I don’t think learners can have too many options when it comes to sharing what they think, or showing what they know. Here’s an option that I think is well worth considering.
SlideTalkis a service where you upload either sets of images, or complete PowerPoint presentations. Once uploaded, SlideTalk adds narration via high quality text to speech that can be customized for pronunciation, reading rate, voice timbre and more. There are at least 17 languages available, and multiple voices are available for most languages. You can even change voices or languages within a presentation.
Once a video is produced, it is automatically published to Youtube. SlideTalk’s free service offers up to 6 “slidetalks”. There is supposed to be a limit of 12 slides for slidetalks created with a free account, but I was able to publish one with more.
Recently, Gary Bishop has beautifully updated the Tar Heel Reader site. I’ll be writing more about that here soon. I’ve used two stories from Tar Heel Reader, downloaded as PowerPoint files, to try with SlideTalk. This worked extremely well, and these are embedded below as Youtube videos. At the bottom of the post, is a video from SlideTalk that explains the service.
I wrote about Talktyper last July. It remains my preferred option for using voice to create text in Google Chrome. The one drawback has been the advertising on the site. Quite often this has been inappropriate for use with school age learners. Today, my colleague Lisa McKenna shared a solution that works perfectly to completely eliminate the ads on Talktyper.com!
Adblocker Plus is available in the Chrome Web Store as an extension for Google Chrome. Once added to Chrome, none of the offending advertising shows up on Talktyper.com. It works like magic. Now I have no hesitation in recommending Talktyper wholeheartedly. Please check out my detailed post about Talktyper for my reasons. The most important factor is the convenient text-to-speech option that is available for anyone who needs help with reading as well as written output.
The convergence of mainstream technology and what we have typically referred to as assistive or adaptive technology is gaining momentum rapidly. Voice recognition is one obvious example. Voice-to-text and voice commands are mainstream to the point of becoming almost ubiquitous. It is much the same with text-to-speech. Today, I want to draw attention to yet another option for reading online content aloud that is readily available to everyone.
Select and Speak is a free extension for Google Chrome that provides high quality text to speech for any selected online text. Once installed, and text has been selected, there are three ways of having the text read aloud. You can click on an icon in the extensions toolbar, or right-click and use the context menu. Alternatively, you can use a customizable keyboard shortcut. This shortcut is ctrl + shift + s by default.
Select and Speak is available for multiple languages in high quality male and female voices. For English, there are options for Australian, Canadian, US, and UK accents.
At church on Sunday, I was approached by a woman who’d been told I was “good with computers”. She was in distress because she’s no longer able to do any word processing. Her new computer has a version of MS Word that makes absolutely no sense to her. Sadly, Microsoft’s ribbon interface is problematic for many who have learned to use the standard menu structure. (File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, etc.)
Fortunately, there are great free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Later this week, I’ll visit my new friend and help her install either Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice. She should never need to use Microsoft Word again. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are complete office suites with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation programs, and more. Programs are organized around the universally recognized menu structure. Files created in both are fully compatible with MS Office and most other productivity software. Recently, I’ve discovered that free built-in text-to-speech is also available for both OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
Read Text is a an extension that can be added to OpenOffice or LibreOffice to provide text to speech. Once installed, Read Text will read aloud selected text in any of the programs of OpenOffice or LibreOffice. This is especially valuable for someone who needs to work when not connected to the Internet. It’s also a cross platform option because both productivity suites are free downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Once LibreOffice or OpenOffice are installed, it’s not difficult to add the ReadText extension. Here’s a detailed set of instructions for adding extensions to LibreOffice. The process for OpenOffice is similar. The Read Text icon for reading text can be placed wherever you wish on a program’s toolbar, as shown below in ‘Writer‘, the word processor for Libre Office.
Note: When first using Read Text, a settings dialog box will open. This will continue to open each time Read Text is used unless you check the box that keeps this from happening.
Here’s a free iPad app that has achieved near perfection. You can now use the iPad camera, even the camera on an iPad 2, to photograph text and import it as editable text into PaperPort Notes. If the imported text retained the formatting of the original page, I think I’d call the app perfect.
PaperPort Noteswas already one of the most versatile and polished iOS apps available for supporting written output.
Text can be entered with keyboard, via voice-to-text, or with stylus. As well, audio recordings can be attached to notes.
Notes can be written on yellow or white lined pages, on blank white pages, or on “graph paper”.
PDF files, can be imported from almost anywhere–PaperPort Anywhere (dedicated free cloud storage), Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder, Files/Snapshots from the Web, the iPad’s Clipboard, camera images.
Text boxes and sticky notes can be added to notes and imported files.
Multi-color highlighting is available.
Work created or modified in PaperPort Notes can be shared in PaperPort Anywhere, by Email, Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder (with audio attached to PDF). Or PaperPort Notes can be opened in many other apps on the iPad.
Now you can use the iPad’s camera to capture text, then the text can be imported into PaperPort Notes as editable text. With ‘Speak Selection’, this text can even be read aloud. Alternatively, you can import images of text that are stored on the iPad. You need to sign up for a free account with the OCR engine, but once the account is set up, it could hardly be easier to import converted images of text.
To import an image of converted text, simply click on the ‘Image to Text’ button. Then follow the prompts on the screen that opens. After processing, the imported text appears on the panel at the right. If desired, the text can be edited before inserting into your note.