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CAST: "Research shows that the way people learn is as unique as their fingerprints."




Each learner requires a unique set of effective learning tools.


Many high quality digital learning tools are already in our schools, or are readily available to learners everywhere.  The purpose of this presentation is to increase awareness of some of these powerful options.  These tools have the potential to benefit all learners, especially many of those with what we refer to as high incidence special needs.











  • toolbar reads the Internet in Firefox web browser

  • works with Readability on 'decluttered' web pages


Natural Reader Free




  • toolbar that works in many programs

    • Internet Explorer for web pages

    • Outlook Express/Outlook for email

    • multiple word processors

  • cross platform (available for Mac and PC)

  • read about Egypt from Wikipedia Simple













  • offers text-to-speech for any text on screen

    • text is dragged or pasted into ReadPlease

  • highlights spoken text

  • has 4 voices
  • read a Chapter Summary of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee from WikiSummaries using ReadPlease




Adobe Reader






  • text-to-speech built into Adobe Reader



Microsoft Word Tools







  • text-to-speech plugin for MS Word
  • highlights spoken text
  • talking spell checker
  • creates mp3 files
  • Read 'Call of the Wild' by Jack London using Word Talk'





  • identifies key points in expository text 
  • choose between 4 summary types
    • highlight key points in a document
    • insert an executive summary
    • create new document with the summary
    • hide everything but the summary
  • Try out the Autosummarize feature with this passage on Canadian Geography





  • identify selected words/names using the find tool

  • highlight the words/names

  • reader can skim the text using the highlights

  • Skim 'Call of the Wild' by Jack London using the Read by Highlighting




  • adds voice recording to document

    • "reader" can listen to directions

    • "writer" can answer questions and say what he/she knows



  • toolbar with math symbols and notation

    • more than 150 symbols

    • for fractions, integrals, summations, equations



Multimedia Options




Photo Story 3 for Windows






  • Free program (PC) to download and install

  • Wizard driven and easy to use

  • Combine graphics with

    • text

    • audio narration

    • musical accompaniment

  • Completed videos can be shared online




Voice Thread







  • Online application, not platform dependent

  • Combine graphics and/or video with

    • text

    • audio narration

  • Options for audio and/or text feedback




Portable Learning Tools







  • Portable suite of learning tools on USB flash drive

  • Learning tools include

    • Mind mapping

    • Calendar/task manager

    • Reading supports

    • Writing supports

    • Vision supports

    • Text-to-speech





Free and Effective Text-to-Speech Tools 

Text-to-Speech (TTS) software tools are similar in that they speak text on a computer.  However, they vary widely in functionality.  When evaluating which program would be best for you, think about the set of features that will give you the support you need to support your students (CAST - Center for Applied SpecialTechnology) 


Below is a table that lists a few free and effective Text-to-Speech options.  These are only a few of the many that are available.  It is intended to provide an overview of some text-to-speech programs and in which programs text-to-speech can be used. 


If you want to learn more about these Free Text-to-Speech programs discussed in this presentation click on the link to download the PDF.


Please Note:  ALL text-to-speech readers are only as good as the voices on the computers.  To make these programs work schools would likely need to buy voices to add to their computers.  www.nextup.com sells voices and will negotiate school district pricing.




MS Word Features to Help Students with Reading and Writing

During the presentation you were introduced to a few of the features in MS Word that can support students with reading and writing.  Below is a more comprehensive list of the features that support reading and writing.

MS Word Features to Support Reading

  • Text-to-Speech - Word Talk (PC Version) 
  • Auto-Summarize
  • Bookmark
  • Find - Skim by Highlighting and Using Find Feature


MS Word Features to Support Writing 

  • Text-to-Speech - Word Talk (PC Version) 
  • Autocorrect
  • Auto Text
  • View Side-by-Side
  • Spelling and Grammar
  • Track Changes
  • Highlighter
  • Voice Comments
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Math - Equation Editor
  • Chem4Word


Free Tools and Downloadable Programs from the Web




  1. The Center for Applied Special Technology  (CAST) has created a wonderful resource on using Text-to-Speech technology.   Using Text-to-Speech a Resource Guide provides background information about the technology, ideas for how to use it, information about acquiring digital text, and  future directions in Text-to-Speech Technology.
  2. For a more indepth look at text-to-speech applications check out the article at Dyslexic.com.  The article that was written by Abi James in August 2004 and published in 2006.  It outlines the most popular commercially available applications of text-to-speech and compares their features and benefithttp://www.dyslexic.com/textcomp
  3. Another site that has some good information on Text to Speech software is Robin Good's MasterNewMedia site.  Click on the link and check out the article Text to Speech:  A Mini Guide.  Scroll down the page and you will see a chart that has shows a comparison between the various Text to Speech Tools - http://www.masternewmedia.org/text-to-speech/text-to-speech-tools/guide-to-best-text-to-speech-tools-20070701.htm - most of the tools mentioned here are free.


Word Accessibility

  1. This is nice resource that outlines some of the accessibility features of MS Word 2007.  WordAccessibilityResourceSheet_2007.pdf
  2. Tools for Literacy:  Technology to Support Comprehension and Vocabulary was written by Kathleen McClaskey and Joan Sedita.  They demonstrate how 6 programs can be used to improve reading and writing.  














Comments (1)

ruth said

at 6:18 pm on Apr 19, 2010

Excellent wiki, nicely organized, easy to find things, great resources!

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