I am a big believer in not having to do more work than I have to or need to. I view it as part of my “work smarter, not harder” philosophy for 2020 and beyond. In the beginning of the year and especially during the onset of remote learning in March I felt like I was spending much more time working than I was with my family. Now that we are in a new school year I am still working hard, but I am trying to find tech solutions that save time without compromising excellence or content quality.

I am also a gigantic OneNote fan and use it note only at work but also in my personal life. If you are not familiar with OneNote, it is Microsoft’s premier note taking app that does everything from creating lists to adding tables to helping students with reading tools to creating practice quizzes to drawing features…you get the point–there’s lots of cool things to do in OneNote! Because of this, I essentially do everything in OneNote and I was looking for tools within the platform to save me time. The one that I’ve fallen in love with the most lately has been Dictation. Dictation has been an absolute game changer.

Dictation icon in the onenote toolbar

What is Dictation?

Dictation is a tool located in Microsoft OneNote that listens to your voice and does speak-to-text in live time. When you select the dictation tool it will begin “taking notes” for you immediately in whatever page, section, or title that you have open. It even captures the little “ums” and “ahs” that we have in colloquial speech. Something cool is that you can also insert punctuation at any time by saying them explicitly. I do feel weird sometimes calling out “question mark!” or “exclamation point!”, but I do it because it captures what I want to have written down.

How can you (and your students) use Dictation?

Depending on whether you are using the OneNote app or the OneNote via Office.com, you will either go to Office.com and choose OneNote, or use the OneNote Windows 10 app. In either version, start a new OneNote document or open and continue an existing one. Click the Dictate button on the Home Ribbon to dictate (it looks like a microphone). When you’re done speaking, click it again to stop.

When I am working, I typically use Dictation to capture my thoughts and feelings in live time. Sometimes sitting down at a computer and writing something out can take a while for me to compose what I actually want to say, and I find it much easier to speak out loud and have Dictation capture my words. Once I am done speaking, I can go back and edit as I see fit.

Dictation has done wonders for differentiated instruction at my prior and former institutions for the same reason. Students can use these functions to capture their thoughts in live time, and students who struggle with typing on a keyboard could be more at ease.

Victoria Thompson

The text that is created within Dictation is also fully capable to be used alongside Immersive Reader, another wonderful tool embedded into OneNote Windows 10. Immersive Reader can highlight important parts of speech including nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and also read these words out loud to you and your students. This just scratches the surface of what the tool can do—you can toggle text size, you can have the option to only focus on one (or several) lines at a time within text, you can change the speed of how the tool is reading to you—I can go on and on, but the fact that the words you speak into Dictation can be dissected in Immersive Reader is another wonderful way to bring words to life.

If you’re on the fence, give Dictation, Immersive Reader, and OneNote a shot! While these tools might seem daunting at first, they really do have the capability to differentiate the learning of your students and save time for you as an educator[VT1] .

About the Author

@VictoriaTheTech

Victoria Thompson is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation–a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools–and a consultant for Ignite EdTech. She has been in education for five years and began her journey teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science in Summerville, SC. After completing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction she moved to the Seattle, WA area in 2018, where her career has pivoted to focusing on STEM integration in schools, K-12 mathematics instruction with research on decolonizing mathematics curriculum for teachers and learners, creating inclusive math environments, and using technology to bridge equity gaps in math education.


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