Dictation is a good example of Universal Design for Learning. Universal design means designed for everyone. UDL borrowed certain ideas from universal design in architecture, like curb cuts that were designed for people with disabilities, with wheelchairs or walkers, which then become useful for people with shopping carts and strollers. Dictation is certainly an accessibility tool, a fantastic one. But it’s great for anyone who needs to type without typing, I mean, hands-free. Welcome to Day 41 of 365 Ideas for Office 365.
Of course how well the dictation works will depend on the ambient noise in the room, and it will obviously function better with a microphone since the tool will depend on how well the computer “hears” what you are saying. Dictation has rolled out all over Microsoft Office. Right now I’m typing in the OneNote app, and dictate is up in the ribbon under the Home tab.
Finding Dictation under the Home Tab
Click on the drop-down to the right to select the language you will be speaking in.
Dictate into 13 languages
Notice that there are 5 languages fully supported (2 versions of English, 2 versions of Spanish, and Chinese) and 8 languages in preview (3 more versions of English, 2 French, German, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese).
Just click on the Dictate button to get started.
Because Dictate sends your speech to Microsoft Speech services, a privacy notice pops up. This also means you must have an internet connection for dictation to function, since the translation happens online.
Translation happens online
Of course it also asks for permission to access your microphone; then the dictation begins.
Dictation in Action
Notice that it makes corrections as it gets more information. This is one of the many ways Microsoft is harnessing AI. The program makes its best guess at what you are saying, but as it receives more information it corrects previous words. That’s why when you say punctuation like “period” or “comma”, it writes out the word, but after it realizes you are trying to insert that punctuation, not only does it fix the previous mistake, but it starts automatically inserting the punctuation rather than the word as you continue saying them.
This tool is continuing to appear in new places in Microsoft. Here’s where it currently can be found.
Dictation in Word, PowerPoint, Outlook
Here’s the Dictate button in PowerPoint, Outlook, and Word.
Oh, it’s also in Word Online
Dictation alone is pretty powerful stuff. But as we saw with Immersive Reader last month, what makes Microsoft’s accessibility tools really shine is the way they build on and interact with each other. We will continue looking at these interactions over the next few days.