Slowly gettting there.

It has been awhile since I finished the L2L course I was doing. However, I am still slowly implementing ideas that I have learned.

After 3 years of asking the computer tech to install ‘WordTalk” on laptops and PCs in our school, it finally happened. YEAH!! However it was my husband who installed it and not the technician. I asked the principal if my husband could come in one day and do it. Armed with the password he was able to download “WordTalk” onto about 60 laptops in 4 hrs.

I then spent a lesson showing how it works to our Yr 7 students, who were about to hand in an assignment, but the teacher was going to give them one more lesson to edit using WordTalk to assist. It was a huge success. Of course there were the usual students who just wanted to play with it, but more than half the class found mistakes that they hadn’t been able to pick up. e.g. even though the word was spelt correctly it wasn’t the word they wished to use. When reading it themselves they of course read the word they thought it was. This was a real eye-opener for them.

There where however, some problems with the American accent. The laptops have only about 4 voices to choose from.

I also presented how to use ‘WordTalk” at a staff meeting. Once again I was met with enthusiasm at what could be done on the computer. It might not be as useful in the lower grades, but at least we now have something that can assist our learners with reading difficulties as well as the general population. I also did a que card for WordTalk which I have included as well WordTalk Que Card_1

My next task is to download ‘Natural Reader” onto the laptops and PC’s. My husband will come in and do this for me as well.

Finally, I am going to do a workshop with two students on the use of Cowriter 6. I have put 2 laptops from my department into a classroom which has the software installed. There are a number of students who will benefit from being able to use this software, but I need to remember that little steps are usually best.

So all in all I am very happy with the way things are going even if it is slowly.

Please keep writing and keeping us up to date with what is happening in your situation.

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My experience with STT software

Below is a copy of my working with Windows 7 STT to create this blog. Although I was able to correct quite a few mistakes I have also left many in as I became too frustrated trying to fix them. By leaving in the mistakes you can more easily understand some of the problems I experienced.

My experience:

I am really impressed with the inbuilt speech to text system that is in built into Windows 7.  I think I could get very used to working with the software and typing could become a thing of the past.

I  do however, recommend that you spend some time doing the voice training tutorial.  It has taken me 10 minutes to complete and these two paragraphs.  I would also recommend that you had a printed copy of them commands that you will be using.  It is leading the commands that takes the most time.  Once the commands have been masteredI believe the dictation the will become easier.

I can understand how a student would find speech recognition software very frustrating to use, a until they had trained the computer to his or her voice end lent the commands.  Despite the difficulties of learning how to use speech recognition software I do believe however, it would be a very useful tool to have.

Unfortunately budget’s impact upon the ability of a school to implement the use of technology for those students who would benefit most.  After looking at the speech recognition products in the self study station I am going to investigate further as to whether our school might purchase a suitable product end a lap top for it.

Speech to text software may be an excellent resource for those who may struggle with writing such as:

Learning disabilities including dyslexia

Poor or limited motor skills

vision impairments

Physical this abilities are

It has taken me another 10 minutes to get this far.  The I am leaving their mistakes that I haven’t been able to fix.

Like any piece of software their advantage is disadvantages.

Some advantage is may be:

When access to the keyboard may be difficult then speech to text software allows access to the keyboard, thus removing barriers to writing and navigating around the computer.

Students who may have spelling difficulties are more likely to share their ideas and use a vocabulary that is more suited to their age.

Without having to worry about the mechanics of writing students may be encouraged to produce a longer pieces of work at a higher quality and more reflective of their true ability.

A student no longer has to rely on ascribe that’s becoming more independent.

Decrease of students anxiety in relation to writing.

Improve a student reading ability as they say the word and see it appear.

Disadvantage is:

Another 20 minutes has passed

Students will need to spend time training the computer to recognise the voice.

It may not be useful for young children as software may have more difficulty picking up their speech and recording their speech accurately.

Students will need to become familiar with speaking their ideas and then using the software to edit.

Students still need to be able to recognise any errors which may have been made.

Conditions at school may not be conducive to using speech recognition software, as there is usually a lot of background noise.

