Speech Central: Web Text to Speech

Once upon a time I used an app called VoiceBrief, I loved it! But it was buggy, often crashing and it never got updated before finally disappearing from the App Store. I have recommended the likes of ‘Capti’ and ‘Pocket’ to learners to curate material and listen on the go (we always have places to go and listening on the go can increase productivity) but I have never come across any app that came close to VoiceBrief, certainly some could read web pages but I never found them able to read from social media and certainly not effectively. Fast forward a few years and I  am commuting more than ever and consuming so much audio media I have been finding it more difficult to access new content having exhausted most material. The app allows you to listen to key headlines and then, when interested, add the headlines as articles to read [out] in full later, with the app highlighting the tezt as it is read out. The app is straightforward and does not have a big learning curve, but what really appeals to me is how much you can customise the app – including the voice and controls.

The developer States that “The app is tested to be accessible by visually impaired users. It has many features specifically tailored to users with disabilities like integrated Bookshare service, support for DAISY books, dyslexia friendly font, many visual settings, keyboard shortcuts for the most of commands available (with various options to navigate the text) in the app and on the iPhone it can be controlled with headphone or Bluetooth hands-free buttons and functions of those buttons can be customized. Combined with the interactive web feature available in the app the latter may make the web much easier to access on the mobile device for a person with eyesight or related disability.”

The ability to skip and add articles via the remote is an excellent feature and really increases the usability of the app.  This is an app that I feel is going to really play a key role in my commute once I return after the summer break, or for anyone that can take the opportunity to consume content on the go and not just for the accessibility benefits the app offers.

Here are the app store pages for Speech Central:

The App Developer has provided me with this product for purposes of providing a personal review and I have received no payment for this unbiased review.

Online Courses – Future Learn

Future Learn Logo

I have been meaning to start carrying out some online learning courses for a number of reasons:

  • Curiosity
  • Good practice
  • Up-skilling

I intend to look at not only a range of subjects (related to tech and my role) but from differing vendors. Currently I have only carried out small online courses that have lacked depth and structure – in fact they have been able to be carried out in a few hours – with the eception of a 5 week 15 hr course by Pivital Education, this was delivered on the Canvas VLE platform. I loved the ability to post experiences to each weekly forum and read the experiences of others (something that lacked in the smaller courses).

So having looked around I am starting this week with Future Learn and a 4 week (3hrs/wk) course on childhood in the digital age, why not join me? https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/childhood-in-the-digital-age  it started this week.



eFair 2015 Resources

The resources from the recent eFair can be found on the events website at http://efair2015.weebly.com/resources.html. I would like to say a huge thanks to Brad Wright @veescope for providing the great Veescope Live giveaways. I have already been approached by a manager who has requested further training and has ordered three green screens for her team!



eFair 2015 Live!

Today is the eFair 2015 @South Essex College, Thurrock Campus. For all things related check out:





A novel and interesting way to share content comes along in the form of Chirp, in the form of an App and as ‘Chirp for Chrome’, enabling you to share via audio your files and websites. An end to having to post URL’s to virtual learning environments or having to write on the board and hoping you get it right and learners do too? a method to move from desktop to mobile relatively seamlessly? or maybe just a lot of noise [sic]?

  1. find a site
  2. open chirp on mobile device (so it is listening)
  3. open chirp on desktop (have your audio turned up)
  4. click the chirp yellow button with the  “lightning” symbol

Most things such as PDFs or images can be saved to you device. Shame I cannot push websites to my browsers on my iPhone and have to remain in Chirp (I have certainly looked to see if I can on an iOS device) but the app is in early development. I also cannot send a site from my iPhone to Chirp for Chrome as it does not have a listen function currently – one to watch maybe?

Update: the above post was written without actually trailing in the field. This however has now been able to take place by chance rather than planning…

Working with Apprentice Learning Technologists I needed to discuss a number of videos that I had been given a link to a YouTube playlist. Unfortunately due to being at a different campus I had no phone near the desktop pc’s I could use and I really did not want to dig out my laptop unless necessary. This is where chirp came in – I installed the chrome extension, fired up my chirp app on my iPhone, chirped the link – I was then hotfooting it to a side office with phone where I could discuss points as I went through the playlist. Seamless.



Microsoft Showcase Classroom


(c) @GlennWoolaghan [Twitter]

Yesterday I spent the day with Microsoft looking at their Showcase Classroom. I really did not have a clear perception of what to expect other than looking at different mobile devices. So what did the day entail (and was it worth it!)?

Firstly it was free other than the cost of getting to London, Victoria and back for 10:00am – 3:30pm. A cup of coffee and a pain-au-chocolate later and we was shown a brief “Sway” presentation before the big reveal, doors slid open in our relatively small room, showing a much larger room with bright colours, comfy stool and giant bean bags. We grab a mobile device… this is going to be interactive! I pick a rugged grey “Stone” tablet with keyboard and a carry handle, colleagues pick HP tablets or Surface Pro’s – they all do the job they need to do.

We are asked to rate out the following out of four possible options: Don’t know what it it, aware, used a bit, used a lot using coloured post-it’s.

  • Windows 8.1 – its search capabilities and seamlessness
  • Yammer – social networking in a safe environment
  • Office 365 – buckloads, I even learnt about “Delve” (did you know a 365 account gives you 5 downloadable office’s?)
  • OneNote – the collaborative side utilising OneNote Classroom
  • OneDrive – limitless
  • Lync (Skype for Business) – connect to others and record sessions!

