Pet Peeve of the Week II – Dictaphones
I’ve long found Dictaphones in lectures inexplicably annoying. As devices go, they’re actually quite unobtrusive and once switched on, there isn’t any sound or other annoying attribute to contend with - unlike laptops. However, it’s the users of Dictaphones who are the problem in my experience.
To be fair, though, there are quite a few foreign students on my LLM course who make use of Dictaphones and I can absolutely see the merit in them recording lectures and seminars. I’d even go as far as saying it’s a good idea for those students whose first language isn’t English and who might be assisted by hearing the content back a second time.
However, there are a couple of UK students in two of my units who hold law degrees from the UK and who still record lectures and seminars. While I might be vaguely convinced to see the point behind recording lectures at this level, to do the same with seminars is a step too far. Are they so unsure of their note-taking ability that they need to record every single word verbatim? In a seminar where you have students piping up from all different parts of the room, it surely just becomes a jumble of discordant mumblings – particularly when people talk over each other?
The thing which really gets me is the ‘toing and froing’ of it all. Firstly, they traipse up to the front to ‘deploy’ their Dictaphones at the start of the session and then, if there is a break, they make another two trips up there at half time – once to turn it off and again to put the annoyance back on. Finally, once they’ve buffeted their way up there three times already, they then have the audacity to try it a fourth time to collect the damn thing at the end. The two students in question also strangely insist on sitting at the back of the room, meaning they need to squeeze past innumerable people each time they switch it on or off. On one occasion in a seminar (and to my immense satisfaction) when one of the two students to whom I keep referring went to place her Dictaphone at the front, the lecturer (who is known to be a little testy at times) snapped at her: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!??” When she muttered something about ‘recording’, the lecturer retorted with “WHAT – IN A SEMINAR??!!” She quickly retreated like a scalded rat.
Here’s the thing I’ve always wondered, though: who really gets the time to play back (and presumably take handwritten notes from) a recording of a two-hour seminar? It’s ridiculous. If you’ve been studying law for 3 years or so and are presumably conversant in note-taking, why create the extra hassle and work of recording seminars; technology is meant to aid you and save you work – not create more.