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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.

How Text-To-Speech Improves Commerce

For people who make their living with words, and for businesses who want to really communicate with their customers, Text-to-Speech technology is a fantastic tool.

Writers, bloggers, editors and content producers are discovering that Text-to-Speech makes proofreading and editing faster and much more accurate. Hearing copy read aloud makes it easy to identify grammatical and spelling mistakes.

All commerce to a greater or lesser extent now takes place online. Digital communication on various appliances is ubiquitous and it’s not going to change. Historically, web content providers have been limited to read-only, text-based offerings. Recently more dynamic approaches have been possible with the wide-spread use of video and interactive media. With the addition of text-to-speech technology, anyone with learning or reading-related disabilities are able to enjoy a more satisfying experience. Frustration and alienation are eliminated by adding Text-to-Speech to an application. Businesses can differentiate themselves from the competition by offering consumable content for every user.

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It is always a good thing to give your customers choices. Some consumers may want to read content, others may prefer to listen to content, and some will want to do both. Giving customers the freedom to choose how they learn about and interact with a business by adding TTS functionality to an application is a win-win for all.

Because until recently there has not been a way to capitalize on the power of the spoken word on a large scale in the digital realm, the power and benefits of listening has been overlooked.

Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world. (Cuban proverb)

Most people will agree that there is a significant difference between “listening” and “hearing.” In general, hearing seems effortless and automatic and listening feels intentional and selective. Businesses can use these differences to improve their relationships with their clients and to spread their messages widely. Offering TTS technology as part of digital outreach and social media marketing makes good business sense.

Planning and organization are essential features of listening, and planning and organizing are fundamental to commerce. A well-informed consumer makes a satisfied customer. Effective communication skills benefit everyone, in every milieu. Whether communication involves class discussion, comparison shopping, lecturing in the classroom, dialogues with colleagues and students, or networking in conference receptions, the ability to listen strategically is essential.

How Text-to-Speech Software Facilitates Learning

In a nutshell, Text-to-Speech software takes written text and transforms it into speech. This technology offers several benefits to consumers, businesses, publishers, personal users and educational, and social institutions. This next-generation communications technology can expand learning and financial opportunities in many ways.

Digital publishers can offer their clients an easy way to access information and leisure. After a long day at work, having a way to relax and listen to the latest news, gossip, and trends without having to read a word is very appealing and gives digital publishers another edge over print.

For educators, the sky is the limit, and the ability to teach languages using text-to-speech is very exciting. An essential element of learning a new language is to hear the sounds, words and sentence flow of that language. Text-to-Speech allows one to see how a word is written in a different language and simultaneously hear how that word is pronounced. Add to this the freedom to learn at-will, without being bound to class times or tutor schedules is a big plus. Text-to-Speech software can be applied to many online course materials and print publications.

Text-to-Speech technology enables non-traditional learners and students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, to excel. TTS eliminates the stress of having to rely solely on visual cues to absorb information. On the same theme, TTS is beneficial for people who have difficulty pronouncing words. Speed and volume can be adjusted to meet the needs of the user. People with physical disabilities can get great benefit from TTS technology too, enabling someone who is mute to communicate. Because TTS can be used on many devices it is accessible at all times of the day and in most situations.

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Text-to-Speech can also be used to help people with a variety physical disabilities.

Perhaps the most recognized and famous person to use TTS is Stephen Hawking, who is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author. Dr. Hawking has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and uses TTS to communicate his brilliant ideas.
Text-to-Speech has been shown to improve reading comprehension and speed. TTS helps with pronunciation, and it can also be used to improve and make editing and proof-reading more accurate. TTS can help identify spelling and grammar issues in a written body of text. When text is read aloud it is much easier to know whether or not a sentence is too long, the cadence is off, or even whether a word has been spelled incorrectly or not.

Students and other learners who use TTS often have improved reading compression, accuracy, and the ability to recall information accurately. When people use as many of the 5 senses as possible when learning, absorbing information and being able to recall that information at a later date is greatly improved.

Text-to-Speech Applications: Benefits and Uses

Text-to-speech systems, also known as TTS, were first developed to aid the visually impaired by offering a computer-generated spoken voice that would “read” text to the user.

TTS software in general is considered an assistive technology tool that can be used in many ways. Another early application of this technology was to help people who have trouble reading. The amendment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004 compelled educational institutions to seek out technology to assist in fulfilling this mandate. The IDEA is a federal law ensuring educational services to children with disabilities throughout the United States.

TTS allows users to see text and hear it read aloud simultaneously. There are many apps available, but typically as text appears on the screen, it’s spoken. Some software uses a computer-generated voice and others use a recorded human voice. Very often the user has a choice of gender and accent as well.

Tablets and smartphones usually have built-in text-to-speech features. The software reads text files, and the names of programs or folders when pointed at on the screen and can read certain web pages aloud.

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Text-to-speech tools are often used with optical character recognition (OCR). OCR is a technology that scans printed material into a computer or handheld unit and converts it to digital text. There are also portable OCR devices available. These are called reading pens, and they can scan and read back text. Most digital devices include apps that read digital books.

