Text to MP3 – Text2Speech

I spent quite a bit of time trying to locate a tool that would convert text to MP3 that would be free and easy to use.  There are several sites with this capability, but most limit the recordings to a minute or less or to a minimal amount of words without a paid membership.

http://vozme.com/text2voice.php?lang=en is free without time or character limitations; however, the audio is barely understandable.

http://www.text2speech.org/  allowed up to 4,000 characters, had the option of either an MP3 file or a WAV file for downloading, along with four different English speaking voice options.

I converted this blog into two MP3 files:

http://clive-shepherd.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/the-changing-skill-set-of-learning.html

Unfortunately, the recording is very mechanical without appropriate pauses for periods, commas, and hyphens.

While I believe having audio available can help students with different learning preferences, I felt this particular audio was not very effective; however, there are better options if you are willing to pay for them.

www.readthewords.com, which costs $99 for the teacher’s package, has an option to add in manual pauses using <Silence msec=”500″ /> within the text to apply pauses by the milisecond.  The 500 option would provide a 1/2 second pause.

With the paid membership, there are options to embed a customizable avatar along with 15 different voice choices for the recording.  The recording limit without a paid membership is 30 seconds and with the Teacher’s Pack it is 8 hours.

While converting text might be helpful for learning in theory, finding a tool with a voice that is understandable and easy to listen to is a challenge.

StoryJumper – Recipe Book

This was the first time I have used StoryJumper and was very pleased with how user-friendly the site was.  To begin, you are offered a video that shows you how to use all of the available tools.  When you’ve completed your book, you can make it available to view online or printable with a nominal charge.  I was impressed with the number of books that were viewable to the public and you also have the choice of keeping your book private with access by a hyperlink only.

Here is a juice recipe book I created:

https://www.storyjumper.com/book/index/44068026/59c9e70aec400

I liked the ability to bring in my own photos that I found on the web labeled for noncommercial use and the site had several background options to dress up the book.  There are also several font and color options to personalize your book.

This tool can be used by both teachers and students to create lots of different reading products.  I imagine a teacher could create lessons through stories using this tool and again, the book can be either in soft copy or hardcopy.  Students can use this tool to depict what they’ve learned or it can be used to  let their creative (or even technical) writing capabilities come to life.  As a child, I would have loved to have created a book and to get a hard copy to keep.

This tool is easy and fun to use!

WordArt Word Clouds

I tried to used Tagxedo to create a word cloud, but because I don’t have the Silverlight plug-in, it didn’t work for me.  However, I found another website, https://wordart.com and created this Leadership word cloud:  https://wordart.com/o4z8w63zi4km/leadership from the this website:  http://briandownard.com/leadership-skills-list/.

There are several personalization capabilities built into this website:

Words:  Type in the words manually, import words from a spreadsheet or from a website.  Decide whether the words show up once or multiple times.  I typed in the words manually and elected for individual words to show up only one time in the word cloud.

Shapes:  Select from many different shapes available on the website or add an image of your own in which the words will reside.  I chose the built-in “globe” image.

Fonts:  Choose from several fonts or add your own font.  I selected the built-in BPreplay Italic font.

Layout:  Choose the direction and placement of the words in your word cloud.  I chose for the words to show up in a “positive slope.”

Colors & Animation:  Select the color(s) of the words and personalize how words will be highlighted when scrolled over.  When you scroll over a word in my word cloud, you’ll see it enlarge in a pink box with green lettering.

This website is fairly user friendly . . . just remember to press the “Visualize” buttton to see your word cloud and after your edits in order for changes to take effect.

This tool is a way to show words that are connected with an idea and can help identify words that are listed most often on a webpage.  Word clouds can help to create a visceral impact that may not happen when staring at a page of text. Word clouds can also help quickly identify themes and can be an interesting way to start a conversation around a particular topic.

Quiznetic – Quick Quiz Creater

Quiznetic is an online program that is completely free and I was able to log in with my Google account.

I created this Quiz:

Pop Culture Trivia

If you scroll through the quiz page, you’ll see that I was able to add video and pictures to enhance the quiz.

Here is a video of how the Quiz is played in the classroom.

