Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 12

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ADK AccessAbility, Common Sense Media
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Talk instead of type with stellar speech-to-text tool.

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Educational Value
Kids will learn the power of controlling a computer by voice. Many will stop at being able to dictate, correct, format and print text, while others, including those with motor disabilities, will want or need to completely control the computer by voice. For this, they'll have to learn additional commands and strategies. Command options can be continuously displayed in a sidebar, so they don’t have to memorize if they don’t want to. It’s also critical for kids to learn how to make voice corrections; otherwise accuracy is very quickly reduced to frustrating levels. Dragon Naturally Speaking is an outstanding tool that can suit lots of kids' needs, giving them more freedom on a computer and in the world.
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Sexy Stuff

The program costs $99.99 (but discounts can be found at various outlets). 

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What parents need to know

Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) is a very powerful program that can turn dictation into text with typing as fast as 60 words per minute with up to 98 percent accuracy. However, you'll want to be aware that these results depend on very careful and rigorous training in a very quiet environment. DNS can be really helpful for any kid who is having difficulty physically using a mouse and/or keyboard. It can replace those tools, is faster than any other alternate input method, and can rival or exceed typical typing speeds. Kids' success depends on very careful initial training, with all word and pronunciation errors fully corrected; otherwise the program will keep repeating its early mistakes. For this reason, kids can often find it frustrating, but the end result is worth the pain.

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What's it about?

DRAGON NATURALLYSPEAKING (DNS) is a speech-to-text program that lets kids interact with the computer by voice. They can dictate or change documents, spreadsheets, and emails or browse online, often faster than by using the keyboard and mouse. Also, kids who have difficulty with the keyboard or mouse can completely control the computer via voice.


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It's software, so you'll install DNS onto your computer, then follow instructions for setup. Since we all speak uniquely, DNS asks kids to read passages into the microphone to "train" it to their voices. Recognition also continues to improve over time but only if corrected every time the software makes a mistake. There are training materials available including an online tutorial, videos, a sidebar with commands, a print manual, a workbook, and "cheat sheets."

Is it any good?

DNS is very good and the most popular voice-recognition program available. It's a very powerful program that does require careful training and use in an environment that controls ambient noise for best results. It's a really valuable tool for any child having difficulty using a traditional keyboard or mouse, and it could also be of use to kids with learning disabilities.
The controls work very well. DNS can be trained initially to a new user's voice in about half an hour, which is good enough for beginning dictation. It continues to "learn" a user's voice, however, so rigorous corrections are essential. (Parents will definitely have to help with this part.) Complete computer control by voice is possible with DNS, but it requires learning numerous commands and has a steeper learning curve. As with many sophisticated computer programs, kids will master the part of it that they use regularly and figure out the rest as needed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Work with your child for the initial training session(s). Encourage them to talk in a normal voice. Make sure their voice profile isn't saved until all corrections have been made.
  • If your kid has difficulty reading the training text, whisper it to them so they can repeat it in a normal voice.
  • Dragon may be very helpful for having a kids see their words come to life. However, it isn't as useful for kids to write an essay or work on a project unless they learn to speak in prose rather than conversationally. Learning these new skills requires training and practice in dictation.

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