LET STUDENTS HEAR TEXT READ OUTLOUD: TEXT-TO-SPEECH EXTENSIONS

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TEXT-TO-SPEECH tools have proven beneficial not only for learners with diverse needs for support including dyslexia, hearing or speech impairments, selective mutism or pronunciation difficulties.  TEXT-TO-SPEECH tools also support learners wanting to improve  their literacy skills engaging their auditory intelligence or those who describe themselves as auditory learners.

Yes, the voices might sound synthesized and, yes, there is no or very limited emotion in the text read out. However, I still think that we should focus on what can be achieved with these tools rather than complain about their limitations. There are plenty of TEXT-TO-SPEECH tools including desktop downloads or extensions. Some require hightlighting the text to be read or pasting into special boxes. But, is it possible to have the text read outlod while browsing the web? Have a look at the three:

INTELLIGENT SPEAKER 

It allows you to clip website you are on and play the content. Listen to the recording (fast-forward to 0.20 sec if in a hurry ):

Unfortunately, the basic program gives you only 1 hour of listening a month so, maybe, it would be a good idea for some learners to invest in a Premium version and get the following:

  • Human-like voice and real-life emotions, breathing (if you want)
  • Automatic text detection on web and local HTML
  • 20 available languages
  • Google Docs, upload txt, docx, pdf
  • Synthesized audio is downloadable
  • Ability to listen offline (when was added online – we cache it)
  • Speed range which suits everyone 1

More on how to use the extension here.

qimono / Pixabay

READ ALOUD

My favourite text-to-speech tool. It’s very simple but sometimes it is the simplicity that wins. It reads websites and documents in different formats (pdf, doc). Unfortunately, you can’t download an audio of your recording.

Listen to the recording.

More on ReadAloud here.

Finally, TALKIE extension.

qimono / Pixabay

You need to select the desired text first. The program is fast and simple. The voice is quite nice to listen to. It reads websites and pdfs and word docs. It doesn’t read Google docs though. For £15.99 a year you can have Talkie Premium which gives you far more options such as a range of voices, speed or pitch.

Listen to the recording:

More on Talkie basic here.

Let your students choose!

 

 

  1. This is footnote https://intelligent-speaker.com/

SCREENCASTIFY  FOR QUICK SCREEN RECORDING

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TOOLS FOR SCREEN RECORDING:

In the process of planning a class project on DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: DOs & DON’Ts which involved designing visuals (infographics, flyers, posters etc.), I decided that some of my students might benefit from more assistance/advice on which tools/programs to use and how to use them.

As time was (and always is) of the essence (15 minutes between my classes), I prepared very short video clips demonstrating quickly and without elaborate explanation, how to navigate inside these programs, using SCREENCASTIFY.  

 

Please, have a look at the three short video clips done in no more than 15 minutes. No special equipment, no need for installing desktop tools. Just a chrome extension. FREE VERSION of the program.

And finally, a screencast (at the bottom) of you actually can do inside screencastify.

You can:

  • share (see the image) on Youtube or G-Drive
  • download your clip
  • get a shareable link
  • embed to any blog/website etc.
  • edit
  • let others post comments

A short overview from https://www.screencastify.com

PDF splitter, merger, converter and ….. you name it :)

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IF YOU WANT TO EDIT PDF DOCUMENT

split, merge, convert word to pdf etc.

Excellent ONLINE  tools for editing pdf (splitting, merging, converting to word/jpg/ppt etc). I use them mainly for splitting pdf when I need specific pages of a document but the programs offer you many more features.

THE WINNER is (in my opinion 😊) https://smallpdf.com/

3dman_eu / Pixabay

My favourite tool.

the image taken from smallpdf.com

It’s proved to be very useful especially when I need just a specific page/pages. It does everything!!!!!! It features absolutely beautiful interface and  gives you a really good preview of the document so it’s easy to choose the pages. If you convert a pdf into word, it gives you a nice document almost identical to a pdf original. BUT! You’re limited to 2 DOCUMENTS PER HOUR. Or, if you want to be cheeky, you can use chrome for first to actions and then explorer or firefox. It really works!

