With a purchasing grant funded by the Solon Community School District PTO, I was able to purchase a new computer program that allows me to better facilitate students’ writing. Dragon Dictate (once called MacSpeech Dictate) by Nuance offers the ability to speak text and commands as I am grading academic work such as essays. The traditional route of feedback is to sketch out comments that end up being very vague and to then use many abbreviations hinting at needed corrections without specific guidance. This technique, which can become very effective when paired with a student writing conference, is somewhat idealistic, but it often doesn’t offer the full benefits as individual time to meet with students is very limited. Dragon Dictate has opened the doors of teacher/writer communication by providing the ability to articulate a full sentence or lengthened idea about a section of the student writing without the cumbersome process and limitations of written comments. These ‘new age’ written comments allow the teacher to describe, to give voice, and to incite new direction in a student’s academic success. And if used effectively, it can also reduce the need for many writing conferences—ones that focus on deciphering the ‘assigned’ comments.
Although any new application of technology has a learning curve and the dedication to understanding and manipulating its components is time consuming, the possibilities here are remarkable. In the time it takes to traditionally grade and create written comments for an essay, DD users (such as myself and Mr. Erickson) have been able to generate twice the amount of quality feedback in the same amount of time. With continued use, mastery, and innovative nature, this program can persist in its effectiveness. For a sample of how this tool has been used in the classroom, please contact Aaron Farnsworth at: firstname.lastname@example.org