Monday, 11 April 2016

Assessing Writing Through Speech to Text?

I've been exploring with Google Drive with my Grade Ones recently and seeing how I can see it being used effectively in a primary program. Read and Write within Google Docs, has HUGE potential. I am excited at what I can do with my students.

Today I had my students create a picture and then describe what they drew. I taught them how to use the microphone to record their thinking. For the most part, what they wanted to say (their intended meaning) was typed correctly on the screen. (Even with a 'not so quiet' classroom!!) One of my lowest students who cannot write independently (and not yet reading successfully) created 2 sentences and even said where to put periods! (This is SO huge for him!) Now I realize that the computer is typing the proper spelling, using correct finger spaces and putting in capitals at the beginning.... BUT those are just conventions, writing is SO much more than conventions. Isn't this then just a tool to help with the spelling and some conventions, but it isn't taking away the writing process?

This has really got me thinking... the "traditional" part of me is saying that this cannot really be writing, so how can I use this for assessment; however, I'm really questioning that traditional side, as I've hit a ton of specific expectations here. Independently, they are developing, classifying, organizing ideas, and they've also added in voice, word choice and sentence fluency. In addition, that once they complete their sentence, they have to read over their writing (or have it read back to them using read and write) to revise and proof-read.

Looking at the expectations, it appears that it's something worthwhile when it comes to getting my students to share their thinking with others. (Isn't that the purpose of writing - what writing really is? I'm writing this post today to share my thinking with you.) 

Of course, it's also not the only type of writing we do within the year. I realize that writing on paper is necessary (and important), but I don't think it's the only way we need to assess. 

Here are a few student examples of their work from today. This was the first time they've used Google Docs and Read and Write (they have had experience using Google Draw last week). They probably had about 20 minutes independently to work. I allowed them to choose what to draw, as long as it was a picture (not just random lines or icons) and were able to tell me about it.

I'd love your opinion on these thoughts. Can I use this some of this writing for assessment and evaluation? Are they actually writing or does writing need to include spelling and conventions all the time?

EDIT: So I've been thinking about this even more and have only come up with more questions...
During EQAO, using a computer/read and write is an accommodation that needs to be specifically identified on an IEP. Therefore, is using Read and Write always an accommodation?  Is there a line between 'good teaching practices' and accommodations when using technology? Can we provide certain accommodations (i.e., technology) but assess it without an IEP?

I don't believe that their ideas, the structure of the sentence, voice, tone or word choice were accommodated, just the means to how to got onto the paper was accommodated. Does the tool used throughout the process affect the product? 


  1. I love the reflection and enthusiasm of this post, Jenni. I have a daughter in grade 1 who is learning to read and write, and I would have no problem with her using speech to text as part of the process. Yes, the physical practice is important, but so is the mental work of composing, and this method frees students from the physical technique for a time, allowing them to focus on the mental skills. Also, this could be an opportunity to work on speaking skills. Proper pronunciation is essential for the program to work effectively, and there are reading/editing opportunities that follow composing.

    I think the idea is sound and that your reflective practice will help refine it as you use it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments and affirmation, Scott. I would also agree with you that speaking skills are also so important and this can definitely help show my students that.