How to Use ....... Google Voice Typing

How to Use Google Voice Typing

Technology and Learning Colleagues,

This is the first post of a new discussion topic: “How to Use”. Think about a digital tool that you use all the time, or want to learn to use. Type (or dictate) the steps for how to use it, and post them in a reply to this post.

For example, below are some directions for using Google Voice Typing, a dictation program you can access through Google Docs so that you can "voice type" a new Google Doc, which is what I'm doing right now.

Here are the easy steps, that is, if you are already familiar with Google Docs but may not have used the Google Voice Typing feature on Google Docs.

Before you begin:

  • You will need to open a Chrome browser. If you don't have one, it's a free download.

  • You will need a microphone, and to check that it's working!


  1. Open your Chrome browser

  2. Log into your Gmail account

  3. From your Google Drive, or directly from your Google menu, select Google Docs

  4. Open a new Google Doc

  5. Go to the “Tools” menu

  6. Select “Voice typing”

  7. Select the microphone icon to speak

  8. Start talking. You should see what you say being typed. You will probably discover that most of it is correct, but you may have to change a word or two, or you may have to capitalize a word or punctuate a sentence. There are lots of tips on using Google Voice Typing here. if you discover some especially good ones, please share them in a reply here.  I'm doing this as a newbie, and I might not have all of the steps as clear or complete as they could be, so you may need to straighten me out. Those who have a lot of experience using Google Voice Typing, we will appreciate  learning from your experience!

This may be easy enough for your students to use. They can do their first drafts by voice typing, and then they can edit their document using a keyboard. If you try this, tell us how it went.


David J. Rosen, Moderator

Technology and Learning CoP


Integrating Technology Colleagues,

Phil Shapiro, a long-time digital literacy guru and proponent of easy-to-use, time-saving digital tools, found my March 11, 2017 LINCS post on using Google Voice Typing and sent me this video link to his short, humorous video that demonstrates his using this free tool. You -- and your students and colleagues  -- might enjoy it.

Were you one of the many hundreds of adult basic skills educators who joined Friday's COABE Webinar, "Technology Toolbox for the Adult Education Instructor!"? Scheduled for an hour, it went for nearly 90 minutes because there were so many excellent questions for presenter, Florida ABE instructor Rebecca DeJesus. Rebecca quickly introduced at least 15 easy-to-use, time-saving, (mostly) free, online digital tools and instruction resources suitable for adult basic skills classes. They included: Google Voice, Evernote, IXL Math, KUTA Software, Poll Everywhere, SPORCLE, Newsela, TedEd Lessons, Read Theory, Rewordify, Jing, and others. Those who registered for the webinar will get a link to the archived presentation, and it will be posted on the COABE Adult Educator Resources Resources Page. You could also email Rebecca directly at for a list of the tools and resources she presented.

What are your favorite time-saving digital tools? How do you use them? Please share at least one of them by replying to this post.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Integrating Technology CoP


Name of the tool: Formative

• Web address:

• In a sentence or two, its purpose, or what it does: Formative is a tool that allows students to demonstrate understanding by typing, drawing, or submitting images. It allows teachers to create tests, assess student understanding, provide real-time feedback, and turn a pdf or worksheet into a digital assignment! It provides real-time formative assessment and differentiated instruction.

• Cost: Free, but there is a pro version that offers a few more features.

• How you use it, with what kind(s) of students and why: I use it in a number of ways. I use it to turn math worksheets into digital math practice, I use it to create highly engaging lessons as it allows students to demonstrate understanding through “show your work” (students can draw or write on a whiteboard), true or false, essay, short answer, multiple choice, or multiple selection. The teacher is able to “mash apps” by embedding from other sources, add images, text blocks, whiteboard, or video. While they work, I can see what they are doing from my own device and I can formatively assess their understanding. If they are off track, I can comment on their answer so that they can get back on track.I recommend this for any class !

• What you like about it: I can create a digital assignment or test in a short period of time and I love the formative assessment feature. Additionally, the Formative community is amazing and if anyone wants to join, let me know! We share resources, ideas, and Formatives with one another. You can easily share Formatives with other educators.

• How easy or difficult it is to learn to use, and then to use with students: Formative is pretty easy to use, but if you are not comfortable with technology, I would recommend walking through it the first time with someone who might be a little more tech savvy. Making the Formatives does not take long and the interface is user friendly. I will include some samples for you to view and two presentations I recently did on the product.

