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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flickr photo shared by Ken Whytock under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I really enjoy engaging with different ideas via Podcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read posts, books and watch videos. However, Podcasts are both easy to dip in and out of, as well as consume in everyday situations. Some of my regulars are 2 Regular Teachers, Radio National’s Big Ideas, Teachers Education Review, Radio National’s Future Tense, Guardian Tech Weekly and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. I have written about some of these before, comparing each to a particular refreshment. However, since that time, Today in Digital Education (TIDE) Podcast has arrived.

TIDE is a weekly podcast created by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw discussing everything from education, technology, and everything in between. I think that ‘everything in between’ is an understatement. Although there is a lot of talk about technology and education, a field which both are a part of, what makes the podcast is at its margins. Discussions bounce around between parenthood, politics and productivity. To me this is something of an embodiment of Belshaw’s own particular exploration of digital literacies,  something that goes beyond just the constructive and communicative use of a tool, but a confident, creative and critical engagement with culture. For those who fear the echo chamber, the wide mix of thoughts and ideas shared each week quickly dissolves that.

Coming back to the analogy of refreshments, I think that TIDE is akin to turning up to a shabby pub on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that you are just going to have a causal conversation about this and that, only to discover a session of drinking craft beer. The session seems to drag on into the night and somehow evolves into finishing things off with a glass of top-shelf single-malt whiskey.

For me, TIDE has filled in the void left by Ed Tech Crew and taken it to a new level. Even if you do not have the time (on average, an hour and a half each week) to listen, the links alone are worth skimming through. So if you haven’t already, go check it out. You will not be disappointed.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.