January 2015

Music Helps Improve Focus

Like many of our students, I often struggle to stay focused when I read. It doesn't matter if what I'm reading is a traditional printed text or a digital text. My mind wanders easily.

Recently, I read that playing instrumental music while reading would help keep one's mind focused on the task at hand. I read the entire article. It took a long time. In the end, I thought I'd put their idea to a test.

Here's what I found. Having music playing while I read does help me focus on the reading. However, it can't be just any music. There are lots of studies that support this idea. The music needs to be instrumental, not too loud, and not too dramatic. Some of the studies I read gave a recommendation for beats per minute, but I got distracted and can't remember the details.

Jesse Edwards -- SoundCloud

If you want to try playing music while you read, you should listen to our very own Grace Community School graduate, Jesse Edwards. You can find Jesse's music on SoundCloud. You'll find over 20 original pieces he's written. They are simply amazing.

Jesse's SoundCloud channel -- Click Here

Text-to-Speech Assistive Technology

Text-to-Speech technology has improved dramatically. Assistive technology is a useful tool not only for students with dyslexia but for any student who struggles with reading. When reading on a computer, using the Chrome browser, you can install the SpeakIt! extension. This extension will read most highlighted text. The user is able to set the reading speed and select a male or female voice.

Speech-to-Text Using an iPad

The iPad comes with several assistive technology tools. The speech-to-text tool will allow the iPad to read both iBook and Kindle ebooks, emails, and most websites.

Turning on this speech-to-text tool is easy. Select Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > Speak Screen. From this screen, there are several different voice options.

Once activated, swipe down from the top of the screen and the reading will begin. The video below shows how it works with the Kindle app.

Keep in mind this is the machine reading. Sometimes the reader mispronounces words. It's not perfect, but it's better than it use to be.

iPad Speak Screen

Look at the Book

Because I love the Bible and technology, my new favorite thing is a project from John Piper and Think of this as Khan Academy meets the Bible. According to Piper, this project is part of the legacy he wants to leave behind. The videos are short - usually 5-10 minutes long. On the screen is simply the text of scripture. The focus of the video is the Word, not the teacher. It is powerful in its simplicity.

See all the videos from Look at the Book -- Click Here

Look at the Book

Christina Jontra

Director of Digital Learning

Grace Community School