I’m on prac. We have been spending quite a lot of time this past week, researching, both in books and on the internet. While both have proven to be great sources of information, the designed learning experiences have highlighted the trouble some students are having with being able to locate appropriate information from within a daunting text.
After observing this and working through the articles slowly with individuals and pairs of students, my mentor teacher and I discussed using the text-to-speech capabilities that come with the Macintosh computers. Neither of us have had much to do with it, but I knew who to ask. One particular student, who has difficulty staying on task, is constantly playing with all the options he can find on his computer while we are supposed to be working. Finally, this mucking about has paid off.
This is what he taught me. If you have a Mac, this is how you can utilise the text to speech function.
Go to the apple icon, and choose ‘system preferences’
Go down to ‘systems’ and click on the ‘speech’ icon. It’s shaped like a microphone.
There are 2 tabs: ‘speech recognition’ and ‘text to speech’. Make sure you click on the second one.
‘System voice’ has a drop down bar which allows you to choose the voice you like best to listen to. In class we chose ‘show more voices’, and had a play with the novelty voices found there. We also discussed what would be an appropriate voice for listening to information in the classroom. We chose to listen to Alex, but there are a number of male and female voices to choose from. Apparently you can download more voices, but we did not get up to this. One with an Australian accent would be nice.
You can also change the speed at which the text is read; slow it down or speed it up, depending on your needs. This is done by sliding a button, like a volume control knob, below the tab where you choose your voice.
Now check the box that says “speak selected text when the key is pressed”. Click ‘set key’, and this allows you to set a key which will act as the trigger to read the speech. Something like command-something is good, so you don’t accidentally hit it. Press ‘OK’ to leave that area.
Now you can use it to listen to some information that you find with a google search (we used Chrome). You highlight the text and then press the key you have chosen, and voila! It speaks.
The highlight for me, was listening to a student’s a-ha! moment, when they realised that they did, in fact, know a particular word when they listened to it. While students still need to be able to read and comprehend text from sight, I felt that this was particularly helpful for a few students who were seemingly unable to find the relevant part of the text to answer their questions. Overall, a good tool to use.
Reading Mrs Poulter’s blog about UDL, I was struck by the Multiple means of representation, concerned partly with how we gather information. This is, indeed, one option which can be designed into lessons to ensure maximum participation and maximum success.