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Friday, June 30, 2006

When the simplest ideas are often the best

This one comes courtesy of Peter Bissett of Luing Primary in Argyll & Bute.

Last night I attended a 'do' for Rosemary Ward in the Argyll Hotel in Inveraray. Rosemary will shortly be taking up her new post as Education Manager for the Gaelic Board in Scotland, so a number of folk from around the authority gathered together to celebrate her achievement, and to wish her well for the future. I for one will miss Rosemary - a true fountain of wisdom and I'll take this opportunity to apologise for the incredible number of times I must have interrupted her workflow with some inane office banter - she sits immediately behind me in Colgrain. I must say that when I found out that she was to occupy the desk behind me I had hoped my Gaelic would improve - but I think I am living proof that 'partial immersion' or 'language learning by osmosis' doesn't work. On the rare occasions that I thought my Gaelic was improving, I would soon realise that a particular conversation had more than it's fair share of English words in it. Anyway...

At one point in the evening I was having a chat with Peter Bissett, the Head Teacher of Luing Primary, who had recently discovered the wonderful property of 'Text to Speech' on a Mac. Greatly impressed by what this can do for those students and adults who have difficulty reading (or comprehending what they read) this is a real bonus. I hadn't really given it much thought before, but what a brillinat tool when you come to think about it - and such a simple thing! So here is today's tip of the day 'Text to Speech' in System preferences - you can then highlight any bit of text, press your chosen shortcut key and the computer will read it back to you.

For those of you that don't use a Mac, Peter also told me about the equivalent for a PC - 'www.naturalreaders.com' which is a free download that does pretty much the same thing. Couldn't help but notice the 'cost' version of the application also allows you to save the 'text to speech' as an MP3 - so no longer do you have an excuse for not having time to read a report! Food for thought though - how many times in education do we ask pupils to read something that is beyond their reading age - what is important - the content of the text, or the text itself? Having the audio file of the text could help as reinforcement?

As a total aside here - my Mac has been in Luss Primary School for about the last two months. I got it back the other day before the term ended - and it pains the 'PC User' in me to admit this, but I must say I missed it...


Anonymous john said...

and it pains the 'PC User' in me to admit this, but I must say I missed it... of course you did, you have got to love macs;-)
Text-to speech can be run from applescript and you can use appleScript to speak to an aiff file.
I've not used it much in class, as we have pcs but last session I made a simple tool for a child in my class, who's voice was to quiet to be heard, join in mental maths.

8:19 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

Makes me wonder why I was wasting time last year on Viavoice with a verbally dispraxic child on the recommendation of the Educational psychologist and would you believe the Speech Therapist and instructions from my head to make it work, when he had no patterns to follow. Programme couldn't recognise a single sound he made to set it up. My Masterclass mac was very new then and I hadn't had time to find its worth, having just had an emotional parting from my previous machine. I could have done something for that boy, if I had had my new machine's skills explained then or had time to explore, myself. We used Clicker and Kidspiration which made him feel different from his peers. Had I known then, I wouldn't feel, as I do now, that I let him down through my lack of knowledge.

1:50 am  
Blogger ab said...

John - I think I need to learn more about Applescript - seems to be able to simplify a lot of functions.

Marlyn - If anything, this confirms in my mind the need to share information and knowledge - it is always great to have time to play and explore, and it is brilliant when we discover things, but let's be realistic - we aren't ever the first people to discover a 'new' function of a machine! Now, if we could convince everyone to share their knowledge, maybe those in positions of authority or giving advice would be well informed. It is never a good feeling to think that we could have done more for a child, but I suppose that is a good sign that we care so much - just make sure the teacher who teaches them now knows this top tip!

9:32 am  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

Me too!

4:24 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

The boy's gone to the Grammar and pc's now.

4:27 pm  
Blogger Graham said...

Immersion learning? How come whales still breathe air?

I think the idea about using listening-over-reading is spot on. I tried to persuade Matthew B to put the "Our Learning Culture" document on Mp3, or CD at least. These things could be on an education Website as downloads. Try your charm - I must be using the wrong toothpaste!

8:42 pm  
Blogger ab said...

Graham - that sounds like a brilliant idea - I'd like to see OLC as a download and then discussion on a blog - I'll speak nicely to him (although not too sure about toothpaste!)

9:44 pm  
Anonymous Lynne said...

I think there should be more of this. The MFLE (Modern Foreign Language Envrionment) has a lot of downloadable podcasts, keynote speeches from various conferences - you can listen to these at anytime, anywhere, the martini approach to CPD. Makes CPD more accessible, epecially if it usually means a day away.

10:48 am  
Anonymous Gordon Binnie said...

You can use Automator in OS X Tiger to take text from a page or even a website, convert it to MP3 and load into iTunes.

I have the script somewhere, so if anyone is interested, drop me an email.

3:12 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

Gordon...wil be in touch soonest. I have a vision impaired child next term, and this could be a godsend!

6:11 pm  

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