Learning Disabilities Teacher
When our TLN moderator wrote a post looking for teachers interested in previewing a voice recognition software program, I jumped at the chance to try Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking software with my learning disabled students. After viewing a webinar demo, I couldn’t wait to learn how to use it and share it with my students. Then everything came to a grinding halt. Our 9-year old school computers didn’t have DVD drives and “the powers that be” wouldn’t install one for me. “If you let a few of your students use it, then everyone will want to use it.” <SIGH>
As I went back and forth begging and pleading for a way to install it in the classroom, I was met with more roadblocks. As a special education teacher of 30 years, I’ve always felt that if “the front door was locked, I’d find a way to go in the back door.” I spoke with 6th grader Derek and his mom about possibly trying it at home and seeing if it would help.
Derek is a bright and gregarious young man who has always struggled in school when it came to written assignments and reading. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and receives 1:1 Orton-Gillingham instruction to help remediate his reading disability so eventually he can read anything his classmates can. My goal, first and foremost, has always been to empower my students by educating them about their learning disabilities and discovering ways to compensate for them using their strengths.
After three months, I interviewed 12-year-old Derek about his experience. Here’s what I found out.
Q: Describe how you use Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Derek: I use is a lot for all my projects. I used in science class when we did our MWRA project. I used it for my African American hero project in Social Studies on Frederick Douglass, and I’m using it now in English class to write poetry.
Q: How have things changed for you in terms of completing homework, projects, etc. for school since you started using “The Dragon,” as you call it?
Derek: It’s faster. I can write a paragraph in 10 minutes now; before it would take me 30-40 minutes.
Q: If a student had never used DNS, and was curious about how it would help them what would you tell them?
Derek: It’s easy to download, and it’s fun to use! It recognizes my voice because I had to do a test the first time I used it: Green for go, yellow for too low, red for too high. I like that I reads it back to me so if it sounds funny, I can fix it!
Anthony, one of Derek’s hockey player friends, is a former student of mine. Now in the 7th grade, Anthony has a similar learning disability and wanted to learn how to use DNS as well. He’s now been trained by Derek to “ride the Dragon.”
I’ve been impressed not only with the students’ enthusiasm for the software but the improvements I see in Derek’s work products. These are students who previously dreaded lengthy writing assignments, and can now complete them with ease. At the risk of sounding like a TV spokesmodel, I have to say that Dragon Naturally Speaking has the potential to impact the lives of many LD students immensely.
[NOTE: Laurie Wasserman received a review copy of DNS at no cost but was free to judge it completely on its merits.]
Also see this full review of DNS by TLN member Karen van Dyun.