Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a speak recognition program that allows you to control your computer and dictate with your voice. Dragon NaturallySpeaking includes a headset with a microphone for uses with the program. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has excellent speak recognition accuracy at fast speeds. Dragon allows users to browse the web, write emails and compose and edit Microsoft Office documents with your voice. In addition Dragon can transcribe audio files into text after it was recorded. For example, if you are on the go you can record your voice with an audio recorder and then uses Dragon to make a text document from the audio file. Dragon has numerous commands that you can use to control your computer. You can say, "search the web for..." or "correct that" or "strike that" or 'scroll down" along with many other commands. Because their are so many commands there is a learning curve for new Dragon users. Luckily once you learn the commands that you will use most Dragon can improve the time it take you to perform common tasks. Dragon's speech recognition accuracy is very good out-of-the-box but you can train Dragon by reading text aloud to help improve the accuracy. Creating text documents with Dragon is also quicker and easier with voice. Using Dragon it is easier to get your ideas down on paper and using voice is much quicker than typing. If you have an iOS device you can use it as a remote microphone using the Dragon Remote Microphone available here. To learn more about other Dragon products from Nuance click here, here and here. This product was provided complementary to the reviewer.

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Notability Promo Code Giveaway

Below is a promo code for Notability. To learn more about Notability click here. To win the app enter the code into iTunes. The first person to enter the code will win the Notability app for iPad. Once one person enters the code it will no longer work. If you do not win check back later for another code. Good Luck!

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My Brave and Amazing Colleagues

As mentioned in an earlier post, our school has the great fortune to have expanded our iPad program from one classroom last year to 9 classrooms this year. With this expansion, my role has changed from a classroom teacher and new teacher mentor to classroom teacher/new teacher mentor/STEM coach/tech coordinator/iPad program lead. While this was also an intimidating prospect, I was excited to begin the year and learn with my new iPad colleagues.

As with any expansion, I expected there to be some growing pains. I also expected there to be amazing learning and progress on both the part of the teachers and students.  Well, I expected amazing, but what I got was awe-inspiring. These new iPad teachers have taken simple suggestions, quick overviews of SAMR and innovation philosophy, and a handful of quality apps - and each have created their own innovative learning spaces. What I'm most impressed by are two teachers who originally were self-proclaimed technophobes. They both saw the potential in bringing iPads into their classrooms and were both excited at the opportunity; yet neither had experience with these devices nor the Mac operating system in general. They expressed great fear and discomfort with the new technology but applied for the iPads nonetheless.

What has set this cohort of new iPad teachers apart from others are 3 main things:
- willingness to learn a new skill set and go "back to basics" / coachability
- perseverance despite frequent frustration
- creativity & collaboration

Willingness to learn a new skill set and go "back to basics" / coachability
I recently wrote this post about the necessity to break down your notions of teaching and learning and rebuild it with an effective use of available technology (rather than trying to insert technology into your existing framework). This means that veteran, successful teachers will experience a period (sometimes a long period) of feeling like a first-year teacher. This isn't comfortable and oftentimes takes a blow to your self-esteem as a practitioner. Furthermore, teachers who are used to being the expert in their field - the person to whom others go to for support - are suddenly having to be coached. While in theory one may argue that we are never done learning our craft and teachers should be used to ongoing coaching no matter their level, this isn't always the case. There are teachers who are seen as "master mentor teachers" and have rarely been on the other side of the table.

A good many of my colleagues who embarked on this iPad expansion were considered "master mentor teachers". Their classrooms ran themselves and their students ended the year self-motivated, thoughtful scholars. We all look to them for examples of best practice. And yet once we added iPads to the equation, they were suddenly facing areas of complete ignorance - how do you close a window in Safari? How do you right-click on a Mac? What is screencasting? How do you sync an app, let alone multiple apps? What is iOS?! Each of these teachers jumped in with two feet - not only willing to learn and start anew, but positively hungering for the new information. This was the first key step to their success.

Perseverance despite frequent frustration
As I've chronicled in this blog, bringing in the iPads to my room last year resulted in lots of "hiccups." And perhaps a few more dramatic issues. I lost entire unit of writing that my 50 students had been working on by overwriting the files in the iDisk. I thought I had synced an ePub to all the iPads during an observation and realized I had not... and had nothing else planned for that period. I didn't realize a website ran on flash and had created my lesson around it. You know, that sort of thing. There were many times last year where I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and declare - "I GIVE UP!"

