Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Audacity’

Sound Affects

We all know that pupils need choice when it comes to recording and plan their ideas. The written word can be the only outlet for some. Using pictures and bullet points might suit others. But simply speaking about your ideas, directly onto a digital recorder or another device, like an Easi-Speak microphone, can be a revelation for those children who have difficulty with traditional recording methods. Obviously the use of Audacity in the classroom could also enhance this and there are some ideas for this here but when we want to put the recorded sound together with visual content it might not be as easy for some as others, and we want their ideas and thoughts to be recorded in a way that suits them and makes them feel like they’re achieving. So which pieces of kit are best for this?

My first suggestion would be to use Photo story 3: it’s free, easy to use and the results look fabulous. There are a number of simple tutorials for this online but basically the program allows pupils to import photos, add basic effects, text, music and narration to make a short movie. It’s a very versatile, if simple, piece of software and can easily be used by pupils in KS1 (with support at first) and pupils with varying levels of SEN. The results look professional and ‘grown up’: pupils can be proud of their achievements and share their efforts with others easily. It’s great for topic based or diary type work but is just as good for tasks like story sequencing and retelling. I’ve used it many times with pupils where the pictures of a well known story have to be imported and rearranged in order, allowing for a retelling of the story in the child’s own words (and it’s even better if the child uses a program like 2Paint a picture to create their own images from the story first).

There’s only one trouble with Photo Story 3 (and it’s not really a problem with the program itself): if the pupils have used it in KS1 and lower KS2 they will want (and need)to move onto something different eventually! Some pupils, however, find that transition difficult: particularly those with recording difficulties when it comes to the written word! They want to put their ideas down but get frustrated when they can’t do it with the ease of others. The natural step would be to move to Windows Movie Maker but this is not always the best piece thing to use in a busy classroom (it’s not as straight forward or intuitive to use, it tends to crash or freeze, some pupils lose patience with it…). My solution is to get the pupils to record their ideas and speech directly onto PowerPoint – it’s easy to do and it gives pupils who may need a bit of extra time to get to grips with something like Movie Maker.

The technique is great for lots of topics but can easily be used to assist with literacy, particularly planning stories. Pupils can use a PowerPoint Storyboard (or perhaps something a little more jazzy, like the Movie Style Storyboard ) to help plan their stories: instead of adding written captions to their storyboard they could record their own comments instead. This would also work with a template like the Story Mountain Planner style one above – pupils could just use a microphone to record their ideas directly onto the slide and the need for written text is minimised.

From an inclusion point of view there are a number of other programs available that allow pupils to record spoken content directly onto their work: 2Create a SuperStory springs to mind, as does 2Connect, and there are others available. But if you don’t have those yet, and you need to give pupils opportunities to record their work in different ways (ways that suit then) then this is worth a go. Every pupils I have shared this with has been thrilled with the independence it has given them. I’m not saying they don’t need to write: I’m just allowing for the fact that some pupils, for whatever reason, are better at verbalising ideas. This is one way of making sure their contributions are as valued as everyone else.

What shall we do today?

You know, I’m pretty much the ‘out on a limb’ type: I often plan things that are a little bit unusual and have tenuous links to the topics being covered. I like a bit of leeway here and there. I like to take things in an unexpected direction. There are, however, skills to cover and these still need to be included in lessons as it’s an important part ICT. But doing it in a fun and engaging way is also key.

I like unusual activities. There’s the lovely menu project (as outlined on ‘Come Dine With Me) and a whole host of others. Ever thought about designing a theme park around a local area using PowerPoint (skills recapped: word art, text boxes, use of the spellchecker, inserting pictures, using Autoshapes and slide transition)? How about using Audacity and Movie Maker to create small information films and travel guides about our local area? What about linking ICT to Science work, using PowerPoint Autoshapes to design sportswear and logos. If your interested in making sessions challenging how about using my World Cup Challenge where pupils can go in any direction they chose as long as it fits the brief . there’s the Mathematical challenge and a number of others in the set.

