For people with reading and writing difficulties, having text reinforced by hearing it read aloud can be very useful. Specialised programs have existed to do this for a long time, and in many cases are extremely helpful and highly appropriate and should be seriously considered, perhaps in consultation with professional advice where necessary.
WordTalk is a free text-to-speech plugin developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word (from Word 97 up to Word 2013). Siting neatly in your Microsoft Word toolbar it is highly configurable. It will speak the text of the document and will highlight it as it goes.
- Speaks the text of the Word document;
- Highlights the text as it goes;
- Choose to Speak the entire document, paragraph, sentence or just a word;
- Talking dictionary to help decide which word spelling is most appropriate;
- Adjust the highlight colours;
- Change the voice and the speed of the speech;
- Convert text to speech and save as a .wav or .mp3 file.
WordTalk was conceived and developed by Rod Macaulay of TASSC in Aberdeen, Scotland who later received a Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award for its development.
It was noted that:
- Children with Reading and writing difficulties often benefit from having text read aloud to them. In schools, this may be done by an assistant, but the use of assistants can be expensive, and their presence might be more usefully deployed elsewhere in the class.
- Nowadays, teachers are more and more frequently creating worksheets and other classroom materials using ICT, and Microsoft Word in particular, then printing them out and handing them to the class.
As ICT has become more frequently used in Education, a lot of research has been carried out investigating its effectiveness in assisting Learning. Here are some sources that you may find interesting.
- Access to Text using ICT for Students with Reading Difficulties
From CALL Scotland. This presentation summarises some of the legal requirements on Schools in Scotland in terms of providing access to education and explains various methods of accessing text in several forms.
- Text to Speech: Comparison of text to speech applications
From dyslexic.com. This article, provides a summary of products that can make a computer talk, known as Text-to-Speech applications (sometimes shortened to TTS applications).
- WordTalk: Enabling Access to Curriculum Resources for Students with Additional Support Needs