Educators have been seeing great outcomes in using Microsoft Learning Tools for their students over the past year. We’ve heard from Lauren Pittman’s class in Georgia, Jeanne Caudill’s students in Kentucky, and an English Teacher in Macedonia. Spurred by their great feedback, our team wants to empower even more students around the world with inclusive and accessible technology, and so we’re excited to announce new capabilities in Office 365 for Education below.
Steve Crapnell, eLearning Coordinator at the All Hallows School in Brisbane, Australia, is another educator who has been working with students and using Microsoft Learning Tools over the past year. Here is what Steve had to say about a recent experience:
“I have just finished helping a parent with a little girl in Year 7, quite challenged with numerous learning difficulties, who can now, through the use of Learning Tools, actively engage in reading assignments. She is so rapt! “
Alongside excitement from parents and students, Steve describes the educator reaction from a recent professional development session he led on Learning Tools:
“The reaction from the 60 teachers was quite overwhelming and they felt quite strongly that Learning Tools was not an innovation to be investigated, but a necessity that should be mandated. They felt that this was a social justice issue and that the availability of such tools like Learning Tools should, and will, receive greater focus and Professional Development in their own school. In a nutshell, they loved it. “
Let’s cover what’s new with Learning Tools for Microsoft Word and Immersive Reader.
Use Learning Tools while writing with Microsoft Word
Word now lets you access Learning Tools features while you edit or write your document. Learning Tools adds visual changes as a layer on top of the original document, so you can feel confident working on your document and know that it will print as normal, while co-authors can still edit the document in the original view. To open the new Learning Tools contextual menu, simply choose the View tab and then click the Learning Tools button.
Do any one or all of the following, depending on how you want to work with your document:
- Select Column Width to change the width of the line length. In this view there are four options: Very Narrow, Narrow, Moderate, or Wide. Use the setting that works best for you.
- Set the Page Color to be Sepia (pale yellow page with print feel) or Inverse (black background with white text) to make the text easy to scan and consume, or leave it set at None.
- Select Text Spacing to increase the spacing between words, characters, and lines. This can help you to scan text easily and helps reading fluency.
- Select Syllables to show the breaks between syllables of words in your content. While in this editing mode, you can type and make edits to your document – the syllable marks will appear in real-time as you type or add content.
- Select Read Aloud to hear your document out loud with spoken words highlighted simultaneously.
To see these new capabilities in action, check out the video below:
Read Aloud is now available in all of Word’s views and allows you to hear your document out loud with each spoken word highlighted in sync. Choose Review tab and select Read Aloud to start listening to your document. This allows you to transition easily between typing and having content read aloud, making catching and correcting errors even easier.
Immersive Reader improvements to Word/OneNote/Outlook Online and the OneNote for Windows 10 app
Starting today, we are rolling out the refreshed core user experience in Immersive Reader. These changes were based on many usability tests and feedback sessions with students and teachers. For example, we’ve relocated the controls for font size, implemented standardized controls for our Parts of Speech, and moved the voice-speed settings to be more closely aligned with the Play button. These improvements are rolling out over the coming days to both Office 365 commercial and consumer customers.
Over the past year, we’ve been listening to students, teachers, dyslexia specialists, and other reading experts. A common theme we heard was making it easier to focus on specific lines of text while reading. Some educators use the concept of Reading Rulers, or similar types of devices that can be put onto the physical page, to help students. With this feedback in mind, today we are launching the new Line Focus capability: A student can personalize how many lines of text are brought into focus while reading without distractions, choosing between one, three, or five lines. This can be combined with the existing Theme color to allow students to pick a theme color that works best for them.
We have added additional Voice Selection options to the Read Aloud feature for many of the languages in Immersive Reader. To see what options there are, choose the Settings Gear icon, which is now located next to the Play button.
Automatic Language Detection
Many Word documents, OneNote pages or Outlook emails are not consistently tagged with the proper language. To help ensure the right Read Aloud voice, syllables, and parts of speech are used to match the language, we’ve added the ability to auto-detect what language is being used and apply the proper settings to it. This capability is rolling out for Outlook on the web today, with the other apps following in the coming weeks.