It’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog but since it’s June I thought I would reboot it. Right now I’m speaking using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

(No wait, I think it’s called Nuance Dragon Professional Individual. I don’t really get it. I think it used to be called Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but now they’re just going with things like Dragon 13 premium. The professional version might actually be Dragon NaturallySpeaking 14 but I don’t know…)

So now that were heading into summer, I thought I would play more with voice recognition software.

A long time ago when I started teaching the only real voice-recognition software was Dragon. But now there are a lot of free options including Google Read and Write, and heck you can even talk directly into Google Docs. So I started to wonder how good these options are and maybe I’ll do a little testing over the next few weeks.

(Right now, I’m doing a little experiment. I’m recording the audio with audacity as I dictate into Microsoft Word using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This is a paid premium voice-recognition software, but we’ll see how it compares to other voice-recognition software over time. Dragon NaturallySpeaking lets you correct words and train it to recognize your voice so I figure in a few weeks after I’ve trained Dragon using this new brand-new profile I’ll play back the audio of this transcript and see if the transcription accuracy rate is any better.)

Why would a teacher want to play around with Dragon NaturallySpeaking?

Here are four reasons to think about:

1. It’s quicker to mark and provide feedback with online learning.

Right now, classrooms are exploring blended learning environments – that’s where some of the learning happens in the physical classroom and some of the learning happens in an online digital space. Google classroom is a cool way that students can submit their work online and upload Google Docs.

You might find yourself making the same comments as feedback so one shortcut that you can do with Dragon professional is you can create standardized comments or phrases that you use over and over again so instead of copying and pasting over and over again you could simply say something like enter writing comment number one.

You could also do this with learning skills on report cards. You could say something like enter report card comment.

2. Speaking into your computer is faster than typing into your computer.

I have a friend, Bill. He’s a great guy, and I’ve seen him type. He uses two fingers and he uses the search and destroy method of typing: click… click… click. And he’ll look at my emails and he’ll say how do you find the time to write so much and I’ll tell him that he doesn’t really take me so long as I can type really quickly.

But this guy takes forever to write a paragraph so voice-recognition software might actually help him to write more information and provide more descriptive feedback in an email.

If typing is painful for you, then this is something you might want to consider.

3. If you’re dyslexic or you have a learning disability, hands-free typing may help you.

The neat thing about voice-recognition software is that you just talk and the computer types for you and then afterwards you just go through and double check your work to make sure it’s spelt correctly or the way that you want it.

4. It’s easier to talk than type or write when your hand is in a cast.

It happens. You’re playing sports, you take a bad hit, next thing you know you’re in a cast. At this point, most people would probably be at that two finger or one-handed typing approach but with voice recognition software, you simply click the mouse in the right spot and then you tell the computer what you want to type.

(In fact you can move your mouse and click on different parts of your computer without any hands at all, but there’s a little bit of a learning curve to learn to the voice commands to control the computer with just your voice.)

 

Yes, it’s a little bit geeky. Yes, it takes a little bit of time to get used to it. But as voice-recognition software technology gets better and more efficient, it’ll be interesting to see how this changes the classroom.

If you’re going to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 premium, don’t pay full price.

Sometimes, when you’re on the Nuance website, just as you’re about to leave, they will offer you a discount.

When I bought the voice recognition software, it offered me a 20% discount which I took right away. (Darn.)

20 percent discount

 Yesterday, I was peeking around the site and just as I was about to leave, it offered me a 10% discount.

2015-06-05 21_49_57-Nuance Americas Online Store - Shopping Cart

The long and the short of it is that discounts vary and you should look around. If you use this promo code link, you’ll get 25% off the regular price for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 premium.

In other words, instead of spending $199.99, it will only cost $149.99. You save 50 bucks.


2015-06-05 21_59_08-Nuance Americas Online Store - Shopping Cart

 

2015-06-05 21_10_31-Get Windows 10Right now, I’m using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 with Windows 8.1 Pro.

But, in a few months, on July 29, 2015 to be exact, my computer will apparently auto magically download and upgrade to the newest version of Windows.

And, I like that it’s free.

