Text-to-speech for students: enhancing the learning process
Text-to-speech technology is an assistive technology that converts text into audio, often highlighting sections of the text as they are being read.
Speech technology helps students with reading, the use of this technology in EduTech has been frowned upon in the past but it is slowly finding its place in education, especially to help students who struggle with learning disabilities.
Who does text-to-speech technology help?
The students who can benefit the most from TTS are those struggling with dyslexia or other diagnosed learning disabilities such as ADHD, as TTS allows them to see how words are spelled by reading them out loud. Some text-to-speech software like Read&Write and Penfriend even help students to write using word prediction features and phonetic spell checking.
These tools are not only useful to students with learning disabilities, but text-to-speech technology can also help students who commute and have limited time to read the assigned material as well as younger students who still struggle with reading or pronouncing new words.
There is also evidence that TTS can be a useful learning tool for children who suffer from autism as well as emotional disabilities.
TTS can be used on any device and can work on text files as well as web pages. It is becoming more and more common for parents of children who could benefit from text-to-speech to contact the school about allowing their use in class.
What makes text-to-speech technology so effective?
Studies have shown how text-to-speech technology allows students to focus on the content rather than on the act of reading, resulting in a better understanding of the material. This not only makes students more likely to retain information, but it also increases their confidence and motivation.
By making students more independent in their learning process, text-to-speech also makes it easier for teachers and parents to supervise their progress.
TTS helps improve word recognition and it makes students more likely to identify and fix their mistakes.
While some still maintain that audiobooks – or in general texts read by voice actors – are preferable to computer-generated voices, there is strong evidence supporting the claim that TTS can be an incredibly valuable tool for students of all ages.
The level of advancement reached by text-to-speech technology is enough that computer-generated voices can be engaging in ways that only a few years ago seemed unthinkable.
Today TTS technology can analyze the meaning of each word in a text before reading it, significantly changing the overall tone depending on what is being read.
Thanks to this progress text-to-speech has shown to be a great tool to maintain students engaged and focused on the text.
Types of text-to-speech tools
Nowadays, TTS is available on most devices – such as computers, smartphones, and tablets – and can help students read any digital text, including documents and web pages.
There are many text-to-speech tools available, but they can fit into four main types:
It is common for most devices to come with a built-in text-to-speech tool. Most smartphones, laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks feature this technology because it is very useful for a broad range of learners.
Web-based TTS tools
Websites can feature text-to-speech tools as well. When TTS is implemented on-site, it guarantees a broader accessibility to information resulting in a benefit for all users.
There are multiple apps that make text-to-speech available on any device if it is not a built-in tool. Some browsers, such as Chrome, also integrate TTS features.
TTS software programs
Literacy software programs are designed to foster the learning process by supporting students in developing their reading skills. Considering the goal, it makes sense for most of these softwares to present a text-to-speech feature. It is the case of the Reading Coach & Reading Progress tool, one of Microsoft’s Learning Accelerators designed to support students’ learning process.
Text-to-speech will not replace reading just like EduTech will not replace teachers, but it is a tool to be taken into consideration. Just like every other major technological progress in modern education, it makes information more accessible to students who would otherwise struggle to keep up with the rest of the class.
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