Tech Tuesdays: Technology Options for Reading on the Web

by Kathryn Nieves

With the increased emphasis on incorporating nonfiction texts and articles from real life to help support teaching literature, teachers may face certain obstacles. While assigning texts from news websites or other professional pages allows students to read content relevant to their world, it also can be challenging to make these pages accessible. News sites and other websites are often cluttered with ads, comment sections, streaming videos, or other distractions that detract from the text itself. When a student is accessing these resources from a laptop, as opposed to a smartphone, it can be cumbersome to read.

The following are tools that teachers could use to help make web content less distracting before assigning a text to their students.

Just Read

Just Read is an extension that works on a Chrome Browser. Once downloaded and added, the user can remove the clutter of a webpage with just one click on the extension logo. On the logo itself, a red icon with the word “on” will appear, indicating that Just Read is currently working on the website.

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In addition to removing advertisements and comment sections, it also has the option to adjust other readability elements of the text. Users can change the font size, text color, background color, and link color to meet their preferences. Once the “Just Read” extension has been activated, users will have three icons in the top right corner of the screen. Selecting the first icon, the paintbrush, allows for these options to appear. Once the readability functions have been selected, users must click “Save and Close” for these changes to remain active on the site.

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Firefox Reader View

Unlike Chrome browsers, which require a third-party extension to make texts easier to read and view, the Firefox browser has that function built in. Once an article is opened, users will have the option to convert to a readable format. The article will reappear, looking more like an e-book reader and less like a website.

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On the sidebar of the converted webpage, users have a few options to make the text more accessible. The “Aa” button allows the user to customize the text size and font type of the article and even allows for the opportunity to shrink or extend the length of each line in the article. It also allows for a change in background color and justification of the text.

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The button immediately below the “Aa” font icon is for text-to-speech. Users can control how fast or slow they want the computer to read and has two options of voice. The final icon is “Save to Pocket,” which allows the article to be saved in a database to read at a later date.

Microsoft Edge’s Reading View

For those who use Microsoft Edge as their browser of choice, it is similar to Firefox in its inclusion of a readability function. Users can click on the open book icon on their browser, next to their URL, and immediately be sent to an e-book setup for their article. No advertisements are included or comment sections available. Unlike Firefox and Chrome, there is no option for customization and users can only read the clutter-free article.

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There are always a variety of readability tools popping up online to help to make texts more accessible online. By removing the ads and comment sections, it increases the focus on the text and the text’s features and allows for the elimination of distraction. These tools make it easier for teachers to assign outside texts and resources to their students for review.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Technology Options for Reading on the Web

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