Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Free Text to Speech Tools for Schools

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.

Loopster - An Online Video Editor

WeVideo has been my go-to online video editor for the last year. Recently, I gave Loopster a try and while it doesn't have as many options as WeVideo it makes up for it in ease of use.

To start creating a video on Loopster upload video clips, audio clips, and images to your Loopster account. If you don't have any sounds to use, Loopster has a small library that you can access. After your media is uploaded you drag and drop it to the Loopster track editor. There you can rearrange elements and adjust their play lengths. Watch the video below to learn more about Loopster.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for an easy-to-use video editor for your students that offers more than Animoto, but isn't as complicated as full-fledged video editors, Loopster could be what you're after.

How to Protect Your Eyes from Computer Screens

Image Source: Theen
A few weeks ago The Atlantic had a story about the Vision Council's recent report on digital eye strain. The sixteen page report (link opens as PDF) includes a couple of graphics that show you how you can reduce the strain on your eyes when working on your computer or smartphone. I've inserted the graphics below. To get the full size version of the graphics you will have to download the PDF.

Two Handy Speech to Text Tools

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 Speech Recognizer app available for free through the Chrome Web Store. To use the Chrome 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.

Online Dictation 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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Realtime Board - Collaborative Online Brainstorming

Realtime Board is a new online tool for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board provides a blank grid on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board.

RealtimeBoard (Eng) from RealtimeBoard on Vimeo.

You can use Realtime Board by creating an account on the site. You can also use Realtime Board by signing in with your Google or Facebook account. 

Applications for Education
Realtime Board could be a great tool for students to use to work together to generate mind maps or to plan a project.