Reading by Listening

I was recently asked how I manage to read so much. Beyond dipping in and out when I can, I have taken to listening to texts. This though has been a bit of a journey.

Beyond my consumption of various podcasts, I initially started out listening to texts via audiobooks through Audible. Some of the great books I enjoyed were Start With WhyIt’s ComplicatedFinnish LessonsA More Beautiful Question, TribesToo Big To Know, Smarter Than You Think, Mindsets and David and Goliath. As a workflow, this worked to a point. Although the recordings were always enthralling, they involved a lot of data on my phone, as well as made it a challenge to take note of ideas. In addition to this, I was limited to what was available on Audible.

On the advice of Steve Brophy and his great post, I started using Lisgo as a way of listening to blogs and articles saved to Pocket on iOS. This was useful, but again limited to what could be saved to Pocket.

With a desire to listen to more books, I found a way to listen to Kindle books via the iOS app using the Text-to-Speech function in Accessibility. This involves simply reading out what was on the screen. To make this even easier to use I set up triple click function to activate the Speech-to-Text. The only limitation with Speech-to-Text is that it does not read ‘textbooks’ (although they seem rare). Sadly, this workaround does not work with iBooks.

Since moving from an iPhone to a Nexus device I enjoyed the ability to listen within the Pocket app. While I have explored the use of ezPDF Reader to listen to PDF documents. This app allows a plethora of options, however it sometimes has too much going on and can be a little finicky, especially when stopping and starting a text. Subsequently, I am still looking. I have also found the workaround for listening to Kindle less useful. Although Talkback will read Kindle books (including textbooks), it is a little more limited. Firstly, it always starts at the top of the page, which can be annoying if you want to stop it at any point. Secondly, there is no ‘triple-click’ shortcut found on iOS. Although you can set a button for temporarily turning it on and off, you still need to go through Settings to turn it on and off, which can be annoying.

So that is me, these are some of the ways that I have taken to improving my productivity. For some, the idea of listening to a computerised voice reading a book just is not aesthetic experience. In the end, it is up to you. As always, thoughts and comments welcome, especially if you have have tried anything different.


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This is an introduction to +Steve Brophy and I’s presentation ‘Listening to Voices In and Out of the Classroom’ for #DLTV2014 and explains what we mean by ‘voice’ and its relationship with technology …
 
It is so easy to consider technology as the answer, that missing solution, that panacea that will somehow manage to solve all education’s ills. However, there is no tool or technique that will magically solve all our problems for us. Instead, technology is a support, an addition, a supplement, something that helps us do what we do, but better. In regards to Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model, this change revolves around ‘redefining’ what we do. Providing a possibility for something that was often deemed impossible. +Bill Ferriter suggests, “technology lowers barriers, making the kinds of higher order learning experiences that matter infinitely more doable.”
Importantly, the changes brought about by technology are not about simply dispelling the past. For as Ferriter argues, many of those attributes that get lumped with the call for reform are things that highly effective teachers have been doing for years. Various higher order thinking skills, such as the engagement in collaborative dialogue, solving complex problems and manipulating multiple streams of information, are not new.
Take the act of publishing for example. After consulting with a teacher from another state +Cameron Paterson got his Year 9 History class to create picture books around the topic of World War 1 for a kindergarten. While +Bianca Hewes used Blurb, a site that allows you to create both eBooks and physical books, to publish her student’s stories for a wider audience. There is nothing new about composing texts for an audience. Technology though allows us to publish to a more authentic audience more easily.
Another particular area where technology allows for a change is in regards to capturing the different voices associated with learning. Whether it be communicating or collaborating, there are many different scenarios involving listening and responding to voices in and out of the classroom. Voices have always had a central role in the classroom for at its heart, learning is a social activity. However, instead of conversations being dictated by the few, technology democratises the whole process, it takes away some of the social pressures and tedious silences when no one is willing to respond. Technology makes it more doable.
We feel that there are three different categories when it comes to listening to voices in education:
  • Students communicating and collaborating with each other
  • Students and teachers in dialogue about learning
  • Teachers connecting as a part of lifelong learners

As with any sort of arbitrary division there will always be examples which go across categories. However, splitting things in this way helps to highlight some different spaces and situations where voices can be heard and provides a foundation on which we can continue the conversation.
So to the big question, how are you listening to different voices in and out of the classroom? And in what ways does technology make this more doable?

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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16109207045

 

In an insightful post, ‘Missing the Moments By Trying to Capture the Moments‘, +Chris Wejr spoke about the dangers of missing the moment by failing to just be there. Wejr’s issue is with technology and the modern trend to try and capture each and every moment. However, I think that it is not just technology which prevents us from being there. Sometimes the helter skelter nature of life means that even though we are there, we are not always aware of those significant moments that occur around us each and every day.
 

Final Moments

This was all brought to the fore with the recent passing of my mother. It is a strange experience being told that there is no more treatment that they can do, that the cancer is terminal. On the one hand, the doctor gives some indicative date, while others talk about how they were told that there was nothing that could be done for them and that was over ten years ago. Subsequently, every time that I saw my mum in the last few weeks of her life, I was never sure if it would be the final time. A part of you realises this, however I feel that there is also something inside that simply denies that it will never happen. This is something that I have written about elsewhere (‘Denial Never Worked for No-One’).
 
My last real one to one chat happened when I was least expecting it. With my step dad out picking up my brother and sister from school, I had a few moments with my mum. All of the sudden the tone of the conversation changed from being chatty, talking about this and that, but nothing in particular, to being more serious. I am not sure if it was something that I said or whether it was something that mum was just waiting to say, but she learnt forward from the couch and told me that I was a great brother, an amazing son and a fantastic husband and that I should not listen to anyone who says otherwise. In my usual manner, I tried to dodge these compliments. Like my mum, I just don’t like being pumped up. However, it didn’t occur to my till much later that these were mum’s last meaningful words for me. Although we had a few more conversations, none of them were as deep as this moment.
 

Being Aware of the Other Voices in the Classroom

This all got me reflecting about the conversations that we have in the classroom and thinking about the opportunities that we may let pass by because we were distracted by or more focused on something else. With so many conversations occurring in and out of the classroom, it can be so easy to fall into auto mode where we respond but we are not really there. Where we give a student answer, but fail to realise the intention behind the question. Where we may negatively respond to a student who is acting out, when the student in question may in fact be calling out for help.
 
In a post ‘Listening to the Other Voices in the Classroom‘ I spoke about the role of technology as being a vehicle for capturing all the voices in the classroom. Whether it be sharing ideas with Padlet or collecting responses using Socrative, there are many ways to collect information. However, what this overlooks is that the true other voice in the classroom is that voice whose response is incidental and unexpected, whose response doesn’t have a place in a daily planner, whose response is not necessarily easily resolved. The problem with this though is that we are not always ready for such responses, nor are we always willing to accept them.
 
So how are you making sure that you are listening to those other voices in the classroom? How are you making sure that students feel comfortable sharing those things important to them? Would love to know your thoughts and ideas.

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