So a new quarter is a startin’ and I need some thoughts

So as you may already know I am both an avid student of Gregg shorthand as well as machine stenography. Next quarter I begin my senior year of linguistics study at the UW. My conundrum is that I would traditionally use Gregg to take notes but now that I have my steno machine I’m presented with two options: take my notes in Gregg as always and then rewrite the notes later. Take my steno machine to class and instantly have a translation of all the shorthand + really effing good notes.

The complexity comes in when you factor the following.
1. I am faster at machine shorthand than Gregg. (180ish on machine vs. 90-100 Gregg)
2. Gregg is hell of a lot of convenient and less conspicuous. (I dont have to lug in stenography equipment and setup a realtime feed on my laptop — tripod, cables, and all) And thus won’t have to worry about awkward glances especially if I am called upon to answer a question or we break out into group discussions.
3. With Gregg I am forced to reread the material but on the machine I would be going over the entire transcript any way as a court reporter would to edit untranslates and correct any slops.
4. I am going to be doing academic CART (captioning) for deaf and HH, so it would be basically an exact simulation of what I will be doing day to day if I take the machine.
5. Some friends have expressed their interest in purchasing PDFs or Word formatted documents of the lecture transcript.
Decisions Decisions.
Also, I don’t want my Gregg to go to crap just because I’m using machine steno as my only form of stenography. Blarhgsdgh.

 (by Stan for
group greggshorthand)
22 comments Add yours
  1. Tough call!

    But you make it sound like you only have one class. I wouldn't be surprised if after the first week or two you had a good idea of which classes have a lecture style and classroom more conducive to equipment vs the stenopad. I would hope that you can end up with a good back-and-forth rhythm across the week that would really burn in both skills.

  2. You can't put off your education another few years until the steno machine has the laptop built in?

    Do you need the tripod? It won't be perfect without it and you won't reach tops speed, but everyone else makes do with laptops on the regular desks.

    I'd say it depends on the class, what else you have to lug around that day and whether your classmates are relying on you.

  3. One point I'll throw into the mix. Processing the information obtained during a lecture in several different ways helps to take it in and reinforce it in the brain. We were told from childhood: If you want to remember something, the first thing to do is write it down.

    Stage One is obviously just the hearing phase—input.

    Stage Two is the immediate output of the same information. Now this stage can be thoroughly achieved either by shorthand or the machine.

    A subsequent stage of course consists of the careful study of the longhand transcript.

    But shorthand requires an additional phase prior to this: Transcription at the keyboard. If this seems like an added hassle, it surely provides another mode of processing the information which can only impress the material in the mind on a still deeper level. Then we can study the longhand transcript. I would ask whether this additional phase might not be more productive than merely proofreading a machine transcript.

    BTW, this also points to the lesser advantage in using an audio recorder, which supposedly has made shorthand in the classroom obsolete. Leaving aside the hassle of having to type straight from a recording (if they even bother), this method provides fewer modes of processing—you're hearing the lecture again, which you did already. (To wit, it's a great idea to record it and listen to it multiple times, but what an unfortunate loss when this replaces other forms of processing.)

    For most of these students, the only immediate output processing will be notes in longhand, which is vastly inferior. And when audio word-recognition software is more fully perfected, lazy students won't even type it out themselves anymore, losing even that form of output processing.

  4. Also, transcribing shorthand notes at the keyboard is both an input and output process, which would seem to give it an added value. And Stan could perform this phase at rocket speed—by transcribing on his steno machine. Whoaaa . . . talk about really maxing things out!  :-O

  5. Gregg Shorthand, all the way. I think trying to make verbatim notes will become a distraction over trying to actually process and condense the information you hear. And for the transcription part, how will going over all the fluff and filler in a lecture help when what you need is the salient info?

    The second point is when I caption a show and am flying along at 225-300wpm, do I remember any details at all when I'm done? No, sir! I'll remember for example "oh there was a story about a home break-in" but all the details are absolutely not there… It simply takes too much concentration to write accurately at those speeds for me to retain the info on top. Doesn't sound like the best idea when you'll be tested on said information 😉

  6. I'm speculating, because I don't know how machine stenography compares to GSH, but I would think in a lecture situation, you would be getting more conversational speech, i.e., off the top of the lecturer's head. The content would be planned but the actual verbatim would be more informal. In that sense, I would use the steno method that happened to be a little more rusty at the moment. But more challenging would be to sit down and transcribe something like the news, which is copy, and has been edited and read. Newsreaders have a very regular pace (some faster, some slower) and you can almost measure your progress by how well you're keeping up with a particular reader. For example, Brian Williams on NBC nightly news is on the slower side. Maybe even the news is easy for you now, though.

