Though overwhelmed and overworked, music educators can juggle administrative and teaching duties better now than ever before with new time-saving tools. Cell phones and PDAs with telephone capabilities are the norm for busy people. But there are many more technological options to consider to lighten the workload. For this two-part series, I've selected some exciting tools to put on your Christmas wish list: business card management; voice-recognition-to-print software; optical character recognition; creative screen dumps, and multimedia file management.
Ever wish you could take care of administrative tasks while driving a car or flying in an airplane, without the hassle of transporting a computer? Voice recognition technology is in its prime and ready for you. New digital voice recorders fit in the palm of your hand and link high-powered voice recognition software to your computer. The accuracy, performance, and ease-of-use of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 voice recognition software by Nuance makes it a great solution for busy professionals. With the off-the-shelf version, which includes a headset microphone, users can dictate, edit, and control applications all by voice in programs like America Online, Mozilla Firefox, Corel WordPerfect, and Microsoft's Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Internet Explorer. Dragon Naturally Speaking can convert speech to text recognition at a speed of up to 160 words per minute. This software has proven itself in the corporate world and is ready for music educators. It is even possible to create special macro commands to perform complex tasks on the computer with a spoken word or phrase.
An additional factor that needs to be considered in tandem with speech recognition software is the selection of a digital voice recorder that has the correct audio file compression for Dragon voice-to-print software. Sony has created a family of digital voice recorders that save the audio files into a format conducive to accurate voice recognition. Dragon has also prepared a special version of their voice recognition software especially for portable digital voice recorders, and this software is bundled with a number of Sony digital voice recorder models. With the two together, recorder and voice-to-print software, you can dictate just about anywhere for automatic transcription at a later time. When you get back to your office, just connect your recorder to your PC-compatible computer and the supplied software can convert your dictation into text. The newer digital voice recorders by Sony can store over 100 hours of recording time. Whether you just want to make notes for yourself or boost your productivity, the pricing is a steal with four models varying from $39.95 to $69.95. The more advanced models designed to work with voice to print software are priced from $149.95. Busy directors can take care of school business at the office, at home or in between. If you have a support staff that can perform the voice to print process for you, you can even e-mail the files and have them converted into text without even returning to your office. I recommend investigating this shortcut at www.nuance.com.
Optical Character Recognition
For those of us that don't have a secretary, OCR (optical character recognition) is scanning technology that makes it possible to digitally convert documents and forms into many PC applications for editing and duplication. OCR technology has improved to the point that 99 percent accuracy is common. Not only is it possible to save documents in more than 25 formats including PowerPoint, Excel, and others for further editing, but by saving them in a PDF that includes PDF Create and converter, the documents can be posted on a Web site without having to worry about HTML formatting. The very best OCR software is OmniPage Professional, version 16 by Nuance. I have been a user since their version 7.0. The secret is not just in the scanning accuracy, but better formatting means better editing plus incredible speed. For documents with poor print quality, a scanner enhancement technology (SET) improves the quality of scanned documents, faxes, and copies. Straightening, despeckling, and color conversion ensure you get the results you require. Try OCR to to convert a lengthy band or orchestra manual to a word processing document and you will understand why this technology is a must have application for every office. And you don't need a high-resolution scanner for OCR work. A scanner under $100 is more than capable. Favorite brands include Epson and Canon because of their uncompressed TIFF files.
The latest release of OmniPage delivers a 27 percent increase in overall document conversion accuracy over previous versions and works up to 46 percent faster. With the addition of new parallel processing algorithms, OmniPage Professional 16 becomes the world's first OCR application specifically designed for a multi-core processor computer. The integration of PaperPort enables users to set up quick navigation links inside OmniPage that instantly jump to pre-selected folders when opening or saving a file to the desktop. PaperPort will open directly to the designated save folder, making it possible to see the converted document in context with the folder's other contents. PaperPort Folder Notes can even be set to automatically add important keywords and notations to PDF and Word documents for more robust indexing perfect for searching with all popular search tools including Windows, Yahoo, and Google Desktop Search. Digital cameras can be used with the innovative new 3DC technology that automatically adjusts for skew, waves and 3-D perspective. OmniPage is the first to support Microsoft XPS, which is the new "electronic paper" standard, much like PDF, for document sharing and archiving within Microsoft Windows. Convert PDF to XPS or vice versa. Believe it or not, OmniPage can convert from 119 different foreign languages! Visit the Web site (www.nuance.com/omnipage/languages/) for more details.
Time Management of Business Cards
Music educators develop an extensive networking system from their encounters with administrators, college recruiters, parents, travel and festival reps, sales people, and other professional contacts. And while business cards are the best connection, keeping track of them can be a losing battle. CardScan is a quick and easy way to catalog business cards into database management software, plus access them at any time with PDAs and cell phones.
CardScan is a dedicated business card scanner with pass-thru USB port connection. Once scanned, this unique database software makes the information available to view, edit, and print. No more wasting time and energy entering individual information for each business card. The scanning hardware is very compact, amazingly accurate and portable, powered by the computer's USB port. Their scanning software accurately reads the card and places the name, title, company, address, phone numbers, URLs, and e-mail address into the correct fields. Press the HotSync button and CardScan can synchronizes with a PDA or other third-party software such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Palm, Windows Mobile devices, iPods, smart phones, ACT!, Lotus Notes, GoldMine and other PIM contact managers.
CardScan consolidates all contact data (not just business cards) using drag-and-drop from e-mail, Web sites and other electronic files. It intelligently categorizes contacts, searches, sorts, dupes, prints labels, maps addresses and much more. There's even a free online back up to find contact data, access contacts from a browser by password, and update information. My favorite of their three models is their CardScan Executive, which is a full-featured contact manager and desktop business card scanner. It scans in just three seconds and even manages your international contacts because it reads French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. You can try it for 30 days, risk-free. For more info, go to www.cardscan.com.
Directors who make a Difference
Do you know a fantastic K-12 instrumental music educator who is deserving of recognition in SBO?
and tell us why he or she should be featured in SBO’s annual "Directors Who Make a Difference" report.