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education

I Used a TTS App for a Week – You Won’t Believe the Results

By | Audiobooks, education, productivity, reading, Software | No Comments

I Used a TTS App Called Speechify for an Entire Week and You Won't Believe the Results

If you’ve been on the internet anytime in the last 6 months, then you’ve maybe heard of an app called Speechify. It’s a new, trendy, TTS app (text to speech) that has everyone from students to working professionals raving about the wonders of having your tedious readings read to you.

This was enticing to me. I’m a pretty busy guy. I play college basketball, work part-time, and try to keep a solid GPA. I’m not exactly what you would call a ‘slow reader’. Still, that doesn’t mean I like to read. I come back pretty tired after practice and I usually just find myself thinking: “Do I actually have to complete all these readings?

Founded by Forbes 30 under 30, Cliff Weitzman, Speechify started after years of coping with dyslexia coupled with frustrating experiences of trying out un-inspiring TTS apps.

“It started after I pulled my fourth all-nighter,” Weitzman told us. “I was pretty fed up of how hard it was to manage my dyslexia alongside all the coursework. I wasn’t satisfied with the expensive options on the market, so I drafted up the first “Speechify” concept!”

So — could a Brown student coping with dyslexia and a love of audiobooks really design a software that could help rid the world of painful readings? Over this past week, I used Speechify to find out if this really is the solution for me.

Here’s how it went …

My Seven day Free Trial Begins!

Everyone loves a free trial. And what’s even more loveable is, Speechify won’t charge you after the free trial expires without your permission. Whether that be a password, a fingerprint, or facial recognition — I’ve got to admit, not trying to be scammed out of my money, feels good.

The free version of the app gives me full access to the mobile app. Which, is pretty useful for obvious reasons, but Speechify Pro lets me transform PDFs into audiobooks and send them to my iPhone. So, I can listen to them pretty much anywhere.

You can create entire libraries and collections for your favorite articles, unread emails, and pending coursework to be read to you any time of the day.

For a college student, this feature is extremely useful.

There are three ways you can use Speechify.

  1. Chrome Extension
  2. iOS
  3. Mobile App

I’m personally pretty excited about the PDF to iPhone feature since I get so many readings assigned via PDF and can just directly send them to my phone to be listened to while I heat up some dinner after a long day of work.

As I opened the downloaded the Ios feature, I could tell that Speechify had done a great job of developing a pleasant on-boarding experience. They gave me a quiz to see what my main intention of using the app and walked me through the entire process step by step.

Oh, and not to mention the first thing speechify read out loud to me was a Wikipedia article on giraffes… I liked it.

Figuring out the app

Like most people, I don’t read directions. I skimmed the instructional emails and was good to go. They walk you through it pretty well, so it’s easy to figure out.

Time to fire it up and give Speechify a go

The first thing I use Speechify for is a reading assigned by my Politics Professor about late capitalism in the mid-twentieth century. Kind of a snooze.

I typically skip over words when I’m finishing up last minute readings (and sometimes I do it even when I’m not last minute reading). And with larger, longer readings, I skip entire paragraphs in hopes to save a few minutes and pray I’ve gotten the“gist” of the material.

Speechify doesn’t make this silly mistake. It makes sure I’m taking in everything the text has to offer. I can just toggle the speed to 5x the speed to get the reading done a little faster than usual and digest all the information without skipping over anything.

As I was listening, I realized I’ve never really understood how fascinating the topic my teacher assigned was. It’s always just been a mundane chore… but, the text was actually pretty interesting…and having it read aloud by Speechify helped me realize that.

I know people say we should read thirty minutes a day. But that can feel like forever. Speechify encourages their users to read more often, by giving them the option to listen to their extraneous texts whilst on the go. As you can imagine, it was a fun surprise.

