Saturday, January 23, 2016

Read and Write for iPad

Last year I outlined the helpful features obtained by signing up for Read and Write for Google, a toolbar accessible in Chrome that brings to webpages and documents (particularly Google Docs) text to speech (always free) and text prediction, dictionary, and other features (via premium account or teacher subscription after 30 days).

With Read and Write for iPad, these features become accessible...on iPad. After going through the steps to activate your account and then teacher account (see the link in the first sentence of this post), install the app Read and Write, which is essentially a keyboard. The app will bring you through the steps of activating the keyboard in your Settings app, and it will then be available for you to toggle and bring it up (installed keyboards are displayed if you tap the globe icon in your keyboard on iPad, or tap and hold to choose from all your available keyboards--I also like Keedogo).

As with Read and Write for Google, the keyboard will be usable for all its features for 30 days; after that you will need to have signed up for a teacher account or purchased the features for students. Text to speech remains free "forever."

Although iOS has text to speech built in through the "Speak Screen" accessibility feature, having the keyboard available will make the option of having text read aloud more visual and "at your fingertips."

Read and Write was naturally designed for reading and language disabilities (and the developer touts benefits for English Language Learners as well), but text to speech is valuable for all students. The path to getting assistive technology accommodations in the hands of students that need it is not always clear, so it is helpful for as many educators as possible to know about available (and free) tools such as this!

You can use the toolbar when doing web research, to automatically make any webpage a listening comprehension activity, or just to give students an engaging break from the dulcet tones of our yammering voices. Text to speech is also a huge help (even for me) when proofreading; students tend not to catch their mistakes when reading their own writing, and also often hate to proofread! To learn more about emerging research on the benefits of text to speech technologies, see this helpful article.

Texthelp's guide to using the keyboard is available at this link.

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