Using technology to support social sciences research

This is a ‘share the technology‘ post as I have stumbled upon a very quick method to transcribe interviews. As a small deviation form my original paper, I did a bit of  a presentation on this at the ALT-12 conference. It generated a good deal of interest.

Technology you need:

The process:

I recorded participant interviews using the Livescribe pen. This allowed me to both annotate and audio record. These recording are then saved as searchable PDF documents when loaded onto computer.

So the technology already imports my handwritten text into Word (with quite impressive results).

Next I plugged in the pen to ear phones and replayed the interview. Synchronously I spoke what I heard into Dragon Naturally Speaking (voice to text software) which types what you speak into Word – with excellent results. Because the audio recording is linked to written annotations on the digital player if I missed a bit, or misheard, I could easily replay it by tapping the pen on the relevant part of the page. The page also has control option (that you tap with the pen) to speed up, slow down or jump through the audio recording.

So that was that. I transcribed a 40 minute interview in about 50 minutes.

If anyone’s interested in the research,  Online reading practices and decision making processes in expert (PhD student) readers you can read a bit about it here.  The ALT12 presentation, Does technology enhance research processes in online reading and decision making practices? is here.


“I thought you would use prezi, PowerPoint is so 2005”

“I thought you would use prezi, PowerPoint is so 2005” wrote a lecture participant as a comment on Helen Beetham’s recent lecture at our university on ‘Making sense of learning in a digital age’.

PowerPoint vs Prezi?
PowerPoint vs Prezi?

This comment juxtaposes two kinds of presentation software, Powerpoint and Prezi,  and places them on a spectrum of ‘old’ and ‘new’ with the implicit value judgement that ‘old’ is bad, ‘new’ is good. But is that how we should judge technology? Or is the question rather: When is it best to use Powerpoint, what is it good for; and when is Prezi better to use?

Or in other words, for effective learning (and teaching) it is being critical about our use of technology that should count – exactly as Helen Beetham expressed in her guest lecture.

To me, Powerpoint as a presentation software is useful when you have a logically ordered talk that yields to a sequential presentation. Prezi, however works best when you have either a visual metaphor or arrangement for ordering your talk or when zooming in and zooming out has uses for your topic. Helen’s presentation worked in a way that she conjured up images, images of the haunted university, the constant scholar, which worked best as freeze-frame images – exactly the strength of PowerPoint. (Prezi would have worked only if she had a unifying metaphor of the haunted house and zoomed in into its various compartments.)

So thank you, anonymous commenter, you made me think critically about when I would be using PowerPoint and when I would be using Prezi in the future: the kind of critical digital capability that Helen Beetham talked about.

And if you are reading this blog, can you add either your thoughts on the above quote? Or the way you decide on a tool or technology when you do a presentation? How do you decide which tool to use?

Thank you,