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Using Microsoft Learning Tools in Inclusive Classrooms

June 5, 2018

Have you seen the new Learning Tools from Microsoft? The team at Microsoft has developed a set of inclusive capabilities in Office and Windows to support all learners. Free for all users, the Microsoft Learning Tools will transform the way you think about using digital tools to create inclusive spaces for students.

I spend a lot of time in classrooms and talking with educators who are passionate about leveraging the power of digital tools. Earlier this year I connected with the team at Microsoft to get a firsthand look at their Learning Tools. These totally free tools are designed to support students with a variety of needs. This includes dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, ELL, emerging readers.

In my book, Taming the Wild Text: Literacy Strategies for Today’s Reader, co-authored with Pam Allyn, we talk about the importance of using digital tools strategically in the classroom. Learners of all ages can benefit from increased access to technology. The Microsoft Learning Tools are a great example of how technology can transform reading and learning experiences for students.

Immersive Reader

If you haven’t seen the Immersive Reader from Microsoft, you are going to want to try this out! I was completely blown away by the ease and power of this tool. It is totally free and is an absolute game changer for students. You can use Immerisve Reader on the web on any browser and access it on an iPad, Mac, Chromebook, you name it! It’s also available on OneNote, Outlook and Word Desktop. With Immersive Reader, students and teachers can take any passage of text and set up students so they can hear it read aloud.

As you can see in the screenshot below, Immersive Reader is more than just a tool to hear text read aloud. With this tool, students can highlight different parts of speech and increase the spacing to make it easier for them to read or listen to the passage read aloud. Immerisve Reader gives students the option to change the size of the text, switch the font and choose a theme. When students choose a theme, they are able to pick from a series of different colors. In Immersive Reader, students also have the option to break down syllables and access a Picture Dictionary.

Microsoft Learning Tools in Action Immersive Reader

As you can see in the image above, Immersive Reader helps students navigate text as it reads each line. You can copy and paste any text, or use this tool in conjunction with the Microsoft Edge web browser or other files like ePub or PDF. It also works in Office Lens for iPad/iPhone which you can check out here. In addition to using Immersive Reader in English, Microsoft Learning Tools are available in many different languages. You can view an entire list of available tools in each language on this page.

Microsoft Learning Tools in Action

Microsoft Learning Tools are transformative in the hands of students. In the video below (and linked here) you can see students interacting with the Immersive Reader. Students can get instant support as they read and build confidence as they interact with the new text.

In addition to the Learning Tools highlighted in the video, there are a handful of other powerful features you’ll want to explore. Dictation, word prediction, and Microsoft Translator are game changers!

Dictation

In addition to the fantastic Immersive Reader, both Office 365 and Windows 10 now have built-in dictation (speech to text). So when teachers or students open up these tools, they have the option to use their voice to dictate into their device. Office 365 and Windows 10 will turn speech into text. With this tool, a student who may have difficulty typing a response with a keyboard or completing a traditional piece of writing can use the dictation feature to capture and share their learning.

Word Prediction

Windows 10 also has built-in Word Prediction.  Known as “Text Suggestions,” this feature will predict the next word a student will add to their sentence so they can add it to their writing. Word Prediction is a new feature so you might not see it on your device. All you have to do is update to the Windows 10 April 2018 update.

Microsoft Translator

Between the powerful immersive reader, the speech-to-text feature, and the ability to see word predictions as you write, there are so many exciting things happening within the Microsoft ecosystem for educators. If you are working with students and family who speak another language, including English Language Learners and families who are deaf or hard of hearing, there is one more feature to you’ll want to investigate!

In the video above, you can see Microsoft Translator in action. This feature makes it easier for all members of a school community to interact with one another. Microsoft Translator gives users access to live captioning and  facilitates cross-language understanding. It can support multilingual casual conversations among students, educators and families.

Ready to jump into these powerful Microsoft Learning Tools? Click here to access the Microsoft Education page or use the links above to learn more about each feature!

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Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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