My experience as a basically happy user of Dragon is closer to David Baxter-Williams than to the more sanguine comments made by others. In my experience it also introduces a layer of complications: words which are intended as part of the text can get interpreted as computer commands, and there can be complications with sound cards and microphones in addition to those already indicated. And it takes a long time to get used to the sort of proofreading that is needed. Just as one example, I teach a module on sexual violence and sexual crime, and the program will keep telling students that they need to produce a 'presentation right up' as part of their assessment.

I would like to introduce an extra question: because my wife is deaf we watch live events on the television with subtitles. These are produced very rapidly and, although they are not perfect, the quality is better than I would have expected with Dragon and assorted lecturers at a distance. I would be interested to know how this is done? If the solution is a purely technological one, is it one that we could imitate in some way?

Dr Mark Cowling
Professor of Criminology and Marxism
SSSL, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, TS1 3BA Tel +44 (0)1642 342338; SSSL Office 342315; Fax: 342399
Home: 8, Thackeray Grove, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough TS5 7QX +44 (0)1642 281927
This message has been produced using voice dictation software.  If it is mad or insulting this is probably the result of my faulty proofreading.  Try substituting another word which sounds similar, or possibly the opposite!

From: Discussion list for disabled students and their support staff. [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Baxter-Williams [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 24 March 2010 15:18
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Query about Educational Psychologists and their remit

Regarding Dragon, we may be able to offer some feedback from carrying out many many Computer Tuition (training) sessions where we see students using Dragon in their homes. But first of all I would echo what Simon has said, Dragon will only work with voices that have been trained up; any new unknown voices wonít be recognised by the software. The feature whereby you could use, say, an Olympus Dictaphone to record your ideas/ thoughts/ essay when youíre away from a computer and then have Dragon transcribe it when you get home, can be very useful, but again there are always many errors to correct (probably more so than when dictating directly into the computer).

Many students do think that Dragon will write their essays for them, that they can simply reel off the essay, and they are disappointed when they find itís not that simple; the process of writing is very different when using Dragon. Dragon is suited to writing a letter more than writing an essay, and talking out loud is a very different process to thinking and typing (which is what most of us are used to). Students still need to plan their essay and break it down into sections (more so when dictating). For dyslexic students, Dragon can be hit and miss. Some pick it up straight away and love it. Others find it too frustrating to use. How can you tell one from the other in a needs assessment?

Firstly, the student needs to have good annunciation.  The worst scenario from the Tutors (trainers) perspective is when a student is gunning to go with Dragon - it is software that excites students - but they have a heavy accent. The Tutor knows from the outset that recognition is going to be limited due to the studentís accent, for example English could be their second language. The Tutor then has to try and get Dragon working for them and inevitably has to let the student down, as lightly as possible, when the recognition is below par (itís not the students fault at all).

Secondly, students with lower verbal processing ability will find Dragon challenging. It is great software for lawyers or future professionals but not always suited to those with heavy accents or those who would have trouble dictating succinctly.  Obviously, the best thing to do is to get the student using the software during an assessment.

For students with physical disabilities, Dragon can open new worlds. It is still frustrating for them, requires patience, many corrections etc. But it can give someone who is normally reliant on a helper true compose text, surf the net and navigate their computer. But obviously with the caveat that the individual can talk clearly.

Best Wishes to all,

From: Discussion list for disabled students and their support staff. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Simon Jarvis
Sent: 24 March 2010 10:00 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Query about Educational Psychologists and their remit

I'm not sure that calling anyone 'ignorant' is very helpful, Jane.

I'd also seriously question your assertion that Dragon can transcribe a lecture recording into a Word document. As Peter says, that is still some years away (unless you can arrange for every lecturer on a student's course to spend some time enrolling their voice and then agreeing to deliver their lecture using a headset microphone).

Like Karen, I can think of many students that I have met who have been told 'there's a piece of software where you talk to the computer and it writes your essays for you' and are understandably crestfallen when they hear that there is no such thing. If someone has trouble enunciating syllables and struggles to form coherent sentences in regular speech they're not going to fare any better with a package like Dragon than they would with Word. There's also the issue of someone with fairly acute word recognition and spelling issues being able to spot any homophone or basic transcription errors.

I'd agree that Dragon is an excellent program and much improved on previous incarnations, but I remain far from convinced that it is the panacea some people think it is.

Kind regards,


Jane Scaysbrook wrote:
One of your own, at a recent PATOSS conference in Bristol, specifically asked us not to specify the technical equipment. I, however, always demonstrate Dragon NS preferred 10 to my assessees if I am sure that they will be able to master it (i.e at least an 'average' s.w. reading recognition score) . I then give them details of the package with their report. I think you are ignorant of  how brilliant the current DNS software is when properly trained - new words are picked up automatically now, it's only obscure vocabulary that needs training i.e. place names and surnames.Also the DNS'  digital voice recorder which is compatible with the software transcribes a lecture to a word document virtually instantly with 95% accuracy- no student with processing difficulties should be denied that surely? Retailing on Amazon at around £120 it must surely be a viable option.
Jane Scaysbrook
----- Original Message -----
From: "Karen Farmer" <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 3:32 PM
Subject: Query about Educational Psychologists and their remit

Apologies for cross-posting...

Can anyone please tell me whether Ed Psych's who are members of PATOSS, BDO and NASEN are being told to put technical recommendations into their diagnostic reports?

As a needs assessor I am encountering problems as a result of one Ed. Psych adding the following (or variations thereof) to their reports

"STUDENT is also in need of a number of items of equipment to support him, including Dragon Naturally Speaking. This software will allow him to transfer what he says speak into text on his laptop/PC. It will also support him in composing emails and the latest version will also assist him in researching on the Internet using his voice..."

Of course, the student, knowing no different, accepts this statement as gospel, and when I sit with them and explain the pitfalls and limitations of Dragon NS (or any other voice recognition software), they either think that I am being 'mean' in not recommending this modern miracle, or else it undermines their faith in the Ed.Psych - which is not my intention, and I do make sure to explain that it is not part of the EP's role to understand the limitations of the technology whereas it IS part of mine.

Frankly, when I meet someone who tells me that they cannot talk in a smooth sentence, has no idea of where to place punctuation, and cannot differentiate between similar looking words, then VRS would not be the first thing on my list of helpful items for them.  That and of course the need to constantly train new vocabulary slows the creative processes to a crawl...

Note also that a great many of these students do not already have a laptop/PC and the Ed Psych seems also to be building the expectation in them that this will be forthcoming...

I would dearly love to know how the EP thinks that having Dragon is going to help with researching on the internet, or indeed why this particular student would want to do this when the student is already a whizz touch-typist (far faster and more accurate than I could ever hope to be)...

I am meeting students who have been diagnosed by this person, and finding that the expectations being built in them are not at all helpful - for any of us.

What I would like to know from all of you is - is this person acting according to guidelines from within their professional bodies (member of more than one) or not? And if not, is there any professional way to request that they stick to doing their job and not stray into mine (seemingly without the necessary experience to do it right).



Karen Farmer
DSA Needs Assessor
Professional & Academic Development (PAD)
University of Bedfordshire
Park Square, Luton

Tel: 01582 74 3422
Internal ext: 3422
Fax:  01582 489 349


Simon Jarvis

Head of Disability & Dyslexia Service

Queen Mary University of London

Student and Campus Services

Room FB 2.30, Francis Bancroft

Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

Tel:  020 7882 2765

Fax: 020 7882 5223<>

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