I love current events, and newspapers make me happy, and I spend a lot of time reading nonfiction articles online. (Maybe too much sometimes.) It’s super important that we encourage our students to love the news, too.
That’s why I’m starting a new series, Get Your Students to Love the News. My hope is to share some of my favorite apps and websites to encourage teachers to motivate students to love current events.
First up is Umano, which I think is perfect for students, particularly reluctant readers. Umano reads you the news with real people narrating.
Can you believe it? I know, it’s crazy. The voices are not Siri or Cortana (or whatever Amazon calls its robot on Kindle), but real human beings.
Want to try it out? Here’s “A Cube with a Twist,” a New York Times article about the Rubik’s Cube, narrated by Larry Anderson. (Mr. Anderson’s voice is nice and smooth, don’t you think?)
And how about this embedded Umano player? (This article is anti-BART — but very pro-Umano.)
The website is nice, but the real magic comes on the mobile app, available on iOS and Android. It’s beautiful and powerful. (Besides, students are always close to their phones. A good phone app goes a long way.)
Here are just a few things students can do on the Umano mobile app:
1. Create “playlists.” When you open the app, you get a list of recommended articles. You can listen to them immediately, or better yet, save them to a playlist for later. That means that students can save up enough articles for the bus ride home after school (if they get bored listening to music).
2. Follow “channels.” Channels are topics of interest (like sports) or publications (like NPR). You can tell your students to sign up for a combination of interests and news sources.
3. Read articles while listening. This is a feature I really like. (I’m not one of those people who argue that listening is exactly the same as reading.) Once you’re listening to an article, you can press a “books” icon on the top to display the text. That means students can read along while they listen.
4. Submit articles for narration. Like most things in life, Umano right now serves a mostly adult audience. But there’s an option to request articles for narration. If enough of your students submit the same article, I’m hopeful that Umano will listen.
Like everything, Umano isn’t perfect. Sometimes, my preferences is for “harder hitting” news. But that’s nothing new for me. Really, if I step back, I realize that if the point is to get our students hooked on reading current events, we can’t always start with article after article on tough topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict.
If you’re a teacher — or even if you’re not — give Umano a try, and then let me know what you think by leaving a Brilliant Insight.