FETC 2010 News

FLVS To Add Texthelp Read Aloud Technology to Online Courses

Florida Virtual School, which provides online classes for K-12 students in Florida, will shortly expand deployment of a text-to-speech function it has been testing for its courses, according to an announcement at FETC 2010 in Orlando, FL. The new feature, powered by Texthelp Systems' SpeechStream, will be available on the course platform toolbar.

The read aloud functionality will be offered not only in courses, but also study skills tools, a dictionary, and a research tool for conducting Web searches on any selected word. The service will also include English to Spanish translation. Users will be able to speed up or slow down the pace of the reading. The conversion service works on both Mac OS X and Windows systems.

"We believe in breaking the mold. The new read-aloud or text-to-speech feature not only addresses a critical need of many students, but it expands our ability to give students a unique, customized learning experience," said Joy Smith, chief development officer for Florida Virtual School. "By embedding Texthelp's technologies into our courses, we will be able to consistently meet the needs of students who have a learning disability or who struggle with the English language. Even students with mild vision impairments or those who suffer from eye strain will benefit from the new course enhancements."

The read-aloud functionality will allow a student to click on a sentence to hear the content read aloud. At the same time, the words being read will be highlighted.

The virtual school's Curriculum Research and Discovery team conducted a pilot in two courses--Science and World History--to test how the new service would work. According to a statement from the Florida organization, results showed that the new tools gave struggling readers the support they needed to be more successful in their courses.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.