(Almost) Word-for-Word

As voice recognition programs improve, students reap the benefits. Fans of science fiction author Isaac Asimov might remember his description of a futuristic voice recognition machine (for the true geeks out there, it was in his 1953 novel, Second Foundation). Asimov wrote that the machine, which was designed for
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

As voice recognition programs improve, students reap the benefits.

Fans of science fiction author Isaac Asimov might remember his description of a futuristic voice recognition machine (for the true geeks out there, it was in his 1953 novel, Second Foundation). Asimov wrote that the machine, which was designed for students, turned out copy "in a charming and entirely feminine handwriting, with the most beautifully graceful capitals anyone ever saw."

Asimov may have been wrong — and perhaps a bit sexist — in assuming that future students would want a voice recognition system to churn out words in flowing cursive text. But his imagination proved to be not far off from the technology available to students now.

Voice recognition software is hardly new — attempts at capturing spoken words and turning them into written text have been available to consumers for about two decades. But what was once an expensive and highly unreliable tool has made great strides in recent years, perhaps most recognized in programs such as Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking (which is now in version 9).

Adam Krass, assistive technology specialist for the Bergen County Special Services School District in New Jersey, uses voice recognition software (specifically, Dragon NaturallySpeaking) when working with some of his students. Having extensive experience with using these systems in the classroom, Krass says voice recognition is becoming an increasingly viable tool.

"It's unbelievable — it's so much better than it used to be," says Krass, who started working with voice recognition about 15 years ago. "Anyone can just pick it up and use it. Before, it wasn't an off-the-shelf product."

Other products in the market include SRI International's EduSpeak and Microsoft's Vista operating system, which will have a built-in dictation feature. (A live demo of Vista's voice recognition feature in July, however, went terribly awry; the program confused "aunt" with "mom" and then went haywire as the demonstrator attempted to fix it. To be fair, Vista is still in beta.)

Krass says voice recognition software can serve a vital purpose for students with physical limitations that prevent them from typing effectively and for students with dyslexia, for example. In Bergen County, voice recognition software has been paired with talking word processors such as Write: OutLoud and IntelliTalk 3.

Although he doesn't see voice recognition programs expanding much beyond a core group of users-in education, at any rate-Krass welcomes the continuing improvement of the systems. For example, these programs used to require extensive training of the software itself by the user, which meant hours of reading preselected text to the program to "teach" it to recognize the timbre and phrasing of the user. Newer programs require much less prep time.

"Typically anyone that can type even a little bit prefers to type rather than dictate," Krass says. "But the people who do well with this program really need it."

Mark Smith is managing editor of Technology & Learning.

Featured

Related

Word by Word

from Technology & Learning RSVP technology can transform the reading experience. There are often a few students in a classroom who struggle with reading. Whether they are reluctant to read because it is difficult or because they might have a visual or physical disability, students may find rapid serial

Image placeholder title

What’s in a word?

The difference between Personalized and Individualized Learning is more than just semantics. A conversation with Diana Laufenberg

Get the Word Out

This month, I'll review three reinvented offerings designed to augment an array of reading skills. Knowledge Adventure applies its home-based software know-how to a series of multimedia tools. Reading Readiness, with its focus on phonemic awareness and phonics, debuts as the first in the series. WizCom's nifty

Can I Have a Word(2)

The Barbican fine arts center presents this award winning site of four lessons to inspire creative writing. "Changing Voices" focuses on life in South Africa, "The Elements" examines earth, wind, fire and water in the arts, "The Human Body" uses

Can I Have a Word

Can I Have a Word The Barbican fine arts center presents this award winning site presenting four lessons to inspire creative writing. "Changing Voices" focuses on life in South Africa, "The Elements" examines earth, wind, fire and water in the arts, "The Human Body" uses the body to inspire poetry, and

Image placeholder title

Where Were They Then?

In his 1980 opening editorial, Classroom Computer News Editor, Lloyd R. Prentice, wrote: “Indeed, science fiction writer Arthur C.

Word of the Day

Name: Word of the Day Brief Description of the Site: Part of the excellent New York Times Learning Network site, this page is a good place for high school students to work on their vocabulary skills, especially if they plan to take the SAT or ACT. Each day the page offers its Word of the Day followed by a

Converting PDF files to MS Word

Question: Are there commercial programs that convert read-only PDF Files into editable MS Word files? The IT Guy says: In August, 2004 I addressed several different options available for creating PDF files, but neglected to highlight several commercial programs which can provide the functionality which you