Speech to Text and Word Bank Writing: Google Doc Add-Ons

Add- ons are a great feature of Google Doc. They provide additional functionality through a side bar beside the document. To find and install add ons, navigate to the Add- ons dropdown menu and select Get add ons… On a recent look around I ran into two new add- ons to help support writing.

Speech Recognition

After installing the add-ons be sure to provide permissions to the microphone and press start. You can select which language to dictate in. Speech recognition works similarly to other dictation supports in accepting voice commands for periods, commas, etc. Giving it a test run, I must say I was impressed by the accuracy of the dictation. I also gave it a try in Spanish with some good results.
Check it out in action:


This add on allows a teacher to create a word bank with definitions which can be viewed to the side of the document. Using word clouds or word banks are a great way to guide reluctant writers and provide visual and memory supports for what should be included in the document.
Here is a short demo video of how Keyword works:


Co:Writer Now Supports Writing in the Cloud

As more schools are turning to cloud and subscription based solutions, another assistive technology company has developed their text prediction software to meet this model. Quotes are available for school site licenses and are an extremely affordable option to provide all students not just those with IEP’s or 504’s technology supports. This is a great tool to add to a school’s Universal Design for Learning toolbox.

Don Johnston recently released Co:Writer Universal and it offers some lovely features. When a school signs up for a site license students and teachers can create individual accounts. This account can then be used to log into the Co:Writer Universal web app , download the Chrome extension, download a PC or Mac version of Co:Writer and just announced today use Co:Writer as an iOS device.

Web App

The web app also opens as a separate window in a browser and has a very similar interface to the iOS app. Previous documents are autosaved in the home menu and can be further edited. Functions such as inserting images, text formatting, customizing the word list, and speech feedback setting are available. Another helpful feature is the topic dictionary support. If the writing is related to a book for example, you can search for a topic dictionary related to the book title and the word prediction will start including character names and other book related vocabulary. Written work can then be sent to Google Drive or Dropbox accounts.

Chrome Extension

Co:Writer extension in a Google Doc

An added benefit to this tool is that it can also be downloaded as a Chrome extension and work
directly within Google Docs or websites with text boxes to complete. I had tried using it within Slides but the performance in this app was varied. This is a great feature that is not available on other cloud based programs (see previous post here).

PC/Mac Application

Co:Writer universal can also be downloaded as a stand alone program on a Mac or PC. Many of the features discussed above are available in the program with the addition of the word cloud window. A word cloud is also available to help guide writers with recommended words to include in their writing. The words appear in a separate window but coordinate with the word prediction to have words listed.

iOS App

Just announced today, Co:Writer is also available as a free download from the app store. There is a stand alone version of Co:Writer for $20 however this does not link to the Universal account. It is important to download the Universal version of the app which works in tandem with the student’s account.

What is and why use word prediction and auditory feedback anyway?

Word prediction is often used for students who struggle with spelling and may be reluctant writers because of this difficulty. There are varying qualities of word prediction algorithms and use of “flexible spelling”. If the student types “tdy”, can the program predict “today”?

Auditory feedback can be used for students who struggle with grammar and produce writing sampled devoid of punctuation marks or omit words without noticing even if attempting to edit your work. Hearing back one’s writing helps students catch these errors. Some option for this feedback include hearing each letter typed (emergent writers), each word typed (assisting with sustained attention), or each sentenced typed. These are personal choices that a teacher and student can make to see what best benefits the writing.

Reading Vision Supports Using Chrome Extensions

The benefits to using Chrome as a browser are all the add-ons and extensions that are easy to download from the Chrome Webstore.

Color Supports

Beeline Reader is an extension that converts the text into flowing colors to increase the speed of eye tracking while reading. This also helps decrease the frequency of skipped lines which affects overall reading fluency and comprehension.

Speed Readers

These tool are used to increased reading speed but having one word presented on the screen at a time also limits the need for eye movements called saccades when reading. Some students struggle with the mechanics of moving their eyes across a page and tend to skip words or lines that affect overall comprehension.

