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Administrative Note-Taking Hack

Paper PilesAdministrators and educators are often recording notes describing incidences that occur on or around the school. The process of constantly writing notes can be a tedious but necessary process.

This little administrative hack facilitates a more efficient use of time for any professional. The administrator makes use of Ontario Ministry licensed software (OSAPAC) and a digital audio recorder in order to speed up the note taking process.

What You Will Need:

• Dragon Naturally Speaking 8 (speech to text software) installed on your computer (this software is licensed in Ontario for all schools)
• Digital Audio Recorder – (The recorder must record in 16 bit .wav format and download to your computer via USB, for example Olympus VN-960PC or a PDA)

Step 1 – Training Dragon Naturally Speaking

In order to use speech to text software you will need to train Dragon Naturally Speaking to recognize your voice.

1. When you start Dragon Naturally Speaking for the first time in will set you up as a new user. Enter a username and select your dictation source from the dropdown menu.

2. You will be prompted to ensure your microphone and sound quality is correct.

3. You will read aloud several passages that will train the software to your voice. The longer you spend training the software the more accurate your speech to text transcription will be. The program will also scan your documents and email to get a sense of your writing style.

Tip: Start with about 20 minutes of training and then test for accuracy. If there are too many errors train the software again.

Step 2: – Record Your Audio Notes

Use the digital audio recorder to record your notes on a sample incident. Be sure to include time, date and who was involved in the incident, before you begin dictating into the recorder.

You will need to use the Quick Reference Card when referring to punctuation in the format of your audio notes.

Step 3 – Download Your Audio Notes

Your digital audio recorder will create a .wav file based on your audio notes. You want to download the .wav files from your recorder on to your computer. The process usually takes less than a minute.

Each digital audio recorder is different. You must look at the manufacturer’s instructions in order to complete this step.

Step 4 – Transcribing Your Audio Notes

1. Click on the Transcribe button when you are ready to convert your audio notes to text.

DNS Screen1

2. You will see a pop-up window that will ask you to locate your audio file. Select “Audio File” and the “Browse” button and locate the .wav file on your computer, and the “Transcribe” button.

DNS Screen2

3. Dragon Naturally Speaking will open the file and start transcribing your audio notes.

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4. Once the transcription process is complete you can edit the notes. If you would like to hear what was actually said, you can highlight the words, right click, and choose “Play That Back”.

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5. You can then do what you need to your typed notes – print and/or save them on your computer.

Tip: If you are doing this for the first time start with a short audio clip. After you understand the process you can transcribe hours of audio notes with much more efficiency then writing them out.

Please share any tips or methods that you use to speed up note-taking of school or class incidents.

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  1. September 6th, 2010 | 3:48 pm

    This is a truly critical task for teachers to keep up with, and I love the idea of using a voice recognition software program to make the task easier. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking for my own work, and it speeds up my work quite a bit. There are so many instances when a teacher needs to document something: a conversation with a parent, meeting with an administrator, the behavior of a child, a conversation with a colleague, and so many others. By recording it during it down time, such as during a planning period or another quick moment, the teacher will record the information while it’s still fresh in his her mind.

    Waiting too long after the fact causes errors that can be detrimental later on when the documentation has to be used. Teachers should also always keep a small notebook and pen with them to record notes about an event if they are unable to get a recorder quickly enough. This is really crucial when having to record the number of times a behavior occurs or what a child says. With the liability that teachers often face, documenting is an important skill to learn. Thank you for your post and great idea on this subject. I encourage all teachers to document regularly, as it can also help to find patterns in a child’s behavior.

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