At the end of March, Twitter chum and MFL Flashmeeting mate, Drew McAllister asked me to give a Skype presentation to a group of world languages teachers from Missouri about different types of technology I would recommend for use in the classroom for enhancing language learning and engaging pupils. A subject close to my heart, I was delighted to take part and share my experiences from across the pond, particularly as we’d agreed to record the conversation and podcast the outcome to the world!
Using the recent TES article Flash Forward as a springboard for discussion, I began by talking about Audacity, VoiceThread, Wallwisher, wikis and Xtranormal and referred to ideas I had crowdsourced from the MFL Twitterati on how they were being used practically in class. I then went on to mention other tools such as Podomatic, Podbean, Posterous, Glogster, Animoto, Go!Animate, Bubbl.us, Voki, Taskmagic, Hot Potatoes, Quizlet, StudyStack and Quia and suggested how they could be helpful too.
As my virtual delegates had laptops in front of them, they were able to check out each link as it came up and explore the tools for themselves first hand. I think this was an effective use of their time and made them feel more actively involved in the session which was great to see.
To finish, I tried to field their various questions as best I could and be as helpful as possible in my answers.
I captured the Skype call with Pretty May, recording my end and Drew’s end as separate tracks which I then edited in Audacity. Following advice from the latest Podcaster’s Emporium, before starting I clicked on Tools/Options and Audio Settings in Skype and disabled the feature which automatically adjusts the speaker settings. I also exported my track as a wav file (Export Selection As WAV) and levelated it before starting to edit as an experiment as I’ve found in the past that the volume of the person who receives the call tends to be quieter than the person who makes it.
In my interview with Katie Titler I levelated both tracks separately, importing them back into Audacity and editing them from there. This seemed to produce the best results although my breathing was amplified on my track and so I highlighted the sections when I wasn't talking, clicked Generate and then Silence to remove the issue. Sometimes I started this process just after Katie began to talk as I found it could produce quite an abrupt effect if placed immediately after I finished speaking. To remove the occasional unwanted noise on Katie's track, I copied a given section where she wasn't talking and then pasted it over the equivalent interval so it sounded seamless.
Editing Drew’s end was quite time–consuming as there were gaps between phrases which had to be deleted to avoid a staccato effect. This happened in my VoIP conversation with Dr John Strange’s class in the autumn term too and is due to how Skype sends information from one user to another in packets and the bandwidth that that can demand. If the connection speed is variable, it can produce this effect which can be rectified with careful editing, but this is a laborious task and not for the faint-hearted! Having audio only conversations requires less bandwidth and will produce better results, but is no doubt a less satisfying experience for both users.
I hope you find both the quality of the audio and our conversation acceptable and that it gives you food for thought for ways in which you can use technology in the classroom for enhancing pupil outcomes too. That’s the idea!