• Any reservations you might have about the tool: NONE


sample Formative:


This is a tech which has finally come into its own -- and it's basically... easy enough to just jump in and use.   I don't because ... I'm in a lab so they don't need to hear me talking and ... I think with my fingers fast enough :)   

    Sometimes people who live on the bleeding edge make computer use less likely to happen.   Back around 2004 there was some research -- a fair amount of it -- and conversation about potential for using speech recognition software to help students learn to read.   There were several products where you were given a passage on one side of the screen and you'd read along and speech recognition would type what you said and compare it to the 'real thing.'   However,  there isn't much at all since then!   

     I wonder if it's because the stuff was still too expensive and basically hard to use and used up a ton of computer real estate so unless you had a great computer, it was an exercise in frustration.   I would love to see some of those efforts revived.  

Hi David, hi everyone

I'm new here - joining in from the UK. I've been involved in adult literacy and ESL and integrating technology for some time, but took a bit of a break (not a complete break but went a bit low profile while I had kids and stuff...) but now back and getting up to speed. 

I'm really interested in the use of speech tech - both for dictation (speech-to-text) and the other way round - text-to-speech to read web content aloud.  

Google voice is not just for Google docs - you can dictate straight into Gmail also use voice to search the web. This should open up a world of possibilities for people who struggle with spelling and writing.  I've been tinkering with text-to-speech tools too to get emails and web content read aloud - favourite so far is Texthelp's Read & Write for Google Chrome, the basic version of which is free. 

Is anyone encouraging literacy learners to use tools like these? I get the feeling that here (in the UK) there's little awareness that they are available, but also that colleagues have some doubts about using them - perhaps they feel that these tools offer a way of avoiding grappling with spelling or the deciphering/decoding part of reading. But I feel that these tools have potential to support literacy development not undermine it - by boosting confidence and motivation to engage in literate practices more frequently, by increasing exposure to written language, by reducing cognitive load and stress...

What are your thoughts? :-)

I agree, Jo, that technologies boost literacy more than the features of the technology undermines it. With Google's voice features getting better by the month, using the technology to express ideas in many formats is becoming more easy and even threatens to eliminate some sacred cows within literacy education circles. Looking at just one element, say spelling, may help illustrate some of the many discussions that arise on this topic. Voice to text within Google is so sophisticated as to pick out appropriate spelling from homonyms simply based on context. Humans have had this ability to understand verbally based on context for some time, but when looking at written forms, dealing with homonym spellings has been a complete mystery to many that struggle with literacy. The technology helps to remove so much of the anxiety about "which? wich? is witch?", that the author can really concentrate on the content of what the individual may wish to share. 

When I write, I often have others review or edit what I write to gather suggestions and corrections. Compiled with technologies, I can enjoy writing and I don't sound like an ignorant baboon, (at least I hope I don't). In contrast, when I am forced to write things out by hand, I feel incompetent and my content is horrible in comparison. I am so focused on minutia that gets in the way. I may know the sounds of a word but not the exact spelling; spell check saves me. I worry about messy penmanship and how slow writing is and the ability to type saves me. Most of all, I fret over having to revise or "fix" hand written work, but word processing allows me the freedom to make mistakes with glee because digital edits are so much easier and efficient than complete re-writes! I would never share my thoughts in writing if forced to not use the many technologies available today. Voice to text is starting to grow on me as a tool for composition, especially on my phone. I know it is the voice to text feature that has enabled a dozen of my 70+ year old technology learners to finally have a written voice after years of hating technologies and/or the writing process. I am finding more instances of Google's voice feature helping my more elderly students every month.

To those that focus on the loss of the those vaunted "critical" skills, I would urge you to look back on the histories of growth and change in any field and how many skills have gone by the wayside in the process. Cursive writing is an example of one of those skills that may be reaching it's time for retirement as a focus of what is needed for good writing. This is an incredibly hard sell to give to many of the 3rd grade teachers out there that fanatically insist that cursive is still a life critical literacy skill. From a practical usage in today's society though, cursive is joining the ranks of hieroglyphics, short hand and even Latin. In fact, I would argue Latin is more important to know than cursive because the roots, suffixes, and prefixes are still used in most science and business vocabulary words. 

