Posted on Mon 28 May 2012
TechDis Transformers: tools for changing lives
At the 7th National Digital Conference on 30th May, John Hayes Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning will be announcing two new JISC TechDis services; the Voices and the Toolbox.
The TechDis Voices
The TechDis voices are two high-quality, youthful and modern voices (Jack and Jess) that can be used with text-to-speech (TTS) tools. Across England, staff and learners in higher education, further education, skills and lifelong learning will all have access to these voices.
Text-to-speech (TTS) technology allows text in electronic formats to be read out loud by synthetic voices or saved as MP3 files for later listening. The quality of synthetic voices is judged by how easy they are to understand and by how human they sound. TechDis have worked with hundreds of learners and the specialist synthetic voice company Cereproc to ensure that Jess and Jack meet those standards.
The TechDis Toolbox is a collection of resources which give hints and tips on technologies to help individuals work smarter by using technology more effectively. Here we have shifted our focus and Toolbox is aimed directly at the end users - learners.
While written primarily for those with disabilities or difficulties, Toolbox is useful for just about anyone who wants to gain or improve on skills. Toolbox provides an overview of accessibility features in commonplace applications such as Microsoft Office and Google. It also suggests different tools for different needs, for instance, those with a visual impairment may find screen magnifiers or text-to-speech tools useful. Individuals with dyslexia or memory problems are advised to use task lists, calendars and reminders.
The development of Toolbox has been informed by learners themselves and contains bite-size videos, short guides, animations and brief audio files. These small bits of information can be easily understood allowing users to learn something new and put it into practice straight away. Using it smarter can help people be more productive, organised and creative.
The Voices and Toolbox are part of a partnership between JISC Techdis and the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) that aims to ‘improve take up and understanding of assistive and mainstream technologies for the benefit of disabled and disadvantaged learners.’
For more information on the Voices, Toolbox or TechDis, please visit their website - http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/