Summer! A Time to Play with Technology for the Classroom

Well, here we are again. Another school year is over, report cards are done, and my classroom is packed up into cupboards and boxes.

In between, the lazy days of summer, road trips, and spending some quality family time outside, I’m hoping to post more regularly on this site. It’s time to play with some technology to start dreaming about what we can use in the classroom next year.

The laundry list of educational technologies that I want to explore this summer is long. Technology is the kind of thing that is constantly evolving – what was once cool and cutting edge three years ago is now obsolete. (I used to love my MDG flip tablet netbook, but now it sits on the shelf compared to the new iPad 3.)

  1. First and foremost, I’m looking for a better way to blog using voice recognition software. 
    • Right now, I use Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate my posts into Windows Live Writer.
    • It works better than dictating directly into Internet Explorer, but the problem is the moment you insert an image, Dragon Naturally Speaking doesn’t play well with Windows Live Writer anymore.
    • (The Dragon software still transcribes everything you say accurately, but the inserted images seem to confuse Dragon Naturally Speaking so that sometimes the speech software accidentally overwrites a few characters from the previous line.)
    • UPDATE (Jul 10): Dragon NaturallySpeaking works fine in Microsoft Word 2010 and doesn’t accidentally overwrite any characters if you have an image or table.
  2. I’m always on the lookout for better voice-recognition software. (Overall, I get around a 97% accuracy rate with Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I’m always looking for better option – or free option.)
    • I downloaded the trial version of SpeakQ and WordQ. WordQ is a great piece of assistive technology software that predicts what students are typing. SpeakQ is an add-on to WordQ that let students say the tricky word that they’re having difficulty spelling. At first glance, it didn’t seem anywhere near as accurate is Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I think the point is to help students dictate one or two tricky words, as opposed to transcribing entire writing assignments.
    • On that note, I also want to check out the Windows speech recognition software in Microsoft Windows 7. Using the same Bluetooth wireless headset that uses Dragon Naturally Speaking, the free speech recognition software didn’t seem as accurate is Dragon Naturally Speaking, but obviously I have my biases. (I also haven’t finished the language training with the Windows speech software.)
    • Apparently Siri is coming to the new iPad 3 when Apple launches iOS 6 sometime this summer. Right now, there is a little microphone button beside the spacebar on the standard on-screen soft keyboard on the iPad. This button launches iPad dictation software, which is pretty accurate (92.8% of the words correct using the rainbow passage.) I assume Siri uses the same voice engine.
    • Looks like Google will be building voice-recognition software directly into the desktop version of Google Chrome. Definitely want to check out how accurately it transcribes what you say. Right now, there are Google Chrome extensions to add some voice-recognition functionality, but it doesn’t work everywhere. For example, the Voice In chrome extension adds a microphone button to all text input fields, but you can’t use this chrome extension to dictate into Google Docs or to dictate a blog post into your WordPress site.
  3. I’m also interested in checking out some cloud software solutions for the classroom.
    • Dropbox recently added a camera upload feature which I want to play with. Seems like potentially an interesting way to get iCloud Photo Stream functionality from a school iPad and access it from any computer just by logging into your dropbox account. (I’m a little wary about using Photo Stream on a work computer because lots of teachers use or iPads for personal and professional use, but most people I know aren’t comfortable with their personal photos getting synced and uploaded to their work computer.
    • I’ve played around a little bit with Google drive, but this summer I want to take a better look at it, especially given that we use Google Apps for Education so much at school. I don’t think it will replace my dropbox account. After all, I have a lot of free dropbox storage space, by referring friends and colleagues.
    • This summer, I want to play more with graphic design and video editing suites online. Aviary is an online and mobile photo editing solution that integrates nicely with Google apps for education. (And I just discovered that they have an iPhone app. Not sure how well it plays with your Google Docs account yet.)
    • WeVideo is an online video editing suite that also integrates very nicely with Google drive. (They have an android app, but no iPad app yet.) I’m sure these web apps aren’t nearly as powerful as Adobe Photoshop elements or Adobe Premiere elements, but they’re still interesting options to explore for the classroom.
  4. I’m looking forward to trying to get a hold of some new tech hardware.
    • Although you can’t buy Google Chromebooks from stores in Canada, there are a few people selling them on eBay. Chrome books retail for as low as $299 in the US, but seem a little cheaper on eBay.
    • I’d love to compare Chromebook to the Google Nexus 7 tablet running android 4.1 Jelly Bean (starting at $199). I wonder if Google docs will work any better on android 4.1. (The mobile version of Google Docs is brutal.)
    • iPhone 5 is around the corner (mid to late 2012?), and given that I’m using a old hand-me-down iPhone 3G, I’m seriously considering upgrading. Combined with the fact that Google just released a chrome iOS app, this means that you could start browsing a website on your desktop, continue browsing the site on your iPad while writing the subway, switch to browsing the site on your iPhone while standing on the bus, before finishing off the site on your home PC.
  5. Finally, I’m looking forward to upgrading some of my classroom websites. Things have come along way since I first started blogging in the classroomover four years ago.
    • I’m looking forward to adding some social networking features to my classroom blogs using the buddypress plug-in but keeping things separate between different (classroom) networks.
    • I’d like to create an online classroom question-and-answer community so students and parents can ask questions and get reputation points based on the quality of their answers. I like to see if there’s a way to add this open-source question forum platform to my classroom blogs powered by WordPress. Question2answer software looks like it plays well with WordPress, but I don’t know how well it works with multiple networks on the same WordPress installation. (In other words, I would want a separate question forum for each classroom and not sure how easy it is to set that up with question2answer.)

Looking forward to a great summer.

What classroom technology are you playing with over the break?

This blog post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium and Windows Live Writer.

  • There are 1141 words in the inital draft.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking made 22 word errors which mean that it transcribed 98.1% of the words correctly.
    • The voice recognition software also made an additional 5 punctuation or capitalization errors meaning the total accuracy rate was 97.6%.

Click here to find out more about the Dragon Speak Education Discount.

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