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Speak it! Text to Speech
Pros: Lots of customizing, playback, and sharing options add versatility.
Cons: Very plain user interface isn't likely going to be visually attractive to most kids.
Bottom Line: Accurate, easy to use, and includes playback voices that sound surprisingly natural.
You can use this app in a special needs classroom to give kids another way to communicate; its simple and flexible interface should work well for kids with a variety of learning challenges (Need bigger text? A slower speaking voice? No problem.). If some of your students are auditory learners, they could easily paste chapters of assigned reading into the app and absorb the material that way.
Editor's Note: Speak It! Text to Speech is no longer available.
Speak It! Text to Speech is a powerful yet simple tool that transforms text-based content into spoken words. This app may be useful for kids with special needs in speech, vision, and reading or for any student who sometimes prefers listening to a lesson or audio book rather than reading.
Simply type your own words into the app or cut and paste content from another source (such as a website, Word document, email, or online book), press "Speak It!" and a clear, measured voice delivers the message to anyone listening or to a recipient via email. Entire chapters of books can be pasted, or one simple phrase, such as "Thank you" can be typed, then spoken by the app, which comes with four voices (American male or female, or British male or female). More voices of various accents can be purchased on the app for $0.99 each. Pronunciations sound surprisingly natural and clear, and settings can adjust the rate of speech, volume, and more.
Students simply type the desired words or phrases and press "Speak It!" and the selected voice speaks them aloud. They can then save personalized phrases for later playback if it's something they want to say or hear often. Anything that includes text on the mobile device that a student is using can be copied and pasted into the app to be spoken. Font size, voice volume, type of voice, and voice speed can also be customized for kids with limited sight or hearing, or other special needs.
It's simple and the basic user interface is easy to navigate. However, that may be a drawback for some kids using it the first time or two because it's not designed with eye candy in mind. Rather, it's a no-frills, no complications, affordable, effective text-to-voice tool that can help both kids and teachers communicate. Using Speak It! Text to Speech could help students to meet many Common Core standards by allowing kids with speech challenges to express themselves verbally through this app, as well as by making text accessible to kids who cannot read. It's a valuable tool that can make a significant, positive impact on learning for some kids with special needs, just as it provides all kids with yet another way to interact with technology, content, and expression.