ALTERNATIVES: 

If you don’t have access to other devices, you can use other programmes. They are FREE, almost as FRIENDLY  as smallpdf. And, they don’t have a lot of restrictions.

qimono / Pixabay

ILOVEPDF 

images taken from www.ilovepdf.com and https://www.iloveimg.com/

As it reads on the site, it gives you a full range of pdf tools. ” All are 100% FREE and easy to use! , split, compress, convert, rotate, unlock and watermark PDFs with just a few clicks”. When you merge a pdf, the preview is fantastic. The split preview is not as good though. Plus, you need to know the number of pages you want to split. And, surprise surprise, I found out today that there is a twin program for editing images https://www.iloveimg.com/ 

PDF2GO

IMAGE TAKEN FROM https://tools4me.tumblr.com/

 

Very similar to smallpdf. Basic version is more than enough. Although still relatively straightforward, it is a bit less user friendly.

 

 

 

PDFCANDY –  similar to pdf2go but offers more tolls e.g. htm to pdf or pdf protection. Click a video and see foryourself how robust this program is. 

CLEVERPDF

Its offer is more limited that the tools described above. Although it looks very simple and elegant, its split previews are not as good as smallpdf or others. Watch the video and see what it offers.

 

Why we should use INFOGRAPHICS

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FirmBee / Pixabay

INFOGRAPHIC is a visual representation/interpretation of factual data, knowledge or informative text. The benefits of infographics in classroom are obvious. They are visually attractive and engaging and make sometimes dry content more “digestible”. They encourage students’ critical thinking and help develop their digital competencies. They can be used by students and teachers in a range of ways – for creating timelines or personal profiles, for promoting, advertising and raising awareness or for demonstrating and interpreting factual information, just to name a The pdf document below was created in three different programs – canva, pikchart and, my favourite – easel.ly. The three last pages show work done by students in easel.ly.

FLIP YOUR CLASSROOM

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Before we go on a fully deserved summer break, please, let me share with you a couple ideas that you might find useful if you are thinking about enhancing your classes with the use of technology without spending too much time on it. On the contrary, you will save time doing that. And this is only a taster without going into detail how to use these programs.

HYBRID (or BLENDED) TEACHING/LEARNING is the answer.

 

Ask yourself a question –

What type of classes do I teach?

 

Class sessions take

place 100% in a traditional classroom. Technology is hardly ever used.

 

face
2face model

Class sessions take place in a traditional classroom,

but technology is used to facilitate activities, deliver content,

and/or assess students.

Web-Enhanced/

Blended model

Internet-based activities comprise more than 50%

of the content and instruction

HYBRID MODEL
Nearly all or all instruction, interaction, and activities take place online Online model

MORE HERE

The technique that works very well for both – hybrid and blended models, is FLIPPING a class. Instead of teaching them and asking to practise at home, you ask them to learn/get familiar with the content independently and practice will take place in class.  

Watch a short video explaining what a FLIPPED CLASS/CLASSROOM is.

There are tons of tools for flipping your lessons. I would like to encourage you to familiarise with the three. This is how I rate them but it is entirely my opinion. Plus, the more you practise with the program, the more you like or dislike it so these stars might look different in the future 🙂  

***** Blendspace

**** Google Classroom

** Tacck

I prepared the same set of tasks that NC4 students will have to do before our 1st meeting at college in these three programs. Please, ignore the content (dates, names of teachers, the quiz is short just for demonstration).

BLENDSPACE – this is what it looks like and you can access the class HERE.  It’s, basically speaking, the work that you want your students to do before a face2face class.

PLUSES:

  • You can attach document in Word, pdf or directly from G-drive as google docs
  • You can attach images in various formats
  • You can attach links to videos, images, documents without worrying about breaching COPYRIGHT
  • You can make short quizzes

More about BLENDSPACE

Google CLASSROOM – it is a bit similar to Moodle but more intuitive and more visually attractive.

