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Voice typing (speech recognition)

Updated May 2018

Voice typing (also called Speech Recognition) allows you to talk to a computer and it types words as you speak. The software has improved significantly in the last few years and is now a real option for text entry.


As most people speak significantly faster than they type, the software has huge potential when large amounts of writing are required. These programs and apps like you to speak in whole sentences and can cope with up to 160 words per minute.


Voice typing is appropriate for anyone but has special significance for students who have a physical difficulty that means they are unable to use arms and/or hands, for those with repetitive stress injuries and those with handwriting legibility, spelling and other writing problems.

Inclusion issues

Before using voice typing consider how comfortable or appropriate it is to have a student or group of students talking their work aloud in a classroom. Some students may be reluctant to speak in front of their peers.


Because of these issues students are sometimes sent to other rooms to do speech recognition and this, in turn, may lead to the student being isolated from their peers.


All of the following programs were tested in a quiet room using my voice (adult female with NZ accent) reading from a school field trip notice. The notice was five paragraphs (396 words) – about ⅔ of a page long. In most tests I used Australian English (or British if there was no Australian option). All tests were conducted without any prior training or preparation.


The computer tests were done with a modestly prices headset ($70 - $100 range). The iPad tests were done without any added microphone (and we assume that results would improve with, for example, a Bluetooth headset)


Dragon Naturally Speaking - (98% accuracy) home version approx $120

Dragon Naturally Speaking v13 for Windows was the best product tested with an impressive 98% accuracy over two tests (with no training). Dragon has several other advantages over other programs tested:

  • It can also be used completely hands free – to control a computer, open programs, navigate the desktop etc

  • It can be used with continuous speech

  • It can be used offline (does not need active wireless to work)

  • Dragon can be trained to recognise new words (including for example Māori words).

Mac computers - (96.5% accuracy) free in OS

Speech recognition is available free with Mac operating system (see Systems, Dictation and Speech).

Google doc's (97% accuracy) - free in doc's

Google has just introduced Voice Typing in their normal toolbar. Click on Tools - Voice typing and the microphone will appear to the left of your page.  

iPad and iPhone dictation - (95% accuracy) free in iOS

The iPad default dictation can be used in place of the keyboard any time by pressing the microphone icon on the standard iPad keyboard.  It places text directly where you want it (without any copy and paste hassles).


  • No microphone on your keyboard?

    • try enabling dictation (settings, general, keyboard, enable dictation)

    • try enabling siri (settings, general, siri)

    • check you are online…..

  • Still no microphone? – you probably have an older iPad (iPad 1 or 2) which does not have the voice typing feature. Use the free app instead – Dragon. This works well but you have to copy the text from the app to where you are writing.

Windows Dictate Add In 

New to me in 2018 and colleagues have indicated that it works very well.

Online Dictation (92% accuracy) free online

This has good recognition but text has to be copied from this dialogue box to where you need it.

Android phone (not yet tested)

This has good recognition but text has to be copied from this dialogue box to where you need it.

Other results

ReadWrite for Google (90% accuracy) - NZ$128/annum or free for educators.

Tested in Sept 2014 - this google extension performed poorly. I have not re-tested it as I no longer have access to the free version.

Microsoft  (73% accuracy) - free in OS

Tested April 2015 - this option was tested under the same conditions as the other laptops and the resulting 104 errors from 396 words meant it was the worst performer of the test.

If you recommend other options please let us know.


  • Rebecca


    Have you heard of or tried Word Q? We are trialing the free version on a class laptop but I haven't had fantastic results so far.  I trained it to both my voice and a female student and the accuracy was terrible. I did like that you could use it on any document as we do most of our writing on our class blog but for me to recommend this it would need to be more accurate. Does it improve as you use it more? 


  • Lynne Silcock

    Hi Rebecca

    I think you are talking about the SpeakQ software that adds onto WordQ. We have had a look at this in the past and found - very similar to you - it didn't work very well for continuous speech but did work quite well when working with individual words (and offering a predicted list based on speech).  

    The question then remains - if you are working on a windows laptop there is not a free option that works well that I am aware of unless you are working within specific online spaces (for example within Google Doc's using the speech recognition add-on).

    What blog type do you use? Do you draft somewhere first or write straight into the blog software?




Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology

Using technology to support students with disabilities and special learning needs.