    I like the text to speech software like NaturalReader that lets you put any text in that you want and play it back at different speeds. It's a little artificial, but the nice thing is you can find a text with a great variation of words to challenge your recall. We hear a lot of the same words in everyday speech, but the written word usually contains a greater variety. Do you have an Lit. classes? Those professors usually have great vocabularies.

    I studied linguistics in college too. It was a great course.

  7. Seems to me you have yet another option: take notes in GS and don't transcribe. Most of the note-taking I do I do in GS exclusively, and then refer back to my GS notes as needed. Unless you specifically need to transcribe your notes — e.g., if you intend to share them with someone else or you're not sure you'll be able to read them in future — then why bother?

  8. Wow, thanks for all the responses.
    Skoozey, I know how many people are in each of my classes and the buildings that they in. None of them are super large and I've had classes in the buildings before. Most have ample space and are not super crowded. So I know bringing the machine won't be *THAT* much of a pain as far as a moving around or having enough space to do it goes.

    Cricketb, they do have that already. What I don't have is the $5000 yet. http://stenoknight.com/demo.html or http://stenograph.com (the diamante). And my machine isn't that big but it is certainly more than having a small bag with just a steno pad in it.

    Greggstudent, damn right any GSH transcription would be rocket speed. Maybe I could just take my steno machine but just save it for the library and just pound out my notes into word like nothing — if it really does end up being a huge pain in my ass to go to class with steno machine.

    Erik, I actually feel like I retain better when I use my language processing centers. When I was learning biology I would mindlessly scribble as fast as I can whatever the teacher was saying and that would actually INCREASE the amount that I remembered. But then again I might get distracted and miss a few things if I don't have a word in my dictionary or something. I tend to reach over and define on the fly rather than keep going with some annoying raw steno looking me in the face. I'm OCD like that.

    Trace9r, but with Gregg you could still summarize the information — MUCH quicker than my neighbor but I guess GSH would force you to understand what the hell the lecturer is SAYING vs. say waiting on my steno machine for the teacher to get over the filler and garbage: "hm, I was gonna mention an article, actually you guys have that on the course website, nevermind" — because I would totally sit there and actually write that out as he went. Sort of goes back to what Erik said about mindlessly mechanizing the whole process rather than being a student in the material.

    librum/mcbud, for some reason I tend to fair better AFTER the fact — after I have written the notes, if I write them out in regular longhand either by typing or writing. For some reason I tend to not retain material directly read from GSH. Though there have been times where I didn't exactly remember a term and I could refer back to the outline in my head. Sometimes during a test I would look up and start tracing the word with my finger in the air if I don't remember it. The sound/phonetics of GSH usually make my answer pretty obvious :).

  9. My father is convinced that there is no need to type faster than 25wpm or so. He claims he can't think faster than that. He's stubborn that way. In part, though, it's the way he was trained as a kid. Either write a messy draft and then a neat one, or buck the system and learn do it all in one pass (which he preferred). I remember in grade 8 realizing that my brain was slowing down to writing speed. It was neat, not having to think and then write.

    As for not retaining material you've read in Gregg, I suspect it's because Gregg is still a second language. We're as fluent in written English as in spoken English because we've gotten much more practice. Our teachers say that until about age 8 or 9 we "learn to read". It's only about age 9 that we start to "read to learn". We spent hours every day in school learning to read and then practicing by reading in every other subject, compared to maybe an hour a day if we're lucky on shorthand.

  10. ….Or if you're insane like me. I practice machine steno 6-12 hours a day since it is still summer. So I probably managed to get in what would be a year's worth of training for a "normal" stenography student in a mere 5 months. Mind you I got a lot of practice last year in GSH as I did my notes and study entirely in it. But I'm also OCD about having a notebook full of beautifully formatted and perfectly put-together looking notes. Sitting there, alternating caps and using highlighters and different colored pens.

  11. Actually except for the weekends and the hour or two I spend at the gym every other day, I'd say all my waking hours right now is devoted to memorizing as many briefs or as humanly possible and I've gone from pecking at my machine last May to now — at which point I can keep up with Eminem with a few rounds of practice. So probably on a good day like 12-15 hours. Probably even 18 on some days.