Here is what it looks like – a 9-second clip

QUESTIONS – students will be able to post their answers and/or comment on other answers

ASSIGNMENTS – it’s basically what you want students to do as preparation for next classes or homework. You will be able to see who did and who didn’t submit the assignment. You will be able to comment on students’ work and give them grades/marks.

ANNOUNCEMENTS – it is basically speaking communication with students, passing messages, reminding of things

PLUSES:

  • You can attach document in Word, pdf or directly from G-drive as google docs
  • You can attach images in various formats
  • You can attach links to videos, images, documents without worrying about breaching COPYRIGHT
  • You can comment on and grade students’ work
  • You can schedule your posts (you can prepare them earlier and set the date they will be visible for students)

 

I’m still discovering new features of Google Classroom so maybe soon it will be a 5-star platform 🙂

There are a lot of google classroom tutorials so, please, watch this short clip to see what it offers.

TACCK – you can access it here

As you will notice, I couldn’t upload pdf or word documents. Also, when I tried to upload an image, I kept getting messages about no space.

It’s a brilliant tool for creating presentations for example. I’m still finding out about its features.

 

So, have a look and enjoy. And if this seems overwhelming a bit, why don’t you try creating your own simple flip using TEDEd. Find a video, create a series of questions and flip it!!!!! I haven’t used this program myself but I used mini lessons prepared by others. For example this one about pronouns me, myself and I  

Thank you,

Beata

EASEL.LY – an excellent tool for creating VISUALS such as infographics or posters.

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I was researching for a good tool for creating visuals and, although there are loads of nice programs available, they are either paid or limited in options I need  or too complicated to use.

EASEL.LY is a fantastic tool for creating posters and infographics. There is a fair-enough 🙂 free version that you can use with your students. They will need to set up an account, create a poster or infographic and download it as pdf or share as a link.

Using easel.ly is really straightforward, just drag’n’drop images, cliparts, shapes or text. Although for some, a free option is rather limited in images, you can make it up by uploading your own images.Yes, there is an option like that!!!

Watch a video on how to use EASEL.LY.

I used the program for posters for Employers’ Engagement Event in our college. Just have a look at some of them. AWESOME, AREN’T THEY?

GOOD WEBSITES FOR LISTENING

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Listening to Music Daniel Foster via Compfight

Intermediate+ listening. New vocabulary introduced. Each listening accompanied by a comprehension or vocabulary activity.

This is an excellent site full of stories on a wide range of topics. Every story has a pdf transcript with language notes attached.

Intermediate to Advanced Students. News stories with vocabulary and comprehension exercises.

LISTENING

 

A collection of various short listening recordings at a range of levels accompanied by tests and transcripts.

 

ONLINE TOOLS FOR INDIVIDUAL AND COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS

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POPPLET http://popplet.com/ – a very intuitive and user friendly application for mind-mapping and presentations. Uses a range of media – word/pdf/jpg documents or videos. Available as a mobpoppletile app as well. Ideal for individual and group projects and short presentations.

This is an example of a collaborative project The Royal Mile Museums (a trip, worksheets, a popplet presentation)prepared by NC4 ESOL for Employability students –

Click to see it http://popplet.com/app/#/2667368

See the tutorial how to use popplet for collaborative work

MY OPINION: 5/5

PADLET https://padlet.com – another great tool especially for collaborative projects. Uses a range of media – word/pdf/jpg documents, videos or audio files. Available as a mobile app as well.

This is an example of a padlet about TRADITIONS prepared by NC4 ESOL for Employability students – http://padlet.com/bwerner/ub312s8fw0q7

padlet
Watch a tutorial on how to use padlet:

MY OPINION: 5/5

THINGLINK https://www.thinglink.com/ – one of my favourite tool, excellent for projects based on research. Incorporates various media – documents, pictures, videos. Excellent for presentations

Projects about sports – this one is about cross-country skiing. Click on different icons to see attached media https://www.thinglink.com/scene/356848057582616577

Watch a tutorial on how to use thinglink:

MY OPINION: 5/5

SCCOP.IThttp://www.scoop.it/an excellent tool for collecting (scooping) material online. Excellent for research. This is a screenshot of my scoop.it with 5 different topics (highlighted). The program collects what is available online related to the chosen topic.

scoop.it capture

Unfortunately, now you can create only one topic for scooping (used to be 5).

