How to Use Assistive Tech to Unleash Creative Writing

Writer’s block may not be the biggest writing challenge students need to overcome. For some students, writing mechanics, including handwriting, typing, or grammar, are hindering students from expressing their creative ideas. When you think of ways to help students become better writers, assistive tech probably doesn’t make it on your list, but it should. Assistive tech like speech recognition can free your students to focus on the fun and creative aspects of storytelling.

Speech-to-text tools for struggling writers

Not all students read or write at the same level, but many can speak their thoughts, making speech-to-text tools a great option to consider for your classroom. Assistive tech could free many students, including ESL students, on problem areas like English grammar, so they can focus on their creative ideas rather than writing mechanics.

By speaking their narratives, students don’t have to get hung up on the spelling or grammar. Instead, they can dictate their stories using dictation software. Speech recognition technology is readily available on smartphones, tablets, SmartPens like Livescribe, and even Google Docs. The top speech-to-text apps and tools in 2022, according to PC Magazine, included Window’s Speech, Dictate (for Microsoft Office, macOS, Android, and Apple), Android GBoard, and Google Docs Voice Typing.

How to use speech-to-text tools for writing

Teaching writing using speech-to-text tools is a different process. First, you’ll need to master the process before teaching your students. Here are the steps to learn and teach this new writing process. It’s all about dictation. Become confident in dictating paragraphs before you show your students how to do the same. Through your own learning experience, you’ll gain an appreciation and understanding of how deliberate the process is and the additional time needed to complete a project using dictation over writing or typing.

Speech recognition writing process:

  1. Think It

Once you have picked a topic, compose and practice your sentence in your head. Remember to practice saying punctuation. You’ll want to model this process out loud to students.

  • Say it

Dictate your sentence clearly. When you show students, you’ll also need to breakdown the steps of telling them to turn on the microphone, dictate, then turn off the microphone again. Once students understand the first two steps of the process, you can even have them dictate planning notes to read back or use text-to-speech to listen to their notes.

  • Review it

Students will need to know how to correct their work. Show students how to check for speech-to-text recognition accuracy.

  • Make Edits

Show students how to correct any recognition errors or show them how to listen using text-to-speech. Have students practice enunciating words to improve speech recognition. This process is especially beneficial for English as a Second Language Learners or ESL learners who will get extra practice improving their pronunciation.

While a growing number of households use speech recognition technology like Google Home or Siri, using dictation to create a story will probably be a new experience for your students. When starting, it may be best to work with students individually to prevent frustration before letting students venture out on their own. You can always provide follow-up sessions for any student that needs more direction.

Find a distraction-free zone

Finding a place where students can dictate their writing can be a challenge, especially if you need to keep all students in one classroom. For obvious reasons, you’ll need to find an area in the classroom that would not be disruptive to other students. If there is a lot of ambient noise, consider a noise-canceling microphone. AVID has headsets designed for students with comfortable ear pads and noise-canceling microphones that keep surrounding noise from impacting voice recognition when using tools like Speech and Dictate on laptops. AVID’s award-winning AE-36 headset is a popular everyday audio solution for classrooms and for state assessments that require listening and comprehension sections and for when students need to say answers on language assessments.

If you’re able to secure a place in the back of the room away from other students, a corner of the library, or even an empty conference room, then an EdTech tool like Livescribe Smartpen would work also. Livescribe Smartpens work well for students with learning disabilities because it facilitates the notetaking and the learning process. Students with dyslexia can spend more time listening to teachers because the pen simultaneously records what the students write and what the teachers say. Livescribe Smartpens also alleviate stress by recording what students hear and capturing everything students write — from words and scribbles to diagrams — and syncing everything to what the teacher says. Learn more here.

Be ready to inspire tomorrow’s authors!

We hope this inspires you to use assistive tech to remove barriers to letting students shine. Happy writing! Are you incorporating assistive tech in your classroom? Share your tips with us in the comments below.


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