One of the key cornerstones of all learning is literacy – the ability to decode words, then sentences and ultimately, meaning. Without strong comprehension skills many students can struggle to progress with their learning across multiple curriculum areas.
This morning I watched Mike Tholfsen’s recent webinar from earlier in January with Operation Diversity where he spoke about the power of creating inclusive classrooms through the Microsoft Education tools, specifically the Learning Tools / Immersive Reader found across a range of the Office365 products.
The entire video is worth watching above, but I’ve pulled out some of the key features from this video below and also have the PDF version of the PowerPoint deck Mike presented that you can download here:
It’s worth noting that the three educational goals Microsoft have include:
- Empower students to do their best work
- Enable teachers to engage every learner
- Ensure equity and inclusion in schools
The last one is particularly important and resonates with me as I see technology as a key feature for enabling students to access and learn from content that they may not previously have been able to engage with. There is recent research that I referred to in this earlier post that showed the Learning Tools from Microsoft enabled all students to access content at higher reading levels than they previously could have, irrespective of their starting literacy levels.
Indexed Points Of Interest From The Webinar:
- Demo of Immersive Reader in the free OneNote for Win10 app
- Text to speech and individual line and word highlighting – aimed to sustain focus and in some cases improve reading speeds.
- Reduce visual crowding by increasing line, word and letter spacing.
- Special fonts are included and tuned for people with dyslexia. These fonts are “Sitka” and “Calibri”
- Short line mode – increase font size for visually impaired readers
- Cognitive services built into Immersive Reader
- The highlighting of grammar, breaking down of words by syllables to help emerging readers decode words more accurately.
- Line focus or “digital reading rulers”
- Dimming out background text and focusing on a single line. This allows the eye to stay in the same place whilst the text moves “up” in the background, (optionally, a student could manually scroll the text if they preferred).
- These features save the teacher time as they don’t have to manually set these for each student and the student gains independence because they can control how they want to see the text and don’t feel stigmatized by needing to seek assistance
- Using Office Lens and OneNote with picture OCR
- This works with any picture of text! Take a photo of text, insert into OneNote and the text will be scanned automatically and can then have Immersive Reader apply the tools and filters to that text.
- The FREE version of Word Online includes Immersive Reader
- The “Read Alout” automatically detects language direction and goes right to left for Arabic example.
- In the desktop version of Word ProPlus this is supported too, and you have real time breaking by syllable as you type.
- When co-authoring in Word desktop individuals can choose how they want the look and feel to be – if one student needs Learning Tools / Immersive Reader then they can view the text that way, other students can view the default look and feel. This is called “inclusive co-authoring” and is an incredibly empowering tool to individualise the learning process for students, enabling them to access the support they may need whilst working collaboratively with other students.
- Edge Browser supports the Immersive Reader as well
- Supported in off line browsing too – if the page is loaded the “Read aloud” will still work as this is powered by Windows 10
- You can read PDF in Edge too
- ePub documents are supported as well
- Efficacy of OneNote Learning Tools
- These tools have been winning awards in the Dyslexia community for the effectiveness of these tools
- There is a specific reference in here to the independent research that I blogged about late last year in terms of improving students’ reading rates and literacy through the use of Learning Tools for just six weeks.
- Office Lens will do OCR in real time and make the text support Immersive Reader
- What products support Learning Tools?
- A better version of this is available in the slide deck that is included as a PDF here: Operation Diverstiy Webinar – Reading and Writing
- Writing more efficiently with Dictation Editor and Read Aloud
- Editor in Word
- Includes new spell checkers that are tuned for dyslexia – giving prompts of words based on common mis-spellings by dyslexics
- Allows for read aloud, not just of the word, but also of the definition so a student can have read back to them various definitions and choose the correct one based off what why were meaning (this feature is coming to OneNote soon).
- Give it a go without an account!
- If you go to www.onenote.com/learningtools/ you can launch the Immersive Reader tool with no account needed and see how it works. A great way to easily try it out.
My Point of View:
This combination of tools have the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of teachers and students. The real power is that they are integrated directly within the Office365 products – there are no need for third party plugins as these features are all developed internally by Microsoft and built directly into the products.
I love the fact that students are empowered to engage in the content in the way that makes the most sense for them and they can choose the level of support they require when accessing the text. This also frees up the teacher to support and teach, rather than having to be the “technology manager” in the classroom.