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November 28, 2011 / Thinknology

Text-to-Speech Audio and Online Reading Instruction

Think60 delivers online reading instruction for adult learners at levels 3-8. As we developed the program, the use of audio was an ongoing topic of discussion. Certainly audio is one of the obvious features that a technology-based program can offer that a print product can’t. But what should it be? How would it be used? A traditional recorded voice? Or a less natural text-to-speech?

What we kept coming back to in the development of Think60, was always how best can a product support a student working independently. Students working independently need to have a way to move forward if they get stuck because they can’t understand a phrase, sentence, or paragraph either in the reading itself or the exercises. If they can simply listen to audio for any given part of the lesson, it would allow them to keep learning.

The second piece of our decision was to use text-to-speech audio, which is not a real person speaking. It does not account for inflection, tone, or emphasis as one would find in ESL instruction. But because Think60 is designed to teach reading, and audio was included as support, we did not want to have students listening to what amounts to an audiobook. We wanted to have them reading.

To date, we have received a wide range of feedback from adult educators, but most has been in support of our text-to-speech decision. The beauty of a web-based product is that it is constantly evolving. Our discussions with users inform the decisions we make going forward and are a key component in the development and growth of Think60. We’re interested to hear what you think.

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