Voice to text for free using SpinVox

There are various options for software that will convert speech to text, the best known being Dragon produced by Nuance, and I am often asked if there are any free alternatives, which up until now I have not been able to suggest.

For the last few weeks  I have been using ping.fm as a conduit that allows me to update the social networking sites Twitter, Jaiku and Facebook at the same time, and this has a feature where I can use SpinVox with it, and update these sites by talking to my phone, and what I say gets converted to text.

This made me then think about whether this could be used to allow a learner to speak into their phone and have what they say converted to text for them, and by using SpinVox directly, this is possible – you go onto the site, create an account, and then have various options, including the ‘memo’ feature which will convert what they say onto an email, of the blog feature which will send what they say to a blog.

Now I think that this is rather good and could have various educationaly uses. For a learner that has difficulty with their writing or spelling, and doesn’t have access to some of the more sophistiacted software then this can be used to overcome this problem. Or an ESOL student, could talk to their phone in English, and then see how well it understands what they are saying, to practive their pronunciation.

The voice recognition of   SpinVox is not as good as Dragon , so this isn’t a replacement for it, but the potential here for learners, to use their phones for this sort of activity is amazing.

The eCPD programme

I am just starting a new project of work, which I am quite excited about. BDP Media have won a contract to roll out a National (well English) initiative regarding the use of e-learning,  and in particular connecting this to CPD activity. The programme is aimed at providers of Further Education and details are available at http://www.bdplearning.com/ecpd/index.html

There will be 21 facilitators working on this (of which I am one) and I am also lucky enough to be the lead facilitator for the Midlands (which covers East Midlands, West Midlands and Eastern). For me this is a great opportunity to be involved at a high level on a National Project and to manage a team, which will be good experience for myself. The project will focus on peoples coaching and mentoring skills, in relation to learning technoloiges, and the way that the attendees bring on other people in their organisations.

There are still places for this programme, so if you are working in FE (or know someone who is) then have a look at the details, and complete the application form.

Podcast on Google Docs (and a few other things)

Last week I contributed to another panel podcast, this time with only 3 of us, and we discussed the uses of tools like Google Docs in education. Google Docs is improving all the time, and there is a lot that can be done with it, which when I get a bit of time will have a look at. There is a new type of doc within the Google Suite called a ‘form’ which looks like it could be used for capturing data from people, which could be very useful for evluations, or signing up for events.

Anyway the podcast can be found at http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/e-learning-stuff-podcast-010-lets-take-a-note/

The mouse is 40 years old today


Originally uploaded by Mike_fj40

It is amazing to think that the mouse has been around longer than I have, and what an impact its invention has had on the whole way that computers have evolved and the way that they work. Had the early visionaries not had this idea, what would have been the norm – would everything have been keyboard controlled, or would some other (and possibly better) way of controlling a computer been invented?
View the original video of the first mouse in action on the BBC website

Podcast on the ‘The VLE Debate’

I was involved in a podcast the other week, debating the role (and future) of the formal VLE within education. What was interesting about this podcast was that on the panel involved there was a range of views on the topic, which should have made it interesting listening materials.

I agree with Steve Wheeler’s views that the VLEs available are not meeting the needs of advanced users (like he and I) however I think strategically, using a VLE is a phase that people and institutions have to go through, and the fact that many institutions have spent thousands (some millions) of pounds implementing them now is not the right time to stop using them.

Saying that though I have recently connected on facebook with an old friend from uni who is a maths teacher, and he made this comment…

we’re using FROG across the local authority for our VLE, the biggest advantage I can see for me right now is being able access school files from home…saves me using laptops/memory sticks etc.

Within  the school sectors, many are now embracing VLEs but there doesn’t seem to be an integrated approach to training staff in how to use them. The end result, a huge investment in a system that allows a tutor to access files at home!

Anyway – to access the podcast – go to http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/e-learning-stuff-podcast-009-the-vle-debate/

Embedding Google Maps into learning resources

I love maps and always have done. Prior to having kids my main hobby was mountaineering, and I used to spend over 100 days per year involved in this, so maps to me are an everyday part of my life, and I love Google maps – being able to see a map of an area, and then view the satelite image of it, I find very useful and interesting, and something that a lot of people don’t realise is that for any map that you produce, you can get some embed code – so that you can embed it into a learning platform (Moodle, Blackboard, etc) or into a wiki, blog or other editable bit of webspace. Now for certain topics this could be really good – the example below shows the location of car sales places in my home town of Loughborough – which could be used in a geography lesson – all I had to do was

  1. zoom the map into Loughborough
  2. then type ‘car sales’ into the search box which added the pins to the map
  3. Top right of the map is a link icon – click on this
  4. This gives me the embed code, which I can add to my learning resource

This is very quick to do – you can then click on the ‘view larger map’ option to view it in its own window, and zoom, move etc

Very easy to do, and for relevant subjects very useful.