The student may be self conscious using it around peers in a school setting.

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Commercial vs Free

Comparison of Commercial versus Free software.

Mind mapping:

MindView 5 Mac

I downloaded the demo version of MindView 5 Mac to experiment with commercial mind mapping software.

I used it to create an outline for a workshop, which I have to present. At first I was overawed by the amount of icons on the desktop and the size of the manual – 121 pages. However I found “Quick Start” and used this to begin planning my workshop. Within about 5 minutes I had worked out how to add subheadings, had a play with styles and background colours and was well on my way to preparing my presentation. The beauty of this product is that it can be directly imported into Microsoft PowerPoint. I also played with it in presentation mode and thought this was a great feature as well.

It can easily be converted to an outline and exported to Microsoft Word where you can have the beginning of an essay / report. This would be extremely handy for students who don’t like to think in a linear fashion to begin with.

It has a bank of it’s own clipart as well as being able to import your own if needed.

Notes can be added with text or by an audio note: a useful feature for those who may be having problems with writing.

New boxes can be easily added by double clicking on the box.

XMind on My Study Bar V3 for XP

Once again I have come across problems with My Study Bar. This could be such a useful tool but so far I haven’t found it isn’t easy to use.

I spoke about some of the problems I have had to date in an audio blog, which I posted a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately my experiences aren’t getting any better.

Although XMind can be downloaded as free software I am particularly interested in using it on My Study Bar as this is more feasible when working at a school.

Today I experimented with XMind on My Study Bar. I didn’t find it as easy to learn how to use as MindView 5. There wasn’t a manual to go with it and although there is a Help section I didn’t find this as easy to read and understand as the manual for MindView 5.

It has similar features to MindView 5, in that you can select the type of mind map you wish, change background colours, font type and size. It doesn’t have a presentation mode, which isn’t really necessary but a nice feature. It can be saved onto the USB stick to be opened at another time, but not onto the computer. This makes sense as the program isn’t on the computer.  I haven’t been able to export it into a Word document, despite the tutorial saying, that by first clicking on HTML you then can choose a word format.  It can however, be saved as an outline in a txt file.

So once again, the excitement of using one of the features of My Study Bar is dashed by it not working. Students and teachers need technology to work as it is supposed to, otherwise frustration sets in and it won’t be used. I do like mind mapping though and will be encouraging the student I am working with to use it to plan his school reports or use it to make summaries as a way of doing revision.

Text Prediction.

LetMe Type.

LetMe Type is an example of text prediction software and is found on My Study Bar. Before this can be used effectively, it would be best to import a list of words, so that the writer may start to use it immediately instead of having to wait for it to “learn” a list of words while using the “learning on” function. It is useful to be able to turn the learning words function off, especially if the user may be a poor speller. This stops it from learning incorrect spelling.

In settings you can set up the desired number of suggestions as well as how many characters you wish to type in before a suggestion is given. This can be set according to the needs of the student.

The background colour, font type and size can be adjusted to suit the user’s individual needs.

You can tell LetMe Type to only work within certain apps, or not to work within certain apps.

Vocabulary may be grouped according to subjects, through the use of different lexicons. This is a useful feature as it can be customised for the user.

Co-writer 6

I am fortunate enough to have co-writer downloaded onto a laptop at school but haven’t had time to teach myself or others how to use it. During the past week I have had a play and was impressed with its ability to immediately predict words without having to add the vocabulary first. Not only was it able to complete the word being typed but predict what word might be coming next in the sentence. This is because it is based on linguistic word prediction. As it can predict words in sentences this will build motivation and confidence in the user.

It is also able to recognise invented and phonetic spelling, letter reversals and words with omissions and give fairly accurate suggestions.  This is extremely useful to poor and or phonetic spellers.

Unlike LetMe Type it already comes with a huge bank of subject specific vocabulary  (over 200 topics) which can be turned on to assist for example, in writing reports on particular topics. Similar to LetMe Type you can also create your own topic banks.

