Dyslexia Drag Race (2/52)

You will see from my review of ClaroRead below that I rely heavily on software to help me in my everyday work – particularly for emails.  Recently, I have been experimenting with dictation software for longer emails and reports.

I decided the best way to test the usefulness of dictation software was to setup a dictation drag race between two leading contestants:

Contestant One: Apple Dictation (macOX Sierra v10.12.2)  built-in tool – which is free.

[You can activate the Dictation tool from the Apple icon [top left] go to ‘System Preferences’, click on the ‘Keyboard’ icon and within this click on the ‘Dictation tab’ and, finally, tick ‘Dictation’ as ‘On’. To use in any text box press ‘fn’ [bottom left] key twice [this is configurable] and then press ‘fn’ key twice to hide].

Contestant Two: Nuance Dragon (Professional Individual for Mac v6.0.4), which is probably the best known dictation software you can buy.

So, the  challenge was 400 words from a long email to a colleague. Starting with Nuance Dragon [“Contestant Dragon [David], on my first whistle“], I read out from a printed page … 4 minutes and 56 seconds later 400 words have been dictated into a document with only 5 mistakes – all of which were understandable and easy to correct. I used the ClaroRead to ‘Text to Speech’ function to quickly check through the document. Not a bad achievement and probably three or four times quicker than typing with ClaroRead.

Now for Apple Dictation using exactly the same email … 4 minutes and 59 seconds later 400 words have been dictated into a document but sadly this time with over 30 mistakes. Most of these were ‘normal’ words. I used Apple ‘Text to Speech’ [again free] tool to check through the document.

[You can activate the ‘Text to Speech’ tool from the Apple icon [top left] go to ‘System Preferences’, click on the ‘Accessibility’ icon, then ‘Speech’ and tick ‘Speak selected text when the key is pressed. You can configure ‘Current key’ by clicking ‘Change Key’].

I started to correct the document and quickly realised how time consuming this was. So, even though the drag race was fairly even with Nuance Dragon crossing the line only 3 seconds ahead of Apple Dictation, the time to do the corrections made Dragon the clear winner for longer documents for me.

However, since carrying out this very unscientific test, I have found Apple Dictation particularly helpful whilst doing short emails. It is so easy to press ‘fn’ twice in the middle of typing to help me complete a long sentence or to find a difficult word [I will come back to ‘difficult words’ in another blog]. So, not quite ‘honours are even’, but pretty close.

And finally, I do find that even though my version of Dragon is up-to-date, it regularly crashes. Not great for a drag racer! But, at least for me, not a huge problem only an inconvenience as I work in Word for Mac rather than DragonPad.

Happy racing!

ClaroRead Software Review

For me, the single most useful dyslexia software tool is ClaroRead for Mac. I literally use it everyday and for every email, letter or report I write. It has more features than I need but the two most useful features for me are:

Reading out as I type each word and then reading out highlighted text. This is a must have feature and I can’t think of any improvements to this function.

Word prediction is a heavy weight tool which offers you a drop down list of words as you are typing. I’ve set my colour scheme (soft yellow on dark blue), for the list to be sorted by likelihood (rather than alphabetical) and to show ignored words and next word [Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Predict’ > ‘Window’].

I prefer to use the ClaroRead training feature rather than automatically adding correctly spelt words. The latter slows the application down to the point it interfers with my typing. Yes, I’m now really that fast! To be honest I’m still pretty slow but my correspondence are of a better quality. This means fewer spelling mistakes, homophones and bigger words (like correspondence!). The package comes with additional features I don’t use: ruler, capture and colour screen overlays.

The one improvement for me would be the option to have the prediction window track with the cursor (just to the right would be perfect). I’m sure I’ve seen this feature on Window-based software like – Penfriend and Read&Write – I see there is now a Mac version.

I have just bought an iPad Pro and downloaded the ClaroSpeak App. Give me a couple of months and I will write a review.

