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.
Text that can be read aloud is invaluable for many learners who face challenges with reading. So, it’s helpful to be able to turn hard copy into digital text. Here’s an Android app that not only “scans” hard copy, it also reads the scanned text aloud. At $5.11 (Canadian), this app is what I consider a “low cost” solution for anyone who needs it.
scanthing is an Android app that uses the built in camera on an Android phone or tablet to “scan” pages of text. The scanned image is uploaded to scanthing‘s OCR server, which creates digital text. scanthing also provides text-to-speech for anyone who needs it. It’s worth noting that scanthing can import an image scanned elsewhere.
I tested scanthing with the Asus Transformer Prime and its 8 megapixel camera. The result was perfect digital text that could be read aloud without any problem. The only potential frustration might be the lag between scanning an image and obtaining the digital text. The delay is understandable because the OCR happens online “in the cloud”, but no one should expect instant results. It is also important to know that the original formatting of the scanned page is not retained.
Here’s a video demonstration of scanthing on a phone.
There are so many free options available for reading digital text aloud that it’s impossible to keep track of them all. I’ve written about many here. Some, such as Speak Selection in iOS, work only on specific devices. Others are far more versatile. I first wrote about Free Natural Reader more than 4 years ago. Since then, because of its versatility, it has become the free text-to-speech application I recommend most often for anyone who needs text read aloud on a laptop or desktop computer.
Free Natural Readeris available for Windows and Mac. Once installed, it can be used for reading text aloud almost anywhere–in a word processor, on web pages, in email programs, etc. There are three ways to use Natural Reader. First, by copying and pasting text into a text box, with a floating tool bar, or via a keyboard shortcut.
Here’s a video from the Pacer Centerthat does a good job of demonstrating what you can do with the free version of Natural Reader. There is just one omission in the video that I think is important. You can also read selected text by holding down the Control key and hitting F9.