One of the most important tools you can possess is a good cassette recorder. You must use a battery-operated recorder (it is unsafe to string a power cord across an aisle in a classroom). Ideally this recorder would include a counter to help you find a specific place on the tapes. There are many uses one can find for these recorders:
1. Lecture Note Taking:
If you have difficulty taking lecture notes, you might find it useful to tape the lectures. This is also very useful if you have a lecturer who simply speaks too quickly for you to keep up. If you intend to tape record, you need to ask the instructor's permission before you do so. Virtually all instructors will allow taping, and some will actively encourage it, but you need to have this taping approved in advance.
If you have a verified disability that makes note taking a problem, we can compel a reluctant instructor to allow such taping, but we try to avoid this: such force tends to give the instructor an attitude that could be unfortunate. Generally it is best to discuss your intention with the instructor before you register, so that if s/he refuses, you can select a different instructor. If you are enrolled with an instructor who will not allow you to tape record, please do not argue the point. Please contact DPS and we will intervene with the instructor.
If you do not have a documented disability that makes such an accommodation appropriate, there is nothing we can do to force a reluctant instructor to allow you to tape.
When taping a lecture, try to take lecture notes if this is physically possible for you. If you do not try to take notes, your mind will tend to wander, and you will not get the full advantage of sitting through the lecture the first time. A major problem with relying on tapes of the lectures is that you lose the body language clues to the importance the lecturers may give; you also lose all the information written on the board. In addition, trying to take notes on a lecture you are taping will allow you to practice note taking without worrying about missing anything.
Having a counter on the recorder can be very useful. While taking and taping lecture notes, if you find yourself getting lost, you can look at the counter and see where on the tape you are. Simply write down the number on your paper and leave some room to fill in what you missed. Then try to get back into the lecture so that you do not miss anything else that is important. If you have written the number, you will not have to listen to the whole lecture again to get to your problem area (hearing the same lecture over and over can be extremely sleep inducing).
Do listen to the entire tape once and follow along with your notes, filling in any missing information and correcting any errors you have made.
If you are unable to take notes because of a disability, there is something you can do with the tapes to reduce the amount of material you have to listen to again. This technique is done most easily with two tape recorders, but it can be done with one. What you should do is listen to the lecture again, and when you hear something important, record it in your own voice, in your own words, on another tape. Many unnecessary things will be said during lectures (at least unnecessary from the point of view of knowing them for the next test), and if this excess information can be eliminated from the tape, you will have much less to listen to for test review. It is best to use your own voice because the language processing needed to do this will help you learn the material (using different language modalities is important in memory building). It is best to put it in your own words because all of us have different language structures and ways of thinking, and you will learn information in your own structure more easily than others; also, the act of translating it into your own words forces you to really think about the information.
If the nature of your physical disability makes it impossible for you to speak clearly enough to tape, the two tape technique can still be used to condense the material (you will really need two recorders to pull this one off). What you could do is listen to the lecture and then record significant ideas from the lecture tape to a blank tape directly, using the instructor's voice. This does not have the advantage of restating it in your own words and your speech modality, but it is a technique that at least means you will not have to listen to all of the lecture (and its irrelevancies) over and over again.
If you are going to tape, be careful to label the tapes so that you know what class it is for and what the date of the lecture was. If you do not carefully label, you will end up with a mass of unknown tapes. Also, just to be careful, do not erase any tapes until all testing on that section has been completed (including the final exam).
Also, be sure you have extra batteries with you just in case yours die in mid-lecture.
2. Listening to Prerecorded Texts:
Students with significant visual difficulties and some types of learning disabilities can qualify to get their texts on tape from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. If you feel you can qualify for this, discuss it with the people in Disabilities Programs and Services (DPS), and they will help you get the required forms.
If you do use these tapes, consider using the two-tape technique outlined in the note taking section to rephrase the information in your own words and condense what you have to listen to when reviewing (most visually impaired students also learn "speed listening" which allows them to listen to the tapes at an increased speed - with practice many people can do this to speed themselves up).
Once again, if you are unable to record in your own voice, you could do direct tape-to-tape recording to condense the information into a more useful format for test review (having to listen to an entire 800 page book the night before the final would create major problems).
3. Review for Tests:
One way some students review for tests is to further condense the information on the lecture tapes and the text tapes. If you do this, you would probably want to condense the information from the lectures and the texts onto one tape. This requires you to really organize things to get them to fit together.
You then listen to this tape every chance you get: cleaning the house, washing dishes, walking the dog, riding in the car, etc.
4. Paper Writing:
Many students who have difficulty getting their ideas on paper find that they can say those ideas. You may find that you can record your ideas and then write what you have recorded. This technique will not help your spelling and grammar problems, but it can at least help you get your ideas out.
If you think about it, there are probably many other uses for which you could utilize a cassette recorder. It is worth the investment.