Speechify is giving listening to a new name…

To be honest, the primary reasons I’m skeptical of most text-to-speech apps because:

  • The voices sound too unnatural
  • They’re too hard to figure out
  • You can’t get the voice to match your desired speed

Fortunately, Speechify solves these pain points. The app has a variety of natural voices to chose from, a range of speeds for you to listen, and a user experience to die for.

But what was the most noticeable difference between Speechify and other TTS apps I’ve used? Speechify made getting work done a whole lot more interesting.

In conclusion…

One week was all that was required to make a solid judgment on Speechify.

Here are the 4 things I love most about Speechify:

1. Design & Functionality — For the first time in my life, I can call a text-to-speech app “attractive” The design uses effective minimalism to heighten user experience. More important than its design, is its functionality. Speechify works. I can literally use it anywhere. I have it effectively read to me, and enjoy how it looks while doing it.

2. Versatility — There are no limits to when and where you can use this thing. You can switch from Ipad to a computer, to phone in seconds. Speechifying everything from emails to books to articles.

3.  Hours Saved — There’s something about creating products that can save you hours of time. It’s as if they make me want to use them more. This was the case the Speechify. It helped me save time, and made me feel more productive. What more could I want?

4. Less is more — A username and a password and you’re good to go. The app was stupidly simple to figure out.

 

Overall, Speechify kills it — they make it easy to maintain good reading habits by providing me with all that I need, and none of what I don’t. The cost/benefit ratio of their pro version is off the charts, and a subscription plan means I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on audiobooks for assigned readings.

Most importantly, Speechify has made reading an enjoyable process again.

 

For a more detailed and up to date, tutorial of Speechify features see our blog post: The Definitive Guide to Reading Faster With Text to Speech in 2018

5 Inspirational Books to Read in 2018

By | education, productivity, reading, students | No Comments
Also, read them all faster with Speechify!

1. ‘When to Jump’ by Mike Lewis (Jan. 9)

At age 24 Mike Lewis had a prestigious finance job and an even more prestigious income. He was living (more than) a little comfort.

But, life is short. And unlike his colleagues, Lewis wanted to play squash professionally. So, what do you do when your job pays your rent but doesn’t let you follow your dream?

In his new book, Mike Lewis provides four practical steps to help you take the plunge towards your dreams all whilst incorporating the more realistic aspects of risk-taking. He advises his readers to:

-Listen to the little voice

-Make a plan

-Let yourself be lucky

-Don’t look back

Including a forward by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, stories from other “jumpers” like the author of The Big Short, Arianna Huffington, and others: When to Jump is an inspirational, fast, and easy read.

2. ‘We the Corporations’ by Adam Winkler (Feb. 27)

How did corporations come to have rights under the Constitution?

Professor Winkler makes one thing clear, it definitely was not easy.

Looking to undo the injustice of Citizens United, We the Corporations analyzes the slow, steady, 200 year long fight to allow corporations become ‘people’ entitled to constitutional rights and used those rights to impede efforts to regulate them in the interests of real people — until, that is, you try to sue them.

5 Inspirational Books to Read in 2018

Look out for this groundbreaking book expected in the coming month.

3. Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Out-hustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner (Jan 23).

The star from ABC’s Shark Tank offers his personal story and how his grit, killer work ethic, and persistence fueled his success.

Daymond John started his career sewing hats, and working shifts at Red Lobster. Today, his brand FUBU has over $6 billion in sales.

For anyone who’s feeling a little down, or looking for a nudge: Daymond John’s new book bluntly states the importance of out-thinking, out-hustling, and out-performing everyone around you to make it big.

 

4. The Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Launch and Grow Your New Business by Harvard Business Review (Feb 13, 2018).

Perhaps one of the most anticipated Business books of 2018, the new and updated Harvard Business Review will teach you everything you need to know about starting the next big thing.

 

Taking a look at the potential challenges, from the entrepreneurial process to legal practices — The Harvard Business Review will give you the tools you need to get your practice up and going.

Lost and Founder: by Rand Fishkin (March 27, 2018)

When I say “tech start-up,” you think — young, brilliant, groundbreaking, college drop-out, defier of doubters, overcomer off odds, billionaire.