While text to speech has benefits for all users, some specific groups benefit more than others.

People with learning disabilities who have difficulty reading large amounts of text due to dyslexia or other problems really benefit from TTS, offering them an easier option for experiencing website content.

 

People who have literacy issues and those trying to learn another language often get frustrated trying to browse the internet because so much text is confusing. Many people have difficulty reading fluently in a second language even though they may be able to read content with a basic understanding. TTS technology allows them to understand information in a way that makes content easier to retain.

 

TTS allows people to enjoy , and also provides an option for content consumption on the go, taking content away from the computer screen and into any environment that’s convenient for the consumer. For people with visual impairment, text to speech can be a very useful tool as well. For those who access content on mobile devices, reading a great deal of content on a small screen is not always easy. Having text-to-speech software doing the work is much easier. It allows people to get the information they want without the inconvenience of a lot of scrolling.

 

TTS offers many benefits for content owners and publishers as well. This feature immediately increase the accessibility of online content for those with visual impairments or reading difficulties and it facilitates access for a larger percentage of the online population, including those whose native language is different from the language of a particular website or mobile app.

 

Text-to-Speech makes it easier in general for all people to access online content on mobile devices, increases citizen engagement and strengthens corporate social responsibility by ensuring that information is available in both written and audio format.

Content Curation is Here to Stay. Publishers Must Embrace It

Content curation is basically the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest. Services, including curating apps or people that implement content curation are called curators. Curation services can be used by businesses as well as end users.

Content curation is often confused with, but is very different from content marketing. Content marketing often includes the use of original information designed to target a specific market or demographic. Content curation doesn’t include creating new content; it is the act of discovering, compiling and sharing existing content with current online followers.

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Curating apps compile, carry and disseminate various content including articles, blog posts, journals, images and videos from all types of websites and information services.

Content curation as a means of information sharing is here to stay. The question is, are content curation platforms good or bad for publishers?

Content curation platforms have changed the publishing industry, including the legacy print publishers and have helped in many ways. One of the most immediately obvious and practical uses is that these apps save news companies the huge task of redesigning and configuring their websites for multiple platforms including smartphones and tablets.  Content curation apps are also powerful marketing tools for increasing readership and subscribers for digital publishers by implementing a controlled, targeted approach for specific audiences.

The majority of the most popular curation applications allow the user many options including the freedom to choose which publications get to their newsfeed or publisher list, and what kind of articles from any given publisher they get. The key is personalization and a reading experience that is customized to the reader’s preferences.

For digital publishers content curation is beneficial in a few ways. For small or niche publishers who do not have deep advertiser support through their websites, partnering with a content curator can save time and money, and for bigger publishers the appeal of content curating apps is the opportunity to expand readership by tapping into the apps existing audiences.

Many digital publishers rely on subscriptions for revenue, so they still need native and web apps as part of their online presence, but the unique ability of content curation apps to push a specific content set to a precisely defined audience is another opportunity for them to boost their digital presence and increase audience and revenue.

Apple’s Conundrum

The recent request by the FBI for Apple to assist in the unlocking and access to an iPhone belonging to a suspected domestic terrorist has created a lot of interest and opinions among pundits, lawmakers and technology providers. The basic debate is about digital privacy and the obligation that companies do or do not have to modify their proprietary products for the so-called “public good”.

The US Government’s request to Apple to create software to bypass the iPhone’s security capabilities, in effect weakening the very security protections that define Apple products, is a big deal. Protecting the American public from terrorism is a very real and difficult task, made more so by the very technology at the center of this debate, but the solutions are not clear-cut.

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As society increasingly relies on digital platforms for commerce and communication, economic growth depends more and more on the inherent trust that we put in modern technology and the institutions that provide it. The growth of the world economy and social advancement to a great degree is directly connected to the trust we have in our technological processes to ensure that our data is safe. Safe from criminals and safe from prying eyes. We expect our technology to keep us secure.

When tech companies or the government does things to break this trust, there is a domino effect and all systems and tools become suspect. This case will precedents for the foreseeable future. The intentional weakening of protections created to guard our personal privacy opens Pandora’s Box.

This is an incredibly complex topic. That the government wants Apple to write code (in effect creating a new product) in order to undermine an existing product is troubling in and of itself. Where will the line be drawn regarding a company’s ability to create or not create new product? Is that not the basis for free enterprise? What social obligations do large technology companies have to serve and protect the public?

What Do Digital Magazine Readers Want?

In a nutshell, no matter what medium they get their news and information from, readers basically want simplicity, and quality. They want good stories, reliable information, entertainment, and access to editorial content across a range of devices and channels. They want value, they want speed of delivery and they want consistency. Digital publications must be accessible, easy to locate, easy to use and share, and easy to purchase from all sorts of places. The ability to interact with content including buying products on the page is also becoming standard.

