Tech Thursday: Voice-to-Text
Dictation tools give you a break from the physical act of typing & encourage a different perspective on the writing process.
I really enjoy using voice-to-text for a lot of typing - both so that I can rest my wrists, and because it allows for a different mode of thinking when I’m engaging in the writing process as a way to generate ideas and think deeply about something I’ve read. I use dictation for more involved writing tasks, but also for emails and student feedback comments in the LMS; I tend to not use them when I’m drafting something that requires a lot of formatting of text.
The physical break from typing is so valuable. I find that, more than ever, I’m often trying to work in less-than-ideal physical spaces. Sometimes I’m at the kitchen counter, working in between making lunches. Sometimes I’m sitting behind my youngest daughter, overseeing her virtual classes. While I appreciate having flexibility to work anywhere, it often means that I’m not exactly in the best ergonomic position for typing. I appreciate being able to take a break from typing but keep working.
In addition to the physical benefits, there are a couple productivity benefits…
I can dictate much faster than I can type. Average speaking pace is 150 words per minute, and although I am of the generation that learned how to type, I make a lot of errors. A lot of errors, as my quick typing test demonstrated. If I slow down to get a better accuracy score, I hover around 65 wpm.
Dictation avoids activating my internal editor. Seeing the words on the screen tends to pull my brain into critique mode, whereas using dictation I can disengage from that part of the process and focus on idea generation. Separating out the different “hats” is helpful to allowing myself to focus on different stages of the writing process.
I started using Dragon Dictate about ten years ago, and while it was far from perfect, it was good enough that overall I think it did save me some time. Now, I probably dictate rather than type 30-35% of the time, and I use two different voice-to-text options that both work very well: Google Doc’s built-in tool and Chrome’s Speech-to-Text extension. I have found both to be reasonably accurate, simple to learn how to use, and free.