[This is the first guest post from new member of #TeamHable Nic Clark about the brilliant Learning Tools from Microsoft.]
With the release of the Learning Tools extension for not only Word online, but also now OneNote online, I thought it was time to explain how to find them and help you learn the basics.
Blindingly simple to understand and use but amazingly powerful in its functionality, Learning Tools is a free extension or add-in to Word, OneNote, Word online and OneNote online. For educators and institutions it’s a great resource and a more than capable replacement for other paid-for tools out there. Learning Tools is built into the View menu of both OneNote and Word online and can be downloaded from Microsoft as an add-in to the Windows desktop versions.
The Learning Tools Immersive Reader will whip any text from a page into a special view with some very helpful controls. It appears on a customizable canvas so the user can select the colour of the background. This is not just there for mere aesthetics – many children and adults find reading from white backgrounds difficult; the words may appear blurred or jump around. This is known as ‘visual strain’. Most of us will find that we prefer a particular colour to read from. Many people who have dyslexia also find a coloured background helps their reading and concentration. I discovered my colour is yellow – on new white printed paper reading can be uncomfortable but I’ll happily spend hours reading yellowed paperback books!
The size of the text can also be altered easily for those who prefer reading larger sizes. In addition, the spacing of the letters can be widened. Another nifty feature is the ability to get the learning tools extension to highlight features in the text such as syllables, nouns, adjectives, and verbs which makes this a valuable tool for teachers of younger children or those with specific needs.
In a final stroke of brilliance (and perhaps the main reason for using the Learning Tools) Microsoft have included the excellent Immersive Reader that will, at the tap of a button, read back the page at a customizable speed.
As a teacher, I think the case for using these tools is compelling and all this is built right into two very familiar applications that most schools, universities and businesses have already purchased.
There are still a few subtle differences between the web and desktop versions. I’ve already mentioned that in the web version, the Immersive Reader is found on the view tab. In the desktop versions they occupy their own tab usefully called Learning Tools. I say ‘they’ because in the desktop versions, also included is a very capable dictation tool that will accurately type what you say in several languages. The other main difference is that it is not possible to change the voice in the online version …yet.
To sum up, the Learning Tools add-in is really a must have for any educator or educational institution and has the potential to help thousands of students with reading and writing whilst allowing schools and education institutions to streamline what they need to buy. Learning Tools covers text-to-speech, speech-to-text, comprehension tools, overlay tools and many more in one simple page, for free! In OneNote, Immersive Reader will also convert handwriting to text on-the-fly!