Toys of the trade
February 18th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.


I will be giving a presentation on tools for research tomorrow at Western Connecticut State University.  I am going to do a little show-and-tell.  This picture represents the essential (and perhaps not-so-essential-but-boy-is-it-nice) gear for educational research.  The products I selected where what I deemed the “best” at the time. Best sometimes referred to price, sometimes quality, sometimes availability. 



Second monitor

It is so much better to be able to have multiple files open AND visible at the same time.  The setup is particularly simple with a laptop


Eee netbook

A small, inexpensive ($350) laptop that goes anywhere.  No optical drive, no speakers, small monitor, 4 USB ports, 120G hard drive, 1G RAM


Traditional laptop

I keep a wireless mouse and a wireless number pad close by when using this.


USB 2.0 cable

I keep one in every laptop bag I have and at every computer.  You always seem to need this to connect devices into the computer.


Cell phone

A critical feature to my cell phone is that it has a jack for a wired headset.


Mini recorder control

RadioShack Part 43-1237 ($14.99).  Allows me to attach a recording device to a standard corded land line telephone


Wireless phone recording controller

RadioShack Part 17-855.  This is currently not listed on the RadioShack website, but I used it in conjunction with my cell phone, when a land line was not available. 


IPOD Touch

Great for listening to files.  There are microphone adaptors for IPOD classics, although I have not used this technology.


Digital camera

I am very partial to Canon products, but everyone has their favorites.


Digital voice recorder

Olympus VN-4100PC.  Very cost-effective option.  Be sure that you have a USB 2.0 connection on the voice recorder.  Some are stand-alone units.  YOU DON’T WANT THAT!  Current model is the VN-5000.


Digital voice recorder

Sony ICD-MX20.  This was the highest rated voice recorder when I began doing my work.  Although it was pricy ($300), I found it worked extremely well.  Be prepared to buy an mini-SD or memory stick.  Internal memory tends to be small!  Current model is ICD-MX20R9.  My recorder came with great software for my transcription work: Digital Voice Editor.


Flip Video Camcorder

Low (web) quality video recorder.  Runs on batteries, has a built in USB that plugs directly into the computer.  It is SO easy to use.


Wireless presenter

Targus AMP03US.  So maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but this is just such a great little gizmo.


External Hard drive

Back up, back up, back up. This one is a Western Digital 320 G.  So easy.  You just have to remember to do this OFTEN.


Flash drive

We all have one, get another and back up!  They really are so reliable. Sue Shaw ran hers through the laundry and it still worked fine.


Voice-to-text recognition software

Dragon Naturally Speaking is the Cadillac product.  I used Version 9 – New version 10 is available.  You still have to significantly edit your work and it takes a while.  I ultimately decided that I typed fast enough to do my own transcription using Digital Voice Editor software.  Dragon software took about 4:1 time to edit.  When I started transcribing, I was about 6:1.  By the end, I was under 4:1.


I would be remiss to not recognize my wepage provider, BlueHost.  Some of the best prices, but more importantly, fantastic service and techical support:


I currenlty employ:  Two WordPress Blogs (http://appliedscienceresearch.labanca.net; http://problemfinding.labanca.net), LimeSurvey (http://surveys.labanca.net), MediaWiki (http://practicalstats.labanca.net), as well as my homepage (http://www.labanca.net) which I construct on DreamWeaver (part of the Adobe CS3 Suite).  Surveys for my dissertation were orgininally hand coded in HTML and PHP, but I wouldn’t now think of using anything but LimeSurvey.


Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Discourse is, of course, always welcome!

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