To Speak or not to Speak….

By User:King of Wikis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been pondering the speech recognition question/opportunity for a while now and a recent QIAT listserv threaded conversation gave me the idea to share my ideas as well as others and some of the resources surrounding this topic.

The ability for computer-based devices to recognize speech is not something new, as a matter of fact, it’s been around for about six decades. Speech technology’s recent surge in popularity in education is further continuing this conversation and utilization.

My ideas and resources below are by no means the ONLY way to tackle speech recognition in the classroom. I just hope to share some ideas, questions and reflections from my experiences.

Before I even share an assistive technology tool with any teacher, I will have asked them to refer to the SETT Framework (developed by Joy Zabala and part of the IPP process in Alberta). Teachers need to consider who the student is as a learner, what the learning environment is like, what are the writing tasks and what tools can be used to remove the barriers in learning.

Speech recognition can work positively for those students who are able to express their thoughts and ideas better verbally than through writing or typing. If the student is already able to use or can learn the skills of proper enunciation, continual oral output (no hesitations), self-monitoring, patience and is motivated, then trying speech recognition may be a good choice for them.

I work most often with administrators and teachers in our school division; however I also happily work with students when the opportunity arises. The ability to take time to show some tools and resources that could make a difference to students is one that I hold near and dear to my heart. The fact that our school division has access to various low tech to high tech software, hardware and professional sharing opportunities has aided this along significantly.

Proper introduction to speech recognition tool(s)

  • Now available
    • Speaker-dependent speech recognition – creation of a personalized voice profile where the speaker must train the software program to recognize its voice such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (for PC) or Dragon Dictate (for Mac).
    • Speaker-independent speech recognition – no profile creation, software picks up current voice such as Siri, Google Voice, Android. This is where I spend my time on laptops, netbooks and Chromebooks nowadays with: Google Docs add-on > Speech recognition. Our school division is three years into using Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Some of our schools have entered into Bring Your Own Devices and with all students have a GAFE account, this helps with staff and students working from the same cloud environment. There are many Google apps and extensions that can be used. The Google Docs add-on > Speech recognition opens up a right pane within a google document for the speaker to immediately use.


  • Read&Write for Google chrome extension > Speech input is available for free for teachers and is a licensed product for students.

Speech input_RWG

  • Voice Note II chrome extension is available for free in the Chrome Web Store and once installed, when a user chooses it from their toolbar, Voice Note will pop up over top of any current work and you can start dictating away, copy the text and insert it anywhere you require!


  • There are also iPads found in our classrooms and two popular recommended apps to try out are: Dragon Dictate and Paperport Notes iOS apps are both created by Nuance. Both are simple to use and Paperport offers a variety of note taking opportunities besides oral such as typing, handwriting, audio, inserting images, changes to paper types and exporting to GDrive (as well as other options).
  • Environment
    • Think about the space where the dictation will occur. Is it loud? Can the student move to a quieter part of the classroom or to a space outside of the classroom?
    • Think about the microphone. Is the USB microphone (on the device or the headset) extra sensitive to surrounding voices and/or noises? Some USB headsets that have been successfully used in the school division are:
  • Part of a continuum of inclusive technologies where teachers and students can combine speech recognition with other software and applications like:
    • GAFE with premium Read&Write for Google
    • 30Hands iOS app
    • Blogging with Edublogs and the EasyBlogjr iOS app
    • ShowMe/Educreations iOS apps
  • The Writing Process
  • Students need to be able to compose orally which is different than writing with a pencil or typing on a keyboard.
  • Give them time to practice and use scaffolding strategies to support writing such as pre-writing activities and editing.
    • Brainstorming – students should think about their topic and what they want to write. They could use a Think-Pair-Share cooperative learning strategy with a partner to mentally and verbally compose some sentences, or individually write down key ideas on a post-it note or even on a graphic organizer.
  • Using the tool – students will then use the speech recognition tool and through practice, they can either verbally process one sentence at a time (turning off the microphone in between) or on all out ‘verbal dump’.
  • Once the dictation is completed, students can then edit and revise either using a keyboard or using speech recognition.
  • One must remember that producing more text doesn’t equate to better writing but it does allow for more complex cognitive tasks like revision and reorganization of ideas.
  • Speech recognition can be used for a variety of writing tasks such as:
    • Note-taking
    • Sentence answering
    • Essay writing
    • Report/research writing



Expressing Learning in Exciting Ways

Three years ago, our school division embarked on a vision to be “a place where exploration, creativity and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams”. During this time, we were also entering into the collaborative cloud-based arena with Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and Edublogs. This work is also support by the Ministerial Order on Student Learning and the Learning and Technology Policy Framework.

