The (r)evolution of studying

Read&Write Gold uses text-to-speech technology to make university life just a little bit easier

- March 12, 2014

(Ali Seglins photo)

Have you ever wanted your paper to write itself? With Dalhousie’s new text-to-speech software, Read&Write, the possibility has become a reality. (Don’t get too excited: you still need to know your stuff.)

Whereas other text-to-speech software requires users to be actively using the program, this software contains a stand-alone menu bar on the desktop for easy access. The voice can be set to male or female and have different accents. Speed, pitch, and volume can also be modified.

“The fact that it has the stand-alone bar, and can be used in whatever format I need it to be used for has been some of the biggest benefits,” says second-year law student, Margarete Daugela, who started using the program at the end of last semester.

The program can also translate any digital content — including onscreen selections, website content, or digital textbooks — into multiple languages and read it back again.

“Depending on what your application is, what you’re using it for, you do find yourself changing the voice,” says Margarete. “Say you’re trying to take notes, maybe you’ll set it a little slower, and maybe somebody’s voice doesn’t sound great slow, so you’ll change it around a bit.”

Developed by Texthelp, the software was originally geared towards students with learning disabilities or students with English as their second language. But with such a large variety of features, anyone can find a use for it. Imagine listening to your notes on the way to class.

“This tool is fairly universal in that you can use it in a number of different applications,” says Quenta Adams, director of Advising and Access Services. “Given the student population that we work with, it’s a great study guide.”

Dalhousie has purchased an unlimited site licence for Windows and Mac, meaning any Dalhousie student can download the software with their NetID and by logging onto software.dal.  

Maria Currie, technology resource advisor, explains the versatility of the highlighting feature. “If you’re taking some highlights from the book or the Internet, you can collect them into one document. It also gives your sources: which document it came from, the page, the date of publication.”

As a law student with sight issues and also a large volume of readings, Margarete is sold on the program. “Anybody’s who’s reading a lot knows the strain on their eyes. And the portability of it — just being able to take it on your iPod is hugely beneficial. Some days it’s nice to be reading and listening at the same time.”

Because of the number of features available for the software, Halifax-based students interested in using Read&Write Gold are encouraged to book an appointment at Academic Support. Students at Dal AC can contact Heather Doyle at heather.doyle@dal.ca or 896-7022.


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