Though the STEMscopes speech feature is often overlooked, once you find it, you’ll be using it on a daily basis. Hidden on every page, in the bottom right corner you’ll find the speech button next to the feedback button. Upon pressing the speech button, small “quote icons” will appear to the left of each piece of text. You can have your computer read aloud any of the text on the STEMscopes site from the materials lists to the vocabulary words by pressing these quote icons. Granted, the speech button does not have the smooth control of Morgan Freeman or humor and energy of Mike Myers, but it does provide an invaluable learning opportunity for teachers, students, and parents alike.
Perhaps the greatest and most subtle benefit of the speech feature is that it frees up a teacher from having to address each student’s pronunciation and decoding difficulties while they read the new vocabulary words or bury their heads in a Reading Science passage. Freed, the liberated teacher can then address the students who are in need of content clarifications or in need of a small group pullout. Students likewise benefit by developing fluency. Suddenly, non-readers and English language learners have an unintimidating way of getting the content; reading at home is not an ordeal for them, but rather a pleasure because they know they have support built right into STEMscopes. This is especially effective for students who are trying to get their English up to speed while learning the content. The benefits extend to special needs students as well. A special needs student who’s individualized education plan calls for assessments to be read aloud to him or her has a accommodation-friendly way to take some of the work home or makeup a quiz he or she missed the day before without making the teacher stop the class. Similarly, disruptive students often focus much more when read-to rather than left alone to follow instructions – using the speech button to read aloud the question prompts to these students gives them a chance to excel with the rest of the class. Finally, migrant parents have a way to interact with their student because the passages can be read in both English and Spanish (only for STEMscopes components that are available in Spanish); the most zealous of parents can even begin learning English along side their child.
Despite the powerful benefits of the speech button, it does not function on any downloadable documents (i.e. the student journal). You needn’t worry for long; we plan to integrate speech into all elements in the future as we transition our components to HTML5. That being said, just a few pixels to the right of the speech button, you’ll find the feedback button. If there’s something you’d like to see added or improved in STEMscopes, please submit your thoughts!