With the many tech tools and the availability of technology available today,  balancing the desired end goal vs the familiarity of skills one is used to teaching needs to be an almost constant conversation within education. If you want learners able to record their wonderful stories in written format, voice to text technology is a vital tool for many learners!

Hi Edward, thanks for such an enthusiastic and detailed reply! :-) 

I think the 'sacred cows' you refer to are an issue for me - you use the words 'threaten' to 'eliminate' which is indeed how I think some literacy educators feel about technology - this is what I mean by undermine literacy development I suppose. So, yes, what you've made me realise is that I'm not really talking about 'literacy development' in its broad sense; rather, it's the feeling that tech may be threatening the development of the lower level skills (spelling, decoding) that makes people wary. For the individual who finds writing a chore and a struggle due to difficulties with spelling, being freed from thinking about that to focus on composition, communication, style.. must be beneficial. But to get other educators on board and using this sort of thing more readily with learners, we need to either a) show them that it does in fact lead to improvement in spelling and decoding (ie after a period of time using voice to dictate  which or witch do I eventually get a feel for which is the right one?) OR b) persuade them that it doesn't matter anyway!  

So does it matter? I'm not sure. In a digital environment, and for digital inclusion, what matters is the end result - the product of your efforts - that you have communicated effectively, not whether you know how to spell the words or get Google to spell them for you. I'm guessing your older learners are learning technology - literacy outcomes are not the focus, right? 

In a non-digital environment you may still need to hand write and spell sometimes, but handwriting tends to be for less formal purposes, so perhaps correct spelling is not important?  I would think it matters more with reading than writing. We could use text-to-speech to have digital text read aloud but there are many everyday contexts when fluent readers absorb print almost subconsciously - signs and notices, stuff all around us. Text-to-speech doesn't help us with any of this so I would argue more strongly that decoding is an important skill to learn.   

The other thing is that adult literacy funding (in the UK at least) is tied to achievement of qualifications which require learners to demonstrate they can spell in a non-digital environment. So educators are not really free to decide that it's ok for a learner to skip the whole spelling or decoding bit and just focus on higher level skills.  But even outside of literacy education, I get the feeling there's resistance to the idea of using these tools unless you have a recognised disability that makes it unrealistic to type or read (or maybe you're elderly -  another protected characteristic). I feel people think low literacy is not a good enough reason. For example, I approached a local library to ask if we could get a simple, free browser add-on installed that would enable computer users in the library to have the content of webpages or emails read aloud. I had been supporting a gentleman who can read very little; we had installed it on his own laptop and it had made a huge difference to his confidence. The librarian pointed out that they already had a "V.I.P." computer with specialised screen reading software that they had purchased at great expense and special keyboard. She didn't seem to want to give any consideration to my idea. I went away feeling they only really cared about ticking an accessibility or disability equality box, and they didn't have any boxes that needed ticking for low literate people.  Also, I wonder if some low literate people themselves would feel it was 'cheating' somehow, or if there's still a need to be able to type depending on the environments in which you use the internet.  I have started to teach people to search the web by saying you can enter the search terms either by typing or by voice.  A lady who was struggling to type on her touch-screen tablet due to physical/manual dexterity issues thought voice was a fantastic idea and started to use voice search at home but wanted to try to type in the training session so as not to disturb others (echoing what another poster said about others not needing to hear). The gentleman next to her, whose difficulties were with spelling, felt he should "learn to do it the proper way" and did not want to explore voice search.

I've started to look for evidence of speech technologies having an impact on reading or writing ability, and also for evidence of whether they result in low literate adults making more extensive and more independent use of the web. Well, I've only really searched the literature on text-to-speech and reading so far. Just starting to look into speech-to-text and writing. And I think there's very very little been written about low literate adults using speech technology to support digital inclusion... but if anyone can point me in the direction of any theoretical or empirical works related to this topic, as well as sharing your own experiences, I would be really grateful :-)))

Jo, I appreciate your perspectives and questions. I hope I can address those questions you offered and add in a few thoughts to keep this discussion going. 

