Nuance: New Terms for Opportunity in Education

 In General

Written by Nuance

Few students relish the end of their holidays and the inevitable return to school, college or university that follows. The start of a new term is an anxious time for students who have dyslexia, mindful that this could often hamper their ability to share their ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject when reading or writing about it.

Reading is a skill which we all take for granted and forms an integral part of education and learning. Of all the learning difficulties facing dyslexics, reading difficulties are amongst the most prominent. The inability to read effectively and efficiently can potentially have an adverse educational and psychological effect on this group and possibly negatively impact their views on schooling and education.

Removing the communication barriers
Through dedicated study and research, great advances have been made in understanding dyslexia, how it affects sufferers and what needs to be done to provide support for them from an early age. For many dyslexic students, the increase of PCs in learning environments has benefitted them by accelerating the delivery of an equal learning environment. Supported by a raft of assistive aids like document readers, screen readers and speech recognition technology, students who have dyslexia can enjoy all of the information sharing, communication and publishing offered by today’s PCs, laptops and other connected devices.

Bringing a nuance to learning with Dragon
One product that’s remarkable for its transformative assistive qualities is the Dragon family of speech recognition solutions, developed and published by speech technology leader, Nuance Communications. Although speech recognition is not a new technology or concept, its accuracy and ease of use has improved dramatically in the last few years, as has its ubiquity. Today, it can be found in products as diverse as Smartphones, Smart TVs, in cars and in healthcare applications and is a core element in the growing number of digital assistants. For many years, though, people from all walks of life have used Dragon on the PC or Mac to be more productive, save time and capture their ideas at the speed of thought – in the classroom, the exam room, at home, or in the office.

Running almost concurrent with the development leaps that Nuance has made with Dragon are the improvements that have been made to the average PC. Not only are they more powerful than before, advances in processors and memory means they are better specified to allow users to effortlessly exploit Dragon’s considerable performance. Today, that performance is characterised by accuracy rates of 99% and the ability to transcribe at up to 160 words per minute. Converting thoughts and capturing them has never been easier nor quicker.

Dragon’s trump card for all users – whether they are dyslexic or not – is its ease of use. Talking to a PC or Mac is for many far easier – and a more fluid and natural process – than typing and using the keyboard and mouse. For many students, the keyboard is a barrier that inhibits thoughts and ideas – which would flow eloquently when spoken – from being documented. They often end up lost through the process of typing. By removing the barrier, frustration is quickly turned into accomplishment. With Dragon, students can focus on their thoughts and get them on paper simply by speaking.

Not only is Dragon convenient and constructive, it saves users time. Spending less time typing leaves more time for research or learning about a subject or solving a problem, thus aiding the overall learning process. Dragon works seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications, so in addition to creating home or coursework in Word, students can prepare presentations in PowerPoint, use Excel to help with tasks that involve budgeting or tracking activities and even Outlook to write and send emails. It also works with Gmail and Hotmail, to ensure that it’s easy for students to stay in touch and connected with their friends when they’re away from school. Of course, with the internet so central to education today, Dragon works with popular web browsers, including Windows Internet Explorer. Dragon users simply conduct their searches using speech.

Correction made simple
Perhaps one of the most valuable functions that Dragon offers dyslexic users in particular, is that in addition to speech recognition, it also offers the ability to read text aloud. This makes it far easier for dyslexic users to identify errors and correct their work quickly, to ensure that they’re submitting work for review that’s free of spelling or grammar errors that used to blight their work in the past. Dragon can even read aloud web content, making online learning and knowledge gathering simpler and more rewarding.

Dragon – changing lives, winning awards
Across Europe, Dragon’s transformative abilities have been recognised by specialist bodies. In the UK for instance, at its ‘People of the Year’ Awards, RADAR – the UK’s largest disability campaigning organisation – honoured Nuance as the winner of the ‘Technology Provider of the Year’ category.  The accolade reflects the company’s commitment to developing and supporting desktop speech and imaging solutions that transform people’s personal and professional lives. Liz Sayce, RADAR’s CEO, explained why the software was chosen: “Dragon NaturallySpeaking stands alone as a product that has proven itself time and again to be a brilliantly effective alternative interface between a PC and its user. Dragon has provided disabled people with the independence and freedom to search the internet, keep in touch with family and friends and pursue their education or work interests and activities. RADAR applauds Nuance’s determination to bring the benefits of Dragon to as many influential people as possible, to heighten awareness of what, for many, is an essential life-line to the connected world.”

To that endorsement, Dee Caunt, Chief Executive of The Dyslexia Association, adds, “The Dyslexia Association regularly demonstrates and recommends Dragon speech recognition products to its clients. Our dyslexia specialist workplace assessors and tutors are also Dragon certified and work with individuals to help them develop strategies to overcome the difficulties that dyslexia can cause. Dragon is one of the software solutions we regularly and happily recommend for our clients, as we see what a difference it can make to an individual’s efficiency, productivity and most importantly to their self-esteem.” Even software experts, who review hundreds of products, have rewarded Dragon for the learning, performance and productivity benefits desktop speech recognition technology delivers to students and education institutions. At its annual awards, Macworld Magazine named Dragon Dictate as the winner of the Best Education Product category. The awards are especially coveted because the magazine’s readers – the people who purchase and use the products – have a say in which products should be chosen as a Macworld Award winner.

Perhaps the most compelling case for using Dragon comes from users with dyslexia, like Law student Erin Winkles. She states that before using Dragon, she was “always bottom of the class”. Her academic performance has been transformed now, however. She explains: “Since using Dragon, my life has changed. I’m number one in my class and I think Dragon is the reason for this. It helps me put my thoughts down in a more coherent manner. I think Dragon is wonderful and it helped me reach the top of the class.”

Powerful testimonies like these are quite rightly justified, given that Dragon closes the digital divide, in order to give students of all abilities an equal opportunity to succeed both in education and in life.

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