Audacity is an open-source, cross-platform recording device that is free for download and applicable for multiple academic purposes. Though Audacity is the program I’m reviewing, I don’t recommend audacity over any other sound recording program. Below is an image of the Audacity interface, and below that is an image of the Garage Band interface:
If you look closely, you will notice that for all basic purposes these interfaces have the same capabilities. They can record, stop, pause, fast forward, rewind, manually edit by cutting and pasting, and can export files in multiple formats. Garage Band does come with many sound effects and filters built in, but for most academic purposes, these are unnecessary. In short, I champion Audacity not for it’s superior recording capabilities but for it’s accessibility.
Audacity for the educator
As a teacher, a sound recording device can serve multiple ends. The time it takes to arrange for guest speakers can be difficult given that many of these individuals may not be available during the hours a class is held. With such an accessible device, an educator could collect numerous interviews and save them for the future to apply to lecture at his or her convenience. In addition to the convenience of gathering guest speakers, a tech-savvy educator could introduce their students to alternative ways of reaching people with their views and information. An entire class could be taught via podcast, which is both fun, convenient, and fresh for students so used to conventional lecture.
Audacity for the student
Many students can attest to the difficulty of taking notes and retaining information simultaneously. With the help of a sound recording device a student can pay closer attention to the concepts their professor drives home and still have a free note-taker for review. In addition to this purpose, students can assist each other when they are unable to make it to class. Sending an mp3 file to a friend with an illness helps them get the most out of their unfortunate circumstances. Finally, in the case mentioned for the educator, a guest speaker who a student may only have access to for one day can be stored forever for future use.
Audacity for the researcher
What I would argue is the most useful purpose of Audacity (and all sound recording devices) is the oral history report. When doing research, gathering textbooks and primary sources can be an overwhelming task. However, the best primary source a researcher can utilize is person with first-hand experience in your topic. When writing a research paper the traditional way, a tremendous amount of original thought and wording is necessary for scholarly value. However, with the oral history report, the researcher must simply record and transcribe what was said. This process can be tedious, but the majority of the work is done verbally and requires far fewer in-text citations. Example; oral history report: