Monday, November 15, 2010

A teacher’s guide to using audio and podcasting in the classroom

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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.
The basics
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. - my new favorite


Unknown said...

My students are working in Audacity, learning to editing audio. Does iPadio or do any of these others allow for bringing recorded audio into Audacity? We have a very limited number of microphones, and need some options.

Unknown said...

Good question Deanna. ipadio or Google Voice might be good options because they allow you to make the recordings using a phone (Class phone, home phone, or cell phone). Both allow you to download the recording as an Mp3 which can then be edited in Audacity. Google Voice recordings are limited to 3 minutes in length but allow you to use a local phone # (Better for school and home phones). ipadio are up to 1 hour but use a long distance phone # (better for cell phones). You may want to create a class account which students a can call and then copy the file to their network drive, e-mail the file, or use a flash drive to copy the file to the student's workstation.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Kit. It seems for iPadio you must have iTunes downloaded. Is there another option? I am very new to this!

Unknown said...

I did find out how to download my recording and bring it into Audacity. Once you click "Edit" you scroll to the bottom and click "download", then save, don't open. Then I was able to open the file in Audacity. I'm excited that my students will have another way to record for their project!

Unknown said...

That's great Deanna. Also, you should see a persistent download button if you are logged into your ipadio account. Click on this link to see an image show what this looks like.

John R. Sowash said...

Very thorough post, Kit. I would second your recommendation of Google voice for a quick, easy way to record and share messages. Recording via Google voice isn't as sophisticated as some of the other tools, but if you're looking for a quick and easy way to share a message, it's a great option. Podcasting through Google Voice is one of my "Top 10 Google Voice Tricks" You can ready the other nine here:

ohradiogirl said...

Great post. Lots of good info. I don't know if you overlooked SoundCloud as an option. It's an excellent platform w/many options including online recording (I don't know if there's a recording time limit). You can add Creative Commons licenses too.

There is a limit to the amount of space for each user, but if you ask them, they should be willing to give you and your students more space depending on the projects.

Unknown said...

Hi Ohradiogirl, I recently learned about and, both of which seem to have great potential as podcasting tools in the classroom. I hope to update this post at some point in the future as I learn more about these applications.

Gulnoza Alijanova said...

Hello Kit Hard. After many years i found your post and used it for my reading log. Your post is really useful for us. Because I'm a student and I believe that your post will help me during my study and projects. Thank You very much.

Gulnoza Alijanova said...

I liked your comment Orhadiogirl. You also gave a useful information of one more option which can be helpful for students like me. Thank you guys.