What? What’s that I hear? It’s our new text-to-speech feature, loud and clear!

Teachers have used our interactive online activities for many years with great success. However, the same request has come up time and time again: “Is there any way that students can have the page read out loud?” Until recently, this could only be done with browser plug-ins that were complicated to install on students’ computers and difficult to modify without assistance from the school’s IT department.

We are pleased to announce that activities on our STEM Resource Finder now have a text-to-speech feature!

Our developers were able to use the browser’s built-in SpeechSynthesis API, which is supported on all modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.), to read text aloud. This means the text-to-speech feature works automatically — no plugins, apps, or remote services are required. All students need to do is toggle the “Tap text to listen” button on, then click on the text they want to have read aloud. Students can stop or restart the reading by clicking on the selected text again. The text is read to students in whatever language their browser is set to. (Learn more about how languages are identified.)

When the “Tap text to listen” toggle is switched on, students can click on text and hear it read out loud.

Why is this so important? One of our goals is to provide learning environments that are accessible to all students. This new feature has been developed with the principles of Universal Design for Learning in mind, specifically web accessibility.

Many of our activities and modules have lengthy text passages that explain science content, step-by-step instructions for using our embedded simulations, or question prompts that require careful reading. Learning about and doing science with inquiry-based online activities is a big enough challenge for students. Those who are English language learners, struggle with reading, are visually impaired, or have other challenges that make onscreen text difficult can now listen to text with a simple click of a button.

We hope that this new feature will support students as they engage with our full suite of online resources. In addition, we hope that it will lighten the load on teachers who strive to meet the needs of diverse learners. Indeed, multiple teachers have already thanked us for this new ability! We would love to hear your thoughts about the new text-to-speech feature.