If only it were that simple.

Rand Fishkin, one of the world’s leading SEOs, shares the more realistic, sometimes difficult, and often amazing aspects of starting your own company from the ground up. Fishkin pulls back the curtain on tech startup mythology, exposing the ups and downs of startup life that most CEOs would rather keep secret. A must read.

 

What are you planning to read this year? 

Let’s Talk About An App Called Speechify

By | Dyslexia, education, productivity, reading, students | No Comments

Let's talk about an App Called Speechify

Hi friends! My name’s Cliff Weitzman, and I’m the founder of a new text to speech app that’s helping thousands of people read twice as fast.

During my time at Brown University I was a big fan of text to speech technology. But most text to speech applications had major limitations. Some weren’t fast enough, others were too difficult to navigate, and for many the voices just sounded too unnatural.

So, I did what any normal person would do — I built a software that had a solution to all these problems — Speechify.

How can you use Speechify?

  • Turn a book into an audiobook by simply taking a picture
  • Listen to any article online by sending it to our app
  • Transform your PDFs into an audiobook
  • Choose the voice you want
  • Get text read to you at 1.5x to 4x your normal reading speed
  • Finish all your readings faster than ever
  • And listen to them no matter where you are going

From the first chapter of your class readings, to a long email, to an article you’ve been meaning to finish, Speechify is here to help you learn and the pace right for you. And the best part of it is, you can keep listening while completing other tasks – that’s the magic of text to speech.

All you have to do is:

  1. Press the scan button
  2. Click the checkmark next to the scan button
  3. Watch the text appear as an audiobook

And that’s it! Pretty unbelievable right?

So start listening at twice the speed by downloading Speechify at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speechify-text-to-audiobook/id1209815023?mt=8

Or download directly from our Website: getspeechify.com

For an up to date run down of Speechify’s feature see our new blog post article: The Definitive Guide to Reading Faster With Text to Speech in 2018

And remember, reading is hard. Listening is easy.

 

 

Myths About Dyslexia It’s About Time We Debunked

By | Dyslexia, education, students | No Comments

Dyslexia can mean having trouble with reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, or even math. Pretty broad, right? Our society has a pretty strict set of rules about what we think it means to be dyslexic , especially for a term that has been used in so many different ways during just this past century.

Let’s talk about some of these “rules” and how we can go about debunking these preconceived notions of what it means to be dyslexic:

Myth number one: If you have dyslexia, you should probably exercise more

Everyone should probably exercise more. But don’t expect it to make reading easier.

Students with dyslexia may need strategies for developing their vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing.  According to Dr. Pierson, many people make claims as to how to treat dyslexia, but according to her, the only way is through a structured literary approach.

Myth number two: If you have dyslexia, you are probably a boy

Boys’ reading disabilities are indeed identified more often than girls’, but studies indicate that such identification is biased.

So what explains the difference diagnosed by professionals? A unfair interpretation of what one expects it to look like. Largely, it’s because of their behavior. It seems when boys in first, second, or third grade can’t do classroom assignments or homework, they get frustrated and act out their frustration. Researchers found that girls tend to quietly muddle through challenges while boys become more rowdy. Therefore, more boys tend to be recognized and diagnosed.

Myth number three: If you have dyslexia, you probably read backwards.

For many, this is a textbook definition for dyslexia.

But, while reversing certain letters like b’s and d’s can be a sign, it’s not accurate that all kids who reverse letters are dyslexic. Dyslexics do not see things backwards because it is not a problem with the eyes. New research has demonstrated that letter reversals of kindergarten children predicted spelling at 2nd grade. While, typical learners can reverse letters when initially learning. 

Myth number four: If you have dyslexia, you probably have a low IQ

There is absolutely no relation between dyslexia and IQ. Dyslexics can have high, middle, or low IQ’s just like the rest of the population.

