Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Questions About Using Dragon Naturally Speaking in the Special Education Setting

One of our readers sent me a question regarding Dragon Naturally Speaking. I thought it would be helpful to throw it out to everyone for comments and suggestions and asked for permission to post it. I have presented the question below and my answer after. I have had a lot of difficulty getting it to work with students and our discussion below explains why. If anyone has something to share on this or a fix you have found, please share a comment...

"Thank you for sharing all of your valuable information on your blog. I always learn something new and helpful when I visit your blog! I am trying Dragon Naturally Speaking with a young lady who has some significant physical disabilities and is struggling with using the mouse to access the computer. She speaks very softly- we have been working with her to "turn up her volume" which she is getting much better at. The Dragon also is having a difficult time recognizing her words correctly. For example she will say "The cat is black" and it will recognize "At it's plant be" or "The top is blue" is recognized as "Time is blue" and when she says "period" it recognizes it as "daily". We are using the headphone that came with the Dragon but after doing some research I saw that perhaps changing the headphone may make a difference?
We also are using Dragon 9.5 and maybe should upgrade to Dragon 10? I also read that the Dragon has difficulty recognizing speech of folks who have an accent- she doesn't have an accent per se, but maybe her word pronunciation is affecting the outcome?
Again, this is my first time using Dragon with a student and could use any advice/suggestions that you could think of. I have visited several sites that discuss using the Dragon, but still am feeling like I'm missing something or wonder if there might be another program that would work more efficiently for her?"

My answer:

"Dragon is a great program, but the limitations you are facing are common to my own experiences with it. The students I have worked with generally have poor pronunciation and volume when reading aloud. Shyness and lack of confidence can also be a factor. Mix in the issues of disabilities and, as you can see, it can be tricky to get this "miracle software" to work.
Here are some ideas:
1. Get a better quality microphone (as you suggested)
2. Go in and highlight the incorrect words and change them so that the computer learns that when the student says a word and consistently gets a different one, it will make the change automatically. This is done by selecting a misspelled/mis-interpreted word and correcting the word you want it to be from a word list, or typing it in yourself. If this can overcome the errors in interpretation, then you might be able to get it to work OK.
3. Sometimes a sound shield around the student stops ambient room noise from disrupting the ability for the software to hear the reader.

Our version in my AT closet is an older version and so I have not experienced the new versions - you are working with a newer one than we have. I use it a lot to write papers, etc. and have trouble too sometimes - I don't know of anything better. I know that the Mac has built in speech to text - it might work better. Because of the very issues you have brought up, I tend to steer teachers away from using Dragon unless the student has a good speaking voice - logistically, it just breeds frustration unless someone is OK with spending lots of time."

What have your experiences been using dragon?

All the best to you,

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!


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Anonymous said...

I tried Dragon with my son, and recently heard from a professional that it works best with smooth speech vs staccato, or a lot of pauses. So for him to compose a paper on Dragon didn't work because he had to stop and think a lot so his words came out too choppy and with hesitations.

Lon said...

Thanks Shelly,
It is hard for kids to get the flow going for the software. If you are checking back for more comments, my post on this (same title, same day)has quite a few posted suggestions. You might want to check them out.

IK said...

If using the mouse is a problem, but using the keyboard is not, then try Integrated Keyboarding from which allows you to move the mouse and the cursor, highlight, scroll, drag, number and delete from the homekey position.
Hope this helps.