Recording IEP meetings, part 2

13 Jun

Last December I wrote about my search for a good recorder for IEP meetings. I’ve had a little experience since, and I thought I would offer that.

I have now used 2 solutions. First, an iPod touch. Second, a Tascam DR-05.

The iPod touch was much more useful than I expected. It was handy. I had to put it in the corner of a fairly large room (in order to be near a power outlet) and I still got reasonable clarity. There are no settings on the iPod touch, just start and stop. What bugs me is that once the screen turns off, there is no feedback that the recording is going on. Also, I tend to fidget with the iPod during meetings (looking at pictures of my kid primarily). Not ideal if it is the recorder.

I’d like to say that the second solution, the DR-05, came after much comparison of features and quality. Instead, it came from a brief visit to the local Guitar Center. The staff were friendly, but unable to tell me anything that wasn’t obvious (like price, size, number of microphones, memory…).

Here are some features that work well for me with the DR-05:

A lot of space using the least compressed mp3 format (about 12 hours). I am paranoid of running out of storage. I also dread the fatigue of listening to over compressed sound for hours while transcribing. If I could feel comfortable about capacity, I’d use .wav format files.

Easy controls. Once the basic settings are in place (such as mp3 vs. wav, audio levels, etc.), the DR-05 is very easy to use. Push the on button and it boots in about 5 seconds. Hit record once to see levels. Hit again to start. Hit stop to finish. The only thing that worries me is the possibility of leaving the recording in the initial pause state where you check the levels. This brings up the next feature I like:

A little red light that shows it is recording. This is what bothered me about the iPod. I worry about getting to the end of a meeting and finding that the recording stopped for some reason and I didn’t know. With the DR-05, this isn’t a problem.

The DR-05 is a not the smallest recorder, and not the cheapest (at about US$100). The buttons are easy to use for me, and that beats a smaller size. Without the batteries it feels like a cheap plastic shell. Yes, much of the heft of the device is 2 AA batteries.

I put fresh batteries in before a meeting, so I can’t speak to the battery life other than it is more than sufficient.

Recordings can be transferred by a USB cable. Also, you can listen directly to the DR-05 with headphones (or with the built in, tiny and quiet speaker. I’d not recommend that for transcription, though). There is a feature to loop or to go back a set period of time (between 5 and 30 seconds, user settable) which makes transcriptions easier.

The sound quality was reasonable. I have to see if there are any important statements missed in the noise.

I considered using a netbook, with or without an external mic. This has the advantage that I already own them. But it seemed cumbersome and, well, a bit odd. The Tascam is big enough without being obtrusive. The iPod was OK, and I expect most smart-phones would do the job. I just find the worries I listed above to be enough to warrant spending the $100 on the dedicated recorder.


4 Responses to “Recording IEP meetings, part 2”

  1. Dianne June 13, 2011 at 12:53 #

    Have you thought about speech to text software to assist you with transcribing?

    • Sullivan June 13, 2011 at 19:54 #


      I’ve thought about it. I haven’t tried it yet, though. I’ve heard that for group meetings, programs like Dragon are not as good as they are with a single voice. Also, to go from recording to text takes the “premium” version of the software. Still, could be worth the effort if one has hours to transcribe.

    • Sullivan June 13, 2011 at 20:48 #


      here is a bit of the FAQ for Dragon Naturally Speaking:

      Q. Can I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe interviews or meetings?

      No, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a speaker-dependent system, meaning that it trained to recognize the voice of a single user and cannot distinguish speech from more than one speaker. People have no problem understanding both Aunt Grace, who has a high, thin voice, and Cousin Paul, who has a voice like a foghorn, because people can easily adjust to the unique characteristics of every voice. Speech-recognition software, on the other hand, works best when the computer has a chance to adjust to each new speaker. The process of teaching the computer to recognize your voice is called “training.”

      I read somewhere of a person using the Amazon Turk system to hire people to do transcriptions:

  2. Brian Morgan June 13, 2011 at 22:26 #

    What’s your budget? <£100 or greater? There are very good options. I use an Olympus LS10 but that may be OTT. LS 11 I think in market now. There are more budget priced Olympus models with voice activated settings, really good. Listened to playback from a friend's meeting recording today actually. Very suitable. Will get model number and price tomorrow.

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