Thursday, February 13, 2014

3 Tools for Speaking & Listening

Working in a large school district and being the mom of two girls in elementary school, I'm exposed to numerous germs everyday, and while I know I've built up a strong immunity over the years, sometimes I get sidelined with an ailment. Well, for the first time EVER in 15 years of teaching, I have contracted  conjunctivitis (aka pink-eye). I will spare you the details, but know that it is gross, hurts, and my eye looks like it could be a zombie extra in a Walking Dead episode. I can't wear contacts; my eyes are light sensitive; I can't see that well, but my brain still is working. So, using the proverbial lemons to make the proverbial lemonade, I got to thinking about tools that could help the visually impaired and bolster auditory and speaking skills.

Voice Dictation

Searching the Chrome Webstore for voice keyboards, I came across this Chrome app, Voice Recognition. The navigation is easy to use, and as long as you have a webcam microphone built in, there is no need for an external mic. I also like that I can export my dication to Google Drive and Dropbox or save to computer or send via email. Accuracy, as with any voice recognition program, is dependent on speed and articulation. While I would want the dictation to be highly accurate, it does provide an opportunity for a lesson in revision of text. Pair up students with one doing the dictation and the other doing the editing, and you have an opportunity for a lesson on voice (literally) and intention in writing.

Screenshot of Voice Recognition
While I have to use Voice Recognition in the app, I'd like to find a tool that could be used in any browser window or program on a Chromebook or computer.  On personal devices, I like using the Google Voice keyboard on my Samsung Galaxy S3  dictate into an open Google doc, but I haven't come across anything similar for Chromebooks/computers.  Please share if you know of such a tool!

Read to Me

SpeakIt! is a Chrome extension where you highlight text that you would to have read aloud. After adding the extension to your browser, highlight the text, and click the icon in your browser tool bar. A little pop up box appears and you hear the text being read aloud.  For the visually impaired, this extension is not as easy to use since you have to select text and click on a small icon, but for those who like being read aloud to and to reinforce reading skills, this extension is useful.

SoundGecko is site that will read an entire webpage article to you. Simply visit the site, paste in the URL and your email address, and start listening. SoundGecko can be used on any device or computer using a browser window. I can see (even with my pink eye) using SoundGecko during listening activities, asking students to listen and answer questions based on what they heard. Teachers could also use SoungGecko for BYOD stations where students practice listening skills.

Whether visually impaired or not, these three tools are useful for practicing speaking and auditory skills. Know of others? Please share! 

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