Sprint Reader is an extension that allows a student to select text from an article or webpage and present each word individually on the screen. There are many font, sizing, and color modifications to customize the presentation. Also keyboard shortcuts can quickly stop, rewind, or modify speed as you are reading.

Spreed is another speed reading extension with similar features that allow customization of font, sizing, and speed. The benefit to this extension is that these customization options are available on the same screen as the words presented.

Text to Speech

Speak It is an extension that once installed allows the student to select text and have this text read back. The voice is a bit synthesized and does depend on the internet speed connection to function smoothly.
Select and Speak is another extension that provides text to speech supports. 

Font Modification

Clearly is one of my favorite extensions from the makers of Evernote. The extension clears away the ads and presents the text from the article in a clear and simple presentation. Users can customize the fonts spacing, sizing, and color scheme as well as highlight salient details. The article can then be clipped directly into your Evernote account. Premium subscribers can also have the text read back to them with word highlighting!

OpenDyslexic is an extension that converts most fonts presented on a webpage to the Open Dyslexic font. This font was created with attention to each letter to limit “b” and “d” confusion and draw the eye to the bottom of the line.

Fluency Tutor: Google App Integrated Running Records

TextHelp just released a new tools for teachers. TextHelp has been providing robust assistive technology tools for students and is branching out to supporting students on the cloud. They are one of the first companies to introduce a text prediction tool compatible with Google Apps and now is venturing into the instructional technology world.

Fluency Tutor is a tool that allows teacher to assign lexile or age appropriate reading passages for students to read and record via their Google Apps account. While reading, students are able to have the following tools available for their support:

  • Text read aloud with word by word highlighting
  • Simple dictionary definitions for unfamiliar words
  • Picture dictionary
  • English to Spanish translation
For the free account, teachers are then able to capture the recordings for each of the students on the main dashboard for progress tracking. The premium account features the ability to score the reading passage for the following errors:
  • Mispronunciations
  • Hesitations
  • Insertions
  • Omissions
  • Substitutions
  • Transpositions
A teacher is able to listen to the recording which is paused when marking an error. The app is also able to provide a words per minute count (after marking the 1 minute point) and a reading quality rubric is completed for each reading sample to generate a “Fluency Score”.  A progress chart is then available for each student to track changes in the Fluency Score and reading rate.
There are a variety of reading passages to chose from however at this point custom reading passages are not available. An annual subscription is $99 per teacher/ per year. 

Lingua.ly Chrome Extension for Building Vocabulary

Lingua.ly is a great extension built for developing vocabulary in a new foreign language but also works great to develop vocabulary for struggling students.

The concept is simple and works great. An account is created with an initial set up process. The student chooses their native language and language to learn (for this case both are set to English) and once set up is complete the student is ready to read any web content.

When a student lands on an unfamiliar word, they may double click the word. A simple definition comes up and the word is pronounced for the reader. The word then remains highlighted on the webpage.

For further review and practice, students can log into their Lingua.ly account and either read new content based on the words previously selected or practice flash card type games with these collected words.

Here is a video highlighting the basic functions:

Text Prediction Options for Google Docs

For those familiar with assistive technology software a common solution for struggling students involves the use of writing with auditory feedback and text prediction. With the increased integration of Chromebooks into the school, two companies have started integrating these options into Google Docs. Although not as robust as their desktop counterparts they are a good start. One drawback involves the long word bank list and need to click to enter a desired word into the writing passage. Both extensions can run on Chromebooks or on a Chrome web browser and have a 30 day trial available. Google App for Education and single annual licenses are available.

1. App Writer Cloud by LingApps. App Writer is also available as an iPad app. A variety of languages are available for purchase with a good quality voice for auditory feedback. Performance however is affected based on internet speed connection.

2. Read&Write for Google by TextHelp. This app also provides users with the ability to highlight text within the document and collect these highlights into a separate file. There is also a dictionary and visual dictionary option available.


Picto4me is a lovely addition to the Chrome Webstore. This app lets you create communication boards as well as run a browser based player that can be switch accessible. There is also a scan based on-screen keyboard however the generated text at this point cannot be copied or used outside of the main window. Great image library and also allows for URL images.