I wasn’t expecting to upgrade to Windows 10. There was a little innocent button at the bottom of my screen inviting me to get Windows 10. A few clicks later, and I’m on the waiting list.

2015-06-05 21_12_18-get windows 10 icon

And then I had to figure out what was new about Windows 10.

I watched their lovely promo video, but nothing really jumps out at me. Apparently I can do familiar things, unexpected things, and even great things. We’ll see.

Windows 10 will have voice recognition.

I’m a little bit interested because it looks like you can dictate text using speech recognition in Windows 10. I’m not sure how accurate it will be compared to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 – we’ll have to wait to find out.

I watched a quick preview of Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant. (It kind of looks like Siri, on a Windows PC.) It was an early build at Microsoft’s preview event, so I’m sure it will improve.

The reporter was in a crowded room speaking to a laptop microphone which didn’t understand all of his instructions. (I’ve seen Dragon NaturallySpeaking work in a demonstration in a loud crowded exhibit hall with impressive accuracy. Mind you, the demonstrator was talking into a USB microphone headset and not the laptop microphone like in the Windows demo.)

Personally, I don’t use voice recognition to control my laptop. (If you have a physical disability, or carpal tunnel syndrome, then using voice recognition to control your computer might be essential.)

I dictate into Microsoft Word and I use my mouse to click on things, but I could see how voice-recognition could speed up the process. After all, we speak into Siri and our phones with simple commands. Maybe that’s the next step for PCs and desktop computers.

How will Windows 10 voice recognition compare against Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13?

Time will tell.

20 percent discountI just bought Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 (Premium). By accident. I didn’t mean to, honest.

My last post was written in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5 and one thing led to another and I ended up on Nuance’s website.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • The price of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 is the same price as what I paid for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12. (The premium version is $200)
  • If you get the digital download version only, you don’t have to pay for shipping and handling. Plus, you get the software right away.
  • They still offer a 30 day money back guarantee so if you’re not happy, you can get your money back. (And, I know from personal experience, you can get your money back.)
  • And, just as I was about to close the window, a pop-up window appeared saying that if I bought now within the next 30 minutes, I would get a 20% discount (and save 40 bucks.)

So, I bought Dragon naturally speaking 13 on a whim.

In hindsight, buying at 20% off might’ve been a mistake. There are better discounts for Dragon 13:

After doing a little research for this blog post, I’ve discovered that you can buy a Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 upgrade for a $149.99 if you already have Dragon 11 or Dragon 12. I have both. Darn.

If you’re brand new to voice recognition software, you can buy the full version of the software Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium on sale now for $149.99. (This is a 25% discount. D’oh!)

dragon-naturally-speaking-13-discount-50

This post is written in Dragon 13 and Microsoft Word 2010. And to be perfectly honest, it ain’t bad.

This latest version of the voice recognition software has been out since July 2014, but life has been busy. I haven’t had a chance to check it out until now.

Set up was way easier in this latest version:

I didn’t have to read through paragraphs and paragraphs of text to get Dragon to recognize my voice.

This is a key selling feature. Basically, you install the software, read through one paragraph so that Dragon can recognize your voice and tweak some audio settings, and then you’re good to go.

There’s also a quick interactive tutorial that introduces you to some of the basic functions and how to use Dragon. All in all, set up took me less than a minute and going through the quick tutorial took maybe a few more.

This is an important upgrade, because Siri doesn’t require any voice training. Sure, it may not be as accurate as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but I don’t need to train Siri to recognize my voice so getting down a voice memos quick and dirty. I also don’t need to spend time training the Dragon iPhone app, so it’s nice to see that the latest version of Dragon naturally speaking on the desktop is plug-and-play.

If you’re a teacher, there’s another reason why you want this latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking 13.

Voice recognition software is sometimes recommended to students with learning disabilities. Sometimes, students with learning disabilities have difficulties reading. And getting students to read a passage text was not always easy.

I remember a few years ago trying to help students train Dragon. Back in the day, Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition was the only option really offered by my school board so we used to sit down with students and get them to try to read text that was too hard for them.

With this latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13, you can be up and running much faster than in previous versions.

(Now, there are other voice-recognition software options such as Google read and write, Dragon Dictate on the iPhone and even Siri on an iPad but that’s another story.)

