In addition to announcing Minecraft Education Edition today, Microsoft released another learning tool to help students of all abilities get more out of the classroom. The new classroom aide, Learning Tools for OneNote, is a powerful add-in for OneNote to help students with learning disabilities improve their reading, writing, and ability to learn.
The add-in works by simultaneously highlighting and voicing text in OneNote to help students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, improve their reading ability and focus. The new features in Learning Tools for OneNote aims to provide the following research-based benefits to anyone in the classroom struggling with reading, writing, and focus.
- Enhanced dictation – Improves authoring text.
- Focus mode – Sustains attention and improves reading speed.
- Immersive reading – Improves comprehension and sustains attention.
- Font spacing and short lines – Improves reading speed by addressing “visual crowding.”
- Parts of speech – Supports instruction and improves writing quality.
- Syllabification – Improves word recognition.
- Comprehension mode – Improves comprehension by an average of 10 percent.
Microsoft emphasized the importance of helping every student improve their reading ability by saying “our ability to read impacts our ability to learn and our lifelong earning potential.” This new tool will help students with learning disabilities focus more on the information they are trying to decode, and gain more independence in their classroom abilities. The technology company hopes this free tool can help educators meet the needs of each of their students in a way that is non-stigmatizing and engaging.
One example given today of how this technology can be used in the classroom is students can capture a worksheet using Office Lens on their mobile device. The capture of the worksheet will be uploaded into OneNote from Office Lens. Because of Office Lens’ Optical Character Recognition, students will be able to use Learning Tools for OneNote to help read the OCR scanned worksheet; providing students with access to learning tools directly over the content in front of them.
The Learning Tools for OneNote add-in is the resulted from the efforts of the Microsoft Hackathon 2015 competition, and the winning team, led by Sebastian Greaves.
The add-in is available to download for either OneNote 2013 or OneNote 2016. Microsoft also released a FAQ guide for using the new Learning Tools for OneNote, and a more general Windows 10 Accessibility Guide for Educators.