Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Natural Reader - Students creating and controlling audio from text

Quite a few teachers have been experimenting with text-to-speech via GoANIMATE or xTRANORMAL animations, courtesy of YouTube at
  • There are quite a few other options for converting text to speech around; you may have noticed that we've added a 'Listen to this blog post' button to our blog posts.  
  • You can try this free service out and create an MP3 of the text in any of the blog posts.  This functions like a podcast, if you want, because you can save the MP3 file and listen to it later.
Another program that I have used is - it has a free version which allows anyone to convert text to speech.  
  • You have to download the program and use it on your computer, but the results are surprisingly good.   
  • There are obvious applications for creating listening tasks in class, and getting students used to different accents.  Even in the free version you are limited to the standard Microsoft voices...but at least this is different from the voices of their teachers that they get used to.

What is particularly good about this technology is that you can adjust the speed of the a natural way, just as you would get if you were to ask someone, "Could you please speak more slowly, please?"  
  • This would afford an opportunity for students to do their own extensive listening practice.  It could also get them used to listening to lectures, especially if the lecturers would provide their lecture notes.  
  • There are lots of appropriate academic materials in the OpenCourseWare project, or at OpenLearn.
  • See our READING page for other sources of texts that could be sources for creating MP3s.
  • As teachers, we could even use extracts from these sources for extensive reading and use the LessonWriter website to create reading lessons with more skills practice.

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