Katherine Bilsborough

Creating ELT materials

Helping teachers make excellent classroom resources

Talking to my screen

The dictate function

This is a bit of an experiment because I’m using the dictate function in Word to write this. I’ve used it several times recently for work, and I’ve had mostly good results. It seems to have improved a lot since I last used it a year or so ago. I haven’t used other voice recognition software before, so I don’t really have anything to compare it with. But it’s certainly an interesting tool with lots of potential. I think.

Using it for work

I’m writing some culture pages for an Extra Resource Pack for secondary students. For one of the levels, I asked my co-author and husband to give me a hand. I asked him to write two texts, a reading, and an audio script. He wrote them for me using a pen and paper. That’s the way he does most of his work, later transferring it into a digital form. I do the same sometimes, especially if I’m writing primary materials, things like stories or short texts. I like being able to write on paper, moving around and getting away from a screen.

There you go

When Steve finished the texts, he handed me the paper and said ‘there you go’. So I decided to use the dictate function to write them up. What could possibly go wrong? In the event, when I reread the texts, I only had to make a few tweaks. Word seems to mostly accept my accent. I probably saved time and did a little less typing, which might be a good thing.

Rabbitting on

So, this blog post is a bit of a stream of consciousness about that process. I am wndering whether talking is still writing, in the same way that I wonder sometimes whether listening to an audio book is the same as reading. And about when voice recognition software might be useful.

Other people

For some people, software of this kind must be a huge help. I’m thinking about those who are unable to use a conventional keyboard, people who are visually impaired, or restricted because of wrist problems, arthritis or hand tremors. But it’s my understanding that a lot of people use the dictate function for other reasons. And I wonder what they might be. Having a break from typing seems like one good reason. In theory you could also multi-task, though I’m not sure how good I’d be at that. I really can’t imagine myself dictating a text and doing anything else at the same time.

I think I’ll use the dictate function more often, for things like blog posts, emails and other admin stuff. We’ll see.

I’m very interested in hearing from people who use this dictate function regularly, whether professionally or for other things. Please get in touch if that’s you.

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2 thoughts on “Talking to my screen”

  1. Hi Kath,
    I’ve dictated a couple of blogposts into my phone, and often use voice to text to write messages there. I’ve tried to get my computer to understand my voice, but that seems to be an uphill struggle. My shiny new iPad has amazing voice-to-text though, so maybe I’ll use it more there. I tend to use it to rest my right hand, especially my thumb, but also so I can stand up and move around a bit while I’m writing / typing. It takes a while to get used to the formatting commands, but I think once you’ve done that it could be quite efficient.
    Sandy

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’ve just got a new iPad too! It’s very exciting and I hadn’t even thought about using the dictate function on it. So many things to try out …

      Kath

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