Archive for February, 2017

Text to Speech as an Educational Tool

When it first appeared in educational circles as a potential teaching tool, some felt that using text-to-speech educational technology to help struggling readers was sort of cheating. More like a crutch. Fortunately, as teaching methods evolve and technology becomes completely amalgamated in learning and teaching, TTS is becoming more common in today’s classrooms.

TTS, which is software that reads text aloud as students follow the highlighted text on the screen, is proving that not only is text to speech not a crutch, but it is indeed an invaluable tool to help students improve results and stay motivated.

Change is hard, but it makes perfect sense that any tools that allow students multiple visual and auditory options to learn is a good tool. Students must be able to learn in the manner which is most effective for them, and TTS frees the reader to focus on meaning, rather than on the act of reading, which encourages an understanding of concepts and facilitating dialogue and writing that might otherwise be difficult to attain.

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The positive effects that result when every student is enabled to learn in the way that is personally most effective cannot be understated. Assistive technology such as text to speech increases motivation and self-esteem, and facilitates independence by allowing the student to read what they choose, with the knowledge that they will have greater success in understand what they read. TTS can be the difference between a student keeping up in reading, writing and understanding grade-level content with the others in his or her class. Text to speech technology can be seen as an internal support system which can instill confidence and allow students to fully participate with their peers.

Traditional methods of teaching reading focus on developing the ability to decode and make the connection between sounds and letters. People learn in different ways, and this method is not effective for certain learners.  Decoding can be difficult and detract from understanding the actual content of what is being read. A big risk in these situations is that the student becomes frustrated and considers reading a chore. When this happens a love of reading is never developed and the person ceases to read much in later life.

Text To Speech in Special Education

Text-to-speech (TTS) is an assistive technology. Briefly, assistive technology (AT) is considered any device, piece of equipment or system that helps a person with a disability work around his or her challenges so he or she can learn, communicate and function more easily.

TTS is software that reads digital text aloud. It is sometimes referred to as “read aloud” technology. With just a click or touch, TTS turns words on a screen into audio. It is not surprising that this technology would be a great help for people who struggle with reading. In addition, TTS can help strengthen writing skills and improve focus and mindfulness.

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TTS works with almost all digital devices. Many types of text files and most web pages can be converted into audio with TTS software. The voice in TTS is computer-generated, and reading speed can be moderated – sped up or slowed down as needed, which is particularly important for teaching people with special needs. Many TTS tools highlight words as they are read aloud which allows learners to see the text and hear it at the same time. This creates a multisensory reading experience and removes a major obstacle to decoding reading and language comprehension.

Text to speech software has been shown to improve word recognition, increase attention span and increase comprehension compared to reading alone. This is in part because hearing the words while seeing them allows readers to focus on understanding instead of just sounding out words. TTS lets students use their abilities to work on areas of weakness.

It is important to understand that TTS can assist learning. It cannot replace good teaching or a well-designed curriculum. Technology can help a student gain confidence and work independently and it can help individuals set and meet goals, but it is only one tool in a broad range of teaching options. No software can make up for ineffective teaching, and learning and attention problems will not be cured by technology alone.