Muddling through the blogosphere

April 22, 2011
by blogwalker

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

Edublogs logo

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?

February 6, 2011
by blogwalker

Why I Love Audacity

(Reposted from Know ELLs ning)

Do you have favorite technology tools for helping your students become more comfortable with their speaking skills?  I have a few favorites, but lately and for a number of reasons, Audacity has been at the top of my list.

For a starter, Audacity is  a free download and works both on PCs and Macs.  The program allows students to record and import audio files  – and edit them.  From a basic activity such as recording students’ reading fluencies to a  more sophisticated project such as Rob Rozema’s amazing collection of student-created (pre-service teachers) YA Casts, Audacity  offers many possibilities for ELLs to practice their speaking and listening skills.

Audacity is  also simple to learn. How many other software programs can you introduce with just a 1-page (double-sided) handout. And for those who want more involved tutorials, I’ve listed online resources on  a wiki, including my latest favorite, a very complete, well-explained Audacity Basics video tutorial from Mindy McAdams.

The appeal of  Audacity to students is that they can edit all or just parts of a recording. For the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of observing Teresa Cheung’s 4th graders delve into Audacity to edit their Stories from Heart audio interviews. Once students see how easy it is to zoom in and delete an “er” or “um,” or shorten a pause, or amplify a section that’s too low, or remove background noise, etc., they become active sound editors. I love watching the confidence level of ELLs grow, as they relax, knowing how easy it is to redo words or even a single word until they’re satisfied with the output.

But more importantly, as Teresa’s students listen, for instance, to Chase’s mother explain how she came to be born by a waterfall, or Devina’s grandmother talk about growing up in Berkeley in the ’50s, or Anthony’s mother talk about her childhood days escaping Laos,  the students take pride in sharing and preserving family stories, cultures, and languages. As the collection builds, so does the celebration of common threads and diversity in Ms. Cheung’s classroom, along with an appreciation for the power of the human voice.

Please join this conversation and share ideas and literacy tools that are working for you and your students – or questions you might have.

And please invite your students to leave comments on the Stories from the Heart posts!

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