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On the internet today, there are countless methods to record audio and then share it. These methods all vary more or less in their purposes and strengths. This blog post will review a few tools that look promising for the second language (L2) classroom, based on three different sharing purposes:
These purposes will be referred to in the rest of this post as purpose #1, purpose #2, and purpose #3. Here are a few of the audio sharing tools online:
Briefly, this tool enables visitors to leave voicemails on a site, blog, Facebook, etc. Thus SpeakPipe would especially work well for purpose #1, in which a language teacher can set up a class website and let students leave voice messages in the target language. Less commonly, teachers or fellow students could also leave L2 comments for students on their blogs or Facebook accounts (purposes #2 and #3). The downside to SpeakPipe is that it is only free for a maximum of 20 messages a month of only 90 seconds each.
Audiopal lets users create and embed unlimited audio for free on their blog or site; this can be accomplished through recording your own voice over a phone or microphone, using their text-to-speech technology, or uploading MP3s. This tool would probably work best for purpose #3, on a class site where the teacher records an L2 greeting or posts a listening passage for students. Purposes #1 and #2 could also work with this tool if students are creating their own L2 blog or site for the language classroom.
This is a very simple free tool to record one’s voice and then either email the recording, embed it somewhere, or share a link to it. This site could also commonly be used for purpose #1, as a way for students to send their L2 recordings to their teachers for evaluations. Another idea would be for students to record their voices and then share them with other students on a class site such as Moodle (purpose #2).
Audioboo is made especially for audio producers to record, upload, and share audio. It is yet another free way to manage audio files. Once again, teachers could record or upload audio and then share or embed it for students to access (purpose #3); students could do the same and then share with their teacher or other students (purposes #1 and #2).
Although there is overlap between these types of tools, it is easiest to make the most informed decision by comparing them and deciding which one(s) serves your needs the best. The goal of listing the purposes was to show that most of the tools work well for any of these correspondences, but generally some tools are better or perhaps more common for certain purposes than others.
Lastly, there are a set of tools developed by the Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR), a Title VI Language Resource Center at Michigan State University. Two CLEAR tools are especially relevant here: The Audio Dropbox and Mashups 2.0. I used both of these tools recently in a research project that I carried out. Here is a screenshot from the experiment:
This layout was constructed by Mashups 2.0, which allows users to combine various types of media together onto a web page. For this experiment, I put instructions in the top left corner, the target word and sentence list on the right side, and the Audio Dropbox in the bottom right. The Audio Dropbox provides great functionality because it can be embedded within a Mashup, a webpage, wiki, LMS, etc., and unlike other tools like SpeakPipe, there is no time or response limit. All recordings made on this dropbox are accessible through CLEAR’s site, where they can also be downloaded as MP3s. Both of these tools are free for non-commercial, educational uses.
This gives you an idea of some of the tools that are out there for audio recording and sharing. Do you favor some of these tools over others, or prefer other tools that I did not mention?
One possible way to learn more of a foreign language or culture is to listen to songs in that target language. Some language teachers play songs in classrooms with accompanying lyrics; this is also a great idea for personal language study. This blog post will present one tool for setting lyrics to display with music, for those who use iTunes. This tool, called Cover Version, is a plug-in for iTunes that can display song lyrics during song play using the iTunes visualizer. Here is a screenshot of the tool in action (you can click on the image to enlarge it):
This is a song in Hebrew that I own in iTunes, and this tool allows me to play the song and view the lyrics simultaneously (note that this picture is customized to my settings—you can also display the cover art with the lyrics, change the font, etc). I will go over the steps required to use this plug-in:
Now just hit “OK” to add the lyrics, and that is it! Now whenever you play this song, you can open the visualizer by either going to View > Show Visualizer or using a shortcut on your keyboard (command + T for Mac, or control + T for PC). Remember that you can change the preferences for how these lyrics are displayed in the visualizer. Instructions on changing these preferences can be found on the Cover Version download site.
This is just one way to display lyrics during song play, so that they are easily viewable from your computer or an overhead projector. Do you know of any other such tools, perhaps with different strengths? Do you know of any such tools with karaoke-like functionality? If so, comment below!