21 Things – Using Text-to-Speech in the  Classroom

Did you know your iPad can read to you? It can read Web pages, PDFs, texts, and other items without a special app. It can even read the entire screen.

The ability of your iPad to read to selected text and the entire screen are native features in iOS 8. To turn on the  features, open the setting and choose Accessibility under the General heading. Accessibility provides many options to make the iPad function easier for people with disabilities that make it difficult to use the iPad effectively. 

 One accessibility option is Speak Selection. Further down the menu, the voice (language, regular and high-quality) can be selected and the speaking rate can be adjusted. I suggest starting with the slowest speed and adjust the speed to match the user’s comfortability. 

When Speak Selection is turned on, the option ‘Speak’ will appear in the options list when text is highlighted. 

Highlighted Options
 Choosing the ‘Speak’ option will cause the text to be read. If you turned on the ‘Highlight Content’ function, the the words will be highlighted as they are read. This feature can be helpful with students who have reading difficulties come across a word or section of text that they are unfamiliar with or struggle to read. Combined with the define option, this option can provide a student with the pronunciation and definition. 
When the ‘Speak’ function is reading the text, the option to pause the reading is available, so the reading will stop if the user has to stop using the iPad.  


Highlighted Section Being Read by ‘Speak Selection’
The second option is the ‘Speak Screen’ function. It is below the ‘Speak Selection’ function in the General-> Accessibility–>Speak menu. When the speak screen option is on, the user swipes two fingers from the top of the screen and the ‘Speak Screen’ function begins reading the screen.  

‘Speak Screen’ while Reading Screen
 Notice you can move forward to the next paragraph or back  to the start of the paragraph by selecting the back or forward buttons. You can speed up the reading or slow down the reading by selecting the hare or the tortoise. Pause and stop are other options available when the ‘Speak Screen’ function is working. The left arrow minimizes the menu so the user can see all of the text being read.

The ‘Speak Selection’ and ‘Speak Screen’ functions provide opportunities for students with limited reading proficiency, students with vision impairments, and other students to engage with the iPad for learning. 

Specifically, Speak Selection can be used to:

  1. read back student typed papers so students are able to hear what they have written, so they can edit their own writing;
  2. read text to students who struggle with fluency, so they may comprehend what they are reading; and,
  3. read text to student/teacher whiile they are performing other tasks or the task described.

Do you have experience using ‘Speak Selection’ or ‘Speak Screen’ with students? If so, please share your successes and struggles in the comments. Or email me youur feedback at marc@marcdaly.com.