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Microsoft Learning Tools

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

― Dr. Seuss

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.” This certainly appears to be true, as a meta-analysis by Mol & Bus (2011) indicates that “frequent readers are more successful students”. However, what about those students who struggle to access texts by themselves? How can technology be used to support these students?

Ministry of Education’s Agreement with Microsoft

The Ministry of Education has a number of agreements with software developers that allow state and state-integrated schools access to software at no cost (http://www.education.govt.nz/school/digital-technology/software/). Included in this agreement is Microsoft Office 365 which includes web and desktop versions of Word, OneNote, Outlook, etc. When a school activates their licence, staff and students at the school can access this software on both school and personal devices.  

Microsoft Learning Tools

Learning Tools are embedded in some of the Office products to support learners in several ways. Learning Tools are available in Word, Word Online, OneNote, OneNote Online, Outlook Online, and Microsoft Edge (web browser).

Immersive Reader

One of the Learning Tools is called Immersive Reader. This supports students’ reading by allowing them to easily set things like font size, line width, and page colour. 

Screenshot of OneNote Immersive Reader text options

There is also an option for students to use a picture dictionary to support comprehension:

Screenshot of OneNote with Immersive Reader option showing picture dictionary

One of the more interesting features is to have breaks shown between syllables in words. This means students are supported to see ‘chunks’ of words more easily and may improve word recognition for some students.

Screenshot from OneNote of Immersive Reader showing syllables

Read aloud not just for comprehension!

Immersive Reader allows you to have the document read aloud to you, even when the text is in a photo or image (in OneNote). This removes the barrier of text decoding for many students, but even more than that it can be a powerful proof-reading tool as the computer will read exactly what you wrote rather than what you thought you wrote!

Screenshot of OneNote showing text being read aloud

An alternative pencil

For those who struggle to get their thoughts and ideas onto paper, Dictate allows students to have their speech turned into text. This removes the barrier of trying to remember what letters make each sound, or how particular words are spelled. It often allows students to use their extensive oral vocabulary more effectively. Dictate is only available in some Microsoft apps. However, if your device has an inbuilt dictation option, this might also work. 

Office365 Word showing dictation feature


More information

To learn more about using these tools, please visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-nz/education/products/learning-tools/


If you have any other hints, tips or tricks for supporting students using digital technologies, please let me know! As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Using technology to support students with disabilities and special learning needs.