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Favorite Free Online Tools for Educators – Stepping up to “the challenge”

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Edublogs logo

If you’re not following Edublogs’ Teacher Challenge: 30 days to using the best of the web’s free tools for educators, I think it’s a discussion you’ll want to join! The Challenge format is a great way to organize, archive, and share the many ways teachers are using web tools to engage students and extend learning.

Having stepped up to the challenge when there are already 17 fabulous challenges posted, with many of my favorite tools (e.g., VoiceThread, LiveBinders, Skype, Glogster, Wall Wisher, etc.) already listed, has me reflecting on tools not yet listed that I see being used in powerful ways.  I’ve decided against posting on tools that are platform specific, such as PhotoStory 3 (Windows) or iMovie/Movie Maker 2. I’m also going to pass on tools I think look fantastic, but I haven’t personally used yet with students, such as Museum Box.

I’m going with Audacity.  Audacity is one of my favorite free cross-platform tools. Students love Audacity, especially ELLs (English Language Learners). I posted a tribute to Audacity back in February. Ironically, I haven’t been able to interest many teachers in this great tool.  I’m guessing the fact that I typically present Audacity as part of a web tool series and that teachers are initially swept away with more visual tools, such as VoiceThread, PhotoStory 3, etc., explains why they, consequently,  often do not find the time to return to and really explore the power of Audacity.

To me Audacity is all about the power of the human voice – and the ability to easily edit that voice. Combine Audacity with blogging and you can catapult student voices out to the world.

OK, I’m heading into the 30 Day Challenge to begin working on my post.  Do you have any Audacity stories, samples, resources you recommend I include in my challenge piece?

5 Comments

  1. I like Audacity but find it a bit hard to navigate around it. The children I have introduced it to never seem to have this trouble. One difficulty I have found it the need for a couple of add-ins for saving in different formats and the technical issues that seem to harass me when I introduce this with microphones not working and computers with no speakers to hear the end results. I love the way you can edit out bloopers!

    • Hi Mrs. S.

      I too have found that the kids like Audacity better than the adults. In fact, once they’ve worked with Audacity, they’re really disappointed when they use a program like VoiceThread (a fabulous program!) and find that on the free version, if they want to edit their recording, they have to start over.

      I also agree that setting up the external mic can be a pain. I’ve been been passing on the plug-in mic option lately, and instead using an Olympus voice recorder. I’m really impressed with the sound quality! So in addition to being a mobile, record-anywhere-without-a-computer option, the output is excellent.

      If you’re plugging in the Olympus to a PC, you will need to convert your files from the .wav format to a .mp3, but that’s very easy to do with the free program Switch from http://www.nch.com.au/switch/.

      I’ll be sure to address your Audacity concerns in my Challenge post. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. I did fluency readings in Audacity last year, but I started having problems with it locking up on me after every 2-3 kids. I’m still looking for inspiration with Audacity – I liked doing Voice Threads a lot more! However, you are correct that it is frustrating to redo a recording that isn’t perfect.

    I have been inspired by Glogster though! I clicked on your link and was immediately impressed with the user friendly interface. I put my 4th grader on it and he was inspired too – he already has two “reports” in the works on his favorite subjects. It may even convince him to write without being forced to. Wouldn’t that be great? We just discovered the tool this weekend, so I’m going to try it on our classroom computer this week before formally introducing it to my class.

    • Hello Tara,

      Hmmmm…haven’t had any issues with Audacity “locking up,” but will do some investigating. Even though it doesn’t quite have the wow factor of VoiceThread, I’m finding ELL students really embrace it.

      Glad you – and your 4th grader – are enjoying and exploring Glogster. Hope I can look forward to seeing some student products on your blog – which, by the way – I share with teachers in my blogging workshops. Yours is one link all the elementary teachers add to their sidebar!

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