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Audio recordings and podcasts serve a variety purposes in the classroom. They can support instruction by allowing teachers to deliver precise verbal instructions and capture lessons for archival purposes or future listening. They give students the opportunity to listen to instruction independently, without distraction (when wearing headphones), and at their own pace using play and pause features for as many times as is needed. Conversely, students can use audio to demonstrate their understanding of learned concepts, create instructional materials and tutorials for peers, broadcast classroom and school news, conduct interviews, and practice fluency reading strategies. Determining which audio and podcasting tools to use in the classroom depends upon your instructional purpose and on your audio recording needs.
First let’s look at using audio to support instructional delivery. One use of audio is to record the directions for an assignment or test which students will listen to. For this purpose you might use Microsoft Word’s “insert audio” feature to build the audio directly into the document. You might also choose to embed audio in an online Moodle quiz or assignment using Audacity. On the other hand you may be recording a series of lecture note, study casts, or lesson tutorials which are not directly tied to a single document or assessment but which you would like students to listen to for review and reinforcement. For these you may wish to use a podcasting site such as Podomatic or ipadio. Podcast recordings can be accessed by going directly to your podcast website, via RSS subscriptions and iTunes, or by embedding recordings on a class website or blog.
Student generated audio and podcasts can be facilitated using some of the techniques mentioned above but may also require additional considerations such as managing student podcast accounts, submitting audio recordings for review, and the degree of technical expertise needed to produce the recording. Using phones to create student recordings can be an effective method capturing student audio and requires very little technical training. Google Voice and ipadio both allow audio to be recorded using a phone. Students can also use simple online recorders such as Voki and Vocaroo. Other options include using the recording options on a mobile device such as iPod touch to make a recording and then e-mailing the recording to the teacher, student e-mail, or class blog.
Once you have determined your instructional purpose for using audio or podcasting you must also determine what audio elements are essential to making the recording such as the duration, ability to edit, as well as adding multimedia such as background music, images, text, or even geolocation. Most often you will want to create recordings which are brief and simple. This is especially true when assessing student audio because of the time required to listen to student submissions. An example might be when you ask students to record lesson reflections or exit interviews. In these circumstances, it is best to use phone or online recorders which limit the time of the recording, do not require editing, and make publishing your audio easy. The insert voice option in Microsoft Word is another example of simple audio recording. Students can use this feature to record smaller written samples to self check for errors and build fluency. If however, you know that you will be making a lengthy recording where editing mistakes, combining recordings, or adding sounds effects or music tracks is necessary then audio editors such as Audacity, Garage Band (Mac only), and Aviary’s online audio editor Myna may be good solutions. These tools are particularly useful for polished recordings intended to be published to wider audience or for culminating student projects.
Before learning about and using a particular audio recording and publishing tool you may wish to use the following matrix to evaluate which tool(s) best fit your instructional purpose and audio recording needs. I also recommend becoming comfortable with several audio applications. Relying on one application may limit your instructional outcomes or cause frustration if that application isn’t working, is discontinued or is no longer free.
In most cases you will need to either install software on your computer or create an account to begin using a podcast recording service.
Next you will need to use a microphone to make your recording. Many computers have built in microphones, but external headphones which you plug in via USB or 3.5mm jacks produce much higher quality audio. If neither of these options is available consider using a phone recording service such Google Voice or iPadio.
In most cases you will want to make an Mp3 audio recording. This is true for anyone who plans to share the recording over the internet or for use on Mp3 players. Many applications such as Audioboo, iPadio, Podomatic, and Vocaroo do this automatically. Audacity requires a small program called a Lame file to be installed. Microsoft Word’s insert audio can be used with the default .wav file setting or be changed to Mp3.
Finally, you will need some means of allowing others to listen to the audio file. Microsoft Word’s insert audio, the voice recorder option on the iPod touch, and files made using Audacity can be saved locally onto the computer or iPod touch they were created on and listened to directly on those devices. In most cases, however, the audio file will need to be hosted or embedded on a website, blog, or podcasting site which can be accessed from the internet. This has the distinct advantage of allowing students to listen to the recording from a variety of devices and locations. These services also make the creation of audio more flexible as they do not require the user to be on a particular computer or device to make the recording.
Overview of audio and podcasting applications
With these steps in mind the overviews presented below are intended to get a beginning user recording and sharing their audio. Advanced uses of each particular program or application can be explored through the support documents and video tutorials associated with each application.
Cinch.fm - my new favorite
Cinch.fm - my new favorite