1. Being sure that every child is capable of proficiently reading to a level that will allow for life success in any path that child chooses.
2. Developing an ability for every child to navigate the world independently across any experience they encounter.
Over the past few weeks I have had several conversations where both of these clear goals have been identified. They came to light regarding students who are still working on the first goal of becoming more capable, proficient readers. Instruction for learning to read is in place and a plan for becoming an improved reader is moving forward. These students are going to eventually achieve that first goal of becoming a proficient reader as they continue to build their skills.
However, in the meantime, we are not clearly making strides to support the second goal to make them independent learners. When reading is a struggle in itself, reading academic content full of challenging academic vocabulary is problematic. Some of these same students that are building their reading skills are falling behind in other academic areas because of their inability to access the written content. The choices that are sometimes made are to avoid the work, lessen the academic challenge (sometimes called rigor), or read the content to/for the student so they can access the learning.
The beauty of technology is that it often can provide solutions that allow us to navigate these types of challenges more independently.
(NOTE: Just using technology without a plan to improve the student's ability to read proficiently is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Students must continuously read in order to build their reading skills. Using technology should not ever be considered a solution to achieve both goals!)
Already built into the iPad is an accessibility feature called Speak Screen/Speak Selection. These text-to-speech functions are intended entirely for the purpose of allowing people with a wide range of abilities and challenges to access content presented to them.
They are easy to set up, easy to use, and they can be used on almost any text content that is available digitally. They require no additional apps, no intensive training to use, and they can be implemented on any iPad regardless of age.
Setting Up Text-to-Speech Functions on iPadBelieve it or not, you can have this feature enabled on any iPad in six taps of a finger.
This video will show exactly how to enable the various features so you can get started today.
Using Speak Screen and Speak Selection on the iPad
Actually using the Speak Screen and Speak Selection tools is just as easy.
To note the difference, with Speak Selection the user highlights the content they would like to have read to them. With Speak Screen, a two-fingered swiping gesture tells the iPad to read all text on the screen to the user.
Below you can see a short video that showcases Speak Screen and Speak Selection in use. When using either of these in a classroom setting, it is important to instruct students to utilize headphones/earbuds to avoid distracting other students. This will become a common practice in your classroom and it is important to set a clear expectation at the outset.