How many times have you had those "I wish I knew then what I know now" moments? For me, one of those moments really hit me when I started using dictation and transcription tools such as the Olympus DS-700 for work. Sure, it was a time saver, but it was actually most useful for accurate data gathering and preparing presentations.
It got me to thinking, "Man, I wish I had one of these back in college!" I'm a notoriously bad note taker. It's not that I don't understand the important stuff; it's that I'm such a slow writer that I was missing out on half of the lectures because I was writing down the other half. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, then pay close attention, because I'm going to share some very critical ways that dictation devices and transcription software can make you a better student, namely: note taking, group discussions and presentation practice. Let's take a closer look at each of these.
Recording and Transcribing Lectures.
Oh, the dreaded lecture hall! I much preferred smaller class sizes, but when you need to teach basic physiology to 200 people at once, what are you going to do, right? Let's just say that the sciences weren't my strong suit in college. I was a note taking machine, however, writing as quickly as a I could and doing my best to keep up. When I'd go to review my notes later, I'd have a bunch of random words and definitions without much continuity. In addition, my professor used to like to draw a lot of illustrations on the board, so I'd do my best to copy those illustrations, too. The end result was sort of a mess.
With a dictation device, however, I could have recorded the entire lecture and had that to go back to any time I found gaps in my notes. In fact, if I could have paired it with a transcription program, such a Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I could have printed out the entire lecture, word-for-word and gotten much more copious notes.
I was sort of a lone wolf in college. I much preferred to do assignments on my own rather than working in groups. Part of it was that, pass or fail, all responsibility fell on me. In group situations, however, it seemed that everybody had a different idea of how they wanted to do things... which leads me to the next thing I didn't like about group discussions. Have you ever tried taking notes in a situation where four different people are all trying to get a different point across? It ain't easy.
It can sometimes take hours for groups to reach a consensus. Over those hours, little pieces of information that led to consensus are revealed. When you can record the entire discussion, however, you have an accurate record of who said what and how the next steps should proceed. When you are relying on others to get a project done right, this kind of organization is very helpful.
Sooner or later, you are going to have to stand in front of a group of people and deliver a presentation. And, of course, we've all see those presenters who are just terrible. Their speech is full of "um"s and "you know"s and they speak in monotones that just make you sleepy. Here's the funny thing: they don't know they are doing it! In fact, you could be one of those people and not even know it.
The best way to practice giving presentations is to record yourself and listen to the playback. You would be surprised how often you say "um". You'll also start to pick up on other little idiosyncrasies in your speech pattern. As they say, knowing is half the battle. Once you have identified the parts of your delivery that need work, you can correct them and give a great presentation.
The above mentioned situations are just some of the more common situations. Students with different majors will naturally have even more specialized situations in which having an absolutely accurate record of events will greatly improve overall academic performance.