Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scripts and extensions galore with Google

A few days ago, a teacher asked me about finding a tool to translate speech to text. Since our district does not supply tablets to all students and teachers, an app like Dragon was out of the question. Therefore, I turned to Chrome extensions--a great tool to use if you haven't already.

How do you find Chrome extensions? Click on your settings box in the far right of your Chrome browser. It looks like three horizontal lines. Select tools-->extensions. If you already have some extensions, it will open up to your existing ones so just click on "get more extensions." From there, you will enter the Chrome extensions store and can browse for a variety of extensions from video downloaders to speech to text tools.

Simple Dictation is a free extension that appears as a microphone in the top right of your Chrome browser. When you are ready to dictate, simply click on the microphone. It will open up a new tab with a microphone and text box. Click the microphone (again) in this screen and begin speaking. It will stop recording if you stop for more than 5 seconds. When you start talking again, it will erase your old speech. However, it will appear at the bottom under "Previous Dictations." There is also a button to compose an email from the Simple Dictation screen. When you click on it, it opens up your gmail account and pastes your most recent dictation into the email body. The accuracy is fantastic and--even better--it's free! It's definitely worth a try.

Aside from Chrome extensions, scripts are another way to take a Google product above and beyond. AutoCrat is probably my favorite script (along with Flubaroo--the self-graded quiz script). AutoCrat is like mail merge on steroids. Here's what it does: it takes data in a spreadsheet and merges it into a Google Docs template that can be automatically emailed out to people. However, that description doesn't do it justice. If you recall, a spreadsheet can also be a form. So, in that sense--AutoCrat can merge data entered into a spreadsheet into templates. Why is that so neat? For one, I am having students apply to become a Tech Star at our elementary campus. When they complete the online form, they are required to type in the name of two teachers who could give recommendations as well as a parent or guardian's name and email address. I also have a recommendation letter template composed that has fields for the teacher's name and student information. Therefore, as students submit forms, their information is merged with the recommendation letters and the letters are automatically sent out to the teachers to complete. And, the best part is that AutoCrat creates a new column in the data spreadsheet with links to the newly created merged documents. There are a variety of times that you could benefit from having documents autogenerated from forms that others complete. If you like this, read this informative article on AutoCrat (complete with instructions).

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