Co-writer 6 has the ability to have each word in the drop down box read out to the user. Therefore when having to choose the correct word you don’t have to be able to know what it looks like, you can listen to each of the words. LetMe Type doesn’t have this ability.

As a shortcut each program allows you to insert the word by typing in the number beside it. This leads to greater productivity as it isn’t necessary to be using the cursor to highlight the word chosen.

Co-writer 6 will immediately read the sentence back to the writer once a full stop has been placed. This will help with editing to make sure that what is written is what the user wants.

Features such as background colour, text type and size can be changed to suit the needs of the user as well. Speech can be adjusted as well and used in any format where text is being written.

The good news is that Co-writer 6 is now available for OSx operating systems. Co-writer 6 is an extremely useful tool, I only wish it didn’t cost so much, thus making it difficult to use in schools due to budget restrictions.

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Voice comparison

To read my voice comparison chart click on Compare voices_Unit 4

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My experience with voices

My experience with voices is rather limited to the TTS on my mac and Microsoft Sam.

A student at my school does enjoy reading audio books and after discussion with him said he prefers real readers for listening to books, but doesn’t mind the synthetic voices when he wants to use TTS software to access print.

The OSX – Mountain Lion version comes with 3 males and 3 females to choose from. I decided however, to explore “Customise” and found that there were many more voices from nearly all nationalities as well as novelty voices which could be downloaded.

OSX – Mountain Lion TTS can be saved to iTunes and then converted to an MP3 file which can then be listened on a mobile device.

Be careful when downloading as the voices can take up a lot of space and take a lot of time to download – 3 voices took 17 minutes. I thought I had lost my original 6 voices but realised that if you wanted to keep them as a choice then you need to keep them ticked on your customised list otherwise they don’t come up as a choice.

iPads have a speaking function to read books or pdf files downloaded to iBooks. This function can be turned on in settings and speed rate can be adjusted as well. Parts of the book or pdf may be highlighted to be read and words are highlighted as it is read.

When looking to download voices it is best to have a voice that is intelligible at fast rates, as many vision impaired or regular uses of TTS can listen to text at quite a fast rate – eg 300 – 400 words/min. Good pronunciation is also important as is the ability to customise pitch, speed and pausing.

Be careful of what software you buy as it may not accept the voices on your computer.

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Audio Blog for Unit 4

My audio blog is about the trials and tribulations that I had introducing My Study Bar to a student.

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Implementing Change

My experiences in implementing change.

Bringing about change isn’t an easy thing to do. I see many teachers enthusiastic and sharing their ideas in the hope that others will see the benefits of what they say / believe an follow them. I am a typical example. Why is it then that people resist change:

  • Feeling overwhelmed as they seem to be in a constant state of change.
  • Scared of the changes
  • Feeling inadequate that they won’t be able to cope with the change

Change takes time and is difficult. Sometimes in our enthusiasm we can go to fast for our colleagues. For change to really occur it needs to be done in steps with first giving the knowledge as to why there should be change, leading on to hopefully changing attitude then individual behaviour and then group behaviour.

So what is my experience?

As I look back at my action plan I see that I have accomplished very little of what I set out to do.

Putting Word Talk onto 60 laptops and 16 desktops is a lot to ask of our one technician who works only once per week at our school. Obviously this is an unreasonable request. Therefore I need to turn it into a reasonable one. More about this in my next action plan.

My biggest struggle has been dealing with the software as many of the programs recommened to download and use are for PCs and I own a Mac. While many of the teachers at our school own and use Mac’s the school itself uses a Windows operating system. This means that I haven’t been able to teach myself how to use this software and so assist teachers or students with working with it. I have enjoyed learning what my Mac can do, but realise the shortcomings of this in a Window’s school.

It is the beginning of the school year in Australia and teachers have been busy setting up their classrooms, getting to know their students and establish routines while coming to grips with implementing a new curriculum. I am sometimes hesitant to approach them with another new thing as I know how overwhelmed they are feeling right now. It seems however, that there is never a right time as there is always something happening.

I need to be give the teachers the same knowledge that I have been given and then they may wish to take on learning about what can be done to assist students.

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