Personalise your Learning

Everyone learns differently and if reading large amounts of text on screen or in print is not how you want to learn, there are some nifty alternatives just waiting for you to exploit.  

If you have specific difficulties with reading text on screen or in print, please contact us or ask at the Library help desk to arrange a confidential discussion about the additional support we can provide for your course and offer reading in alternative formats to support your learning.

Chrome extensions for personalised browsing

Chrome is now the most popular web browser.  You can download some really useful free plug-ins and extensions for Chrome from the Chrome Web Store that make reading web content much easier.  If you struggle with large blocks of text, convert text to speech with Select and Speak. Display web page heading maps and jump between sections with HeadingsMap.  Hide distractions to turn cluttered web pages into a single and other distractions using Clearly or increase the display contrast with High Contrast.  More add-ons are being produced all the time. 

Microsoft Office, as well as most smartphones and tablets come with built in or downloadable software for reading text.

MyStudyBar

MyStudyBar from EduApps is a free toolbar full of accessibility tools designed to help with the most common problems people experience when reading and writing. 

Anyone with dyslexia would benefit from these tools, as would anyone who experiences difficulties reading or writing on screen. You can also download MyStudyBar for free from the EduApps website.  You can download the MyStudyBar software for free and save it onto a USB stick to install on computers where the software has not already been installed.

Read at speed

Speed reading apps help you to read text faster and more easily by presenting it just 1-6 words at a time (your choice), at a comfortably large size, centred on the page, and moving on at an adjustable rate from very slow to very fast.  They help everyone to read much faster and more easily by eliminating the need repeatedly to move the eyes back and forth along lines of text.  This presentation makes reading easier for many with dyslexia and is also useful for anyone with a limited field of vision.

Two free versions are available: a Chrome browser plug-in called SwiftRead and the browser-agnostic web-based app Spreeder.

Listen to the printed word

Ever wished that you could have someone read printed books or journal articles to you?  Now you can!

Robobraille can convert text to speech in minutes.  Submit your text and it will email you the file in the format of your choice, including as an mp3 soundtrack.  Microsoft Word has a built in text to speech function and PDFs also often include text to speech functionality.

There are a variety of apps that work well and for different devices, while if you want to scan, collate and convert text to spoken words, Office Lens is one of the best apps available.

OneNote 

Gather everything together in one place, from photos to notes and web snippings.  OneNote allows you to bring together and organise your notes, images, and audio recordings all in one place and share selected content across different mobile devices and with friends.  It can also recognise the text in photographs of printed text and convert them to plain text online.

You can even photograph text and then convert your photograph into screen readable words and add them to OneNote with a single tap.

PicCollage

PicCollage is a free photo editor and collage creation app useful for creating and annotating field trip photo albums, drawing and adding text to mark important features, research and illustrate design concepts, and even create visually appealing infographics and conference or seminar posters. Useful as a tool for self-expression (not to mention a fun and creative way of making collages of your holiday snaps), it can help if you learn best by collecting, associating and making associations between pictures.

Mind mapping tools

MindMeister and other mind mapping software helps you get your thoughts in order, see the clear structure of a topic and re-imagine or structure assignments and exam answers (if you create mind maps the old fashioned way with pen and paper). Most people think visually and so it often helps to sketch out an idea from its broad sections into the fine detail, arranged around the main topic in a hierarchical way that makes the connections or relationships between them clear. Creating mind maps can help you understand the structure of an assignment or revision topic better, unleash your creativity, and help you to collaborate, solve problems, and think critically. The MindView mind mapping tool is available from AppsAnywhere; others are available to download for free online.

Get better at grammar

Don't let grammar be your Achilles' heel! Not when there are free apps that offer to check what you type and suggest changes and improvements just waiting to be downloaded. Two popular such grammar checking apps are Ginger and Grammarly. Try both and see which you prefer.

Manage projects

Some people love to manage projects using lists.  Lists allow you to add list items, reorder and reprioritise, colour-code, tag, debate, add checklists to and move them to other lists.  The possibilities are endless.  If you hate mind mapping but seek an online way to order and update your life, these apps might be some of your new best friends:

  • Trello organises projects using digital post-its you can order, cluster, hold conversations about and stick images on. 
  • Workflowy offers flexible, taggable, collapsible lists to help record, organise and prioritise your thoughts, notes and tasks.
  • Google Keep offers a simpler way of achieving many of the same things as Trello, including grouping of notes by tags, but unlike Trello, it does not support working with others and discussing or commenting on posts.

Revise with flashcards

StudyBlue and GoConqr both allow you quickly and easily to create digital flashcards for evidence-based revision and to test your learning. Research has shown that flashcards are the fastest and easiest way of learning new information and they are also an effective revision tool.