If you struggle with typing/writing your essays, you should check out a great computer program known as a "speech to text" program. I asked an assistive technology expert how it all works, what it costs, and other stuff, and here are the answers.
Ben, in simple terms, what IS this program?
This software program, called Dragon Naturally Speaking or “Dragon.” will type what you say, almost like your personal secretary.
How do I start?
You sit at the computer with a headset and microphone on, much like the people who work the drive-thru at either Dunkin Donuts or Mc Donalds would wear. The computer program asks you to read aloud a story. You choose from an easy story written by children to an advanced speech from President Robert F. Kennedy, it's up to you. The computer will “learn” the sound of your voice and adapt to you. When you're finished, the computer is trained to your voice and can type what you say fairly accurately.
Ben, you see people using this program all the time, what are your best tips?
The Dragon program works very well for those who aren't great at typing. The big limitation is that you should know beforehand what you want to say. -Otherwise you may be tongue-tied or waste time saying "ummm". It's best if you have notes, or the whole essay, jotted down for yourself when you begin.
How much is it?
The Dragon Naturally Speaking program isn't expensive. There is a version available from Best Buy for under $50. It's in most computer stores and the most expensive versions are still under $300.
Which students get most use out of this?
The ones who come prepared, with notes jotted down, and stick with it for a few hours until they really get the hang of it. Once you have done the initial training you can work fast but the training part, even though it's really only an hour or two, can put off some students.
When you say training, is that the part where you read the story?
Yes. You can read one story or more if you want to. You can read one story and then start with your own work straight away. The point is that the more the computer hears of your voice, the more accurate it gets at writing up what you say. Oh, and you can take breaks of course.
Can you fix mistakes in the print, say, for example, you say "patch" and the computer writes "pinch"?
Yes. The print goes into a word document so you can edit it as you would any other regular word document.
Ben Lim works at Bunker Hill Community College, Boston. Thanks Ben!