So far, I’m pretty impressed. The interface is nicer. The accuracy seems pretty good straight of the box. And I’ll do a more complete review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 on the weekend. Hopefully.

Unless the school marking gets too busy.

How do you use Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 in the classroom?

 timerMy daughter recently discovered Minecraft on the iPad. (She’s five years old and we’re a little bit late to the game, I know.) Who knew minecraft could be so much fun. A little bit too addictive for mommy, daddy and daughter…

So, we need to set time limits.

And the iPad guided access mode lets you set time limits on how long your kids (and mommy and daddy) can play minecraft.

How to set time limits on the iPad

Parents and teachers can set guided access on an iPad by clicking on the settings icon and then

  1. tapping on General settings
  2. tap on accessibilityguided-access-setup-1a
  3. turn on Guided access

guided-access-setup-2a

Once you turn on guided access, you can set a passcode and set time limits for how long children can play before the iPad locks itself.

To use guided access, go into any app and then triple click the home button. You have lots of options:

  • guided-access-optionsYou can disable certain parts of the screen. (So for example, you can prevent students and children from clicking on ads in a free app, or clicking on a button that leads to premium items or other things that cost money.)
  • You can disable the rotation of the iPad screen. (This is especially useful if you disable certain parts of the screen to sometimes changing it from landscape to portrait mode changes where the ads are.)
  • You can disable the keyboard
  • You can disable the volume buttons. (So once you set the volume, you know that students won’t mess around with it.)
  • You can disable the power button. (Be careful because if the device is in guided access, once the timer runs out, you can’t turn the iPad off unless you know the passcode. If you don’t know the passcode, eventually the machine runs out of power and turns off. The problem with this, of course, is if the device runs out of power, then find my iPhone doesn’t work and if you can’t find iPad in your classroom, you can’t get your iPad to make a little sound, but that’s another story…)

There are a few ways that you can use guided access to lock down an iPad in the classroom and to focus your students on a single app.

1. In a kindergarten classroom, set a timer on a shared iPad.

Each student might get 10 minutes on an iPad. Maybe you have a sign-up sheet. By setting the time limits in your guided access on the iPad, after 10 minutes of iPad use, the machine shuts down. The student gives you back the iPad, you enter the password, you triple click that home button to restart guided access in the next kid gets 10 minutes for their turn.

2. During a test, you might allow students to use a specific tool (like a calendar app, a translation app, or a dictionary app).

The iPad is a great device, but you may not want students to access the Internet during an assessment test. So, lockdown the device.

(By the way, Google translate is a fantastic app on the iPad to help ESL students are English language learners. You can even take photos of text, and the app will translate it into another language. Great accommodation for taking tests. The app can even speak to you in the original language or the translated language.)

3. You may also use an iPad as a display device during a school event.

Maybe you’re running a literacy night or a numeracy night at your school, and you have for iPads at station. Or perhaps you’re showcasing student work at a history fair or science fair.

And, an iPad is a great interactive device for your guests. (I guess it’s kind of like turning your classroom or your school into an interactive high-tech multimedia museum.)

You probably don’t want your visitors snooping around on your iPad, so locking down the iPad to a specific app helps your visitors to stay focused. (Unfortunately, you’ll get students trying to guess your password which is always a headache.)

Problems with using guided access to lock down an iPad in the classroom

1. Sometimes students try to guess your password.

This is annoying, but on an iPad, every time a student makes an incorrect guess, you have to wait longer and longer in between password attempts. The first incorrect passcode and your iPad makes you wait 10 seconds. The next time you guess wrong, you have to wait 60 seconds. After that, you have to wait 180 minutes.

So, if a student tries to guess your passcode and then handed back the iPad, you might have to wait 10 minutes before you can enter in the correct passcode. (Not a big deal, you just have to restart your iPad to get out of guided access mode.)

2. Locking your iPad with a passcode in guided access mode isn’t 100% secure.

If you do a hard reset, your iPad will restart in regular mode and you’ll be able to use your iPad like normal.

(This isn’t a bad thing. If a student locks your classroom device by putting it into guided access mode with a passcode, eventually the battery will run out (or you can do a hard reset) and the device will reboot, so you can get back in.