PS How could I not mention the power of MSWord (or other word processors) and built-in spelling and grammar checks. My adult life spans the Sinclair ZX Spectrum to the MacBook Pro – probably the real revolution at your finger tips for dyslexics.

My ClaroRead’s word reduction window:

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support


Who would ever have thought it? (1/52)

As an undiagnosed dyslexic in school through the 70s, life was pretty tough. No one had even heard of dyslexia let alone develop effective learning strategies. For me that meant years of underachievement and ridicule from teachers (some very well meaning) and friends who were as ignorant as everyone else. I still don’t like to think of that 8 year old me, starting at boarding school and sitting in Mrs W’s English class …

Throughout my schooling I lived in fear of being asked to read aloud in class. I followed the trail of doom as it snaked around my classmates, getting ever nearer. Desperate attempts to read ahead to the most likely sentence to land on me, was no preparation – it just made things worse. As I stood, eyes going out of focus, words dancing on the page, the first sentence hardly uttered before the laughing started!

Even today, I can’t read out from the printed page. And yet … I can deliver top class lectures on entrepreneurship (try spelling that without MSWord spelling or ClaroRead!). My last Advanced Entrepreneurship class scored 100% (Strongly agree/Agree) across all measures – even ‘Feedback’! ‘Teacher was enthusiastic’ getting 100% Strongly agree. I was genuinely moved by the comments in the student evaluations:

  • Nigel was the absolute best lecturer, everything he taught us was interesting and relevant.
  • Nigel was by far the best lecturer I’ve ever had. Every topic he chose was extremely interesting and he was able to fully engage the entire class, which is highly commendable seeing as it was a two hour lecture starting at nine in the morning.
  • Nigel is so enthusiastic and I actually listen and learn.
  • Nigel made lectures fun and engaging every week, bringing in real world examples from his business network.
  • Nigel was very enthusiastic and it was very refreshing being taught a module by someone with first-hand experience in the field he was teaching. This module, was by far the best module I have ever undertaken in the entirety of my time [at university].

Has this anything to do with being dyslexic?

And the journey to the top of leading business schools (University of Leeds and Lancaster University) requires a written PhD. I, and probably everyone else around me, could simply never have imagined that 8 year old, so fearful of the written word,  becoming a serial entrepreneur, community leader and professor. But that is another story

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

The Dyslexic Professor (0/52)

Yes, I do mean ‘dyslexic professor’ not ‘dyslexia professor’ or ‘Professor of Dyslexia’.

By my 19th birthday, I had failed all my A-levels and couldn’t see a positive future – school had been a nightmare. Fortunately, I had two things going in my favour …

Firstly, I had passed by motorcycling test! 

Secondly, after failing my English GSCE (then called O-levels) twice with Fs, an experienced out-of-school English tutor recognised I had learning difficulties and recommended I went to one of the few specialist testing centres at Aston University.

After what seemed like a strange set of questions and tests (including the dreaded reading aloud), I was told I had a very high IQ and dyslexia. The former was a pleasant surprise and confirmed I wasn’t “stupid” and the latter both a new word to me and unspellable to boot!

There then followed 35 years of struggles, achievements and more struggles as I came to realise that dyslexia was not a learning difficulty but a learning difference.

This learning difference has shaped me into the person I am today … The Dyslexic Professor!

Could some of the coping strategies learnt in hostile environments actually be an advantage?

Watch 5:15 into this Ted Talk by Regina Hartley.

Why is 2017 the year I go public?

i) To highlight to anyone with dyslexia that you can quite literally achieve anything you set your mind on (regardless of what some teachers and peers say), ii) to start to compile useful links to University support for dyslexic students, iii) share ‘top tips’ gained from my own experience and iv) provide links to useful resources.

My 2017 New Year’s resolution is to write a weekly blog related to my experiences as a dyslexic academic.

A new journey for me begins with this blog …

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support