AAERT 2015 Conference
Technology - Friend or Foe?
by Lisa Dees
The debate over the constant transformation in technology as it applies to our day-to-day lives and our profession will never cease. On one hand, it can mean change and that could mean having to learn a new way of doing the same old thing, taking us out of our comfort zone. On the other hand, it could mean new tools making our tasks easier, more organized and less time-consuming. This year’s annual conference didn’t declare a winner to the debate, but it did give us more to think about.
Differing from our annual conferences of previous years, this year we had vendor showcases as well as a vendor hall where we could interact one-on-one with each of them. Each vendor was eager to share what was new and exciting, and how what they had could help make our work easier.
Technology isn’t just for computers anymore. Relax the Back was available to demonstrate to us just what you get when you blend technology and ergonomics. Available for hands-on use and purchase were chairs that perfectly adjust to the contours of your back, foot rests, back supports, and seat cushions.
A familiar face was Betsy Ertel with SpeedType showing us how using her product can save keystrokes and maximize our efficiency. SpeedType is a universal text expansion program for Windows. What does that mean for us? SpeedType works with any program that runs on a Microsoft Windows operating system. We are all familiar with the tools within Microsoft Word and Corel Word Perfect that with auto correct typos and allow us to use keyboard shortcuts for formatting and word(s) insertion, but imagine if you had a tool to bring similar features to all of the programs we use on a day-to-day basis. SpeedType does just that.
We were introduced to TheRecordXchange, an online workflow management tool guaranteed to reduce the amount of time spent managing our busy workloads. TheRecordXchange offers cloud storage for reporters and transcribers, lightning fast downloads, easy to understand dashboards with collaborative and communication tools creating a virtual work environment. The comprehensive demonstration delivered by Erik Lige detailed the powerful engine behind the simple-to-understand and use interface. Take all of the Excel Sheets, e-mails, databases and instant messaging products that you use now and package them all in one application. And did I mention that the entry level membership is free? Yes, I said it, free.
We were dazzled with demonstrations from various digital reporting and transcription software vendors such as FTR, CourtSmart, and JAVS, all excited to share with us their wares. There were systems set up in large courthouses with centralized locations for remote reporter operations as well as single use systems perfectly designed for the mobile reporter.
JAVS, known throughout the industry for their expertise in delivering high-end video and audio recording systems unveiled NoteWise, their new mobile recording platform with such features as automatic log entries for each microphone as it becomes active and their speech timeline presenting a visual indicator displaying to the user who is speaking and when.
At the end of the day, after all of the demonstrations and interaction with our vendors, I was reminded of something that gets forgotten in all the hype of new products and new features. Whether we are referring to the hardware or to the software that records every syllable of every word, they are simply tools. They are the mechanisms which we use to create the record. We, as reporters, create the record, and it is that record that our skilled transcribers use every day to create the transcripts.
Regardless if we are reporters in a courthouse either sitting in a courtroom everyday recording testimony or centrally located in a monitoring command station doing the same job, or the mobile reporter transporting and setting up his or her recording equipment from location to location, the record is only as good as the people who understand it and use it.
It is not enough to just click on a record button and assume that we are capturing a high quality record. It’s not enough to just say that you have multiple microphones placed in the room, and it’s not enough to say that I have this brand of recording software. It is our responsibility to know how all of the individual parts and pieces must work as a whole. If we do not feel that the audio that we as reporters are monitoring is the best quality it should be, then we must speak up. And if the audio that we as transcribers are typing is not the best that it should be, then we must speak up.
Tools are only useful, powerful instruments if they are used properly. It’s not enough to just have the tools. We, or the people responsible for them, must know how to properly use them. If we don’t know, then we ask; we educate ourselves. Seek the advice and opinion of the experts. Don’t just be the person who can show off the workshop full of expensive tools, but be the person who knows how to use them. Be the artist who creates the masterpiece. Be an integral part of a powerful team who creates a record worthy to be called the best, verifiable record of any method of reporting available today.
|Lisa Dees currently works for a national reporting and transcription company. She received an AA in Court Reporting in 1996. She has been a member of AAERT since 1999 actively participating in many committees. Throughout her career she has worked in both the official judicial and private sectors.