31 March 2008

Free Speech Recognition

Yes, right now your students can have free high quality speech recognition working for them.

Consider, without paying for Dragon - or before deciding to pay for Dragon, or without struggling with all the problems of Microsoft Vista - or while waiting for the eventual "Service Pack 2" which will make Vista stable, usable, and much less annoying, or without waiting for MacSpeech Dictate to finally appear, your students who struggle with the physical acts of writing or keyboarding can be doing their own writing and doing it (probably) for free.

You just have to let them have their mobile phone in the school, and you have to let them use it.

I re-discovered Jott via Karen Janowski's EdTech Solutions blog. I had heard of it, played with a very early version, then forgotten, until thankfully - through the wonders of social networking - Karen commented here, I went back to look at her site, and - voila!

Jott works very simply.
1. You sign up with Jott.
2. You register your mobile phone number and email with Jott.
3. You add other contacts into Jott - your teacher, your parents, your boss.
4. You call Jott.
5. You say "Send to me," or "Send to x."
6. You speak.
7. Jott writes it down for you.

8. Jott stores what you've written in folders you create on their website. ("Homework Assignments," or "My Second Novel.")
9. Jott emails the text to you or to whoever you wanted it sent to, or texts it to another phone.

A lifespan solution. And a real solution to myriad problems in school, from dexterity issues to dysgraphia to attention-spectrum issues to memory problems. And... yes, a high-tech solution which requires the school - in most cases - to spend absolutely nothing and requires none of that "precious" tech support time either (If a student did not have a phone a school could buy a mobile and minutes for far less than a computer and Dragon Naturally Speaking and a "strong enough for school" headset, etc, etc.).

Like most great Universal Design solutions Jott was not designed for people with "disabilities," nor is its impact limited to that group. Hands-free writing in your car just became easy, for example. So a student using this technology is not "marked" by their obvious accommodation - an important issue for children and adolescents, if not all of us.

I'd encourage you to read Karen's blog entry on this for a great list of real-school solutions, using Jott.

And consider all the other ways your students' mobiles can support them, especially if tied in with a Google Calendar at least partially shared with the teacher (with text-message reminders), and with the ScanR website which converts a 2 megapixel camera phone into a scanner capable of producing accessible text.

So I signed up. It is free. And I put Jott's number both into my phone ["call Jott"] and into my free calling circle. And now that is free. And now I'm ready to write, no matter how awful my handwriting is (and it is completely illegible), or how slow my one-fingered keyboarding is, or even if I am driving to campus.

- Ira Socol

The Drool Room by Ira David Socol, a novel in stories that has - as at least one focus - life within "Special Education in America" - is now available from the River Foyle Press through lulu.com

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