How do you lock down your iPad in the classroom?

72550972_f48d1ea723‘Tis the season for giving… and wanting.

I’d like to get my sweetheart an iPhone 5. I haven’t really decided between an iPhone 5s or an iPhone 5c, but that’s beside the point. (But, come on, that touch ID fingerprint logon system seems pretty darn cool.)

My sweetie currently uses an old school flip cell phone to snap candid photos of our daughter. I’ve seen some of these images and they’re smaller than a thumbnail. Plus, it’s not easy to get the images off the phone.

An iPhone 5 would solve all of our problems. Take high-quality eight megapixel photos which are easy to share with our other devices.

2013-12-22 01_06_25-dropbox(We’re an Apple family when it comes to mobile devices. iCloud shares the images to our iPads and dropbox automagically shares the images with our PCs.)

Classroom Cameras

So, what does this have to do with classroom?

Well, sometimes I hear colleagues talking about how we need to buy cameras for the classroom. We have a few handheld camcorders / point-and-click cameras that you can sign out in use with your students.

The problem is getting the images off of the camera can be problematic. You need to find a USB cable. You need to plug it into the computer. You need to download the photos onto the computer and then manipulate them or share them with the teacher.

Do I think schools should buy iPhones? Absolutely not.

Do I think schools should buy cheap cameras and video recorders for everyday classroom use? Not really. You can only take photos or videos.

iPod touch and iPad Mini as classroom cameras

If you’re going to spend $150-$200 anyway on cameras, why not consider getting an iPod touch or iPad mini? Yes, they’re much more expensive than a camera, but it’s also a more versatile everyday classroom tool. (And, it’s easy to manipulate images directly on the device, and share them to the cloud or with the teacher without any cables.)

  • An iPod touch (32 GB) starts at $299 and comes with the five megapixel rear facing camera with 1080p HD video recording.
  • An iPad mini (16 GB) starts at $319 and can take 1.2MP photos with 720p HD video

One of the things Apple does well is create a sense of want. Check out their holiday TV ad, “misunderstood” which shows how easy it is for misunderstood teenagers to snap videos and splice them together into powerful moments.

2013-12-22 01.01.53 As a teacher, I would love to explore a set of iPod touch with my students.

  • Students are working on an activity in class.
  • Snap some photos of their work.
  • Upload the images onto their school Google Docs account and share the images to the teacher.
  • Boom! Everything is done wirelessly. (Assuming your school has Wi-Fi, of course.)

Other ways you could use an iPod touch or iPad mini in the classroom…

  1. If you have Apple TV and your school wireless network plays nicely with the device, students could even show a live camera feed of a solution to a math manipulative problem on the data projector.
  2. Or, use iMovie and create a commercial for geography class explaining the dangers of global warming.
  3. Students could use an app like Evernote sketch to take photos and then mark up the image with arrows, text, and circles to explain ideas before handing it into the teacher
  4. Teachers could snap photos of notes on the blackboard to post on the class website.
  5. You could videotape students practicing a performance so they can critique and improve their work.
  6. Use an app like 360 panorama to create interactive panoramic shots with your camera.

and those are just some ideas that you can use the camera for. It goes without saying that there are lots of apps that you could use on an iPod or iPad mini to enhance your classroom instruction.

The problems with using an iPod touch or iPad mini as a camera in the classroom

Of course, let’s be real. No technology solution is completely perfect.

  • iPod touches and iPad minis are expensive.
  • Expensive devices are harder for teachers to replace. It’s easier to be more cavalier with a cheap point-and-shoot camera that a $300 iPod touch.
  • Sharing photos wirelessly requires a wireless connection. There’s nothing more frustrating than a glitchy school wireless connection.
  • Sharing large photos and movies wirelessly takes a long time.

But, having said that, there’s something to be said about being able to share photos instantly off of your wireless mobile device. I still have family photos from birthdays sitting on my digital SLR camera. I just haven’t had a chance to copy the images from my SD card.

Photos on my iPhone get shared instantly. Maybe I will buy that iPhone 5S as a Christmas present after all.