This is where my colleagues now find themselves. The kindergarten teacher recently had to sync a new app to all of her iPads. After completing a few, she checked an iPad and the data from one of her key apps - SmartyPantsSchool - was seemingly wiped clean. Three months of individualized assessment data for her 28 kindergarteners, gone. Possibly worse - each of her students would now have to start over despite all the progress they had already made. Instead of panicking, or throwing in the towel, she took a deep breath, turned to her co-teachers and starting working out a Plan B. I was amazed by how she took it in stride and persevered despite this blow. In the end, we were able to recover the data and move on!

Creativity & Collaboration
iPads in the classroom is still a very young field; there is not a lot of published data to point the way to best practices or models for integration or redefinition. Therefore a lot of this is about making it up as you go - and when you run into a road block, getting creative. These teachers have each taken it upon themselves to read blogs, email me or their Apple coach, Tweet, Facebook, etc - to find new ways to solve old problems. What's more is that they are even beginning to share their journeys with others. The kindergarten teacher - one of my two self-dubbed technophobes - has taken her coaching sessions with me and her own dogged persistence in learning the operation of the Mac and iPad OS and begun to chronicle her learning in her own blog. After a quick Google Hangout and a few in-person tips, she is now not only creating her own screenshot documents for her Kindergarteners to track their own data, she has transformed into a newborn EduBlogger! (Check out her amazing journey at iPads in Kindergarten!)


I've seen other models - both this year and last - which have had less success. I've found that this has had little to do with the quality of the teachers (although this does play an important factor - inserting iPads into an already dysfunctional classroom may only exacerbate the issues). Great practitioners have been lucky enough to gain access to a 1-to-1 set of iPads only to use them as a reading games center for 15 minutes a day. What has pushed this expansion forward has been a testament to the amazing disposition of the 8 teachers I am so lucky to work with on this amazing project. I hope to loop in more of our talented staff soon and that these 8 can go on to mentor them in their iPad adventure.

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Notability Promo Code Giveaway

Below is a promo code for Notability. To learn more about Notability click here. To win the app enter the code into iTunes. The first person to enter the code will win the Notability app for iPad. Once one person enters the code it will no longer work. If you do not win check back later for another code. Good Luck!

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Notability Promo Code Giveaway

Below is a promo code for Notability. To learn more about Notability click here. To win the app enter the code into iTunes. The first person to enter the code will win the Notability app for iPad. Once one person enters the code it will no longer work. If you do not win check back later for another code. Good Luck!

You have read this article assistive tech / assistive technology / free / fun / giveaway / great / iPad / ipad 2 / iphone 4s / iphone 5 / iTunes / no charge / notability / promo code / sound notes / soundamp / winner with the title November 2011. You can bookmark this page URL https://fieldecho.blogspot.com/2011/11/notability-promo-code-giveaway_13.html. Thanks!

Great Blog Post about Google + Apple

I've long said that Google and Apple should get together and have a baby. A Gapple. Or perhaps an Appgle. Or a Goople? Whatever you'd call it, both companies offer some amazing products for the classroom that would be better off working together instead of against each other.

My friend and fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Chad Kafka (who is also a Google Certified Teacher), has written this informative yet persuasive blog post that eloquently calls for a union between these two tech giants. He brings up many good points and shares some interesting facts about their relationship. After reading it, all I could say was, "Yeah! What he said!"

Take a look and join the cause!
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PaperPort Notes is Out! (Noterize 2.0)

For those of you who have been waiting for the Noterize (PDF annotation app I recently blogged about) update... it's here! And free!

So exciting. Get 'em while they're hot! 
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Dragon Express: Control Your Mac by Voice

Today, Nuance released Dragon Express for the Mac. Dragon Express allows users to preform key functions solely with the sound of their voice. The app is available here on the Mac app store for $49. Dragon Express can send emails, search with spotlight, post Twitter and Facebook updates, search the web and more. Dragon Express is an introductory product designed for people who are new to voice recognition. Dragon Express lacks many key features of the more expensive Dragon Dictate. See the comparison chart below to see the difference between Dragon Express and Dragon Dictate.

Dragon Express uses Nuance's great speech recognition technology to accurately turn your voice into text. Nuance claims that using Dragon is three times faster than typing. To learn about Dragon apps for iOS click here. Stay tuned for more about Dragon Naturally Speaking. Click read more below to view screen shots of Dragon Express and read the press release.