Creative ICT can involve looking at different types of computer based art, graphics and photo editing packages. Pupils can try out a whole load of different types of software: some you might have installed at school (2Paint a Picture, Revelation Natural  Art, to name a couple of common ones) and some that are web based (Bomomo, Brushster, SumoPaint etc.). Some that are mainly for photo editing and manipulation (Fotoflexer, Tuxpi etc.), photo collage applications (Andrea Mosaic, Shape Collage etc. ) and some that aren’t really art packages at all  but have artistic merits (Wordle, PowerPoint, Textorizer etc.).

Pupils can use a Photo Album PowerPoint template or Ript to create digital art scrapbooks showcasing their efforts, writing little comments about their work. By the end of the session get them to decide on a favourite application and what they liked about it. So that everyone is focused on adding content to the scrapbook,  add their names to the fruit machine random name generator available via Classtools – and use it to choose pupils to come up front and showcase their work – that way you can carry out some self evaluation and peer evaluation (like  2 stars and a wish) during your plenary.

Something for Everyone

Now I know there are lots of great products that assist with inclusion and are designed to make recording easy and, today, I’m going to highlight some you may, or may not, have heard of. Clicker 5 is an excellent piece of kit to have at your disposal as is Writing with SymbolsHelpkidzlearn (from the bods at Inclusive Technology) has recently been launched, and includes a number of switch accessible activities. There are many other great pieces of software and hardware I could mention. But there are some occasions when a pupil with SEN just wants to use the same program as everyone else, particularly as they get older. Why should they miss out when there are a few choice ideas that can be enjoyed  and used by everyone? Let’s have a look at the options available.

Vokis are pretty cool! How you actually use Vokis in the classroom would be your choice – greetings on a class blog, trying out phrases in different languages, asking questions for a class activity, I’m sure you can think of more. Vokis are great because they are free (don;t you just love that word) are simple to set up, easy to embed into wikis and blogs and I haven’t yet come across a child, whatever their level of ability, who hasn’t instantly been drawn to the idea. Create a character, choose a background, record a little message (great for those who have difficulty with written recording). If you can’t record a little message , for whatever reason, you can use the text to speech option and give your character a voice of your choosing. A fabulous tool for getting everyone involved.

Audacity is another fantastic free item that can be accessed by a number of pupils, particularly when using it as part of a small group or on collaborative projects. It’s layout is simple enough for most pupils to be able to negotiate easily and some of the toolbar icons have a reassuringly familiar look about them. It’s also something that can be accessed and used at the child’s own level. Able children can use multiple tracks, include sound effects, music and recorded sound together and use the effects to make unusual sounds. Less able children can, with minimal guidance, use it to record speech/sounds and edit their work so their speech is more fluid. How about letting a child with written recording difficulties use Audacity to record investigation findings as a Q&A tool for assessment? You might find the results are better than you anticipated.

A while we’re discussing presenting findings or information as spoken words, let’s not forget that you can record directly onto a PowerPoint or into PhotoStory. This is not only fabulous for children who find it easier to present work this way but also a great way to make resources for the classroom. Talking story books are fantastic but can be expensive to buy – use PowerPoint to create your own. Yes, it can be time consuming but then so is creating the perfect worksheet and talking books are far more fun 🙂

In fact, I have to say, that I’ve had great fun using the latest 2Simple product, 2 Create a SuperStory. Plenty of options for creativity are there and there’s a fabulous ‘Auto’ setting that could be useful with less able pupils. The inclusion of clip art and templates for objects on 2CASS means that children can actually create work of good quality without having to be able to draw with the mouse.

We all know inclusion is important but there are solutions available for every budget. There might even be something on this list that you already use at school. But, however much you struggle to find things that work (especially from the child’s point of view), remember you will eventually find the one thing that changes everything. And that can be truly life changing.