Digital magazine edition providers are beginning to add features that should start accelerating circulation growth. Magazine publishers are adding news feeds to their apps, which gives readers a reason to return on a daily basis, if not more. Providing more value will keep the coveted eyeballs coming back for more, and sticking. The “freemium” model that attracts users with a limited free service and then enticed them into the full paid service is one way for digital publishers to increase market share.

In digital publishing it really is a numbers game. Subscription growth and digital ad revenue are key factors for most digital magazine publishers. Their business models depend on it. The current markers of success are engagement and dwell time. Both of these indicators are key factors in showing if a reader is enjoying a product.

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Another model that is gaining traction is personalized article delivery. In general this is touted as giving the reader a magazine-style experience based on their personal tastes and reading habits. The music industry has been using this model successfully for some time now. This model is more labor-intensive, requiring premium content and human curation.

To date much more marketing effort has been put into e-books than into digital magazine editions, for example. The music industry has had to reinvent itself in recent years, and is proof that positive growth can happen with the right amount and type of marketing.  There are so many wonderful digital edition magazines that haven’t been marketed enough. People just can’t find them. They must be promoted aggressively, and in the right places. Loud, consistent, clear and precise marketing messages, and most importantly – targeted to the right people, are the keys to success.

This has been said many times before but bears repeating – Knowing Your Reader is Vitally Important.  Integrating the right analytics and understanding what the reader is saying is imperative. Listening to the audience is number one, and providing a personalized experience in return for loyalty is now becoming a must-have feature. Tailoring products for various situations and audiences make the customer relationship a personal one, and creates customer loyalty.

Heading into 2016, it is apparent that the digital marketplace will continue to evolve on an on-going  basis, and marketing and subscription plans that are put in place one month can be out of date the next. By focusing on and reacting to the audience and what they want, digital publishers will continue to develop and thrive.

Looking Back on the Trends of 2015

As 2015 ends and 2016 begins, it has become a habit to look back on what has been a busy year in the digital media industry and try to predict what will happen in the not-too-distant future.

Ad-blocking, the use of analytics, social content and sharing, sponsored content (“advertorials”), immersive, interactive customer experiences, and the increased sale and usage of phablets (smartphones with larger screens) have all been notable trends in digital publishing in 2015 and they continue to develop.

Parse.ly (www.parsely.com), a company that specializes in audience analytics, conducted a year-end poll among hundreds of digital publishers worldwide to identify the most notable trends of 2015.

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According to the survey results which are illustrated in this chart, mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic for many publishers. This is far and away the most noteworthy development in 2015. When you consider that a mere ten years ago cell phones were novelties and smartphones didn’t exist, the pace at which mobile content caught up with and finally surpassed desktop content is amazing.

We will watch developments in 2016 with great interest!

Infographic: The Biggest Trends in Digital Media in 2015  | Statista

Digital Advertising

Online advertising is a relatively new, complex format, and it is continually changing and adapting to the needs of industry. The new formats and capabilities inherent in the digital realm is opening up a huge opportunity for publishers and content providers to make a significant contribution to this new protocol. As innovation in advertising technology continues to evolve, the old, tried-and-true approaches of the past no longer work.
The companies that were first to understand and implement the new methods are reaping the rewards, and they get to influence the direction of the industry. Advertising has always been by far the primary revenue generator for the publishing industry, especially for the legacy print publishers, but also in the digital arena. Advertisers have always both driven revenue and influenced consumer behavior; their tools are just different now.

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The big push-back against spam and disruptive, low-value online advertising created a surge of gatekeeper products and ad blockers have become ubiquitous, but they might be doing more harm than good at this point. Publishers need advertisers; they just need good quality advertisers, and the trend seems to be that ad blocking companies are beginning to be proactive and promote valuable ads while at the same time filtering out bad content. Advertisers are always looking for new ways to create deeply engaging experiences for consumers.
Content-driven marketing campaigns are still evolving, and native advertising which is de facto the print version of infomercials, is still big business. According to some industry forecasts, native ad spending will most likely increase from just over $3 billion in 2014 to almost $9 billion by 2018 in the United States. Native ads take many forms, including blog articles and infographics. They are usually identified as sponsored content so the line between information and advertisement is clear.
Advertising and marketing have until recently been two very different things. Advertising gives you the information, and marketing invites you to seek out the information. The enormous amount of data available to industry through analytics and CRM is beginning to integrate the two models. A good ad is obvious to all who see it, but the challenge right now is getting the right eyeballs to see the right advertising at the right time. Technology is enabling marketers to engage audiences in so many new ways. The big questions now are where do consumers engage with technology, what does are an interactive experience look like, and how can target audiences be reached.
The most exciting aspect of the internet as a whole is that it is interactive, and that very trait opens up so many opportunities for advertisers. No longer are publishers dependent on someone reading a hard copy of a magazine and taking the initiative to reach out to advertisements that pique their interest. With digital publishing the truly interactive experience is at hand. How much easier is it to click on a link in real time while reading an ad! The emergence of live-streaming video takes interactivity to a whole new level, and it is one new component that is making advertising and marketing proactive as well as reactive, and the customer becomes a big part of the process.
Online and digital advertising is just getting started.