Photo Credit: Bart Everson, New Classroom (Creative Commons Attribution license)

2013-09-21 10_33_37-Screen ResolutionWhen I teach in a classroom, I use a computer projector to show students things on my laptop. (Remember overhead projectors? Those days seem so long ago.)

Most teachers only know how to mirror their computer screens onto the projector so students can see on the big screen whatever the teacher can see on their computer screen. But you can do more.

You don’t have to show students everything on your computer screen when you are using a computer projector.  In fact, you can show different content on your computer projector.

 

I have my computer set up with an extended display so it’s like having two connected computer screens side-by-side. If I drag my mouse far enough to the side on one screen, it’ll jump over to my second screen.

It takes a little bit of time to get used to, and sometimes, it can be hard to find the mouse, but I like having the extra screen real estate.

Using an extended desktop means that I can work on things and get applications ready on my computer screen before showing it to students on the (second) screen which is projected. It means I can quickly switch from a PowerPoint presentation to a Google doc to a YouTube video to another computer program just by clicking and dragging.

It also means that I can show instructions to the students on the computer projector, but open up a confidential email or student file on my private computer screen.

How to display a separate screen on your computer projector

On a Windows machine, usually you just right-click on the desktop and you’ll have an option to change the display settings. If your projector is plugged in, you can set up your computer so that instead of the second projector screen duplicating what’s on your desktop, you can have it extend as a second screen.

 092113_1431_Computerpro1.png

I actually go one step further. I’ve brought in a second monitor that’s connected to the projector (not my computer.) This way, I get a second extended desktop screen that is projected to my students, but I can see what’s on my projector because it’s duplicated on my second monitor on my desk.

Now, I don’t have to crank my neck when I’m typing something on the data projector screen that students can see.

I use Microsoft PowerPoint to set up most of my lessons. I like PowerPoint because I can have it running on my computer screen and present the slideshow on the second screen (projector.)

Example of a computer projector showing different content to students

Here’s a screen shot so you can see powerpoint is running on my computer screen (left side) and the students see the slideshow on the computer projector (right side of screen shot.)

092113_1431_Computerpro3.jpg

I also like how with Microsoft PowerPoint, I can change the slides on my computer screen and the students can watch the slideshow change in real time on the second projector screen.

I wanted to use Google presentation, but unfortunately it doesn’t have an extended desktop mode. Sure, you could open up a web browser and display that to the students, but any changes you make in a separate web browser on your laptop screen won’t show up to your students until you refresh the browser that they can see on the second projector screen.

The big downside with Microsoft PowerPoint, however, is that I’m not currently using SkyDrive to share my presentations with my students on my class website. (I use Google Apps.) My work computer currently uses Windows XP and a SkyDrive desktop app isn’t supported on XP. This means that I have to manually upload my presentation to SkyDrive after every lesson and then embed it separately onto my class website.

How do you use a computer projector to show students things on your compute?

This post has been edited and the information about the Difference between Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home and Premium editions has been moved here.

bigstock_Sale_Tags_7005556-300x210I just got an email from Nuance, the people who make Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, letting me know that they are having a summer sale.

It’s a pretty good deal, so if you’ve been waiting to buy speech recognition software, now is a good time to check it out:  

email promotions

Dragon NaturallySpeaking summer promotions:

You can now save $40 on Dragon NaturallySpeaking home edition.

  • It currently sells for $59.99 (regular price $99.99). 
  • Click here to see the difference between the home edition and the premium editions.

Save $60 on Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium for Windows

  • DNS Premium sells for $139.99. (Regular price of $199.99.)
  • This post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium. I generally get around a 97-98% word recognition rate. Click here to see how accurate the voice recognition software was in this post.
  • (I’m not a Mac user, but the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Dictate for Macs is also on sale for $139.99. (Regular price $199.99)

Finally, if you’re a teacher or student, you can save an additional $40 off the sale price by getting the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Education Edition.

By the way, if you buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12, you can upgrade it for free to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5. Get more information about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5 service pack update.

 

speakers533930983_5d8fad55d6_zSo this is an experiment. I’m trying to see what happens when I talk into to my computer when I have a DVD playing the Avengers, and the radio blaring on my iPad at the same time. How accurate is this?

