I came across the Awesome Talking Library when I was searching for information based on previous blog posts and thought this was a great free computer resource I just had to write about!
The Awesome Talking Library is a free downloadable software program that was created by Code-it Software Solutions. This program is a speaking web browser. You download the program to your computer and install it, and then run it like you would any other web browser. (Note: In the install directions there was a note that an extra program was needed to run “The Awesome Talking Library” on a Windows XP machine – this extra download was not necessary for me to run the program.)
Talking Web Browser Feature
The most useful feature of the program is that it will read what is on the browser screen back to the student. The student can choose to have the whole page read aloud or the student can select the text that needs to be read. When the user selects the “Speak” option, the whole page is read and when the user selects the “Selected” option, then only the selected text is read. The speaking can be stopped by either using the “Stop” button or the “Quit Speak” option. Students can just surf the net and then use the speaking options to help with the reading of the pages. This can help students who struggle to read or who may have vision impairments. I could even see this program being used in a traditional classroom setting for all students as it would be helpful for younger students who are learning to read and pronounce words.
Awesome Library Homepage
When the program is opened, you are directed to the Awesome Library Homepage, which is a search engine for educational online resources. On this page, users can select age and topics specific educational and fun online resources. Search options are included for teachers, kids, teens, college students, parents, and librarians. The Literature links for kids and teens provide online books that students can use with the program to have them read aloud.
There are many different options that make this program unique and easy for students with special needs to browse the Internet. This program has larger navigation buttons at the top of the screen to move forward and back through searched web pages. There are also other options available in the program. Users can change the voice options with speed, pitch, type, and volume level. They can also choose to have a character on the screen to speak the words. This would be especially helpful to keep younger students Interested in the program as the pre-loaded options for the program include a Butter Cup (a Powder Puff Girl) and Merlin the Wizard. Other characters can be loaded into the program as well. The best feature of the characters is that you can choose to turn on speaking “bubbles” to actively show the student what is being read.
The browser can also be set to different modes including Adult, boy, and girl. This changes the color of the screen along with the character options without having to make multiple options selections.
This assistive technology browser also includes standard browser options like being able to save and print web pages, allowing or denying pop ups, and the ability to add bookmarks and load bookmarks from Internet Explorer. There are also standard forward and back buttons to navigate back and forth through pages.
The “Surfn’ Notes” option is great for students. They can load this option and small screen loads where students can take notes while surfing online. They can save their notes and then load them later. These notes can also be copied and pasted into a Word Processing Program for them to use in a paper or an outline.
The “Helpster” option is the help section for the browser to help users get started. It provides an interactive and spoken process to help a student to learn how to use the program. It might be a good place to have students begin the program.
This is a great free program that both teachers and parents should download to help their students and children when surfing the net.
Article By Laura Ketcham