Here's a place to find creative, educational ways for your children and students to use the computer and lots of online tools. They'll have fun and be learning about computers at the same time. Adults will have fun too!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Simplify Online Reading

Are your kids having a hard time reading or researching on the computer.  Try these tricks.

Text to Speech
Some kids like to have online materials and articles read to them.  Safari has a built in speech option.  Highlight the text you'd like to have read to you.  Then go to Edit>Speech>Start Speaking and the computer will read the highlighted text to you.

Mac computers will read anything on the computer to you and have a number of different voices and accents to choose from.  In the system preferences look for the little microphone for speech settings.  I set the option-L combination to speak any highlighted text, anywhere on the computer.  This is an easier speech option both to turn on and turn off than Safari but if you stop the speech and then restart it, the computer starts reading from the beginning of the highlighted text again.

Simple Language
Twurdy is a search site that sends a Google search through an algorithm to rate articles by reading level.  Lighter highlighter articles are easier to read.  We use this occasionally with students but only when we can search with them since we don't allow our students to Google topics on their own.  The algorithm works well but we've found that most of the sites that come up in the Twurdy search as easy reading are sites we already have bookmarked on our Library Research Tools web page.

Simple.Wikipedia takes regular Wikipedia articles and both condenses them and uses more simple words and more wimple grammar for the same topics.  These can be very useful but since they don't often go into as much depth as the full Wikipedia article they may not have enough information for a 4th or 5th grade student who would like deep information but doesn't have the reading skills for regular Wikipedia.

Cruxbot is a new program that runs on your computer from a bookmarklet.  It takes any web page and simplifies it.  this works well because although you can choose to have an article condensed into one or two paragraphs you can also keep the entire article but have in translated into more simple sentences.  We have had excellent success with this recently for 3rd grade and older students who want to do more deep research.