NC4 ESOL for Employability students set up their accounts to search the materials on Scottish Traditions. This how their scoops might look like:

Watch a tutorial on how to use scoop.it

MY OPINION: 5/5

 

THREE TOOLS FOR SPLITTING PDF DOCUMENTS

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  1. SMALL PDF  – good if you are in a hurry; no need to download anything; you can use it on your work computer. Also available as a chrome app for chrome users.

 

small pdf

How to split pdf and extract pages? Easy peasy, trust me.  Have a look .

My opinion: 5/5

2. I LOVE PDF –  no need to install a set up program; little bit more limited I think but also nice.

small pdf

 

My opinion: 4/5

3. SEJDA very nice layout; no need to set it up. Free to a certain extent (see https://www.sejda.com/pricing). Nice feature of converting A3 into A4 J

sejda pdf

 

 

My opinion: 4/5

 

A WONDERFUL TOOL TO CREATE LESSONS FOR FLIPPED CLASSROOM

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Are you fed up with teaching the same stuff for ages? Are you annoyed with students asking you umpteenth time how to write a report? Would you consider asking your students to get prepared for the class at home instead of spending precious class time on theory?

 

FLIPPED CLASSROOM  might be the answer.

I experimented with the tool called BLENDSPACE which allows you to create canvas with activities for blended learning (flipped classroom or project based learning). I played with the tool a bit and created a lesson about Personality  for the Self-Awareness unit I teach. You need to sing up if you want to see the tasks attached to the files, comment in the comment boxes or do the quiz but you don’t need to do anything if you want to have a quick look only.

 

LINOIT – finally organised!!!!!

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This is a fantastic tool that can be used as a  personal cork-board; easily talking to your Google calendar and sending reminders of what you have to do to your email box. YOU CAN USE IT WITH YOUR STUDENTS. I’ve started using it with my NC ESOL for EMPLOYABILITY (pic 1) and DPSI (pic 2). Jill, Mark and Ula don’t know yet what is waiting for them – but I’m planning to use it with SCP ESOL as well (pic 3). AND IT’S FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There’s also a paid option for these teachers who want to have more control and know who was this cheeky student that had peeled off the sticky note reminding about the exam. But, since we don’t have cheeky students, a free plan is more than enough. You share this interactive notice board with your classes and you won’t have any more excuses “Test? So we have a test today?!!”

LINGRO – THE “WOW!!!!!” DICTIONARY

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Go to http://lingro.com/ and paste the web address into the box and LINGRO 

 

Choose the language options (there are 11 languages available, including German, Polish, Spanish Russian, Dutch and Chinese) and click 

The webpage will open. Click on any word that you don’t know and read the meaning. You can add your translation and you can make your own vocabulary list. 

 

From the creators of LINGRO:

Knowledge and information essential to human communication and interaction should be free and accessible to everyone. This is why we created the most comprehensive set of free dictionaries available under open licenses so that anyone can contribute, download, redistribute, and modify the dictionaries for their own needs. These licenses guarantee that they will always remain free and useful to society.”

LIVE BINDERS – AN ABSOLUTE MUST

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I’ve just discovered an amazing tool you can use for collecting resources and organising them neatly in sections and on virtual shelves. You have access to binders of other teachers and educators from all over the world for free. LiveBinders – http://www.livebinders.com/ offers a free and a paid plans. A free option gives you access to unlimited binders and unlimited shelves and up to 100 MB storage (files are usually websites with activities or docs so they don’t take up a lot of space). A paid option for educators costs around £9.00 a year and offers you bigger space– 500MB, plus you can upload your private files (pdfs, docs etc). It also allows you to make your binders totally private or share them only with people you choose. The best option for me is that you can share them with other people and you can use other people’s binders if you need some ideas.