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Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon Naturally Speaking is high quality speech recognition software for Windows and MacOS. As well as dictating to your computer, you can format text and control the computer. NaturallySpeaking installs on the computer so you don't need an internet connection for it to work.

Newer versions of Dragon (from 13) do not require any training and accuracy is much better 'out of the box'. It also seems to work better for regional accents and for younger children. 

If you tried Dragon previously without success, do explore the new version - it's definitely much better and we have had very positive reports from learners and schools.

Currently, there are several different versions of Dragon available, some of which are available with educational discounts and some aren't, and we think it is (unnecessarily) confusing. Here goes...

Which version?

The Dragon 13 comparison shows you the differences between Home, Premium and Pro. Dragon 14 and 15 are only available in the Pro version.

All versions, from Home upwards have the same speech recognition system for controlling the computer and the mouse, and for dictating into word processors, web browsers, email etc.

Premium also gives you:

  • support for controlling and dictating into Excel & Powerpoint;
  • play back of your dictated speech, so you hear what you said;
  • transcription from a digital recorder or iPad;
  • import/export of user profiles.

Pro does all of the above and also gives you:

  • macros so you can create custom voice  commands;
  • the ability to save a recording of your dictation for correction later;
  • roaming profiles, so a pupil could use it on any computer in the school.

Buying Dragon

You can download a 30 day trial copy from Nuance - make sure you try it with a decent microphone (see below) - - otherwise you'll be wasting your time. If you have an older version of Dragon, we think it's definitely worth upgrading to the latest version 13 or 15. 

As far as we understand it, if you want to buy Dragon for yourself, or for a small number of learners to use on personal laptops, go for either Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 or Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15The crucial thing is that you need one licence per user - you can't legally install the program on a single computer and have it used by several users - you need as many licences as you have users.

These personal versions are available either as a download, in which case you need to buy a microphone, or as a physical, boxed product that comes with a mic. The wired microphones are OK but have a jack plug connection, and we recommend using microphones with USB connections as we think they are more reliable. 

If you are an individual student, go for either Dragon 13 Home at £66 + VAT for basic dictating, or Dragon NaturallySpeaking Individual 15 Education at £124.99 plus VAT, plus a microphone if you want more features like recording and playing back.

If you are a Support for Learning department wanting to buy, say, up to ten licences for ten students to use on ten personal laptops we suggest either ten copies of Dragon 13 Premium at  £1,160 + vat or ten copies of Dragon 15 Professional Education at £1,250 + vat. 

The alternative is Dragon Professional Group for Education, which is for volume purchase, but this time, it's licenced per computer rather than per user. Each machine licence is more expensive than a single user licence but it means you can buy fewer licences and have them used by several users on the same computer (not all at the same time!). So you could buy 10 licences for £2,520, install them on 10 laptops, and have as many different learners use them as you wish.

It's quite hard to find prices on the internet, so the best idea is to phone up the suppliers and get up to date costs. Before you do, look at Speech empowered computing who do give prices for the Group Education version that you can more or less understand, unlike some of the others who ether don't list prices at all, or do in ways that are quite opaque.  

The table below has some price comparisons:

 

Price ex VAT

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Home

(single user including wired microphone)

£66 

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium

(single user including wired microphone)

£116.50 

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium Wireless

( single user including wireless microphone)

£166.99 

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Individual 15 Pro Education

(single user electronic download, no microphone)

£124.99 
Dragon Pro Group V14 (Education) Licence 1-4 computers £320.83 per computer
Dragon Pro Group V14 (Education) Licence 5-25 computers £252.08 per computer
Dragon Pro Group V14 (Education) Licence 26-50 computers £229.16 per computer
Dragon Pro Group V14 (Education) Licence 51-150 computers £206.35 per computer
Dragon Pro Group V14 (Education) Licence 151-300 computers £183.33 per computer

 

Getting Started

To help you get started, refer to:

When you start Dragon the first time you must create a user profile for your voice - this only takes a few minutes. Dragon will then offer to take you through an Interactive Tutorial. Going through the tutorial is not the same as training Dragon with your voice - the tutorial is worth doing because you learn about the software and about how to use speech recognition. You don't need to go through the whole tutorial though - you can just start using it immediately. Unlike previous versions, you don't have to train Dragon 13 before you use it - but if you do train it, you'll get better results. You'll also improve accuracy by using the Vocabulary tools where Dragon analyses your documents or emails to add new words to it's dictionary and adapt to your writing style.

Learning to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Before you introduce Dragon to a student, learn to use it yourself - use the Demo Videos and guides above. For teaching students we suggest the procedure outlined in Speech Recognition as AT for Writing, by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key, which uses the following approach:

  1. Consider It! - Is Speech Recognition (SR) an appropriate tool for the student and the learning tasks? Not every student can use SR, and you can't necessarily use it for every learning task.
  2. Try It! - SR is not magic. You must teach the student to use SR, and to compose and dictate.
  3. Assess It! - What does SR offer compared to handwriting, typing or other writing tools?
  4. Implement It! - If SR looks like it is a viable tool, how can it be introduced into class and at home?

When teaching students, consider buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking Step by Step, by Sharon Gest and Rachel Barnes (£17.95). We have not  yet used it ourselves with learners, but it looks fun and teaches Dragon skills in an accessible way. The authors say that it is designed to help young learners become independent writers and that you, the teacher will also learn how to use the software alongside your student. Each of the 8 lessons or steps should be achievable in 30 minutes although the authors do suggest that additional practice will help.    

Microphones

The standard single user box set comes with a fairly decent microphone, but we suggest you buy a mic with a USB plug. We have found that USB mics are much more reliable. See the Dragon Approved Mics for options, and we suggest the:

  • Andrea NC 181 USB (£30) - we have used these a lot over the years and found them very good;
  • Logitech PC 960 USB (£20) - Chris Gerrard at Edinburgh Academy says they work very well. 

Wireless microphones free you to dictate while walking around, standing, or from a wheelchair. These include:

Dragon is also sold bundled with:

There are also Desktop Microphones such as:

Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Education