Should Text to Speech Be Used for Students Other Than Struggling Readers?

Continuing in our series based on the work of Doctor Michelann Parr around the use of text-to-speech technology (TTST) in education, we look into how text to speech should be used in the classroom.

While a confident reader may find TTST to interfere with his own reading, average readers may find the technology to enhance their reading and comprehension, and struggling readers are freed from low-level decoding and can access texts that allow for higher-level thinking and confidence building interaction with the text and others.

So the key is to have this sort of read aloud assistive technology available and allow students the choice to use it, without any feelings of stigmatization or privilege, but merely as another educational tool among many. While teachers and parents may analyze the strengths, needs and environment of a student, the use of text to speech should be decided on by the student himself, much as the way he chooses what and when to read. When the student is allowed to decide, the technology becomes a support for choice, independence and self-esteem.

In addition, by adding text to speech to their range of literacy tools, education establishments are raising the importance of comprehension and lifelong thinking skills over word and decoding knowledge. Text-to-speech technology enables students to participate as and when they wish in the conversation that is going on around them.

Dr. Michelann Parr teaches language and literacy at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University, Canada. Her research includes text-to-speech technology and its impact on the reading process and writing.

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