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The power of Translator and PowerPoint’s automatic captioning and translation (in over 60 languages)!

Include: Demonstrate an understanding of
and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community.

AASL National School Library Standards, Key Commitment: Include

As librarians, we are committed to serving every child and respecting diversity across our learning community. When we do this well, we are trusted to lead in fostering and facilitating inclusion in our buildings and districts. Sharing these tools is critical for ensuring equity.

From: Supporting English Language Learners with Free Digital Tools

To address challenges relating to accessibility and inclusion in our growingly diverse communities, you may want to explore some of the free, and game-changing, features Microsoft has been introducing in across the applications in its Office suite. The tools create a kind of ecosystem to support barrier-free communication.

This past week I attended an edWeb webinar that kinda blew my mind. Supporting English Language Learners with Free Digital Tools shared several remarkable resources. Members of the Microsoft Education team shared how features designed to enhance communication and better meet the needs of every learner.

edWeb: Supporting English Language Learners with Free Digital Tools

The program featured, William Lewis–the Principal Technical Program Manager with the Microsoft Translator team; Sara Beebe–an educator, former ELL student and a professional learning specialist for i2e, a Microsoft Global Training Partner; and Mike Tholfsen–a principal product manager on the Microsoft Education team of the Microsoft Engineering Product Team.

The enhanced applications they demonstrated serve to:

  • better include ELL students and their families, as well as the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH);
  • augment general understanding of presentations;
  • enhance communications in multiple language meetings and in online learning settings;
  • facilitate conversations between speakers of different languages;
  • allow students who speak different languages to work together more effectively in groups.

The need

The webinar clarified the need for flexible and inclusive tools for increasingly diverse classrooms in order to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed both in school and at home.

Our teachers work in classrooms where,

  • reading levels may span four grade levels,
  • more than half of our classrooms include ELL students,
  • more than 70% of classrooms have special needs students,
  • up to 50% of a teacher’s time might be spent addressing students’ needs, including the use of assistive technologies.

In a recent post, I took a long look at the powers of Microsoft’s Immersive Reader to support literacy.

Here are some other powerful tools shared in the webinar.

Translator for Education

As an educator and a second language learner herself, Sara Beebe discussed the use of Translator for Education. She discussed the value of encouraging ELL students to dictate responses in their own first language when writing and allowing the application to translate their thoughts into English. It’s okay to struggle with the language itself when focusing on the goal of speaking and writing in the target language. But, Sara argued, we need to consider those other times when it is best to eliminate the language issues to allow students to think critically and compose effectively in their own language.

Talking with your community

While our students will learn English, some of their parents may not ever master the language. The presenters suggested using the free Microsoft Teams for live events and parent meetings to mitigate community language barriers. The application facilitates real-time communication in multiple languages, for instance on those upcoming parent-teacher nights. This free multi-lingual experience works across a wide variety of platforms and devices–browsers, Chrome, and on phones of all sorts. Browser for Microsoft Translator, or translate.it allows 100 people to join a conversation at the same time in 13 languages, view a conversation in their choice of more than 60 languages, and save a transcript in their own language.

Will Lewis demonstrates the power of translation to facilitate interaction with a group of Chinese speaking students.

Those more personal conversations

The free tools also support simple bilingual conversations, say, for instance, a meeting between a single parent and a teacher or administrator, as demonstrated in the video below.

A demonstration of the power of Translator to ensure effective parent/teacher communication

To prepare parents in advance for multilingual conferences, teachers might want to download editable parent-teacher conference letters available in 60 languages that suggest which tools to download and how to use them.

Live captioning and subtitles in PowerPoint

Live captioning and subtitles for more than 60 languages are now built into PowerPoint, supporting the deaf and hard of hearing community by giving them the ability to experience a presentation in realtime. Captions and subtitles may be displayed in the language of the speaker or a different one, allowing non-native speakers access to a translation.

When you begin a presentation, you can choose to enable captioning, select a language and customize the size, position, and appearance of your subtitles. Artificial intelligence (AI) speech recognition features automatically adapt to the presented content to address specialized terminology.

The feature is free in versions from 2016 on and in the online version. For increased accessibility for all students, you might turn captioning on in English.

This video shows the step-by-step for presenters

Note: While I am able to get the Translator app for viewing presentations on my iOS devices, it seems that presently Presentation Translator is currently available for PCs only.

Useful resources:

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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