You offer great insight into how difficult it is to get teachers to "buy in". At first I was a bit worried that the only two options to get teachers in was to convince them that students would eventually get to those discrete skills or that those skills just don't matter any more. After reflecting on that, I think I am somewhat in agreement, but I would add that my focus usually is to pull back from discrete skills to see what the over all intent is. Then looking at the intent, explore the many ways to accomplish the intent and for each way we can then define the discrete skills needed. If the sacred, standard skills should be needed for specific ways of accomplishing the over-all goal, then I see no reason that individual should not dive into those discrete skills. I believe the philosophy of a one size/method fits all or even most is out of alignment with the many needs our learners have today. 

I would like to challenge the ideas about non-digital environments a bit. Specifically, you shared signs and printed texts in the world around us and how text to speech offers limited help with this. I would agree that the specific tool of text to speech does not apply, however there are other tools that do help in this instance. Google Translate now has a camera feature that allows you to scan any text and have it either read to you or have it translated into another language. This feature of reading English text aloud is not one that people readily associate with a Translation App, but the functionality is wonderful. On a side note, Google now has ear buds that translates over 40 languages in real time. Traveling abroad? Simply pop in your ear buds and you can understand the conversations around you. Of course it does not help the others understand your English, but that simply means they need their own set of ear buds, right? :) 

Funding formulas are out of wack with society outcomes and with our life needs changing almost daily, the slow litigation process that is involved in setting funding formulas is destine to be way out of alignment. As such, education organizations will constantly be forced to choose between archaic practice that some politicians were sold as "needed" vs the reality of what our learners and business owners share with us every day is needed for success. This is not a good formula for success and I worry that programs may end up having to focus so much on where the money comes from rather than what skills and needs our learners have. Definitely a deep topic and a problem that needs more conversation!

You library story is sad and unfortunately not unusual. I have encountered so many public entities that are very ignorant of options and resistant to even hearing that options exist. Those systems do break down, but the effort is strenuous and takes much time and persistence. I had a similar library experience and found some success by borrowing some technology to offer a small (6 person) training at the library. The training was centered around the productivity of a technology that the library had not wished to engage in. The participants got so much out of the session and I purposely designed the experience to leave them wanting more. This small group, as well as word of mouth started to pressure the library to offer these same services until the techie, that was ultimately behind the resistance and was promoting the ignorance, was approached and eventually capitulated. It was like beating a water buffalo with a feather, but it eventually got the desired outcome. I wish opening up options in peoples' lives were not so difficult at times!

 You shared social stigma of people viewing some ways as "cheating" and I think this is a clear indicator that education has so long relied on disseminating "the one right way" to do things for so long, that it is difficult for people to be tolerant of other means. We all need to work on expanding tolerance of learning options in almost every educational setting we are in today. One of the challenges faced by those addressing the American PIAAC poor test results (international testing how one uses technology to solve real life challenges) is in how to get learners comfortable with looking a situation over to best choose which tools and methods might bring the best results. Our learners are so stuck in picking from a multiple choice list which one right answer the test designer wanted selected. It has been difficult to "sell" to learners that multiple solutions almost always exist in life and many viable options are available. 

By the way, just in typing my response thus far, spell check has indicated I have had over a dozen spelling errors as I have been jotting down my thoughts. It just made me smile to see how many red squiggly lines show up when I write and yet, the finished product is so nice. 

You asked what context my interactions have been with learners in terms of content. I have many adults I support in literacy learning and I would like to share an example with you to help address some of your requests at the end of your post. A 58 year old man who was verbally literate but could not read or write started working with me over a year ago to learn how to read. He has only been able to spend 2 hours a week with me, informally on the weekends at the public library. I have been using many tools, mostly digital, over a year with this individual and it was the voice to text that finally opened up his ability to become an author. He has a rich life experience in the paving field and we decided that he could create an adult picture book for early adult readers that also shared what the career on the paving crew might look and feel like. He was so full of giggles as he read his story aloud for the first time after we were done. He still blushes and nervously giggles when he revisits it or shows it off to others that are struggling to read and you can feel the pride in his accomplishment. I offer a link here in case any wish to see his work. 

My parents are in their 70s and voice to text on their phone has opened up the digital world to them in ways computers, laptops and other devices could not. It may be that my elderly and low literacy students are not becoming proficient in the discrete skills so often focused on, but in this last year my students' lives have had options open up for them in ways they could only dream about. Perhaps after the euphoria of the freedom they are currently feeling wears down, they may feel embolden to tackle those pesky discrete skills, but I suspect they will do so with technology there to assist them even if it is just looking up some Youtube video describing "What the heck is an Oxford comma anyway?"

