The Many Facets of Text-to-Speech

Written by the Kurzweil Blog Team

Search for "benefits of text-to-speech" on Google and you will be presented with pages upon pages of research projects that demonstrate its effectiveness. Our favorite, no surprise, is the Iowa Text Reader Longitudinal Study that determined reading and comprehension levels increased when using text-to-speech because students could read advanced grade-level material at a faster rate, and with less fatigue.

The benefits of text-to-speech are not breaking news. In fact, similar studies have been applied to various student populations, including English language learners (ELLs), that have arrived at many of the same conclusions—and some new ones. Studies found that, in addition to improvements in reading and comprehension, text-to-speech can also be used to support both English language fluency and vocabulary development.

We hear repeatedly about the positive impact that text-to-speech has on our studentís well-being. It helps struggling learners to be more confident in their learning (International Journal of Literacies). And for some students using text-to-speech is life-changing.

Text-to-speech can, no-doubt, be a powerful tool. Many of you have even witnessed this first-hand. But if students arenít using the tools, as validated as they may be, they aren't going to see the same results. Continue reading for recommendations on how to make the improved outcomes everyone is talking about to become a reality for your students who could benefit from text-to-speech.

Selecting the Right Text-to-speech Technology

There are two areas to consider when selecting a text-to-speech technology for your students; accuracy and quality. Here are key points to look for when considering different options.

  • How accurately is the text being converted?
    Pick out three items that you recently assigned to students (or that have been assigned to you) and compare the differences between the original and text being read aloud. Do you find that certain characters are not rendering properly or that headlines and supporting images arenít being captured? Text that isnít converted accurately will turn students off. Additionally, when the formatting and images, including graphs, used to aid comprehension is stripped away it will only create more work for you in the end.
  • Does the quality of the text-to-speech voice pass the 10-minute test?
    Choose an article or book that you'd like to read, then listen to it being read aloud for 10 minutes straight. Can you make it to the end? Even if a student was able to read a full chapter, would they remember what they read? Quality text-to-speech voices not only sound better, they help to express meaning and intent. A human-like voice will motivate students to read and aid with comprehension.


For additional guidance, visit the Kurzweil Acadamy.


Tips to Share with Students for Using Text-to-Speech

Just having the text read aloud can be helpful, but when students make it their own they'll have a better reading experience. For an added bonus, text-to-speech in Kurzweil 3000 can be customized in a way that improves comprehension and helps with retention. Share these tips with your students to get them using text-to-speech like a pro.

1. Choosing the Right Voice Matters
There are more than a few voices in Kurzweil 3000 to choose from, including voices with accents, to ensure you to find the voice (or voices) that are most comfortable. Spend a little time on identifying a couple of voices that sound good to you.
2. More Voices are Better than One
You may want to choose Rod to read your favorite magazineóor assigned reading from your English class. But when it comes to reading informational text that's rich with facts and definitions, Tyler may be your guy. Use different voices when completing an assignment to determine which voice helps you remember what youíve read.
3. Sometimes Less is More
For some learners, listening to text read aloud as itís being highlighted on the screen is important. If you are not that type of learner, turn on silent mode. Or keep the text-to-speech on and change the mode and units You can even turn off highlight spoken word altogether. Find what works best for you.
4. Donít be Afraid to Switch it Up
Choosing a different voice for different types of reading not only improves comprehension, it can help with retention. Our Pro Tip for the day is to use different voices for different content areas; such as English and History. But don't stop there, changing reading speed and mode based on what youíre reading can really make a difference.
5. Take Your Reading to Go
You can use Kurzweil 3000 to create an audio file and directly add it to an iTunes and Media Player playlist. Yes, you read that correctly. Just select the page ranges, or the entire document, your preferred voice and reading speed and voila—you can now listen in the car, at the gym, or anywhere the day takes you.

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