Monday, March 10, 2008

When to use audio instead of text

Lanny with Microphone
The recording part is pretty easy and as long as you have a decent sound card in your computer the incremental cost is quite low. That stick mic is from Koss and costs less than $20. The software is Audacity which is open source and hence free. (You need the file lame_enc.dll on your computer for Audacity to convert your recording to MP3. That file is also free.)

The harder part is thinking through when audio really is better than text. Here are some suggestions.

A screen shot of a technical graph that might require audio explanation as example.


Barbara said...


I'm finding that having my students record themselves presenting, reading their work aloud, and reflecting helps them both to develop writing & critical thinking skills and to develop their speaking skills, something they very much need to do. They listen, revise and evaluate themselves-- along the lines of videotaping young teachers. Is that still done?
Our students need more instruction in rhetoric, and practice with a range of speaking modes, voices and diction-levels than they currently get. What an easy, effective way to link them to archived models as well as to give them the tools for critical self-evaluation. One of my students is playing around with Voicethread instead of Audacity, so that he can use images as well as voice, shifting the image. I have recorded oral responses in return. Pretty interesting.

Lanny Arvan said...

Barbara -

I completely agree on getting students to record themselves. I've made a brief podcast about that here. And we do record graduate student TAs but I believe we only do that once per, given the volume. The real need us a continued back and forth to promote growth.

My own experience with recording points to two issues, with one I'm pretty sure of the solution and the other I think is a matter of taste. It's hard to see/listen to yourself in a recording. It's uncomfortable. The only way to get past that is to keep doing it until it seems ordinary. When in that uncomfortable phase, I'm not sure self-critique is too valuable. Once through that phase, I'd think it incredibly important.

The other issue is whether to write out text to present or to wing it. In spite of the "ums" and "ahs" and the occasional pause that is more senior moment than pregnant, I prefer to wing it. Mt staff prefer to work off a script. So I know it can go both ways. The irony for me is that I definitely read text by how it sounds, but when I read aloud I rarely produce sound that matches my conception; what I do produce sounds stilted. The issue is worse with a talking head video than with just audio, because then you have to look into the camera, but video calls are here as a technology so we should all be developing that skill to some degree.