I went to a demonstration where the person used Dragon NaturallySpeaking and just talked into the computer in the middle of a loud showroom as if nothing was wrong. And the computer picked up everything he was saying. It really was quite impressive.

So I’m trying to simulate what would happen in the classroom situation with a bunch of background noise happening. Overall, it’s pretty impressive. It’s recording what I’m saying and I can’t do this too much longer because I don’t want to wake up my little girl.

One of the big problems that I have with Dragon NaturallySpeaking is that I don’t think it works in the classroom well when you have a lot of kids talking in the background. (And this doesn’t count for the fact that you might feel self-conscious talking to a computer. After all, I would feel self-conscious talking to my computer as a teacher.)

The computer trainer for students who use Dragon NaturallySpeaking suggested to the students that they correct Dragon as they go along to improve Dragon’s accuracy.

I have another theory.

I think Dragon NaturallySpeaking is accurate enough as it is. I regularly get between 97 to 98% accuracy. So I think if you have students correcting mistakes during the classroom situation, you’ll pick up extra noise in the background and this will actually make the voice recognition software worse.

This happened with me and my cat when I was using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, but maybe things have changed in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12. All right, let’s see how accurate Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been so far.

[Pause.] 

Okay, so I just listened to the audio of the previous text. One of the cool things about Dragon NaturallySpeaking is that you can give the command, “playback” and it will playback and highlight the words as you spoke them. I didn’t correct any mistakes when Dragon was transcribing my text, so it isn’t learning from my corrections. (Also, right now for this experiment, I’m not saving my user profile or running the accuracy tuning wizard.

In the first section, there were 289 words, and there were 28 word mistakes. This means that overall Dragon NaturallySpeaking had an accuracy rate of 90.3%. Not as good as it normally does when I’m working in a quiet environment, but not bad.

When I finish this blog post, I will not save my user profile, so that the next time they use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, it’s a fresh start. (I want to tell my students to never save their Dragon NaturallySpeaking user profile.) Maybe one time, I will do another experiment and correct my mistakes when I’m speaking in a loud environment to see if that makes any difference.

By the way, when I was  listening back to the Dragon audio playback, you can hear the background Avengers fight scene, and the music on the radio. So clearly, the microphone  is picking up the background noise, but Dragon NaturallySpeaking is working hard to figure out what you are saying. (Maybe things work much better with a better noise reducing microphone headset.)

I’m still not convinced that Dragon NaturallySpeaking works well in a classroom environment – a noisy classroom environment at that – but if you do have to use the speech recognition software in class, I’m interested to see if it works better if you don’t correct mistakes in the classroom, or if you do fix mistakes as you go along.  

Ideas about getting the most out of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 in the classroom

I think I’m going to recommend to students the following best practices:

Best practices for creating a new student user voice profile on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12:

  1. Find a quiet room with no background noise to create a pure voice profile. Do this one-on-one, and not with small groups of students training Dragon at the same time. 
  2. Read through the initial training text so that the student get an idea of how to use voice recognition software and so Dragon NaturallySpeaking gets an idea of your voice. Coach the student sentence-by-sentence if necessary before the computer is listening so they can read as fluently as possible.
  3. Run the accuracy tuning wizard / accoustic optimizer so Dragon can process the initial training voice data.
  4. Backup this pure Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice profile so we can restore to this default setting without having to re-read the text. On Windows 8, the user profiles are here: C:ProgramDataNuanceNaturallySpeaking12Users
  5. (You can also use Dragon’s backup feature, but I wouldn’t. I believe the backups are destructive and overwrite the previous backup so if students backup their voice profile themselves, I don’t think you can go back to this initial fresh voice profile. I’d rather do it manually.)

