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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Speech to Text and Text to Speech In Your Web Browser

Speech recognition software can be very pricey, but adding a speech recognition option to your computer doesn't have to be expensive. Here are two free speech to text tools to try.

In Google Chrome you can use the Dictanote Speech Recognizer app available for free through the Chrome Web Store. To use the Dictanote Speech Recognizer just install it from the Chrome Web Store, launch it, then click the microphone to start taking and recording your voice. The Speech Recognizer will type out your text when you finish recording. You can then copy and paste your text to the paragraph box below the Speech Recognizer or to a document you have open in Google Docs.

Dictation.io is a free site that will transcribe your speech for you. To use the site just visit it, click on the microphone icon, and start talking. If the transcription inserts the wrong word (for example it inserted "number" instead of "mumble" when I tried it) just click on that word to replace it. You can copy the transcript and paste it anywhere you like.

Text to speech tools can make the web more accessible to some students. These three free tools can be helpful to students who need a little support when reading articles on the web.

Speak It is a Google Chrome extension that enables you to have the text on most webpages read to you. With Speak It installed just highlight the text on a the page you're viewing then right-click to activate Speak It. Then click the play button to have the text read to you. The voice is very digitized, but it is clear. Installing Speak It takes just a few seconds. To install it go to Speak It's page in the Chrome Web Store and click the install button. Restarting your browser is not required in order to activate Speak It. If you decide that you don't want to use Speak It any longer you can uninstall it by right-clicking on the Speak It icon in your browser and selecting uninstall.

Announcify is a free text to speech application that is available as a Chrome browser extension and as an Android app. With Announcify installed in your browser any time you're viewing a webpage you can simply click on the Announcify icon in your browser and have that page read to you. A bonus aspect of using Announcify is that in order to make a webpage easier to read it enlarges the text of the webpage and removes all sidebar content.

Select and Speak is a simple text to speech Chrome browser extension. Select and Speak installs with just one click and does not require a browser re-start. Once Select and Speak is installed just highlight any text on a webpage, click the Select and Speak icon in your browser, and listen to the reading of the text.

How Maple Syrup Is Made

Although the -10F temperature at my house this morning doesn't indicate it, the official start of spring isn't too far away. And for me that means that before too long some of my neighbors will have their maple syrup collection equipment in place. I love maple syrup and I bet that many of your students do too. But do they know how it's made? Learning about the process of creating maple syrup can make for a nice elementary school science lesson. Here are a few resources that you might incorporate into a lesson on making maple syrup.

Maple Syrup the Modern Way is a three minute video about the process commercial producers use to make syrup.


Pure Canada Maple has a nice little graphic illustrating the maple syrup production process.

And Visit Maine has a little promo video about Maple Syrup Sunday. The video includes some information about the process.

Search Multiple Video Providers With One Click

The next time you're searching for a movie or television show that you want to show in school or watch at home, try Watchily to search multiple video providers in one place.

Watchily is a search engine that pulls results from popular movie and television show providers. Enter your search in Watchily and get results from Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, HBOGo, iTunes, Amazon, MaxGo, Comcast XFINITY, Redbox, and Showtime Anytime. Watchily results can be refined according to movie/ television content rating, price, duration of video, genre, and hosting service.

Applications for Education
Watchily is not going to change the way we teach or the way that students learn, but it could save you time the next time you're looking for a video that you want to use in your classroom.

Try These Word Cloud Tools to Help Students Analyze Writing

Using word clouds can be a good way to help students analyze documents. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document. Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings. Here are some good tools your students can use to create word clouds.

TagCrowd
 offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude common words like "the" are automatically ignored. TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

ABCya! offers a beautiful word cloud generator. Like all word cloud generators you simply copy and paste chunks of text into the text box to have a word cloud created. Common words like "the" are automatically excluded from your word clouds. You can edit the font style, adjust color schemes, and flip the layout of your word clouds on the ABCya! Word Cloud Generator. The one shortcoming of the tool is that it doesn't provide embed codes. You can download and or print your word clouds. ABCya recently released an iPad app for creating word clouds too.

Tagul is a free word cloud generator that offers the option to link every word in your word cloud to a Google search. Click on any word in your word cloud to be taken directly to a Google search results page for that word. Tagul creates a word cloud from text you copy into your Tagul account. Tagul will also generate a word cloud from any url you specify. Just as you can with other word cloud generators, Tagul allows you to specify words to ignore in creating your word clouds. Once your word cloud is created Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog or website.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a url from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

Wordle is regarded by some as the "original" online word cloud generator. Wordle provides many options for color, shapes, and fonts for displaying your word clouds.

Disclosure: ABCya! gives me money for groceries and dog food every month. Actually, they give me money for advertising. 

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