Nuance Press Release

BURLINGTON, Mass., Nov 10, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Nuance Communications, Inc., today announced the immediate availability of Dragon Express, an introductory voice recognition app for Mac OS X Lion. Dragon Express is an easy and fun way to put words to work without the hassle of typing, allowing users to do more in less time. Dragon Express is available exclusively for download from Apple’s Mac App Store.
Dragon Express is the latest member of the Dragon family of speech recognition software that lets people control a computer with their voice. It’s the fast, hands-free way to turn speech into text, whether sending email, surfing the Web or posting an update to Facebook and Twitter. Dragon provides an easy, natural way to get more done in less time. Dragon Express is priced to provide the broadest range of people with an opportunity to experience the power and performance of speech recognition.
“Dragon Express is a great app for those who are new to speech recognition or who are looking for an easy-to-use dictation tool that allows them to use their voice instead of typing,” said Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager, Dragon, Nuance. “For those looking for a more full-featured speech recognition program, we recommend Dragon Dictate, which provides the full capabilities of advanced speech recognition technology.”
Dragon Express can be conveniently accessed from the menu bar at any time and doesn’t require a network connection. Users dictate directly into the Dragon Express window, using the internal Mac microphone or a USB headset microphone (which can be purchased via www.nuance.com ), and the text instantly appears in the Dragon Express window. When finished, Dragon Express places the transcribed text into the application of choice. The download comes with a short enrollment so that the app can better recognize a user’s unique voice.
Dragon Dictate, the most full-featured and advanced speech recognition software for Mac OS, was recently updated to version 2.5. Dragon Dictate 2.5 includes many features beyond those in Dragon Express. These features include the ability to dictate directly into applications, edit, format and correct recognition errors by voice, open and close applications by voice, control the mouse by voice, create custom voice commands and support for the recently released Dragon Remote Mic app for iPhone.
Dragon Express Details
Media: Application download from the Mac App Store available here. Pricing: Introductory price of $49.99 Platform: OS X Lion only Languages: English (US and UK) System Requirements: OS X Lion
About Nuance Communications, Inc
Nuance Communications, Inc. is a leading provider of voice and language solutions for businesses and consumers around the world. Its technologies, applications and services make the user experience more compelling by transforming the way people interact with devices and systems. Every day, millions of users and thousands of businesses experience Nuance’s proven applications. For more information, please visit www.nuance.com .
Trademark reference: Nuance, Dragon and the Nuance logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Nuance Communications, Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. All other company names or product names referenced herein may be the property of their respective owners.

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Hidden Keyboard Enhancement Built Into iOS 5

A newly discovered feature in iOS 5 adds an auto correction bar above the keyboard. The feature has not been enabled in iOS 5, but may be coming in the near future.This feature is currently available on other mobile operating systems such as Android and Blackberry. Currently it is possible to enable this feature but it is not recommended and could effect your device. When or if this feature is released it will improve typing speed and assist poor spellers. If the feature ever becomes available it will add to the accessibility of iOS. To learn more about assistive technology to help poor spellers click here. To learn about iOS 5 and iPhone 4s accessibility click here.
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Oregon Using the iPad to Assist Disabled Voters

Oregon is testing the iPad to assist disabled voters and allow them to vote privately. Some Oregon voters that are unable to vote using paper ballets will be able to vote using the iPad in tomorrow's election as part of a pilot program. Voters with visual impairments, physical disabilities, dyslexia and other disabilities that make voting with paper ballets difficult will be able to vote using a custom iPad app. The app will have the ability to enlarge font size, improve contrast and read text aloud to assist disabled voters. The app also works with VoiceOver for improved accessibility. Blind voters will be able to connect their Braille displays to the iPad via Bluetooth in order to read the ballets. Users that use Bluetooth accessories will be able to connect them to the iPad in order to vote.  The app will allow disabled voters to make their selections privately without election officials knowing which candidates the voter selected. Election officials made the following comments about voter privacy. 
"Some people want to vote independently, and they're the ones that we're talking to." 
Laws require people with disabilities to have equal access and privacy while voting.

