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Digital dictation tools


Interviewing is essential to journalists. Preparation and engagement are vital to a good interview. But capturing the interview in a digital recording and then transcribing the audio is one of the most time consuming part of a journalist’s job. In this lesson, students will explore digital tools to capture and transcribe interviews. Students will experiment with apps and draw their own conclusions of what works, what doesn’t, and what might for their personal reporting workflow. Students should have a basic knowledge of the interview process.


  • Students will practice using their personal devices to record audio.
  • Students will practice with voice recording apps.
  • Students will understand “voice writing” or “parroting” and why single speaker voice is important for digital transcription.
  • Students will experiment with digital dictation tools and evaluate the use for the software in their reporting workflow.

Common Core State Standards



Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.


Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.


1.5 – 2 hours, 1 – 2 days


Handout: Digital dictation experiment

Slideshow: Digital dictation materials

Slideshow: Digital dictation

Materials listed on Digital Dictation Experiment worksheet:

  • Device for recording: smartphone or digital recorder
  • Default voice recording app on device
  • Voice Record Pro – available through iTunes
  • Voice Recorder+ – available through iTunes
  • Dragon Dictation – available through iTunes
  • ListNote Speech-to-Text – available through Google Play Store
  • Otter Voice Notes – available through iTunes and Google Play Store or online at
  • Transcribe – available through Chrome Web store or
  • Apple Dictation
  • Google Docs Voice Typing – available Google Docs

Rubric: Digital dictation experiment rubric

Lesson step-by-step

Warm Up — 5-10 minutes

1. Ask, “What are the challenges that come with interviewing?” Allow the students to popcorn responses. Most of the challenges they will come up with will be human nature—feeling stress, not sure what to ask, missed meetings, person didn’t have much to say. Follow up with, “What about time?” Time it takes to schedule the interview, time it takes to have the conversation, time it takes to transcribe? We are going to experiment today and see if we can use a digital time-saving solution.

2. Another teaser would be to use your smartphone and send a talk-to-text reminder to yourself in front of the class. Ask, “How can we use talk-to-text technology to help us with the reporting process?”

Presentation — 10-15 minutes

3. Show the Google presentation slide “Digital Dictation Materials.” These are the digital tools we are going to experiment with. Follow your school district’s acceptable use policy. Either have the students download to their personal devices before starting the experiment or have prepared on school devices.

4. Hand students the “Digital Dictation Experiment” project and have students divide into groups of 3-4.

5. Using the Google presentation “Digital Dictation,” walk students through a review of the interview process and the background for the experiment

6. Address concerns and challenges that come with the review and transcription of interviews and notes.

7. Review tips for better recordings for interviews when using smartphones or digital recorders. Here are some pointers to discuss during presentation:

  • User errors – easy to use apps, understanding the interface, plenty of storage, pre-testing equipment and external mic
  • App shortfalls – short burst recording, understanding adjustment settings
  • Environment where the interview is taking place. Minimizing background noise by controlling the environment and the proximity of speakers to the microphone
  • Challenges of talk-to-text technology – not designed for conversation capture with multiple speakers speaking at different volumes and pace. Talk-to-text voice recognition technology works best for a single speaker with controlled pacing and inflection. Technology to transcribe multiple speakers does not exist yet. There are transcription services that are for hire. These type of services are commonly used by doctors and lawyers.

Group Work — 60+ minutes

8. Give the students at least an hour to complete the experiment including time for interviewing, transcription and discussing results.  The objective of the Digital Dictation Experiment is for students to practice digital audio capture and experiment with the use of talk-to-text technology for the use in reporting. The goal of the experiment is develop practical uses of talk-to-text technology to help with reporting. There are no right or wrong answers to the experiment. Encourage the students to be realistic with their findings and if they can really see themselves using digital dictation tools.

Discussion — 15-30 minutes 

9. After students have completed the experiment, follow up with a class discussion of the findings and the conclusions they have developed. Use the Digital Dictation Experiment Rubric to evaluate their experiment.


 Have the groups develop their experiment into a presentation and present their findings to the class.

Have the groups model in front of the class their use of digital dictation and their method for successful talk-to-text technology.