A Look at Edublogs
This platform allows students to engage in developing their writing skills, becoming more transparent reflective learners and establishing a positive digital presence through blogging. Currently in our division there are two types of blogs: a classroom blog (developed and maintained by the teacher) and a student blog (maintained by the student and moderated by the teacher).

The Classroom Blog’s purpose is to share and build a deeper understanding of the learning occurring in the classroom. Teachers use the classroom blog to document classroom activities, curate curricular-specific links to educational resources, extend learning opportunities, model digital citizenship and social responsibility, and encourage student and parent responses.

The Student Blog’s purpose is to share and showcase their own learning artifacts and build a deeper understanding through reflection.

Students use their blog to:
• Share growth in their learning
• Leave a positive digital footprint
• Relate to the topic being discussed in class
• Reflect on their own learning
• Support the learning of others by giving and receiving feedback
• Write about their passions and invite guest responses from community members.

The blog improves their level of understanding, develops growth in literacy and numeracy, increases engagement in learning, encourages parent participation. Student can choose how they present their learning on their blog via video, audio, text, images or a combination of these which offers them different opportunities to showcase their work. Overall, blogging is one important way to have students reflect on their learning.

“Students are more reflective about their own learning because of their blogs. I love that they are able to look at their learning, think about the process, and then write about the experience. What a valuable opportunity! Additionally, the kids love feedback that goes beyond our classroom walls. When someone from another city, province or country responds, they get SO excited!”- Teacher

“Blogging opened up the possibilities of audience in new ways. So, when they are considering writing or publishing for an audience other than me, the teacher, that really impacts how they view what they doing and the intrinsic motivation they have.”- Teacher

“I have really enjoyed blogging this year. It has been a fun way to learn new writing skills. In 5th grade I didn’t really like writing. It seemed boring and like a chore. When we started blogging this year, I was really unsure about it. I thought it would be just a trick to make writing seem more exciting. I was so wrong! Blogging has been really fun for me. Blogging has let me write about things I like and enjoy, such as holidays and video games. If we just wrote papers and essays this year, I would probably get burnt out. I would not try as hard, and it would not be very enjoyable. I really want to continue this amazing experience next year.”- Student, Grade 6

“I want to continue to write these posts … because they help me put all my thoughts into words and to stretch my creativity.” – Student, Grade 8

“Throughout the year, I have learned new techniques for grammar from reading other people’s blogs and from some of my own. Every time I write a blog I learn a new way to use word.” – Student, Grade 9

As one can read from the above comments, our students are seeing the impact that blogging has on their learning. In fact, some of our youngest bloggers are now able to share and demonstrate their learning just as much as our older students because of a third party app called EasyBlogjr. See how some of our early years students are showcasing their learning through the examples below:

Colby, grade 2

RJ, grade 2

The image below shows RJ’s actual post from what he demonstrated in the above video. His title The Deadly Witch, the photo that he took of his deadly witch drawing and his sentence of “My witch is my first drawing and it was as fun as possible and we had to use crayons and we had to fill the hole page” is prominently displayed in the post of which I have enclosed in this screen shot.RJ_EasyBlogjr_post

As one can see, hear and read, our students today are able to express and demonstrate their learning in exciting ways!


Here to Represent

Task 3 of this week’s look into Multiple Means of Representation had me look at some of the current books (textbooks) that our students in Alberta already have access to via the LearnAlberta website. Within this website are all sorts of resources and tools. I specifically choose a textbook since this is the most used resource within the classroom.

Within the site, teachers and students search for a specific textbook. I happen to choose a grade 7 Science book. Below you see the initial description and media format.


Once a teacher or student opens this resource, they can download the Daisy or .pdf files. Daisy is audio only and the .pdf files can be read by online readers like Read&Write Gold/Google chrome extension and SpeakIt chrome extension.


I contacted a Vision specialist with another organization to ask if this resource is accessible for those students with low or no vision. He did say that this resource is also JAWS (Job Access With Speech) accessible.


