A great tool that converts text to speech is iSpeech.
Personal (non commercial) use is free and is great for visually impaired students. You can either use the demo at the front of the site for quick text to speech, or you can sign up for a free personal account that lets you do much more such as embed text to speech in your website.
iSpeech could also be good for language and literacy learners.
The 2010 Horizon Report has been released. If you are new to the Horizon Report, it looks at the future impacts of technologies on teaching and learning.
The six technologies to watch that have been chosen for this year’s report are:
Near term (within 12 months)
- Mobile computing
- Open content
Second adoption (2-3 years)
- Electronic books
- Simple augmented reality
Far term (4-5 years)
- Gesture-based computing
- Visual data analysis
Of particular note to school libraries is possibly mobile computing and electronic books. The Horizon Report adds that:
- Network-capable devices that students are already carrying, are already established on many campuses, although before we see widespread use, concerns about privacy, classroom management, and access will need to be addressed. At the same time, the opportunity is great; virtually all higher education students carry some form of mobile device, and the cellular network that supports their connectivity continues to grow. An increasing number of faculty and instructional technology staff are experimenting with the possibilities for collaboration and communication offered by mobile computing. Devices from smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.
- Electronic books have been available in some form for nearly four decades, but the past twelve months have seen a dramatic upswing in their acceptance and use. Convenient and capable electronic reading devices combine the activities of acquiring, storing, reading, and annotating digital books, making it very easy to collect and carry hundreds of volumes in a space smaller than a single paperback book. Already in the mainstream of consumer use, electronic books are appearing on campuses with increasing frequency. Thanks to a number of pilot programs, much is already known about student preferences with regards to the various platforms available. Electronic books promise to reduce costs, save students from carrying pounds of textbooks, and contribute to the environmental efforts of paper conscious campuses.
Some other important points made by the report are
- Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
- Institutions increasingly focus more narrowly on key goals, as a result of shrinking budgets in the present economic climate. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to control costs while still providing a high quality of service. Schools are challenged by the need to support a steady — or growing — number of students with fewer resources and staff than before. In this atmosphere, it is critical for information and media professionals to emphasize the importance of continuing research into emerging technologies as a means to achieve key institutional goals. As one example, knowing the facts about shifting server- and network intensive infrastructure, such as email or media streaming, off campus in the current climate might present the opportunity to generate considerable annual savings.
- New scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching continue to emerge but appropriate
metrics for evaluating them increasingly and far too often lag behind.
It must be noted that currently Higher Education authorities in the US are not promoting the Kindle due to its limitations for blind and vision impaired students. Thanks to Helen Boelens for this article.