WordTalk  is a great resource available free to all Scottish educational establishments and for young people to download at home (watch the site for when this service is available) developed at the CALL Centre, University of Edinburgh.

We are beginning to use it extensively in East Lothian and we find it easy to use (even we teachers). WordTalk makes the curriuclum much more accessible than hitherto.

And Heather’s voice is a nice touch. Here you can download the Scottish voice for use with most ‘text-to-speech’ programs such as electronic books; PDF files (such as SQA exam papers); worksheets and other documents in Microsoft Word. You can also create audio files using the voice. The Scottish voice can also be used on talking internet browsers.

For people with reading and writing difficulties, having text reinforced by hearing it read aloud can be very useful. Specialised programs have existed to do this for a long time, and in many cases are extremely helpful and highly appropriate and should be seriously considered, perhaps in consultation with professional advice where necessary.

WordTalk is a free text-to-speech plugin developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word (from Word 97 upwards). It will speak the text of the document and will highlight it as it goes. It contains a talking dictionary to help decide which word spelling is most appropriate.

Siting neatly in your toolbar it is highly configurable, allowing you to:

  • Adjust the highlight colours
  • Change the voice and the speed of the speech
  • Convert text to speech and save as a .wav or .mp3 file so that it can be played back on an iPod or mp3 player.

Background

WordTalk was conceived and developed by Rod Macaulay of TASSC in Aberdeen, Scotland who later received a Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award for its development.

It was noted that:

  • Children with Reading and writing difficulties often benefit from having text read aloud to them. In schools, this may be done by an assistant, but the use of assistants can be expensive, and their presence might be more usefully deployed elsewhere in the class.
  • Nowadays, teachers are more and more frequently creating worksheets and other classroom materials using ICT, and Microsoft Word in particular, then printing them out and handing them to the class.

Research

As ICT has become more frequently used in Education, a lot of research has been carried out investigating its effectiveness in assisting Learning. Here are some sources that you may find interesting.

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