Over the summer when I spend little time in the office and a lot of time outdoors, I often fall behind in my reading. The past few weeks I have been using TextAloud, a fairly simple but interesting program that converts text files to MP3s. I then put the MP3s on my PDA, and have listened to student papers that were submitted to finish off incomplete grades, a dissertation chapter that touched on a subject I know a little bit about, an administrative planning document on assessment, a 93-page article of mine that I’ve been developing, on and off, for about five years; and today when I drive to work briefly I’ll be listening to a Gamasutra article on Zork.
TextAloud offers a free version, which was good enough for short and routine stuff, but the AT&T professional voices sound excellent — far better than anything I had ever experienced before, and I figure they’re well worth the cost of about a DVD movie each (one male, one female).
I have been toying with the idea of having my journalism students practice taking notes from audio recordings, and I figure a tool like this will let me work a little more efficiently, since I won’t have to get a voice actor to record the dialogue each week. Of course, once I get a sense of what kinds of mistakes the students make, I can firm up the scripts and get someone to record them more dramatically.
I can imagine, with this text-to-speech program, setting up an RSS feed of all my student’s overnight blogging on a given topic, converting it to an audio file, and then listening it on the drive in to work.
It almost makes me wish I had a longer commute.