Learner Plate in 3DTechnology has made education global, accessible, and connected, to the benefit of all students, but it has also fundamentally changed how students learn. Differentiated instruction and the identification of learner types have allowed educators to better understand the ways in which students learn most effectively. In some ways, it’s a “chicken or egg” proposition, as learning styles have been influenced by technology, and technology has evolved to better suit diverse ways of learning. No matter which change spurred the other – and it’s probably a mix of both – the end result is that educators are now better equipped than ever before to reach the many types of learners found in today’s classrooms. Text-to-speech technology is a prime example of this paradigm shift in action. Many students who are otherwise capable and eager to learn are simply stymied by reading. This can be due to learning disabilities, physical impairments, second-language challenges, or even a simple aversion to reading. In the past, these students had few viable alternatives to textbooks. Bright, curious students with reading challenges could either do their best to slog through the difficult task of reading, or risk being mislabeled and put into remedial classes well below their actual learning capabilities. Neither of these options was particularly fair to these students, and the result was many students “lost” to education due to frustration, boredom, or alienation. It’s not that educators didn’t want to help these students in the past, but instead that there simply wasn’t much help available. Text to speech has leveled the playing field for these students, allowing them to consume the same information as their peers, in a way that suits their individual learning style and accommodates any challenges they may face. The result is an accessible classroom experience for all students. This is a simple, yet powerful, concept. Modern education is all about fitting the classroom experience to the many types of students in a given class, rather than conditioning the students to fit the previously conceived classroom experience. Increased accessibility has been great news for educators, as well. In the past, educators who would have loved nothing more than to help struggling students were faced with limited options, not limited desire. Now, technology like text to speech removes those limitations, and makes education more effective and enjoyable for all parties involved. The power of text to speech goes beyond the ability to help students with reading challenges, too. Just as some students want to read but can’t, other students can read but don’t want to. These students may simply dislike the act of reading, or they may have difficulty comprehending or remembering written information, even if they are perfectly capable of understanding each individual word. In the past, these students would often be labeled as slackers, or learning disabled, when in reality they were just audible learner types all along. This is another area in which technology and philosophy have intersected. Educators are now better able to identify different learner types, and use technology like text to speech to make learning a desirable, exciting experience for audible learners. Finally, there are the students who want to read and are fully capable of doing so, but simply don’t have the time to complete all of the necessary reading. It is here that text to speech connects back to many of the other technological advances listed above. With text-to-speech technology, busy students no longer have to make a choice between completing the necessary reading, and tending to other important non-school responsibilities. With text to speech, a document can be turned into an mp3 audio file, which can then be listened to on any number of mobile devices. Especially for adult learners in college, this allows the opportunity to listen to the assigned reading while doing household chores, working out, commuting, or any place else that is convenient. For many people, multitasking is a way of life, and text to speech fits seamlessly into that process. Image Credit: Paul Inkles