Now I was able to answer “used a lot” for all but that’s more a comment upon the organisation I work for and the projects I am involved in. I found the delivery that followed upon these technologies well thought-out and verging on seamless. a worthy day for the less tech proficient for sure. We had an outline of Mix and Sway (yes I felt an over whelming smugness) and then a hard-sell pitch for taking back-end services and pushing to our learners – progress, options, etc. (way off but lord-able goals). Finally we had highlighted windows 10 and  HoloLens.

I certainly found the day worthwhile but I took a number of key things with me…

  1. The organisation I work for are certainly embracing the tech discussed
  2. Although the room looked funky the backless “stools” were not nearly as comfortable as the “sit-in” bean bags
  3. Despite discussing how being untethered from the front of the classroom is ideal, it wasn’t applied (beyond a demonstration)
  4. A number of technologies will not work fully until we are in a 1-2-1 device position (such as OneNote)
  5. I cannot see myself bringing everything together under one platform, I am all for diversity in technology (Our D.A.V.E. intranet covers the likes of Delve and Yammer)
  6. Finally, there was a lot of discussion around learners subverting the technologies. More of this on a future post.


Millenials Infographic

I recently posted about the various generations out there and for us to be aware that not all “Gen Y” / Millenials are technical experts or even minded in some cases. I thought this interactive infographic shed further light on their “plight” such as money to spend and educational debt, certainly worth a look at http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/outlook/millennials/index.html 



To Blog or Not to Blog

Last week saw the launch of D.A.V.E at work, Dave is our College intranet featuring all the usual policies, procedures and forms. Where Dave differs is the inclusion of social networking facilities such as status-like updates, blogs, the ability to use @user very much like twitter and an influence rating based on your interactions with the systems and users. The system is the launch page for all our other MIS services (Management Information Systems/Services).

I would like to share a conversation I had with a colleague this week who raised many questions about D.A.V.E and made me reflect on how many staff members may be pondering similar question?….Hence the blog!

So the background on my fellow conversationalist, lets call him Dave (which it isn’t but it seemed appropriate), Dave is a tech savvy tutor but is happily a “non-social networker”. To quote Dave directly….. “wife does the social networking thing, I look over her shoulder and its all a bit irrelevant to me” I rose to the challenge, Dave was obviously somebody in need of some social networking enlightenment!

He raised some really good questions during our conversation which I think would be useful to share for other members of staff who may be teetering on the brink of engaging with D.A.V.E as was he.

Blogging Is an online diary open to a wider audience, most recent entry first (called a post) and can be from a paragraph to a full blown article that discusses your topic/focus from your perspective. A short sentence or comment that might be a statement or pose a question is generally seen as a status or comment (or in the case of D.A.V.E “What are you working on?”) and generally is not posted to a blog.

Do I need it in my life? Like anything else it’s not until you start to use it that the benefits start to become apparent I reminded Dave – remember life before the smart phone or sky/cable – he even admitted he would rather not!!!! It isn’t going to change your life but it does allow you to get in touch with like-minded individuals or groups, where you might even get answers to specific questions or share your own answers or findings.

Is it not a distraction or at the very least unnecessary background noise? I admitted it can be if the posts are not relevant or the blogger is developing their skills, but the benefits of using social technologies is that you can elect to “follow” and be informed of posts or move on. The saying “content is king” still counts for blogs – but whilst I may not be interested in hair dressing blogs (having little hair, or do they have a tonic secret!) I would love to see great tasting food recipes from the catering & hospitality team (hint hint!).

He went on to ask What am I not getting? It’s a great opportunity to tap into a wealth of resources, open up dialogue, expand conversations and reach out across our organisation to those you would not normally influence. Another tool or channel of communication. More importantly it is a great way to reach a larger interested audience.

He also questioned relevancy and time (in regards work)? Like any other channel of communication it has a settling in period, most have sent a funny email or a cheeky instant message (have you brightened up a colleagues day or cracked a smile from something you have received on MS Lync at work)? but these ease the burdens of our day, lighten our mood and generally are short lived humour. I remember getting a message to call a supplier back and getting ranted at down the phone by a ‘novelty angry chat line’. Well the novelty value will fade as people experiment and choose to either embrace or let it pass them by, and that is not a criticism, there are those that prefer face-to-face communication as much as those that like a phone call or an email.

He also raised an interesting point – Are we not just pandering to the Facebook generation and ‘liking’ everything? I would rather they did, I don’t want them to re-invent a social networking mechanism for each platform, although I still don’t get why we don’t have a ‘dislike’ or ‘meh’ [sic] option!

After a very engaging and thought provoking discussion he threw down the gauntlet and asked How would you engage me? Wow, this is the thought provoker…..

1. Read some posts, ignore those you don’t like and follow those you do
2. Got something to add? post a comment or question – ignite a debate or two – that’s what your blogger should welcome (as long as it is healthy)
3. You want to post? pick a topic or focus – most people do not want to know about every aspect of your day to day life – mine is edu tech related, I like to think I have a few relevant opinions, I don’t tell you about my latest recipe (although I can if you want – I make a killer focaccia)
4. Posting should be sustainable, I have blogged everyday for 100 days straight and it is a killer, aim to blog at intervals to maintain interest but to not burn out and never post again (called blog fading!). Once a week is more than acceptable
5. Include an image (reference source if necessary) and links for further/recommended reading

So how did the conversation end up? Well I throw the gauntlet back by looking forward to their first comment on this post and their future blog post (you know who you are “Dave”), maybe your first post could be about the path to blog enlightenment! Oh, and thanks for the material that made up this blog post, next step podcasting 🙂