Monday, September 11, 2017

Text to Speech Chrome Extensions

I'm often asked what resources are available to students that will read text to them on the Internet. Since our school is a G Suite school and utilizes Chromebooks as a primary tech tool, I always turn to Chrome Extensions. Below you'll find a few of the text to speech extensions I've used. There are pros and cons to each extension, so try them out and decide for yourselves which one would work best for you and your students.

Highlight the text and either right click to select Read Aloud or click on the icon. The text will begin reading aloud. Once the reading has begun, clicking on the icon will bring up a screen where the text is highlighted as it is read. From here you can pause, go forward, or go back. Right click on the icon to customize voice, speed, volume, etc. Worked on all web pages and applications tested.
Not the most natural speech pattern, but overall easy to listen to.

Speak It!
Highlight the text and right click on the selected text then choose “SpeakIt!”. The text will be read aloud in whatever voice you have chosen. To customize the voice, speed, volume, etc. simply click on the icon in the Chrome navigation bar.
Does not work consistently with all web pages or applications. Customizations are fairly limited.

When you are on a web page and click the Announcify extension, the web page will reload in a simpler, cleaner format. Ads, comments, and such will be removed, leaving just the core content and images. You are not able to highlight the text you want, it always starts at the top and reads completely to the bottom. You can click on the forward and backward buttons (hidden menu on left side of screen) if you want it to skip ahead. The extension also blurs out all of the text except for the paragraph it is currently reading. You can right click on its icon and choose “Options” to adjust the speed, pitch, and voice (male, female, multiple nationalities).
Inability to select portions of text to be read (all or skip ahead), and does not work consistently with all web pages or applications.

Aside from the typical use for text to speech applications - reading assistance - consider the following ideas for classroom support.
  1. Improved listening fluency - many students who are proficient in reading do not have the same proficiency while listening. Practicing listening, in addition to reading the visual words, can enhance understanding via non-visual methods. 
  2. Non-English fluency - since many applications have voices that read in multiple languages and dialects, students can select text in the language they are studying and have it read to them to help with pronunciation, etc.
  3. Writing editing - teachers have long asked students to read their work aloud. Rather than having the student read the work (and self-correct errors without even realizing it), try having them use a text to speech tool to read their written work. It is more likely that students will hear errors when they are not the person reading the text.

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