Dr. Dan Nickolai, Saint Louis University, iSpraak Developer and Director of the Language Resource Center
exercises for their students. This program was designed to eliminate the tedium and challenges educators face when evaluating recorded student audio. By using the speech recognition toolkit incorporated into Google Chrome, students can speak the target language and receive immediate visual feedback on the intelligibility of their output. Student speech is automatically evaluated and scored for accuracy against the instructor-provided text. Other than the browser, no special installation of software is required.
The process of creating a new iSpraak activity is straightforward. From the application website, you are prompted to provide your e-mail address, the language you teach, and a short text you would like your students to read. While not required, you can also provide an MP3 audio file to serve as a model. If you don’t include an audio file, iSpraak can provide native-like text-to-speech synthesis for supported languages.
Once you click submit to create your activity, the application will give you two unique links. The first link is to be shared with your students so they can access the activity you just made. The second link is a private link for reviewing student submissions and scores. In review mode, you can also run a frequency analysis to identify the most commonly missed words from the activity. The most problematic words can be reviewed in class, or be analyzed for research purposes.
Students begin the activity by opening their link in Google Chrome. Once they provide their name and e-mail address, they will see the main activity screen. If an audio file was provided, an embedded player will appear next to the text. If speech synthesis is available, a rabbit and turtle icon will appear so students can listen to the prompt at varying speeds.
Once the microphone icon is clicked, student speech will be displayed on screen in real time. When a student finishes speaking and submits the activity, a grade will be calculated based on a transcription of their output. Any mispronounced words will appear as links to Forvo.com, a massive online database of native speakers reading words in isolation.
iSpraak currently only works in Google Chrome (Mac and PC) and there is no support yet for mobile devices. Limited use of the application is free, though continued use does require your institution to purchase a site license. While in development, an institution-wide license covering all faculty and students costs $350.00/year for unlimited use.
You can find video tutorials and learn more about iSpraak here: http://ispraak.com/fm.html
Please let us know about your experience using iSpraak in the comment section below!