Today I do my Audacity and SoundCloud workshop, which in the last year has become my most popular workshop. Who knew when I resurrected it last spring that audio could spark interest in a world overflowing with selfies and YouTubes and Vines and Instagrams, and on and on with the image medium of your choice. My title is a little misleading, though, because it turns out that audio is not at all forgotten, but surging along if you know where to find the tools and how to use them. We are so used to being able to record our audio along with a visual presentation that we often don’t notice that the same tool will let you import an audio file, and those files can be more valuable than for just that one presentation.
In this long SlideShare presentation from May 2013 I look at slides 12 and 21 that show that sound is an emerging technology and particularly that 11 hours of sound are uploaded to SoundCloud every minute. Surely, most of that audio on SoundCloud is from musicians and professional podcasters, but it makes my point that audio could be a tool used more often in education, even in the limited free account.
You’d be surprised how much you can say in one minute.
Another great feature is that the sounds allow for comments and discussion, and they embed well, as here, so there is a visual component to them. Used strategically and sparingly, the free account can offer enough space for the average instructor, and old sounds can be deleted to clear up more space.
Mostly, this workshop is about Audacity, and the ease of creating and editing audio files. The real reason I added SoundCloud to this workshop is that Audacity is so darned easy it didn’t take up the 1.5 hour length we are required to run our workshops (all about stipends for adjunct faculty). I regret that there is no mobile Audacity app, yet, just a portable version to carry around on a flash drive, but I still like it.
Before we create sample files—we only do MP3 in the workshop because they are so useful in other applications—I show a number of technologies we use here where the files can be imported. Instead of recording directly in Adobe Presenter, you can import audio files for any or all slides. In SoftChalk lessons, a simple audio file can be embedded anywhere on the page or can be attached to slideshows of images or PPT slides. In Prezi, audio files can be attached to points on your path to run automatically as viewers move through the presentation, as in this one. In Blackboard, you can put an audio file in your Announcements or on any content page in your site. I’m probably forgetting something.
We brainstorm about how students can use audio tools, and I have found that our ESL faculty are quite interested in them for student practice. Other faculty have suggested that students can conduct interviews for reports or can use them in their own narrated presentations.
I suggest that maybe the greatest value comes when you realize you have a library of audio files on one or a variety of topics that you can mix and match to use in new presentations. Instead of putting an entire lecture in one file, divide it up into re-usable bites. In my own narrated Prezi, I have 16 separate audio files. I re-recorded a few for a more consistent sound quality, but I also changed up the script a little. I can keep the whole thing up to date when new ideas about the topic of rubrics emerge by adding, deleting, or re-recording any of those files.
Are you using audio?