Article for Category: ‘Technology for students’

Fujitsu Stylistic Q550

January 25th, 2012

I recently bought one of these devices to use in my business and I suspect that they really are (if anything) a business tool. However, they may have some applications for students who have learning difficulties (LD).

The Q550 is a solid beast that will withstand punishment from children (unlike iPad). The sales pitch suggests that the Gorrilla glass can be dropped onto a concrete floor from 2 metres and not break. I haven’t been game to try the experiment with mine. It can also be secured by a fingerprint scanner which is useful for keeping photos, documents and so on secure.

Unlike iPad and Android devices, the Q550 is a Tablet PC that runs Windows 7. Therefore, it runs MS Word, Excel, Power Point and so on as native apps. The downside is that it’s expensive ($1300) and a little slow. The touch functions with finger input also run a distant third to iPad and Android.

The useful thing is that the Q550 comes with a stylus that allows the student to write/draw on the screen with really good accuracy. This means that they can open a document in MS Word and write as if they were using a pen and paper. The same function can be used for maths problems and so on. Import the teacher’s worksheet to the device, open it in Word and circle, sketch, or take notes at will. (See You Tube for a demo.

In summary, if you have cash to burn and can afford to have multiple devices the Q550 might be worth a look. However, for the price the Q550 probably isn’t going to beat a simple PC or Mac laptop and a cheaper tablet or iPod Touch.

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Dragon Dictation

January 25th, 2012

Dragon Dictation uses voice recognition software to produce a speech-text app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. See http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/dragon-dictation/id341446764?mt=8. Note that an external microphone is required for use with iPod Touch.

Unlike the computer-based version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, the Dictation app doesn’t require training. As long as students don’t mumble or have major speech impairments they can use the application. It isn’t perfect, particularly with unusual vocabulary or if you speak quickly. For example, I asked the app to write “King Henry VIII began as a benevolent king. However, he became more crazy with age”. The app suggested that Henry VII was a benevolent pudding!

Getting beyond these silly errors (that can easily be changed using the keyboard) Dictation can be asked to add all sorts of punctuation including full stops, commas and paragraphs. The text can be saved to the device or emailed to a computer. Warning, it does produce funky formatting when viewed on a computer but nothing Select All, Format Paragraph won’t fix.

I find that I struggle to dictate a coherent letter or report with Dragon because I can’t keep all of my ideas and writing structure in mind while talking and worrying about punctuation. Students have the same dififuclty. However, if they use mind mapping software to plan their story and Dictation to add small amounts of text to their plan they find it easier to create a first draft of essays using the speech-to-txt app. They can then come back and edit in a more conventional way for their second and third drafts.

A negative is that Dragon requires an Internet connection. This is not a problem on 3G enabled devices but for iPod Touch, the device most students have access to, the ability to use the app depends upon having a wireless connection in the classroom – something sadly lacking in many schools.

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