John Galloway reviews two literacy tools that work with your regular software programs
Wordq and Speakq are a pair of tools designed to 'sit' on top of any open application to help users cope with text – both by making it easier to write, and by reading it out.
Designed "for struggling writers", there may be nothing particularly innovative about either of them individually; what is new is that they work together.
There have been plenty of applications that provide an on-screen predictor (Wordq) and speech feedback (Speakq) for when you are typing, and a dictionary or thesaurus to help you to decide if you have chosen the right word and spelt it correctly. Similarly speech-to-text is now commonplace, even built in to operating systems.
What's different here is that all of these supports are integrated together, giving more options for support, and different combinations to work with.
The predictor sits on top of the text and works as standard, by suggesting what your next word might be. In this instance, though, if the cursor is in the prediction list it will also respond to speech. So if you know the word you want, but are not sure how to spell it, you can say it instead then check the list before inserting it.
Similarly, when dictating a document, the speech feedback will come in – after each word or sentence, it's up to you – and read the text back so you know whether you have been transcribed accurately.
Wordq and Speakq work with any open application. You can dictate emails or browse the web handsfree and have the results read aloud. It is straightforward to use, with just a few buttons to click.
The speech-to-text worked better with continuous speech than at dictation speed, although there was often a lag before the words appeared on screen. Even without completing the voice recognition it was fairly accurate, and this would improve with use, although it was also more accurate in the document than in the prediction box.
Its minimal buttons and ability to combine whatever tools best fit the users' needs are plusses. The price, however, reflects that this package is actually two titles bundled together. Speech-to-text can be had for less than half the price (free with some operating systems) with the cost of a predictor making up the rest. Although this option may not work so smoothly together, each would offer more functionality. Buyers need to decide whether they want bells and whistles, or simple synchronicity (and can find out for themselves by downloading for a 30-day trial).
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 4
Value for money 3
Wordq and Speakq
On-screen predictor (Wordq) and speech feedback (Speakq) for Windows or Mac, from GoQ software at £199 ex VAT. Also available as 30-day trial downloads
John Galloway works as advisory teacher for ICT/SEN and inclusion in Tower Hamlets, London, and as a freelance writer and consultant. He is the author of Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning and runs his own blog.