Monday, February 25, 2013

Writing by Dictation Speech Recognition - Is this writing?

As technology continues to provide tools to help us write more easily, are we still considered good writers if we depend on these tools?

Online web-based dictation tools can be an incredible resource for reluctant writers. Speaking helps you express your ideas, understand who you are and helps you learn about yourself which is what writing does too. Speaking your thoughts using an online dictation tool like Online Dictation - Speech Recognition allows students to get their ideas and content down on paper easily. ( Speak > Copy and Paste into a Google Document ) 

Ideas and content is one of many areas that Online Dictation tools can help a struggling student.  If you have never been in a classroom during a writing block,  many times it will take students 1-3 class periods just to get their thoughts down on paper, and some never do without the help of a teacher. Some of these students may be given low marks on rubrics that they are struggling with ideas or content. Is this really true? Do they really not have an idea of what to write about? Or is the issue the physical writing/slow typing that gets in the way of trying to share their idea and content? A classroom where students can dictate their writing piece during the pre-writing process gives them the opportunity to get their thoughts down on paper quickly, a feeling of independence (not needing an adult to scribe for them) and ultimately spend more/most of their time editing and revising. This polishing of a writing piece is where students learn how to improve upon their initial thoughts. If our struggling writers are having difficulty just getting words on paper, then they often lose access to time in all parts of the writing process that help them become better writers. Online dictation tools allow students to share their ideas more easily, but is dictation an acceptable form of writing?

There are precedents where well known writers dictated their books. Winston Churchill, Alexander Dumas and Montaigne are said to have dictated their work to secretaries. The revising and editing of the work was done by hand after the dictation was typed out by the secretary. Even recent authors like Dan Brown are known to have used dictation software to write their books – saving money on secretaries. Stephen Hawking is a well known British theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who wrote a book called A Brief History of Time. He is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device. Would his ideas in the book be any less valuable if you knew that he did not physically write a single word? So if dictation is good enough for Prime Ministers, and published authors why are we not using these tools regularly in the classroom if they are free? What skills do we feel students will miss out on? Why does this not translate down to students? State Testing? 

What are your thoughts about online dictation tools? Are they finally robust enough to be used universally in classrooms? 

If any of you are wondering if I typed this blog post or used an online dictation tool...does it matter? 

FREE Web-based Dictation Speech Recognition Tools
- Online Dictation Speech Recognition
- Chrome Extension Simple Dictation 

Here is how we use Online Dictation in the Pre-writing, Drafting process with some kids.

 Other things to consider: 

 Pros for Online Web-based Dictation tools
- Allows us to model that speech can be written down and read back to you 

- It can speed up the writing process. 
- If you think verbally, you may lose good thoughts during the slow typing process. 
-  Typing becomes a non-issue for drafting writing pieces 
- This strategy enables children from other cultures/languages to bring their different experiences into the classroom to share. Sharing dictations and then translating the dictation can enrich other students' experiences and allow the language barrier to be overcome. 

Cons for Online Web-based Dictation tools 
- Some people think visually ( writing, outlines ), rather than completely verbally ( speaking ) 
- Verbal communication is linear, where writing allows you to skip around. - - - - State writing tests are still paper and pencil