Text to Speech – How to make the MacBook and iPad work for students with reading difficulties

It is important that students with reading difficulties receive support to access written text. A great way to support students with reading difficulties is to set up their iPad or MacBook to convert text to speech. This does not replace the need to learn to read but is a way to break down a barrier while students are developing their reading skills.

There are times when it is important and necessary for students to access content in a timely manner so they can get on with their learning. This can't be done if a student with reading difficulties is required to sit and read large chunks of text.

Text to Speech on the iPad

Text to speech on a MacBook

Professional reading from Facebook and Twitter Part 12

Reading number 1

Blog: Education HQ Australia

Blog post: Students lead new PD program for South Australian teachers

Posted on Facebook by  Brenton Wilson

Reading number 2

Blog: Scope Vlog (video blog)

Blog post (You Tube video): Magnet rubric boards

Posted on Twitter by  @phys_educator

Reading number 3

Blog: Mind Shift how we learn

Blog post: Apps that challenge kids to solve environmental issues

Posted on Twitter by  @MindShiftKQED

Using Scratch to develop Year 8 coding skills

The Year 8s have been learning how to code using Scratch with Allan during term 1 this year. This online software allows students to learn the basics of coding.

Students used their knowledge of Scratch to create their own simple games based on existing games such as Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Pong or created their own original game.

The learning experienced while developing these games included:

  • Learning through trial and error
  • The importance of persistence
  • Breaking down big problems into smaller more manageable ones
  • Analysing errors and think about ways to correct them
  • Collaboration
Teacher quote "One of the most pleasing and perhaps unexpected outcomes I witnessed was the number of students who quickly became the expert at a specific area and then became the teacher helping other students to apply specific code to help their game. The idea that computer programmers are solitary people was quickly dispelled as the students realised the power of collaboration."

The video below shows a range of games created by the students.

Game 1 – Tic Tac Toe

Game 2 – Maze Runner

Game 3 – Pong

Game 4 – Donkey Kong

Game 5 – Timed maze

Game 6 – Virtual Pet (make sure your pet gets enough play time, is fed and sleeps)

This task  addresses TfEL Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigourous learning and TfEL Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning. Element 2.2 build a community of learners - Encourages everyone to be a teacher and a learner (students became experts in specific areas of coding and supported others) Element 4.4 communicate learning in multiple modes - Engages learners in practical activities to develop understanding (creation of a game using code)

Creating bilingual books with Book Creator

In term 1 Alison worked with the Year 5/6 Spanish class to create Spanish/English bilingual books.

The unit of work was titled las vacaciones – Que te gusta hacer? or holidays – What do you like to do?

Students learnt lots of pass time activities in Spanish such as dancing, playing  sport, swimming, singing etc. They learnt how to say whether they like doing those activities or not – me gusta  (I like)  or  no me gusta ( I don’t like).

The students assessment task was to design a bilingual ebook suitable for a preschool aged child titled What do you like to do? Que te gusta hacer? The books required  a repetitive sentence throughout  “do you like ………..? using the various activity words that they had learnt during the term.  The book needed to be colourful with large font suitable for a young child.  The text was required to be in Spanish and English with audio also in Spanish and English.

At the end of term 1 the Year 5/6 students shared their books with the Reception/Year 1 class.

This task  addresses TfEL Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning.
Element 4.3 apply and assess learning in authentic contexts
- Ensures demonstration of learning to real audiences (Reception/Year 1 class)
Element 4.4 communicate learning in multiple modes
- Encourages the use of a range of media for communicating learning (communicating through an ebook - this was something new and different to previous methods of communicating learning)
- Engages learners in practical activities to develop understanding (creation of an ebook)

Year 9/10 English – A Current Affair

During term 1 Justin’s Year 9/10 English class completed a unit of work investigating the television program A Current Affair.

This involved students:

  • Accessing a range of A Current Affair stories.
  • Discussing the structure of the stories and how this structure is repeated in every story.
  • Completing a 500 word essay comparing and contrasting two ACA segments.
  • Producing their own ACA story using the iPads and MacBooks.
  • Writing a 300 word self evaluation of their ACA story. Assessment included planning/script, storyboarding, group work, message/purpose and videography.
The scaffolding that Justin provided students was excellent and gave students every opportunity to do well in this unit of work. The following are some of the scaffolding documents provided to the students.

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Students planned and produced their own A Current Affair story. They used the iPads to record video footage and iMovie on their MacBooks to edit and produce the final product.

Planning for assessment of and for student learning

How we design our assessment tasks determines the quality of information we get back from our students. In turn, this impacts on how well we can then move our students forward and assess and report on student achievement to parents. Planning for assessment of and for student learning is a key part of the Learning Design process.

Learning Design

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When planning for assessment of and for learning we need to consider what strategies we will use to allow students to demonstrate their learning.

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Note: Formative assessment (assessment for learning) is any assessment used at the beginning of and during instruction to check student understanding with the purpose of moving students learning forward. Formative assessment includes self assessment and peer assessment practices. Summative assessment is any assesment that is used to make a final judgement or assign a grade for the purpose of reporting student performance to parents.

We need to ensure that our formative and summative assessment tasks:

  • Allow us to identify the next step in the learning process.
  • Allow students to present learning in different ways.
  • Allow students to present their learning in a way that supports them. For example, a drawing, video or audio explanation may be more appropriate than a written explanation for a student with low-level writing skills.
  • Directly connect with the verbs in the achievement standard. For example, if students are required to “identify and select a range of sources” then the task must provide the opportunity to do this.
  • Allow students to achieve the Standard at an ABOVE level (A or B grade). Closed tasks, like T or F and multiple choice, may be appropriate at times but can limit students ability to deeply explain concepts and show learning at a higher level.
  • Engage students through connections with their own lives and interests where possible (easier said than done).
  • Challenge students to not just find and repeat facts but to analyse, debate, create, evaluate and apply their knowledge to demonstrate understanding.

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Finally, the support we provide students to apply their knowledge and understanding is critical. The environment we create in our classrooms to support student learning goes a long way to determining the depth and level of knowledge students are able to demonstrate.

"The purpose of assessment is to improve learning, inform teaching, help students achieve the highest standards they can and provide meaningful reports on students’achievement." ACT Government Education & Training

To access online professional development in the area of Assessment for Learning click HERE.


Leading learning – Making the curriculum work for us

ACT Teachers Guide to Assessment