So you've done all the work to get Dragon, you've researched equipment, you are all ready to hit the ground running, and you aren't sure where to start. Want to learn from my mistakes? Yep. I've made them. Between teaching my own kid to high schoolers and elementary aged kids, I've spent a lot of hours with Dragon and trying to make it fun for kids. The truth is, it's work. Once you have them trained and a voice profile built, the only way to really make Dragon work for them is to get them to use it and get comfortable with the program. I start off with the easy stuff, teach them the ins and outs of the program, and then wean them off my prompting so that they are completely independent. How long it takes them to get there really depends on the child-some will learn faster than others, and that's entirely okay.
1. Get them used to dictating.
A lot of kids aren't used to hearing their own voice, or saying their thoughts out loud to someone. To get them used to dictating, I start by scribing for them. When I do that, I also ask them to say punctuation, such as "period", "comma" and "question mark" so they are used to doing this for Dragon. Getting used to hearing their voice and being conscious of how they are talking (speed, volume, etc) is a skill that some catch on to faster than others.
Trouble shooting: Dragon's accuracy declines if kids talk too fast, tend to slur words together, are too quiet, or aren't speaking clearly. Now is the time to point that out and encourage them to be conscious of how they speak.
2. Teach them some computer basics.
Knowing how to turn on the machine, save a file, format text, copy/paste, print and move things around is really helpful. Having a comfort level using a computer will make them more comfortable using Dragon.
3. Run them through activities in the curriculum, and stick close by
This curriculum that I recently found is amazing. I print it out and give it to each student in their own folder. Step by step, it takes kids through the functions of Dragon by starting small and working it's way up to more difficult and technical stuff. I recommend that you work through it yourself and become familiar with the program before you teach it. My students particularly loved the part where they are asked to cough, sneeze, or hum and see what happens. Much giggling ensued as they saw all the mumbo jumbo hitting the screen.
It's really important that you stick close by. To start, I talk to the student about what we are going to do, and I sit right beside them as they go through the activity. One of the first things I teach them is that whatever they say into the mike will be picked up and put on the screen, so they need to know how to make the mike go to sleep or turn it off. Sitting close by is also helpful if they are easily distracted and lose their place in the activity. I quietly point where they are, or if they forget to turn off the mike and begin talking, I can reach over and click it off.
Once they are finished the activity, we talk about what they just did. I ask what they learned and may go over it again, showing them exactly what happened. It helps me to have my own laptop with my own Dragon voice profile on it, but you don't need to do this. I ask if anything surprised them. I then may write notes for them right in their workbook.
3. Once they are comfortable, start dictating actual school work
Once the kids are comfortable dictating and know how to correct things, move things around, etc they can start dictating some school work. The pace at which the student picks up Dragon varies-some kids just run with it, while others take more practise. Depending on their comfort level I may do the following:
a) hand them the laptop and let them run with it on their own but be close by for help
b) have them dictate to me, and I will scribe onto an index card. Then I have them dictate from the card so they don't lose their train of thought or forget their answers. This helps with kids who have memory issues. I slowly wean them off dictating to me, and get them to try dictating more and more without the cards.
c) sit close by and have them dictate directly into Dragon
Whatever you do teach them how to save as they go, because as we all know with computer programs, sometimes things don't go as planned and you can lose work. This has happened to us a few times-especially when we were using Microsoft Word with Dragon, and not just Dragonpad.
4. Get them comfortable managing their own voice profiles
As the kids get more proficient, teach them how to back up their voice profiles to a memory stick. It's always good to keep a separate back up of those files so that if anything happens to the computer, you have it. This also teaches them to be responsible for themselves and will be helpful for school.
Once the kids are proficient, I like to get them to use the accuracy training section of Dragon about once a week. Sometimes the reading can be a really long process, but often they enjoy it and it can pay off in the long run. Some of the readings are really long so I always tell them to just stop when they are tired.
Do you use Dragon? What about your kids? Let me know in the comments how it's worked for you.