At for Note-taking: Another Approach

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Examiner, Volume 7, Issue 3
July 2018

By David C. Winters, PhD


Dr. Dave's Assistive Technology Lab LogoWelcome again to my AT Lab! I really look forward to your visits, and today I want to tell you more about note-taking.

You might remember that we talked about note-taking during one of our first visits. At that time, we discussed a few low-tech strategies as well as some high-tech devices and apps. Well, since then, I have found a unique approach to note-taking. In fact, it is so different that I have been known to call it ear note-taking. It reminds me of Foss’s (2013) discussion of ear reading from several AT Lab sessions ago

For most high-tech AT approaches to note-taking that incorporate synched audio recording, we still need to write or draw something to be able to find the audio and/or written notes later. However, Sonocent ( uses a chunking approach to visually represent what the speaker is saying. As the app records the speaker, a line scrolls across the screen, parsing the audio into small chunks representing a few words or a phrase. It’s probably easier to show you, so let me demonstrate it on my smartphone. I started using Sonocent by downloading the free Sonocent Recorder on my iPhone, but there is also an Android version. I also downloaded it to my iPad. Even though the app is free to download and record, you will probably want to upgrade it (currently $12.99) since the free version only plays back the first five minutes of a recording.

Okay, I’ll start it up as we talk. Do you see the line moving across as I speak? And, there, do you see how it chunks my speech into units? Now, here’s a really nifty thing that I can do: By clicking over here, I’ve changed the color of the new chunks. Do you see that they are red now? That’s because I use red to show that something is really important. That way, when I need to study or check what someone said, I just need to go back and listen to the colored chunks. I can color code an entire class session, lecture, or meeting without having to write a single word! But with this smartphone/tablet app, I can do even more. While recording, I can type or write notes. I can also take or insert photos.

What’s that you ask? Oh, right! Classes and meetings can last an hour or more. And, yes, it would be difficult to sort through all of the visual chunks occurring throughout a whole meeting. Well, do you see this button right here? By tapping on it during recording, I am able to start a new segment. For example, if I’m in a lecture, I just start a new segment every time the instructor starts talking about a new idea or when someone asks a question.

Let’s stop the recording for a bit and listen to some of it. Do you notice that the speech is quite clear? That’s because the app boosts the volume of the speaker’s recorded audio, while removing some of the most common background noise. I have found, though, that I need to be careful to avoid covering up the microphone on my device during recording.

While using this smartphone/tablet app is very helpful, even more flexibility and options are available when we use the Sonocent Audio Notetaker app that works with Windows or Macs. You can get a free 30-day trial of the app when you download it. Be sure to start with this trial—remember Dr. Dave’s AT Lab Principle #4: Whenever possible, take advantage of a trial offer or lite version of an AT device or app. After the trial, you will need to purchase a license subscription for $99/year or $250 for life. Several options are available for schools and other institutions to purchase multiple licenses. By the way, before purchasing a license subscription for yourself, see if your school or university has an institutional license that you are permitted to use.

Now, let me transfer the recording we just made from my smartphone to the app on my Mac. There, it’s done. On this computer app, which we can also use to record if we don’t want to use our smartphone or tablet, the main screen has several columns. All the way to the right is the visual chunking of the recording with the color-coding I did while recording. The column to the left of that one has the notes that I wrote while recording. And the third column has the photos. I also can use a fourth column for documents, PowerPoint presentations, and things like that. In fact, I can upload PowerPoint slides before a presentation starts. With all of these options, I can tailor my notes to my own preferences. For example, while using this app myself, I have found that I really need to have some kind of written notes to scan when searching for specific information. But you might find that you don’t need any written notes. Another nice feature is that I can edit my notes and synched audio at any time. For example, I can take out parts that I don’t need as a way to streamline what I may need to review.

In addition, this Windows/Mac app has several features to enhance the audio recording. For example, I usually turn on the Click Reduction feature in the Audio Clean-up menu so that I don’t hear my typing during playback. I also like the Noise Reduction option. Do you notice the difference? The app also includes a Voice Shift feature that you might find helpful. And when I need a quick break, it’s fun to play something back at the highest voice shift, as it sounds like the Chipmunks talking.

I wish I had time to go through all of the features of this app. You will need to experiment with it once you begin using it. By the way, this app has numerous very helpful tutorials that you will want to try.

Oh! My! Is it really that time already? Well, we’ll have to stop for today. When we meet next time, be sure to let me know what you think about using Sonocent for note-taking. I’ll see you next time.


Foss, B. (2013). The dyslexia empowerment plan: A blueprint for renewing your child’s confidence and love of learning. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Winters, D. C. (2014, May). Dr. Dave’s AT Lab: Did you catch all that? Note-taking and AT. The Examiner, 3(5). Retrieved from

Winters, D. C. (2016, January). Dr. Dave’s AT Lab: AT for reading: Ear reading for everyone. The Examiner, 5(1). Retrieved from

More of Dr. Winter’s AT Labs:

November 2017 

AT for Reading: Reading by Pen

February 2017

AT for Reading: More Web Reading Options

October 2016 
AT for Reading: What About the Web?

June 2016
AT for Reading: Ear Reading for Everyone

March 2016
AT for Reading: Ear Reading for Individuals with Print Disabilities

September 2015
AT for Reading: Even More Alternative Strategies Using AT

June 2015
Reading E-Text: Alternative Strategies Using AT

February 2015
AT for Reading: Alternative Strategies using AT

October 2014
AT for Reading: Young Children

May 2014
Did You Catch All That? Note-Taking and AT

February 2014
Welcome to Dr. Dave’s AT Lab!

David C. Winters, Ph.D., Fellow/AOGPE, is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at Eastern Michigan University. He has been a classroom teacher, tutor, diagnostician, administrator, and tutor/teacher trainer for more than 30 years and is a member of the International Dyslexia Association Orton Oaks. He currently teaches courses introducing preservice teachers to special education; in addition, he teaches courses in instructional and assistive technology, writing, and assessment in special education for preservice special educators and speech language pathologists.


Copyright © 2018 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Opinions expressed in The Examiner and/or via links do not necessarily reflect those of IDA.