Sal McKeown's first clicks with 'Audio Notetaker 3' reveal 'a great product, soon to be even better'
The claim is bold: Sonocent's software solves the four problems of audio:
- Finding the important parts of a recording;
- Annotating your audio for future reference or to share thoughts;
- Concentrating on listening;
- Organising your audio files.
If you have ever been faced with a long recording of a keynote speech you will know how tricky it is to find that crucial sentence that you half remember. It is like working with an old cassette tape. You know the sort of thing: forward a bit, fast forward, rewind a bit, oh no not that far. By this time you have lost the will to live and forgotten what you were looking for.
Audio Notetaker is a software download from Sonocent that works on Windows and Apple Mac (iPad soon). It is a very clever piece of software. It provides a visual representation of speech. Pauses and silences are shown as spaces while words and phrases are coloured blocks. As you listen to the recording you can click the camera icon to take a screen grab of a PowerPoint slide or bring in photographs. You can split up the text even more by pressing the F12 key to make a new section or open a text box at the side of that section and type in a heading.
One of the delights of Audio Notetaker 3, the latest version for Windows, is that much of it is intuitive and anyone who has used recording software or a tape deck will know what to do. It is also very logical in the way that it lets users delete chunks, copy and paste or cut and move different sections. You can press Control and Space to start and stop which is good for those like me who work best with keyboard shortcuts .
Suddenly you have a voice recording which is navigable. So yes it does help with finding the important parts of a recording. It also has meta-tagging so you can 'keyword' the file and put in the speaker's name, the title of the talk and you can annotate the recording by putting your own ideas in the text pane.
Edit your text well and you can output your recording as a new 'podcast' audio file. If you are adept with placing your images and text you can save your production as a video file that can be used as a presentation or be shared or distributed. What you put in, in terms of both quality and effort, determines what you can get out. (Some users might also want a finer edit – ie edit right inside the sound 'blocks' themselves.)
That's why users need to remember that output is only as good as input. Things recorded via the computer microphone were of good quality and, for those doing serious reportage, they will probably use a digital audio recorder and import the files, or attach an external microphone to their laptop. I did get a really good quality recording from radio guru Russell Prue of Anderton Tiger Radio. but I needed to be more selective with YouTube videos, due to the quality of the original film clip.
I do believe that Audio Notetaker could become a good tool for developing speaking and listening skills in the hands of imaginative teachers but like many other good pieces of software it has come from the world of work, universities and the research community. These tend to be markets where users are skilled, confident and using it in a totally personalised way to capture interviews and make presentations.
Once you start wanting to do more creative things, you need some guidance. It needs activities and ideas that fit teachers' needs. Imagine using it for teaching Spanish to help with comprehension of a radio programme or annotating a Parliamentary debate for citizenship.
Sonocent has taken this on board and is currently working with a group of teachers and NATE (National Association for the Teaching of English ) to create a bank of lesson plans and resources Soon teachers will be able to see more clearly the possibilities of this very useful piece of software.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 4
Value for money 5
Audio Notetaker 3
New Windows version of audio editing software that is also available for Macintosh (iPad soon). A perpetual licence for Audio Notetaker costs £80 + VAT. Downloadable from www.sonocent.com/buy/. A special six-month licence is available from the site for £29.99
Sal McKeown is a freelance journalist. Her book, How to Help your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child, is published by Crimson Publishing. Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom, co-authored with Angie McGlashon, has been shortlisted for an Education Resources Award