Thursday, September 27, 2007

MS Office Speech Tools

Did you know that MS Office 2003 has a built in Speech Recognition tool? This seems to be well kept secret so I thought I would post it here. Actually, you should check your version of MS Office as it may also have this built in.

What is it? It is a tool that allows you, with a microphone, dictate text into your computer applications. The cool thing is that once activated you can use it with any applications, not just MS Office applications. You can also use it to give voice commands to your office apps.

The best way to find it is to open MS Word and pull down the Tools menu and select Speech. If it is not showing then you may need to click on the double arrows at the bottom to show all options. Once you click on Tools>Speech, you will get a tutorial appear that will walk you through testing your microphone and training the speech recognition software. Basically, you need to read to your computer several pieces of text so that it can learn how to match your voice patterns to text.

Tips, the more you train it the more accurately it recognizes your speech. And it really helps to use the same microphone all the time and talk clearly, consistently. Headsets with the boom microphones work best as they pick up better then other microphones. You can pick one up
for about $25 for a good one.

Try it, you may be surprized just have useful it is. And you don't have to pay for it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Google Docs (Office) - Presentation Tool

On Sept 17th, the Google people released the long awaited for Presentation tool for Google Docs. We have been waiting for this for a while to make the complete Google Office suite.

I have been using Google Docs as an alternative to MS Office and Open Office. Although the tools still lack many features, I find that I have the features I need and the power to collaborate on editing and have the documents saved on the website where I can access them from any where, makes it worth using. I am also very tired of how I can copy and paste text from MS Word documents without a lot of formating tags coming with it that mess up the text I am copying. With Google Docs this is all taken care of.

The Presenter tool in Google Docs has the essentials for building a PowerPoint like slideshow but lacks many of the fancy features, like animations; although that may be a good thing. You can upload a PowerPoint file into Google Docs now and use this tool to post your slides online either for your students or as a supplement to a conference presentation you may have given. This makes it very easy to add your presentations to your e-portfolio. This tool will come in really handy for students that are tasked with group work assignments where they need to collaboratively build a presentation for the class. It can then be delivered either online or f2f.

A unique feature is included that allows you to delivery your presentation live online, with a live chat tool to dialogue with your audience.

So far there is no support for audio narrations but I am hoping that will be added later.

Oh, and it is free to use, no advertising. You just need a Google Account. Check it out at and add a comment on what you think of it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Freedom Writers Movie

This is the first movie review I am posting on this blog but if you have seen the movie Freedom Writers you should rent it and view it. I was very impress with this movie about a teacher who found a way to reach out to several students through the appropriate application of educational technologies, including journal writing. The film was quite watchable and speaks a lot to the passions of teaching and what I believe teaching should really be about.

Rent it and enjoy it.


Free Websites and Online Portfolios

In a search for a useful tool that we can give to students to create a maintain online portfolios or websites, we are currently going to explore how well Google Page Creator will work. I meets all of the key criteria that we need:
  • It is free to use.
  • There is nothing to install
  • The contents are on a server that is not affiliated with the college
  • It is very easy to use for novice students
  • There are privacy controls on each page and each page has it's own URL.
  • It is hosted by a service that should be around for a long time so students should feel they can own the site and use it after graduating.
You need a Google account (free) and you can upload up to 100 mb of files. If you need more space and more control over who can read your documents you can place documents in Google Docs or other services (for photos, audio or video clips) and link to them.

Click here to access this tool.

Please comment if you have tried using this tool or if you have found any better tools.