When I'm evaluating any technology or literacy skill, I try to do so in relationship to my learners' goals.  I think it's very important to remember that the true goal of our field is not to teach literacy skills.  Rather, literacy skills themselves are means to an end.  They are the tools our learners can use to engage with the world.  If a learner can effectively engage the whole internet using a screen reader or type emails using voice recognition software, then learning to use a screen reader and voice recognition software become equally as important as reading or spelling in those venues.  Just because it's the skill we've always taught, doesn't mean it's the skill our learners need.  Ed's example of cursive writing is the clearest example in our society I think, but spelling is not far behind.

Also, it's important to remember that in many of the most frustrating cases, spelling is not a skill at all, it's simply memorization.  There is no skill to spelling 'said', 'was', or 'of'.  In fact, the skills of phonics would have you spell those words 'sed', 'wuz' and 'uv'.  When the spell check is just saving you from lots of memorization of exceptions and weird cases, you're not missing out on anything but busywork.

Voicethread is a tool that allows you to create presentations with visuals and audio. A unique feature of Voicethread is the student's ability to post comments on a presentation in multiple formats (via text, or a phone/microphone recording). As an example, an ESL instructor could create a series of vocabulary slides and ask the students to comment on each slide with a recording. The presentation can be created in advance and used during classroom activities, where the instructor can help students one-on-one with their recordings, or as a practice opportunity outside of class.

Before you begin:

  • You will need to register on the Voicethread website. Free accounts allow you to create up to 5 Voicethreads with microphone and text comments.

  • You may need a microphone if you are using audio for a vocabulary lesson.


  • Open your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). Go to
  • Click “Register” in the top-right corner of the page. Fill out and submit the short form.
  • Check your email for the confirmation message, and click on the verification link in this message.
  • You can begin creating a new VoiceThread from any VoiceThread page by clicking on the “Create” button at the top.
  • You will be taken to the Create page where you will have different options to create new slides for your VoiceThread. Click the "Upload" button and choose your file type - either a file from your computer, a media source, URL, or even images or video from your webcam. Continue this process for how many slides you would like in your VoiceThread.
  • After uploading your file to your first slide, you will be able to add a title and description to your VoiceThread. Click the text that says "(Add a title and description)" to edit your title.
  • To begin recording text and voice comments to your presentation click on the Comment button located directly under Upload. Your VoiceThread should appear in the center of the screen.
  • You will then be able to choose between an audio comment using your phone, a video and/or audio comment using your webcam, an audio comment using your computer's microphone, or a text comment. You may add as little or as many comments as you prefer to your presentation. When you are finished with that slide, click the right arrow to go onto the next slide to edit it and record further comments.
  • When you have completed adding slides and comments to your VoiceThread, click the "Share" button located directly below "Comment" on the left side of your screen.
  • To copy and paste the direct URL somewhere or to send to someone, click "Get a Link" to obtain a hyperlink that will direct people that you share the URL with to your VoiceThread.
  • Once you have the link you can distribute the Voicethread to students or show it on a projector in the classroom.
Twine is an online editing tool that does not require any sign in or accounts or anything to access. This free tool allows one to create interactive stories. While the literacy applications are easily apparent, this same tool could be used to share the flow of processes in mathematics or science, it could be used to show hierarchies that demonstrate relationships, it could be used for creating timelines in the humanities, and one could even make a digital "Art walk" in which each path is the student results of a thematic unit.    Key points:
  • Free
  • You just need an internet browser - no accounts or signins
  • Students can easily share their work with you and each other and if you have a webpage the work is easy to integrate. 
  • Very simple to very complex choices can be created in these interactive products.
Cautions / Challenges: Because all work is stored right in the browser, anyone clearing history or purging their digital cookies will be deleting all of their work. There is a way to "save" their work and we may wish to encourage "save after every slide" practice to help ensure students are not loosing lots of work if technical hiccups should happen.    If you do try this tool, please share what you tried and how you feel it worked or did not work. None of us has enough time to find and test all the wonderful goodies out there in the world so hearing the successes or challenges we each find with tools can be helpful.