Class-wide Voice Typing: a Failed Experiment

Voice recognition technology has gotten so good, and iPads make it so easy.  I see this as an incredible tool for many of my learners, especially those who struggle with typing and spelling, punctuation, etc. So,in the past months, I’ve tried to convince a few individuals in my classes to try voice typing their essays. Typically they have been reluctant, however I have chalked this up to them not wanting to be different than other students.  In many cases I’ve figured that they have not given an adequate try, and are therefore judging based on little experience.

So this is where my grand experiment idea comes in. What if I had each of the students in a class of 25, all at the same time, voice type a piece of writing that they have already written?  An pre-written assignment would make the task quicker and easier. Because it would be a classwide assignment, all students would be obligated to try, and who knows, perhaps some of the previously reluctant may find that it is a good solution for them.

I realized going in that this could be a grand disaster, especially since logging into a Microsoft document in Office 365 is a difficult task in our classroom in the first place.  I had heard of classrooms where all students sit in their desks and voice type at the same time, so I figured that replication was possible. In the samples that I had seen however, most students had an Apple set of ear buds which comes with the microphone and this was not the case in my class. Nevertheless,  I thought we could give it a try and separate students into other areas as necessary.

On the positive side, the Internet Wi-Fi was able to handle the experiment at least as well as I had hoped. I was able to use the air server connected to my iPad to give a really quick demonstration of how effectively one could voice type, and taught them the simple voice commands of commas and periods.  At this point, many students seemed visibly impressed by how intuitive the voice-typing was.

Students, however, found the task daunting. Many were reluctant or found it creepy to talk to the iPad. Others complained that the iPad would not pick up their voice. Few could find the pace at which the software would reliably record their words.  I also realized that although it was very easy for me to make minor typographical corrections when the software produced an error, many students found it difficult to recognize errors, and also to physically correct them on the iPad screen.

At the end of class, while the experiment was fresh, I quickly had the students use Socrative to provide feedback to the following question:

Briefly explain your experience with Voice Typing.

Describe if you were successful or not.

Explain specifically what you liked or did not like about it.

As you can tell from some of the comments posted below, this was not a successful experiment overall. (And none of them responded by voice typing!)

Fortunately, some students found the trial “somewhat valuable”, so perhaps I’ve planted a seed of possibility for them.

For me, voice typing this entire blog as opposed to typing it on my iPad keyboard has cemented the value of voice typing in my mind. Hopefully I will be able to “sell” it to students better in the future.


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