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1. How important is training?

Proper training is critical. A solid training foundation is the key to on-going success with voice recognition for all users regardless of skill or age. There are in fact two aspects of training with voice recognition.

First, the voice recognition system itself must be properly trained to recognize the student's words. Rather like a speaker and listener who both know the same language, but have widely differing accents, the software tries to accustom itself to the user's voice. This is so that the software can understand every word the user says, even when it is a word that he or she has never said to the system before. However, this does not mean that the user has to say every word before it can be understood by the system.

As we discussed earlier, the software gets accustomed to the user's voice by building an individual model that is modified with every utterance. This model helps the software predict what word to display from the active dictionary with every subsequent user utterance. The better the model, the better the prediction, so that if the software is used correctly, prediction improves with increased usage.

Therefore, the trainer should help the student gain a general understanding of how the voice recognition software works, so that he or she understands the importance of proper usage.

This brings us to the second aspect of training--the student must be trained in all aspects of the system that they need to know. All users, and especially younger users, must be properly trained in the process of saying and selecting the words. Additionally, users must learn how to correct any mismatches between the user's spoken word and the software's predictions. Beyond this, some students may also want or need to learn how to spell by voice, give voice commands to the computer, or even to operate the mouse in order to play their favorite game.

It is also critical that parents, teachers, tutors, or aides who work most closely with the student when he or she is writing attend and observe some of the initial training. If they (the professionals) have an opportunity to try the system themselves, this can help them gain some insight into the student's needs during use.

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