In fact, many dyslexic students perform very well in school. These students are usually highly motivated and work extremely hard. In many cases they have been identified early and have received evidence-based interventions and accommodations, such as extra time on tests. Theses accommodations allows them to demonstrate their knowledge. Dyslexic students have completed rigorous programs at highly selective colleges, graduate and professional schools.

Need proof? Here’s 7 people with dyslexia who are extremely successful.

Myth number five: If you have dyslexia, it is probably a medical diagnosis

Actually, Dyslexia is neurological, not medical. It’s not characterized as a medical problem and is not typically diagnosed by doctors because they don’t have training in oral language, reading, writing, or spelling assessment and diagnosis.

Rather, dyslexia is typically diagnosed by a neuropsychologist, psychologist, or someone with advanced training in language and learning disorders.

“Because dyslexia involves reading and writing, it’s not typically identified until people go to school and have to learn and write” Dr. Pierson, from the University of Michigan, says.

There is no pill or medication that can heal dyslexia, and nothing to do with it is covered by medical insurance because it is not a medical problem.

There are far too many myths and stereotypes to cover in one blog post, but understanding these top five legends, is a good start.

In the United States, dyslexia affects 20%, or 1 in every 5 people. Some people may have more mild forms, while others may experience it more severely. It is imperative for schools and parents to take action. To do so, we must eradicate unfair preconceived notions about this neurological difficulty.

 

Why technology is crucial in closing the achievement gap

By | Dyslexia, education | No Comments

Why technology is crucial in closing the achievement gap

When was the last time you felt powerful and completely in control of your future? It’s not always easy feeling confident in your abilities. This is especially true for struggling students. Education is meant to be a great equalizer.

Unfortunately, the same amount of schooling can result in vastly different amounts of actual learning done by students. This results in an “achievement gap” among students where some groups of learners have substantially lower academic achievement. Education isn’t one size fits all and the best way to teach students is to give them opportunities to guide their own learning.

So how do we close this damaging divide and encourage learners to take control of their education?

Technology in education

Technology is crucial in closing the achievement gap. Within homes, the amount of technology (and how advanced it is) varies greatly. Some educational professionals believe if students can access the same technology, it would equalize learning opportunities. The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) and Alliance for Excellent Education state “technology- when implemented properly- can produce significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement, particularly among students most at risk.”

Learners with dyslexia are a group where technology can be particularly beneficial. According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, although dyslexia is the most common reading disability by a large margin, “many of those with dyslexia remain undiagnosed and untreated. This is especially true in public school and even more so in African-American and Latino communities.”.

Racial minorities with dyslexia have compounded challenges as they struggle both from racial discrimination and reading confusion, which can result in overrepresentation in special education. While these students can have average (or above average) intelligence, they need the proper tools to succeed.

“With dyslexia, we don’t have a knowledge gap; we have an action gap.” -Dr. Sally Shaywitz

How can technologies help student with disabilities?

What technologies can we give every learner to help them confidently guide their education?

An obvious one is internet access. Teachers increasingly hand out assignments that require going online, but not all families have internet at home or an easy way to find it elsewhere.

To solve this problem, many schools are providing each student an electronic device with internet access to use as they attend school. This is commonly referred to as “one-to-one computing” or the “one-to-one initiative.” Another great resource is audiobooks. Rutgers University found in one of their studies that students who used audio textbooks increased their reading rate by 18%.

Another resource?

Audiobooks allow learners to focus on content and easily repeat sections. While audiobooks are particularly beneficial for those with dyslexia or other reading disabilities, there are benefits for everybody. Applications like Speechify even allow listeners to adjust the speed a text is read.

Technologies like these are about providing power. A student on the internet has the power to explore topics of interest as deeply as they desire. When we give people audiobooks, we empower them to practice their reading and comprehension skills at their own pace. Technology is a tool students use to enhance their learning and show us their potential.

As Blumengarten says, “Tech gives the quietest student a voice.”

 

Are we ready to listen?