Best practices for students using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12:

  1. Tell students not to waste class time (and potentially decrease voice recognition accuracy) by (mis)training Dragon in a noisy environment and correcting mistakes. Instead, I’m going to encourage students to delete mistakes manually. It’s quicker and that way, they can focus on doing the assignment (instead of teaching the computer new tricks.)
  2. At the end, I’m going to ask students to use something like WordQ to play back what they wrote to see if they can catch any errors. I suppose students could use the, “playback” command to listen to what Dragon NaturallySpeaking heard, but unfortunately, once you start manually correcting mistakes, the audio samples become very choppy and distracting. (WordQ has a SpeakQ voice recognition program premium add-on, but I find SpeakQ is not as accurate as Dragon NaturallySpeaking.)
  3. I’m going to ask students to NOT save their Dragon NaturallySpeaking user profiles at the end of class. 
  4. If students accidentally save their Dragon NaturallySpeaking profiles, I can always restore it from my backup.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking really is accurate without any training. Straight out of the box:

Now, I know Dragon NaturallySpeaking gets better by learning word patterns that the user likes to use. But I think Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 is pretty darn accurate right out of the box.

no-training-writing-style-acoustic-optimizerI wrote a previous post using a fresh user profile:

  • I did the audio setup to check my USB headset and microphone levels
  • I skipped reading the initial training text
  • I did not let Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 analyze my email or word documents to see what word patterns I use.
  • I did not run the acoustic optimizer.
  • I used a USB headset with Windows 8 and Microsoft Word 2010 and no background apps running.

Even though I didn’t train Dragon NaturallySpeaking at all, the speech recognition software was accurate for 98% for what I said. Not bad, straight out of the box.

And, that’s why I don’t think students need to spend time “training” (or getting distracted by “training”) Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Lets focus on getting students to produce work. This is my current game plan, at least for now.

Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Title Me by Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

dns_word_accuracy: 91.2

cat-8511402100_fea15da1c5_cI have a cat. I also use Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

One day, my cat was meowing at me as I dictated to my computer. Really loud persistent meows.

There I was, trying to talk to my computer, correct mistakes (to train Dragon), and play with my cat all at the same time.

It didn’t work very well. The voice recognition software kept on making tons of mistakes that I had to correct and my cat just got annoyed with me.

Normally, I get around a 97 to 98% word recognition accuracy with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Having my cat around really dropped the word recognition rate, and that made sense to me because my cat felt strongly that I wasn’t paying enough attention. But, what surprised me the most was that the next day I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking, it seemed to continue to make more mistakes than it normally did.

Was this because while I thought I was correcting my word mistakes to teach Dragon NaturallySpeaking the nuances of my voice, I was actually training Dragon to make more mistakes because I was corrupting my user voice profile by adding a Kitty sound track?

Things I’ve learned about Dragon NaturallySpeaking from my cat

This was back in the day when I first started playing with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, so I simply deleted the user profile and started over from scratch. Everything seemed to work better after that, and I walked away with two important life lessons:

  1. Close the office door when I’m dictating to my computer because it seems Dragon NaturallySpeaking works better in a quiet environment.
  2. Feed the cat more.

Armed with those two basic principles, I’ve had a lot of success with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (Unfortunately, my cat has become a little bigger as well.)

Having an audio profile with few background noises make sense to me.

  • When I teach Dragon NaturallySpeaking new vocabulary, I find I get the best results when I speak clearly.
  • When I sit down to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the first thing I do is adjust my microphone and then do the audio check to get Dragon NaturallySpeaking to adjust the volume levels.

It made sense to me that Dragon would work better in a quiet environment. After all, when you’re speaking with someone over the phone, isn’t it easier to understand them when they are in a quiet office, as opposed to a loud cafeteria?

Is Dragon NaturallySpeaking a good tool in the classroom? Things to consider:

So, based on these experiences, I’m not an incredibly big proponent of using Dragon NaturallySpeaking inside of the classroom. Like everything, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not a magic solution that will cure all ails. For the most part, I’d rather have my students use something like WordQ.

However, Dragon NaturallySpeaking can be a great assistive technology device for some students. Students and employees with physical impairments may find voice recognition software allows them to be incredibly productive. Some students and adults with learning disabilities may find it easier to produce work using the computer, as opposed to paper and pencil.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Is the student tech savvy enough to use it?
  • Will they get distracted with the novelty of voice recognition software. Sometimes, things are easier to use a mouse then dictating several voice commands?
  • Is the student patient enough to troubleshoot problems when the computer does not understand a command?
  • Does the student has enough literacy skills to be able to correct mistakes?
  • Will the student feel self-conscious talking to their computer in the classroom?

