Saturday, April 26, 2014

More Digital Magic - This time: Read&Write for Google

Ever since I attended the Google Academy for Teachers in 2011 in Tel Aviv, I have morphed into a Google junkie - unrecognizable by family, friends and anyone who knew me prior to that life-altering experience (ok... a little hyperbole to hook you never hurts, right?). Ever since that evolution, Chrome has my weapon of choice (aka: my default browser ;-). 

Do you use Google Chrome? I hope so, because the rabbit I'm going to pull out of my digital magician's hat today only works on Google Chrome. It is called “Read&Write for Google”. The tool comes in two forms: the premium version, which has a lot more accessibility and options as well as the free version which in itself is wonderful for students who need to be read to.
The first thing you do is go to the Google App Store and download the “Read&Write for Google” extension for Chrome.
Once installed, you get all of the premium features for free for a month. It's fun to play with them however in order to get the premium version after a month it costs $100 for a subscription for a year. if you have a student who is learning disabled and needs to be read to and do all sorts of other work and work together with the laptop it might be worth their while. It is it is not more expensive than an electronic dictionary, and far more versatile (providing they work with a laptop or computer often). However even the free version can enable them admittance to sites and docs that until now were more challenging for them to access.
So what does this marvelous tool to do? Once you have installed the extension for “Read&Write for Google” to your Chrome browser, it will read aloud any webpage that is in English. This enables your students who need to be read to, to access documents in their Google Drive, Internet pages, even their emails!

It can be used on their PCs at home and on their laptops, if they have. If they have the adaptation of being read to, they can use it it during exams as well. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, you cannot install it to a smartphone. Hopefully that will not be too far off.   I also tried to download it on my Android tablet, but it does not support the program. It DOES, however, look like it will work on an iPad.
I have used and recommended other readers before such as ReadPlease (which has been discontinued), and Natural Reader. I am very happy to see that the “Read&Write for Google” reader sounds more pleasant and natural to my ears than the tinny alternatives that we have had for free until now. In addition,  in the other programs you would have to copy and paste the text that you want to be read to you, into the window of the program. With “Read&Write for Google” all you have to do is click on the icon on your Chrome browser window, which opens the program toolbar, and send it on its way! It will read exactly what is on the website or in the Googledoc.
All you need to do now is be sure that the work that you give your students is already digitalized and show them how to install the extension on their Chrome browser, and ......voila!
Are any of you acquainted with this useful Chrome extension? Have you or your students used it? If so, please share your experiences and impressions here in the comments! Also, if you have an iPhone, or an iPad, do let us know if it works there!

Digitally yours,

P.S. It's been a while since I published this, and there have been updates to the program. If you can't find it on your extensions bar any more, watch this and it should help you.