I believe the important thing with Multiple Means of Representation, is not only to have teachers understand that there are resources already available that allow for ALL learners to access content related to their subject areas. I also think it is important to show students the Kids Health online resource and the article from the University of Edinburgh which shows how to create accessible materials, so they think about this while created their own online resources. We should also task publishers to make their products available in many accessible ways – audio, video, different fonts, etc.



Engaging Students in their Learning

Helping students understand how they learn and how to better manage their learning is an ongoing process. As most of my time is spent with teachers and administrators, I will share with you the two applications that can support these pieces in the whole learning process.

Although, before I delve into the applications, I’d like to take a moment to discuss an important step that needs to occur BEFORE teachers work with students in gauging how they learn and manage their learning. It is important for both teachers and students to know themselves as learners. Some of the resources to achieve this are found in the Alberta Inclusive Education Library, specifically the Student Perspective section where there is an abundance of templates. These resources include one-to-one interviews, small group discussions, written/audio/video reflections, drawings, inventories and checklists. (I am unsure if one can access these resources outside of Alberta. Feel free to contact me directly if there is something of interest.)

Inclusive Ed Library Inclusive Ed Student PerspectiveInclusive Ed Inst Strategies










The other piece to connect with the Student Perspective are different Instructional Strategies and Supports. Within the Inclusive Education Library is the book Making a Difference: Meeting diverse learning needs with differentiated instruction, Language Arts and Mathematics Instructional Supports for grades 1-9 to note.

So, once teachers and students have incorporated the above strategies and supports, this is where one can utilize two applications to help students understand and manage their own learning.

We want students to reflect on their learning AS they are learning. This process is important and that transparency of the process is important too. Polling students can be one way to accomplish this. I share with teachers that they can use polling in three ways:

1) For anticipatory info – find out what students already know, which will assist in the unfurling of a lesson and or unit. Does one go deeper into the vocabulary, offer more audio/video clips for support, add text and images, etc.?

2) Formative assessment - as the students are working individually or together, asking specific comprehension or process questions will let the teacher know if they need to review or emphasize a concept or connect different groups of students together to share their findings.

3) Exit ticket – what are the big findings from the unit/class? Are students on track in their understandings?

From any of the above three actions and their results, students can then be guided to enhance their learning in more specific ways. This ongoing feedback allows students to see their incremental gains in their learning.

For polling, one can have students individually answering, or take time to “think, pair, share” their responses with a partner before responding or have a group of three with one person being the recorder. Seeing class answers to questions in real-time depends on the activity. For some activities, teachers may want real-time answers scrolling directly on the screen at the front of the class, for other activities, teachers may want students answers to be shown after ALL have completed the poll. These answers can lead to deeper group discussions right at the time of the responses or they can be for teacher use and sharing in the next class (an overall summary or further questioning).

A couple of digital polling applications that I recommend teachers try out are:

  • Mentimeter – with multiple choice and open-ended questions, this polling application is free for teachers to use with up to 2 questions in a row (there is an Edu $$ version). I like the easy set up and easy polling. Students must have access to a device with internet to be able to respond. (See the intro video below.)


Mentimeter – intro from Mentimeter on Vimeo.

  • Plickers – a new favorite polling tool of mine since the teacher is the only one that requires a device connected to the internet (specifically iOS). Set up is quick with teachers inputting a class list, students are assigned a number and Plickers cards are then printed off (think bar code/QRcode)

Plickers view


UDL Overview

For the first week’s work in the SOOC4Learning working and learning group that I have joined, we are to share our thoughts from a choice of tasks. I went with the focus on showcasing a UDL Overview as I work out of Division Office as the Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. My main time is spent with supporting administrators and teachers but I do get to work with students to empower themselves (and advocate) to have engaging, enriching and authentic learning experiences.

Planning with UDL in mind is not difficult in my opinion, however, becoming aware and understanding the variety of tools, resources and support may be daunting.

My video below was created by smashing or combining a variety of applications. Choosing three copyright free images to represent each of the three UDL principles, inputting them into the Wordfoto iOS app and gathering up to ten key words for each image really was fun for me. I then used LiPix, an iOS app to combine the three images and recorded a video which was saved into my iPads’ photo album. I then uploaded the video to my YouTube channel (added annotations and ensured closed captioning was working) and embedded it below (or go directly to the link HERE).

I am very lucky to work in an school division whose vision is “where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams” and that staff are working towards it daily!


