Reflections on using text to speech for reading: the question of “cheating”

As we start to develop and introduce students to accessible e-text in one of the pilot secondary schools for this project, there are important questions and conversations that are emerging from this implementation. Here are some of these questions that we are exploring with our school-based professionals:

What is reading? How does reading with supported e-text “fit in” to the traditional definition of reading?

How does text format change the way students interpret, comprehend and respond to text?

How does text-to-speech work? How does it help the student with a learning disability or reading disability? How do we scaffold use of text-to-speech for reading purposes?

Should all students be offered  multiple format options when it comes to reading? Or should certain formats be “reserved” for students with specific learning profiles?

How do we offer these choices in the context of independent reading?

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What is text-to-speech technology and how does it support our students?

As educators, we’ve been working with text-to-speech for many years now. Most of us are familiar with free or commercial products that can be used for reading digital text. But what does text-to-speech actually DO? And how does it support our students when they read?

We know that reading is a process of constructing meaning from print and decoding is just one element of this process. (Reading Rockets, 2001). We also know that students who struggle with decoding text need adaptations in order to access content. Text-to-speech technology is an important adaptation that allows students to access content to which they would not otherwise have access. By reading the text aloud to the student through voice synthesis or through audio narration, difficulties with decoding are bypassed.  Continue reading “What is text-to-speech technology and how does it support our students?”