Ah, it must be Monday again and, ensconced in my comfy thinking chair, I thought it would be a good time to share a few practical tips on using audio in lessons.
Firstly, if you haven’t already done so, investigate the wonderful computer program, called Audacity. Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds and, in my opinion, one of the best. You can download it here.
I know it doesn’t look like much but trust me, it is a wonderful piece of programming.
Once you have installed a copy on your machine, you are set to record (or edit) sound files. These can be saved as *.wav, *.mp3 or ogg vorbis format (whatever that is). Mind you, before you start dickering, its a good idea to reboot your PC to allow Audacity to pick up the precise settings of your sound hardware.
[NOTE: if you do want to save to MP3, you will have to install an encoder. The free option is the 'LAME' open source encoder. It can be downloaded here .]
Audacity has many tricks but the one that I’d like to share today is its ability to record anything that your computer plays or that you can hear through your computer speakers. Just think about that one for a second, I mean your PC can play DVDs right? or YouTube clips? or TV and radio programmes? Yes. Now I would not be a responsible educator if I didn’t remind you of the laws of copyright at this point. Uh-hum, consider yourself reminded.
So, you’ve rebooted. Now what? Well the best way to demonstrate the power of Audacity is I think to use a practical example. This week in my teaching I wanted to create a listening exercise for a group where they were invited to listen to a soundtrack and to identify all the separate sounds. The learning was to do with writing to describe and I had selected the topic of ‘at the beach’. I remembered that I had a good bookmark for beach-type sound effects and loaded it into my browser.
The site is called http://www.soundsleeping.com/ and is meant to provide users with relaxing sounds that assist a peaceful night’s sleep. However, it is perfect for sound effect listening games too. On the site you’ll find a series of sliders. Select a sound from the drop-down menu, slide the volume up, and your PC will become a creek or forest or indeed, be caught in a thunderstorm. (Don’t hear anything? try switching your PC’s speakers on :o).
So, with my PC making the sounds that I required for my listening exercise, all I had to do now was to record them and that is where Audacity comes in. The program has many options and just to the right of the Audacity window is a drop-down setting that you will need to alter (see picture below). PCs vary but on mine this needs to be set to ‘stereo mixer’ though on others I have seen it set to ‘what you hear’. It all depends on your machine’s sound card settings.
Once the setting is changed, Audacity is ready to record anything that your PC can play. Simply press its red circle button (record) and Audacity will start recording. This can be confirmed by its display changing to a representation of the sound’s wave form (see below).
You’re almost done. All that’s left is to use Audacity to save (click ‘file’ then ‘export as WAV’) your resultant wave file and ‘insert’ it into a PowerPoint or IWB notebook file.
The joy of this technique is that , with Audacity set to record, you can operate your PC as normal and all its sounds are included in the recording. I was able to alter the sliders on the ‘sound sleeping’ website to produce a simple ‘mix’ of all the noises one might associate with a day at the beach and Audacity placed them in the one wav file. Of course, if your PC is set to squeak whenever you perform certain actions then that will be recorded too; you may want to turn off that particular function of Windows before you begin.
It seems to me that this simple technique could be used to create any number of audio files for teaching purposes. Listening exercises are just a beginning. We can create extracts of any significant audio content and make our teaching all the more audacious for it.
Filed under: Freeware Programs, Ideas, Listening, Media, Resources, Teaching English, Useful Sites | Tagged: Audio, ICT, Listening, Media, Resources | 3 Comments »