Start, Pause & Resume


Photo Credit: sciencesque via Compfight cc

For today and tomorrow, I have the opportunity to attend our annual North Central Teacher’s Convention in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. There are 16 school divisions of teachers that attend these two days. For me, it is a different route to get to a learning and leading destination. This means that instead of a steady 30 minute drive on a highway, I experience the almost eternal set of traffic lights, pedestrians, abundance of vehicles in tight downtown spaces. It made me think of the students that we work with and made me think of a few questions…..

* when there is a change of routine and/or pace, how can teachers and/or students prepare themselves?

For these two days, I looked at my new schedule presented by the Convention committee and chose what sessions appealed to me ahead of time. I noted times, room numbers and entered these into my daily schedule. I also liked having being able to change my mind or leave early for another session easily since the mobile schedule was readily available for me to check.

I also mapped out (yes, Googled it!) where I would park and then entered this into my vehicle’s navigation system (love GPS) so that I could arrive on time.

* how is collective learning shared?

Twitter is a phenomenal way to share, receive and learn from other teachers around the world. It is also an easy way to follow the learning, ideas and reflections of Convention-goers. I added to and checked the #NCTCA2015 twitter feed throughout the two days. For those twitterati, one can use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that will stream specific keywords/hashtags for you (a social media “dashboard manager”). It is also the time to click on Tweets that appeal to you and learn more about the person behind the tweet (and ‘follow’ them if you like what they are saying). If you want to save the whole lot of tweets, my favorite way is to use Storify and swipe over specific tweets to save them to refer to later.

Gathering information and or writing notes can take on a variety of ways from low tech to high tech. Paper and pencil, post-it notes, tweets, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, online notetaker apps like Notability, Paperport Notes, audio notes, video clips and even texting can assist!

* how do you reflect on your learning?

Taking or gathering notes and listening to speakers is a wonderful thing, but what are you going to do with this overview and/or newfound information? Are you reviewing it to share out to others? Are you comparing it to other information? Is this a new trend or new to you? How does this affect what you are currently doing? What connections to the curriculum or society can be made? Are you able to share your learning with others and make comments? All of these questions allow you to ensure that the conversation does not just stop after the end of this learning (particularly this Convention, but what about students, how do they or how are you scaffolding this learning?)

Overall, planning ahead, asking questions (or sharing those questions with students) and sharing learning makes for any changes in routines an opportunity!


Weekly Tech Tips and Tidings


Photo Credit: mattwalker69 via Compfight cc

This week try out some seasonal activities, work on comprehension and delve into edtech research!

Tech Tips and Tools

  • Google Certified Teachers created lesson plans for INTERSTELLAR, a new movie from Christopher Nolan that touches on topics from climate change to space travel to the theory of relativity. Find the right lesson plan to take your classes even further with Google Play for Education.
  • Rockin’ Around the Geome-tree – Educator Tom Rose of Chowchilla High School in California uses Geogebra, a free web app, to bring complicated math concepts to life. “The app’s ability to move things around and dynamically see what changes and what doesn’t goes much further than the most well-written lecture notes,” Rose says. “Students love working with GeoGebra, and have no problem loudly saying ‘YES!’ when I tell them it’s ‘a GeoGebra day’ rather than another slideshow from Mr. Rose.”
  • Follow Santa around the world with Google Maps Santa Tracker: Take your students on a tour of Santa’s Village to learn about holiday traditions from all over the world, access complete standards-based lesson plans, and enjoy fun holiday games.
  • GAFE Tools you can trust:Google knows that trust is earned through protecting privacy and providing top-notch security to schools and students. Learn more about their commitment on our Google for Education Trust Center. This includes their detailed paper, “Data Security, Transparency, & Privacy: How Google Protects Your Data“.
  • Moon walks with Neil & Buzz – See the moon like never before with Google Earth Moon View. Zoom in on astronauts’ footprints, watch rare footage of the Apollo missions, and take a tour of moon landing sites with Apollo astronauts narrating the whole experience.


Discovery Education Tidbits

  • DEN Trend Report – this week concentrates on building strong teacher leadership, teacher evaluations, global warming, engaging girls in tech and games to reimagine learning.
  • The Envelope Please – this strategy has students making a prediction to enhance and check on their comprehension.
  • Zaption Premium Access – take a Digital Learning Survey and get premium access to Zaption Pro which turns online videos into interactive learning experiences that engage students, deepen understanding and track student progress.


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