Microsoft is admittedly playing catch-up to Google in K-12 education, but they are creating some dramatic offerings for leveling the playing field, particularly for students with reading difficulties and ELLs. Microsoft Learning Tools, originally a part of MS One Note, and now largely available within MS Word (Office 365) as the “Immersive Reader” view, has some terrific features for readers. As you can see in the video, you have choices for text and background colors, and can adjust not only font but also spacing between words. The text-to-speech engine works well, and offers decent voices, and adjustable reading rates, all while highlighting each word as it is spoken. (It reminds me of a karaoke screen!) In addition, it offers the ability to show syllables, and color code nouns, verbs, and/or adjectives.
If these features were only available in Word and OneNote, this would be pretty awesome. When you add in Microsoft’s phone app, Office Lens, it’s a game changer for kids with a reading disability. Office Lens is available for Apple, Android and Windows products, and it has Immersive Reader built in, so you can take a picture of anything (textbook, articles, signs, etc.) and it uses OCR to take advantage of the Immersive Reader in the app. So students don’t have to get up and go to a desktop and log into Kurzweil (awk-ward!), but can just stay where they are, with their earbuds in, and nobody has to know they aren’t listening to the latest, well, I won’t pretend I know what’s the latest.
If they prefer, the Office Lens app can save to OneDrive, OneNote, or directly into Word, so they can open it on another device, and take advantage of the Learning Tools on a large screen.
How cool is that?
How will YOUR students use Microsoft’s Learning Tools/Immersive Reader?