A few things to note:

  1. I had trouble logging into the quiz as a student using Safari on my iPhone but Google Chrome worked great.
  2. The quiz I created was short answer instead of multiple choice.  It was not case sensitive but if I added an extra space to my answer (this automatically happens if you select a suggested word instead of typing it out completely) then the answer will be considered incorrect.
  3. At the end of the game, as the teacher, you can get the final results for everyone who finished the game and can export the results to a spreadsheet so you can see how each player answered each of the questions.
  4. The scoring is a bit interesting.  I selected to allow a player to move forward two spaces for each correct answer and to move backwards one space for each wrong answer.  One of my players only had to answer 10 questions to move through all 18 spaces on the board; next time I will be sure to create enough spaces on the board to force a player to answer every question to be able to reach the final space.

Here are some screenshots of what players see:

I think online quizzes are a great way to engage your students and assess their understanding of the material.  While this quiz was filled with fun pop culture questions, I could see a teacher 1) attaching short videos to be viewed and then a question or questions to determine what was learned from the video; 2) asking mathematical questions; and 3) using a picture to prompt answers.

Quiznetic is so easy to use, has capabilities to add video and photos, and the options to have multiple choice questions, or numeric input, or short answer.

The biggest drawback for this tool is that it seems the quiz has to be opened and closed in real time so a teacher would only be able to use this in the classroom or during a pre-determined time frame outside of school hours.

Canva – Graphic Design Publications – Mindfulness Infographic

I got the idea of making an infographic from reading Marc Routsong’s blog and I found the site, https://www.canva.com/, to be fairly user friendly.  I made the infographic below from some information I received while taking a Mindfulness course.

There were many different templates to choose from, and it was easy to edit the text.  However, I found that changing the layout and editing the pictures to be cumbersome.  I was able to use the copy/paste function to add two additional blocks to this template which originally had only seven blocks.  Also, there is no “grouping” option so the text boxes did not move when I decreased the size of or tried to move an individual block.

There is the capability to upload your own pictures and even access pictures from your Facebook account.

I really liked the share functionality as it allows one to share directly to Twitter or Facebook, and even gives the option to embed on WordPress.  There are also options to share via email and give those you share with the rights to edit your design.  This would be very useful in a collaborative working situation.

The order prints option is probably the most unique capability of this website.  I would love to have this mindfulness infographic printed as a bookmark, but unfortunately, that was not an option.  However, I could order 25 5×7 cards which would cost me $54.50 or 50 business cards for $50.50.

I see many uses for this graphic design website to include creating posters and cards with quick-hit information and colorful infographics.

VideoScribe Anywhere- Video Scribing Presentation

VideoScribe Anywhere is an iOS app that allows one to easily build a video scribing presentation which are those animated videos in which you watch a hand draw out the presentation in pictures and words.

Building the presentation was fairly easy with the ability to select font type and color.  For my particular presentation, I did not select any of the app’s stock pictures and I could not figure out how to add pictures of my own or from the web.  My favorite option was the capability to select how long to draw out each animation and text box.

I would have preferred to have the option to select a size instead of having to manually size each box with the click and drag method.  There was no way to select a font size but it would change with the size of the text box.  The only saving grace in this arena was the quick ability to copy and paste the text boxes to make them uniform.

There are also options to add background music from a stock selection and to add voiceover; however, the free app kept crashing every time I tried to add a voiceover.  There are options for paid services but I felt they were a bit pricey for just a one-time use – $29 per month through https://my.sparkol.com.  If I were going to use this tool regularly, the value would be in the yearly subscription of $144 payable at $12 per month.

I also tried to upload my videoscribe to http://sho.co/ to share but the app kept crashing every time I selected this option.  It might have been because I did not have the paid monthly subscription.  There is the option to pay $4.99 for the capability to download the newly created videoscribe to one’s camera roll to share but be warned that this option is very slow . . . it took nearly two hours to download my videoscribe presentation.  The quality is also not as good as it is when played on the app . . . HD available with a paid subscription.

Once downloaded, it was too large to share the video directly on WordPress so I uploaded it to YouTube.  Enjoy!