Can a software tool that reads the written text to its listeners improve student learning? The answer is a “yes,” and this is how a Text to Speech tool for educators, works. Thanks to the gradual acceptance of innovative forms of visual and auditory tools in education, Text to Speech (or TTS) tools are far more common in the modern-day classroom.
The emergence of free-to-use Text to Speech tools for educators in the eLearning space is proving to be an effective assistive technology tool that can help both educators and students.
How does text to speech technology work and how does it boost student learning? Here’s a look.
What is the purpose of Text to Speech technology?
Text to Speech (or TTS) is a technology that in simple terms, converts text into audio or spoken language. Initially developed as a tool for visually impaired people, TTS is now evolving as a tool for a variety of purposes, including:
- Businesses to promote their content to an extended audience including those with reading or learning disabilities, and to a foreign audience with non-native language proficiency.
- Provides access to digital content on a growing number of connected devices including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.
- Enable users to “listen to content” from different sources including eBooks, blogs, PDF documents, or any informational website.
- Enhances the knowledge of users with different “learning strengths” such as visual learning, auditory learning, or a combination of both.
- Elevates the user experience for online users while accessing brand content in various formats.
How do Text to Speech Tools Work?
While the Text to Speech technology has been in development for many decades, its recent advancement has been greatly enabled due to the emergence of deep learning technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). An example of this is the success of the AI-enabled Google WaveNet technology that can generate human voice-like audio in around 106 voices and 21 languages.
Similarly, the development of speech synthetization technology in TTS is majorly powered by machine learning algorithms. Modern-day TTS technology comprises of a frontend and backend component, that combine to provide seamless speech synthesis. While the frontend tool manages the conversion of text to language-based phonetics and sentences, the backend tool converts this data into audio or natural sounds.
Next, let’s look at the use of Text to Speech tools in the education industry and how assistive tools in Text to Speech can boost student learning.
How does Text to Speech Tools Benefit the Education Industry?
Assistive tools for educators like Text to Speech have the potential to transform student learning and understanding. Among its primary benefits, Text to Speech tools for educators enable them to impart knowledge in a format that is comfortable for their students, thus enabling them to master any subject.
So, in what ways do Text to Speech tools benefit educators and students? Here are some of the benefits:
Overcome reading-related issues for students.
This is particularly relevant for dyslexic students or those with reading-related issues. The students with limited reading abilities often struggle to maintain concentration while browsing through large volumes of text. With the availability of TTS tools, students can start on a reading assignment on their own, and once fatigued, switch to a TTS tool to continue with the reading.
An effective TTS tool like Audiofont can convert content from various sources like websites, PDF files, educational eBooks, and other courseware into audio files that are easier to listen to and understand.
Improves academic performance.
TTS technology tools enables educators to adopt a digital platform for testing and evaluating students. For students with poor academic scores, this technology assists them to hear examination questions clearly and respond with the right answers. Additionally, they can re-examine their written answers through audio and correct any errors, thus improving their overall academic performance.
Aids special education.
Apart from benefiting students with reading-related problems, Text to Speech tools for special education has enabled special students to overcome problems like lack of word recognition, low attention span, and inadequate writing and comprehension abilities. TTS tools work as an assistive technology for students with learning disabilities to overcome their limitations and improve their overall understanding of the subject rather than just the written words or sounds.
As a use case, the Audiofont TTS tool enables students to slow down the speech rate of the spoken text, thus enabling them to grasp the subject at a comfortable pace.
Enables smart education.
In addition to facilitating students with learning disabilities, Text to Speech tools also works for smart education in more than one way. Depending on the TTS tool, students can choose to hear educational content in different voices and language of their choice. Assistive TTS technology can boost the student’s confidence and independence and encourage them to pursue their learning in a particular subject.
As an example, students can independently access academic content on various subjects (example, “20th century history”) from a variety of online TTS-enabled devices.
Text to Speech tools for educators can be used to convert content and download in multiple audio file formats. This audio content can be shared across multiple social media platforms, thus making it convenient for students to continuously learn by tuning in to their personal devices while on the move.
TTS tools like Audiofont do not restrict learning to the classroom environment. For instance, students can copy their learning content on the Audiofont smartphone app and listen to the converted audio file at their own convenience.
These are just some of the major benefits of Text to Speech tools for educators and students and how it can facilitate improved learning and curriculum management.
However, how exactly can you include assistive TTS tools in the modern classroom environment? Let’s discuss that in the next section.
How to incorporate Assistive Text to Speech Tools in the Classroom?
As discussed in the earlier sections, assistive TTS tools can work to the benefit of students with reading difficulties or learning disabilities. Thanks to rapid improvements in its underlying technologies, there are many free and paid TTS tools like Natural Reader and Snap&Read that can be easily downloaded and used by students on their personal devices.
Additionally, modern-day computers and tablets come bundled with their own TTS software tools and can be used in any classroom environment.
Irrespective of the TTS tool that is used in classrooms, it must fulfill the following requirements in order to maximize academic learning in each student:
Provide a human-like voice in the audio file.
Instead of sounding very robotic, your TTS tool must render a very human-like voice in the audio sound output. This works towards improving listening and comprehension skills in the student.
Supports multiple types of voices.
Additionally, your assistive TTS tool must support multiple voice formats any of which can be selected according to the student’s preference. The right voice in TTS tools can facilitate greater child participation in the learning process and improve their attention span.
The Audiofont tool supports both “male” and “female” voices through a simple tool setting.
Allows speed settings in audio playback.
This is another major requirement in any assistive TTS tool. While a “high” speed setting can limit the student’s understanding, “low” speeds can frustrate or “bore” most students. An optimal speed of around 140 to 180 words per minute is ideal for enhanced learning.
The Audiofont TTS tool allows you to set or change audio speed setting according to the student’s convenience or preference.
Support for Bi-modal reading.
Remember the Bedtime stories that Dads or Moms read out to their children, while making it so interesting thanks to use of colourful pictures and simple words. Bi-modal reading is very similar to bedtime stories as they combine both visual images and auditory sounds to grab student attention and improve comprehension skills.
Assistive TTS tools can support bi-modal reading by highlighting the words as it is being read out by the tool.
The emergence of assistive Text to Speech tools can potentially transform the way students learn with the assistance of digital devices. Through this write-up, we have discussed some of the major benefits of Text to Speech tools for educators and children with learning disabilities.
Developed by the data analytics company, Countants, Audiofont is free to use and can be installed either as a smartphone app or as a browser extension. With customized solutions in cloud analytics and machine learning, Countants has enabled better decision making for its clients in various industry domains.
As an educator, do you want to explore the immense possibilities of the text-to-speech technology? Contact us now with your requirements.