The Stories Begun

{February 3, 2011}   Dragon Speak®: Words of Flame

That title definitely came to me in Eddie Izzard’s “Cake or Death” voice.

Perhaps it’s not quite so cool as that, but technology and writing are extremely cool and so I decided I wanted to talk about a dictation program today, mostly because my writing process is so very oral/aural.

I first heard about Dragon Speak® (now called Dragon NaturallySpeaking®) just before I went to college.  A friend of mine at that time knew that she tended to process her essays better if she spoke them, so her parents bought her a dictation software.  I thought this was brilliant.  I still do, even though I am out of school.

Many of our oldest and, arguably*, greatest canonical works began orally/aurally.  The medium of telling was oral, the audience was receiving aurally.  This is still the way we are taught  and teach.  There are centuries of precedent.  It comes as no surprise to me that many students that I met throughout my years in undergrad found it easier to speak out their essays first or as they were in the process of writing them.  We are, as a species, wired–if you will–to speak first, then commit to paper.

Which brings me back to Dragon NaturallySpeaking®.  This program conflates the process significantly.  Rather than having to speak an essay and hope to be able to remember all the salient points made or take notes that are good enough to remember them all (which, inevitably, will not happen), the program takes it all down in a text file.  How fantastic.  There would, of course, need to be editing.  It is rare that a stream-of-conscious spew of thoughts is organized enough for an essay.  Unlike these essays, the epics of old were specifically structured with a plethora of memory devices so that they are “easily” remembered by the speaker.  The editing process for those must/would have been hellacious.

I hope that there are teachers who are looking to push the evolution of education away from essays.  Such an antiquated form of evaluation; those who can write well, but cannot speak are equally inhibited as those who can speak well but cannot write.  However, if that is not the case, I hope more students discover technologies like this program that allow them to utilize their natural abilities, the ones that have been cultivated within the classroom since long before they were born.

On my room wall it says, “The written word can manipulate minds, this power is in your hands.”  Perhaps I should change it to say something more like this: “The written word races across the world like a forest fire.  That spark can reside anywhere in you.”  After all, the spoken word is just as potent, and often times the written word is reporting an event or quote.  I can never allow myself to forget that as a writer, for it is dialogue, not prose, that paints the true picture.

And sometimes, those pictures do catch inside a head like fire.  Certainly, that’s how it happens in my head when the writing is done right.  Words are the match that light the tinder of imagination.  Now if only I can get them to show up as flames on the computer screen when I dictate.  That would be glorious.

Flying away on dragon wings for the week!



*I hate Beowulf.


[…] but the occasional topic is so close to home that I feel the need.  This is one of them.  I am a big advocate for using technological advances to cure some of the worst ills in academia and industry standards, […]

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