I was blessed to attend an EdTech Summit recently. While there, I was enlightened to learn of more ways that technology can be used to support individuals who struggle with reading and writing. One of my new favorite tools is Microsoft OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is absolutely free in both the Apple app and Android play stores. It can also be used for free on a laptop.
So what makes me so excited about Microsoft OneNote app besides the fact that it is FREE? I believe it can be a lifesaving app for so many individuals. I believe this is especially true for individuals with dyslexia or dysgraphia.
As I stated before, Microsoft OneNote is absolutely FREE to use. You just need to download the app or, if on a laptop, sign up for an account here.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on using the Microsoft OneNote app on an iPad.
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Using OneNote as a Book or Note Reader
Need a page or book read for school but don’t have the time to read it aloud for your child? Microsoft OneNote can do this task. Yes, it will be a computer voice, but it does a fairly good job. The voice pauses at punctuation and also fluctuates to indicate when a sentence is a question within the story. All you have to do to turn OneNote into a reader is as follows:
Once in the app, under the Home tab, you can click anywhere on the page and type into the document. I typed the “I just clicked here…” portion in Home and did the freehand writing in the Draw tab.
However, if you click on the Insert tab at the top, you will have the ability to insert pictures, audio, and pdf files.
Here is the truly super awesome part! You can take a picture of a page from a reading book and have it read to you, line by line with each word highlighted. You can even choose if you want one line seen at a time, a few lines or almost the entire page!
See the crappy picture I took above? While I recommend taking a better one to ensure for the least amount of mistakes in syncing, it did a pretty good job as can be seen in the Immersive Reader photos a few pics down! The text there was interpreted from the exact photo above!!!
Font for the book can easily be changed, with your choice between 3 fonts. There is also the option to have a picture dictionary show the definition for words that are clicked on. While this isn’t perfect (i.e. the word “punch” shows only the drink and not the definition of the punch done with fists), it is something for those more visual or ELL learners.
Once you take a picture of a page or pages you would like to be read aloud, make sure to give it time to sync with the app. You can ensure this feature is on by going into the Settings gear icon on the top right, clicking Sync and ensuring Auto Sync Attachments is on. Syncing can take a few minutes. You will know it is complete when you tap on a picture’s page from the book and Copy Text shows as one of the options.
Click on on Copy Text and then the View tab at the top of the page.
The picture I took for the purposes of this article is not very clear. I did this to show that it does not have to be a perfect picture to do a fairly good job of interpreting it.
Notice the cardinal directions symbol that shows up when the picture is clicked on? This allows for the attachment to be moved anywhere else on the page by dragging and dropping it. You have to have your finger on that symbol to do move it.
Click on the View tab to access Immersive Reader.
Once in the View tab, click on Immersive Reader at the top right. You should soon see the words from the picture that was taken. There is a Play button on the bottom of the screen. In the volume settings beside that, you can find the Female or Male voice option and play with the speed of the reading. No, there aren’t a lot of options around this. Remember, however, the app is FREE!!!
The Text icon on the top allows text size, spacing, font, color and background to be altered.
The Magic Wand icon allows for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to be highlighted. Syllables can also be indicated.
Lastly, the Book icon allows for the line focus and picture dictionary to be set.
Extending the Features within Immersive Reader
I understand this feature can also be used with handwritten notes, however I did not have any luck with that in the experimentation I’ve tried so far. I was testing in dim lighting so that may have something to do with it. If I do figure out the trick to this, I will update you here. It does work with typed notes, however.
If, at any time, you would like to make the photo of the writing larger, simply use two fingers together on the photo and spread those fingers apart to do just that.
Using the Draw tab on the top of the screen allows for sections to be highlighted. This won’t show up when it is read, but it will get larger and smaller within the photo when using two fingers to either enlarge or minimize it.
How Else Can OneNote be Easily Used?
Because OneNote allows for anywhere on the screen to be clicked and added to, you can click next to a picture from a story or notes and add your own voice notes. To do this, simply tap on the Insert tab at the top of the page, then Audio. Whatever you then record will be added into the file. This is especially great for those in which it is easier to voice record notes than to handwrite them. Once you record audio on the page, you can drag it to wherever you would like it to be. There is an arrow button that will show up to the left of it or, once clicked on and synced, an option to play the recording will show up above it as can be seen in the photo below.
Microsoft OneNote acts as a binder. If you tap on the < icon to the left of the file name you are working on (towards the top left of the page and directly left of “Quick Notes” in the above photo), you will see the tabs you entered when you first signed up for OneNote. From here, new notebooks, sections and pages can be added by tapping the + icon that you would like to do. The + icons show up at the bottom of the page.
Looking for More In-Depth Information?
If you want to know all Microsoft OneNote has to offer, you may wish to check out the resource Microsoft OneNote Step by Step.
Looking for ideas for truly incorporating technology when working with individuals? If so, please check out The Google Infused Classroom: A Guidebook for Making Thinking Visible and Amplifying Student Voice by Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith.
If you are looking for more information as to what may be factors behind an individual’s ability to read with ease, you may wish to sign in to watch a FREE tutorial regarding this here. Understanding is the key to breaking through that reading barrier once and for all!
What About Voice to Text?
Can Microsoft OneNote be used as a voice to text option for those wanting to dictate their stories or notes? Can it be used to send assignments to a teacher? It can do all of this, too! Be sure to check out this post to find out more.
Looking for More App Ideas?
Check out a previous blog post I wrote entitled 6 must have writing apps.
How about you?
Do you have a favourite app you use for either a loved one or for yourself? Do you plan to try Microsoft OneNote for either yourself or someone close to you? Please share it by letting us know in the comments below!