Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2019
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Otter Voice Notes

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Create transcriptions on the fly with AI audio tool

Subjects & skills

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Speedy transcription, powerful tagging features, and flexible uploading make it easy to browse and review sound recordings.

Cons: As you might expect, automated transcription isn't perfect; beware of quirky results.

Bottom Line: A powerful transcription tool for folks on a budget -- just be prepared to check your work.

Otter Voice Notes can get spendy if you're using it frequently, so it might not be your go-to tool for recording yourself in your classroom or recording regular meetings. However, if you only need to record and transcribe a few times a month, this tool may be a great fit. Help student journalists use Otter to record their interviews with their sources or encourage them to upload sound files from other apps to the tool. Consider using Otter to record brainstorming meetings where you want to be engaged in discussion rather than focused on taking notes. If students use Otter to record a test review session or a study session, encourage them to export the text to another app like Google Docs or Microsoft Word so that they can annotate the transcript and continue to structure their thinking about the subject matter.

Share Otter Voice Notes with English-language learners (ELLs) and students with learning differences who might benefit from its features: Otter could be a good tool for recording and transcribing important meetings or test review sessions where it would be helpful to have a high-quality recording and some text to support it. Remember that Otter needs an internet connection to work its magic, so if you'll be out of Wi-Fi range, consider recording audio with another app on your device and then uploading the recording to Otter once you're back online. 

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Otter Voice Notes is a tool for transcribing audio recordings. You can record audio directly in the app or upload audio from other apps on your device, and Otter's AI technology automatically transcribes the audio. Once the text is transcribed, you can tag different speakers and make corrections to the text, and you can navigate your recording by tapping words in the transcript. The transcription will continue to update automatically, adding tags for frequently mentioned items and refining the text. You can export the text or recording to several other apps, and you can create folders within the app to organize your recordings. 

Otter is free to use for up to 600 minutes (10 hours) per month; more time requires a paid subscription. In addition to its core transcription features, Otter also offers collaborative features to let multiple users access and edit transcriptions. Premium subscriptions are available for $9.99 per month and up to 6,000 minutes of recording, and teachers and students can receive a 50 percent discount off the subscription price. 

It's definitely exciting to see Otter Voice Notes at work: Whether you're recording live or uploading an audio file, it's mesmerizing to watch the text appear on-screen, and it's especially appealing that tapping on any word in the transcription jumps to that point in the audio. It's also useful that you can tag different speakers and edit the text, and it's impressive that you can import audio and export text so flexibly.

However, as cool as these transcriptions are, they aren't perfect: Line breaks show up at strange points, and the tool struggles with non-American accents and with some complex language (think special vocabulary for science and other subjects). The results are usually accurate, but mistakes definitely happen, and reviewing and correcting the text may take some people just as long as transcribing might have taken in the first place. It's also a good reminder of the value of taking good notes: While it's sometimes good to have a complete record of an entire lecture or conversation, the act of listening and choosing what to write down is still a vital skill that helps students think critically and reflect on what they've learned. Overall, this is a cool tool to use periodically for recording and transcribing audio, but resist the temptation to use this as a go-to note-taking tool. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Whether you record new audio or upload from another app, it's appealing to browse your creation: It's like skimming through written notes or listening to a podcast.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Built-in tools for editing, tagging, and organizing recordings can enable students to think critically about what they've recorded and highlight the most important details, though fixing AI mistakes can take up valuable time.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The app launch screen includes tips and tricks and info about the latest app update, and the built-in help center offers useful advice.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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