4 Reasons Why All Students Will Benefit from Text-to-Speech in Math Class
In schools, assistive technology (AT) is normally geared towards students with disabilities that need some sort of aid in order to access curriculum, communicate, or improve functional capabilities in an equitable way. As disabilities range from physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, and more, AT includes a vast number of products, many of which become obsolete when new technology is introduced.
One form of AT in particular, text-to-speech, was first developed in 1968 (Aalto University) and is still used widely today in schools. As its name suggests, this technology reads aloud text so the student can hear the words in addition to seeing them. It is often used with students that need assistance with reading due to dyslexia, vision impairments, ADHD, or any other disability that makes reading difficult. This form of AT is available from countless companies, and is often integrated into digital platforms.
Although text-to-speech is primarily an AT used for students with disabilities, it also can benefit students that do not have difficulty with reading. Here are 4 reasons why text-to-speech will strengthen outcomes in your Math classroom for all students:
Focus on Conceptual Understanding
When students use text-to-speech to read a problem, the focus shifts from decoding the language to solving the problem. With conceptual understanding at the forefront of best practices in Math education, text-to-speech allows students to centralize their thinking on how to solve the problem, and not what the problem means.
Although this is especially important for students with a known difficulty in reading, using text-to-speech in Math can be just as effective for the best readers. As a teacher, ask yourself if you are assessing the students’ understanding of a topic or the ability to read a problem. Text-to-speech can help eliminate variables in understanding the meaning of a problem, and focus on the Math itself.
Have you ever read a sentence over and over again because you were focused on something else while reading? Text-to-speech can help reduce distractions by giving students a more engaging way to understand a problem. Although some students find listening harder to understand than reading, having the option to do both gives students a choice to find their favorable way to engage with the text.
Support Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) calls for teachers to offer multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of expression while delivering a lesson. When present, these three mechanisms allow student choice and voice to be at the center of instruction. Text-to-speech supports having multiple means of engagement and representation in class, as students can engage in content with both audio and visual text, and see two different representations of the same problem.
When UDL is supported in a classroom, students are able to make choices based on how they learn best. UDL is not meant to only benefit students with disabilities. As its name suggests, it is a universal way to manage various learning styles and preferences in a classroom.
There are many terms today used in the sphere of second language acquisition, including ESL (English as a second language), ELL (English language learner), and ELD (English language development). Regardless of the program or terminology, text-to-speech can assist students who are learning English by supporting decoding, syntax, grammar structure, and fluency. It allows them to play the audio multiple times as needed and to match sounds to written words. As mentioned earlier, the assessment in Math should focus on the conceptual understanding of the problem, and not whether a student can decode the problem itself. For ELLs, this is crucial to differentiating their math understanding to their proficiency of the English language.
Although text-to-speech is widely and effectively used for students with disabilities, it can strengthen the outcomes in your Math classroom for all students.