from his/her ears?  I wouldn't have to go too far out on a limb to suggest that most of our students spend at least some of their after-school hours listening to some type of mp3 player.  Why not take advantage of the situation, and get them to listen to some of their homework?

There are loads of websites that will convert text to speech, quickly, easily and freely.  (Okay, I know I'll be getting points off for using freely incorrectly, but you see what I was going for, right?)  Try Yakitome.com for easy text to speech (mp3) conversion.  You will need to register, but the account is free.  Vozme.com is another good online choice.  This site does not require an account, and it offers a choice of six languages (including Spanish). You may prefer to download an application right to your desktop for easy access.  Try Type It Read It (also free).  This will require a little more effort to turn the sound file into an mp3, but this program definitely has its advantages over free online converters, including a variety of more natural sounding computer voices and adjustable reading speed.

There's even a search engine designed specifically for your audio learners.  Check out Qwiki.com.  Enter the topic, and press the forward arrow to search.  What you'll get is a narrated slide show of information.  Press the "Contents" tab at the top and see the text, as well as links to picture files and related searches.

Last, but certainly not least, if you work on a Mac computer, you can make your computer read text to you as well.  Here's how:
  • Go to System Preferences (in your Applications folder if it's not already on your dock).
  • Click on Speech, and then Text to Speech at the top right of the new screen.
  • Check the box that says "Speak selected text when the key is pressed".
  • Now click on Set Key, and type in whatever key or key combination you'd like. (In the lab we use Option+Apple (Command)+T) 
  • You can also choose your computer's voice from this screen too.
Now, any time you highlight text, and press the key(s) you've chosen for speech, your computer will read to you.  (Try opening Garage Band to create a podcast of what your computer is reading, download as an mp3, and listen repeatedly on your iPod!)  I'm finding myself relying on this method to check my work more and more frequently as I get older more quickly than I get wiser.  I think faster than I type, and consequently often miss words entirely when I try to write what I'm thinking. Thank goodness my friendly Mac reads exactly what's written so I can hear when something is missing or misspelled.  Wouldn't your students benefit from hearing their work read too?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the suggestions, but OMG! Gaah! I pressed the vozme button and it was awful! Go with the YAKiToMe.com website. It's voices are much better. They also support embedded audio. The voice quality is even better IMHO than the downloadable TTS software, and nothing to install. Like all the malware that comes with those other apps.