    This is still a huge debate for me. I go back to school shopping today. Maybe I will get both a nice new tech travel bag as well as a couple good notebooks and a bottle of ink.

  12. @mcbud: Haha they probably would. But no one pays you to know Gregg – at least around here. But I want to be financially independent more than anything right now. Literally, anything. I've given up so much of my summer to getting my speed up to almost 200 wpm and I still it was well worth the effort. I see so many of my more privileged friends take off to Europe for the summer or Japan — anywhere but Seattle. I want to be able to do that. Albeit in my case I will be entirely self-funded. So it's a strange mixture of anger, envy, and frustration that sort of fuels my drive to succeed. And once I get into that mode, I fall into a hole where I practice and practice for HOURS and HOURS. Then I look up and it's 6AM — How did that happen?

    But anywho. I forgot to mention to Erik: I won't be under pressure to produce a verbatim broadcast captioning quality transcript. So I suppose I could do the same thing as anyone else but just get a ton more down on paper; or in this case on my harddrive.

  13. I completely agree with duckfiasco. When I took notes in college and used shorthand, I didn't take verbatim notes — I condensed the information for studying. In class you're supposed to pay attention and internalize to what the teacher is saying. If you're taking verbatim notes, you're not really paying attention to the teacher — you're just mechanically putting words to paper, and then you have to go back to reread the lesson and restudy, which to me is a waste of time. What if you have a question? You're letting the active participation part of the lecture experience go away if you do that.

    I had a small recorder if I needed to go back to a specific part of the lecture. I never transcribed my notes, unless someone asked me for them.

  14. Okay . . . it sounds like I'd better retract my crack about "lazy students"!  😉

    Seriously, I thought that when I typed up my pathetic longhand notes, that was standard procedure. But then I'm not the brightest bulb in this chandelier; learning anything is a difficult task for me.

    But actually, I'm encouraged by what duckfiasco and Chuck said. It sounds like, when I become a competent shorthand writer, there will be benefits in educational pursuits I haven't yet contemplated.

  15. I loved it when we had "Bio Trivia" in which the prof would, at the end of the lecture, post a bio trivia question. Something like, "Among the mollusks there is one species octopus within which the females are 300x the size of the males and the males rip off one of their own semen-drenched tentacles and deposit it into the female. Blah blah… What is this species called? Why do you think they evolved that way?"

    So the students were divided down the center line and put against eachother and the next class if you answered the bio trivia correctly your team got a point. The winning team got points on the final.

    I loved that the prof actually cut the bio trivia portion out of the videocast that you could download so that you couldn't not come to class and still get points. So naturally at the end of class everyone is SCRAMBLING to get the 4 – 6 sentences long bio trivia question.

    Guess who always got up and walked out first :). *scribble scribble swish swish dot dash* "Oh – you guy's still workin on it? I'll see you tomorrow.

    They all glare. Gregg: 1 / Long hand: 0

  16. Not sure I agree with you with your point on the second language. I can speak fluently three languages, and have no problem retaining things in my brain in any of those! I do agree though, that it is a matter of practice, period. The more you practice something, the better you get at: it's as simple as that. Plus you have to be willing to learn.

  17. I only recopied my notes when they were messy, which was rarely, although I would often summarize and index them. I never typed them. Being an engineer, we were usually allowed our text and notes, although sometimes it was "one page of your own notes". Some classmates spent hours at the photocopier reducing their entire year's worth of notes rather than reading them. I found the process of deciding what was important to put on that one page was a great way to study.

    In hindsight, I used something like Cornell notes, although not as formal. It depended on the prof. Sometimes I left extra room in the margin for pull-out points, sometimes I put worked problems in a separate section from the theory.

    In grade 12 the teacher insisted we take lecture notes in full sentence form. We needed practice in writing proper sentences. I told him that my lecture notes were for my personal use, not his, and besides they were in shorthand. (Not very good shorthand, but enough to make the point.) I was getting straight A's, so obviously didn't need to practise writing proper sentences (which was his excuse for asking for full sentences). If he wanted full-sentence notes then I would consider it an assignment, not "my notes". He only asked for them once, and his only complaint was I used abbreviations instead of writing out the long names.

    Love the trivia question method!

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