Two reasons why I’m rethinking using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in my classroom

Up until this year, I haven’t had very many students who have been effective (and more importantly, independent) with using Dragon.

But this year, two things have happened and now I’m reevaluating how I feel about encouraging students to use the dictation software in my  classroom.

1. Dragon NaturallySpeaking no longer requires you to read training texts before you begin to use the speech recognition software.

A few weeks ago, a Nuance salesperson called me to try to get me to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium 12.5. It was an odd conversation because I initially bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 in 2010 and then I bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 when it came out in August 2012. I’m already running Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5. I downloaded the free service pack update when it came out several months ago. They need to update their cold call list.

But, one of the features the salesperson talked about was that in Dragon 12.5, you no longer need to train their user profile at the beginning. And she was right. Right now, I’m talking to my computer using a brand-new user profile created in Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5 and I didn’t need to read the introductory training text.

general training

In the past when you set up a new user, you had to read a text with some information about how to use voice recognition software. This gives Dragon NaturallySpeaking a chance to get used to your voice, but it also gives new users a chance to understand that voice recognition is really about context and it’s important to speak in longer phrases.

When I created this new user profile, I had the option to skip training and not read the basic introductory text. Although Dragon NaturallySpeaking does not recommend this option, overall, I’m finding this user profile to be pretty accurate. If you click here, you’ll see that Dragon NaturallySpeaking correctly recognized over 98% of the words in this post without any training at all. I think this speaks volume about the quality of the voice recognition engine in Dragon.

I’m not entirely sure if this is a new feature in Dragon 12.5 premium. I don’t think I saw it when I created a new user in Dragon 12, but I wasn’t looking for this option either. When I check out the user guide for Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 11.5, on page 21, it talks about how you can “skip training”, so maybe this feature has been here for a while and I just never noticed.

What does this mean for using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in the classroom?

It means students who have troubles reading can still use Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (Yes, I know, you can use your own simpler training documents for students who are reading at a low reading level, but I’m suggesting that you might not even need to use that text.)

I’ve had students who needed an incredible amount of time and assistance to read the training documents to even get started with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. We still struggle through the document because it was a great authentic reason for the student to read, but the one-to-one support that some students need to get started with voice recognition isn’t always available.

I also wonder about the quality of the user profile when the student is reading in such a choppy way. Voice recognition is about speaking fluently and some of our struggling readers have great oral strength when they’re talking, but sound very disjointed when they are trying to read.

I think if I had a struggling reader who wanted to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I would still have them go through the process of reading the introductory text to learn about how to speak to a computer using voice recognition software. Then, I would delete that profile and create a brand-new profile and skip the text to create a clean, default voice profile.

2. Dragon NaturallySpeaking seems to work fine in loud environments

Recently, I was at a conference and one of the booths was demonstrating Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 using a USB noise canceling microphone. What impressed me the most was how accurate Dragon was in such a loud and noisy conference environment. If Dragon NaturallySpeaking worked fine in a loud sales environment, then it might work fine in a noisy classroom as well.

I’m not sure what’s the difference between that booth demo and my cat example.

  • Maybe their USB headset was a lot better at noise canceling.
  • Maybe things have changed between Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 and 12.
  • Maybe I need to buy that USB headset.

However, even if the transcription accuracy is okay in a loud environment, there are still two problems with students using Dragon inside the class environment:

  1. First of all, the student might feel self-conscious talking to their computer and having everyone listen to them.
  2. Secondly, you may not want students sharing answers out loud during a test.

But if Dragon NaturallySpeaking does work well in loud environments, then you might have more options like asking the student work in the hallway.

Overall, I think I might encourage some very specific students to explore Dragon NaturallySpeaking as an alternative to typing on their laptops. After all, these students may not always have access to an adult who can scribe their work, but they may have regular access to a computer that can transcribe their thoughts.

The only debate I have is whether or not students need to spend time correcting mistakes to teach Dragon. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think students should be telling Dragon to “correct that”… But that’s another post.

How do you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking in the classroom with your students?

Photo Credit: Cat and Keyboard by Vivid Image, CC By2.0

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