Thursday 5 June 2008

Dictation goes Web 2.0

Yes and why not? Seems hard to see how this would be accomplished but it certainly does seem to be the case at the Listen and Write - Dictation website. What's more it seems to have been done in a pretty impressive way too.

This site features quite a number of audio files all of which can be accessed through quite a cleverly designed dictation activity. The users get to listen to parts of a sentence and they then have to type in the words of the sentence to a text field which only allows the words if they are correct. They are able to listen over and also get some help by setting the activity to auto complete the words as they type them in (cuts down on the frustration for EFL students of not being able to spell what you can hear).

The other nice aspect of it is that you get a score as you go and so you can work against yourself to try to improve the score.

But where's the Web 2.0 bit?
Well anyone who registers can link to an audio file for use in the activities. As a registered user you can also take on the task of adding the transcript etc. This can be a great way of sharing what must be quite a lot of work. Anyway, watch this video to see it in action.

How to use this with students
  • Just your EFL students registered and sit them with some headphones to work through a few dictations
  • Get your students to add some audio files that they would like turned into dictation activities
  • Add some of your own audio and transcripts that you want students to work on

What I like about it
  • This is really good free listening practice for students
  • Great for use in a media centre or to set listening homework for students to do on their own (they can tell you their scores in class)
  • Nicely designed activity with well thought out prompts
  • Great that it plans to include other languages
  • Great that the work load is being shared out and that users can add links to audios they want someone to transcribe
  • The texts have been leveled according to difficulty
What I'm not so sure about
  • I didn't manage to find a privacy policy on the site, so I wonder what they do with my info once they have it!
  • Most of the texts are quite high level and grabbed from Voice of America news, so are also on some quite heavy news topics.
  • Some more exercise types would be great, though they may be coming
  • I wonder who is going to be willing to put the time into transcribing the audio files (bit cynical I know but teachers are seldom sitting around with a lot of time on their hands)

On the whole I think this is a really simple, but really great idea. This site has huge potential for language development and I hope the the people at Listen and Write can keep this going and that your students find it really useful.


Nik Peachey

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