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Kids Kinect in the Classroom

On Friday a colleague and I went to the Microsoft Training Center to learn more about how we could use the XBox Kinect in the classroom. I'm not going to lie; I was extremely skeptical. In considering this tech against my recent obsession with the SAMR innovation continuum, I felt that the Kinect was barely on the second level (augmentation). It seemed little more than an elaborate gimmick to engage kids, further limited by the fact that it could truly only engage 1-2 students at a time.

As we participated in this day-long training, I began to feel that my doubts were justified. The titles offered - Kinect Sports, Body and Brain Connection, Once Upon a Monster and the upcoming National Geographic game - were all interesting but seemed to lack true educational substance. The Body and Brain Connection, for example, has some good algebraic concepts involved, but certain levels could allow a child to guess consistently and attain a high score.

It wasn't until the afternoon that I began to change my thinking. The presenter explained how counselors were using the XBox Live's Avatar Kinect to allow students to discuss their issues anonymously. Think of a confessional in which you speak through a curtain - however this curtain is the XBox Live environment and you get the added benefit of an avatar that translates your facial emotive moves, body movement, etc. The wheels began to turn and I started chatting with a colleague from another school about integrating this concept into our Social Emotional Learning periods such as Morning Meeting.

What if my class submitted issues from within our classroom community, and the students from my friend's school discussed them - and vice versa. Then on a designated day each week, we could meet up in our Avatar Kinect environment - protected by anonymity - to offer possible responses to these classroom community issues. We could further the concept of "walking in someone else's shoes" by having students appear as avatars contrary to their body type, race or gender.

I see my students also utilizing their iPad technology to blog about their reactions, participate in back channel discussion about what they are observing or participating in and sharing audio/visual artifacts with their peers in the XBox Live Avatar Kinect.

Another interesting thought is the taking advantage of Kinect SDK (software development kit) to build apps better suited for the educational environment. Johnny Kissko, an ADE friend and tech whiz, has created the website Kinect Education to promote the creation and sharing of Kinect for education apps. I hope to learn more about this but know I have a ton to learn about programming before I could dream to do this myself. I can, however, dream of apps that could be made: A dynamic geometry app in which my students can unfold polyhedrons into their nets, then refold then and explore volume, surface area and geometric features (edges, vertices, etc.). A celestial exploration in which students are walking across the surface of Mars, floating through the asteroid belt, digging through the chemistry of the sun. A number sense activity where students create arrays and divide quantities into groups - using their bodies.

All in all, do I think that the Kinect games themselves will provide much more than engagement and incentive for my students? Not really. However do I think that the Kinect sensor technology offers some interesting Redefinition opportunities for the classroom? Why yes, I do. Let the experimentation begin.
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Ginger Contextual Spelling and Grammar

Ginger is a spelling and grammar checker that uses the context to correct errors that standard spell checking software cannot. Ginger works very quickly and accurately and is compatible with many text editing programs like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and Firefox. To activate Ginger simply press F2 while editing a document. Immediately Ginger will pop up and begin checking for errors. When an error is found Ginger will display the original sentence on the top and the corrected sentence on the bottom. Ginger allows users to listen to the original and corrected sentence to insure accuracy. Once you are satisfied with the changes Ginger has made you can click approve to accept the changes. One downside is that when your not connected to the internet, Ginger cannot correct your mistakes. Watch the video above to see Ginger in action. Below are examples of sentences Ginger can correct.

I lick to reed books. → I like to read books.
I lick to reed my bike → I like to ride my bike.
He's laughing on me! → He's laughing at me!
Aren't she go home? → Isn't she going home?
He didn't suggested it. → He didn't suggest it.

Ginger is a great tool for people with Dyslexia, English language learners and students of all ages. Ginger is not perfect, but very good, and does not always correct each sentence accurately. When using Ginger it is important to make sure the corrections are appropriate to reduce mistakes. To learn more about Ginger click here. To save 10% on Ginger products use the code ginger10. Click read more below to learn more about Ginger.

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Chicago Area Teachers: Great Professional Learning Opportunity!

Calling all Chicago Area Teachers: Are you looking to to be inspired, encouraged or enriched? Need some fuel to re-energize your classroom and practice? Here is a great professional learning opportunity for you! I'm proud to be speaking about technology at this event (doing a 15-minute Keynote TEDTalk in the opening session), and am excited to see what other workshops have to offer! Hope to see you there!

The 2011 Golden Apple 
Teachers for Tomorrow Conference

Register here:

See conference workshop overviews here:

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