Monday, November 22, 2010

Classroom tools: Using phones to generate voice-to-text transcriptions, reminders and audio recordings

In my recent post on using audio and podcasting in the classroom I discussed phone recording options such as Google Voice and In this post I am looking more specifically at phone services which record audio and transcribe voice-to-text, but are designed primarily as reminder and to do applications.

What are the benefits in education?

First, phones are one of the most ubiquitous technologies in schools. Land line phones as well as cell phones are available to almost everyone both in school and at home. 

Secondly, reminders and to do lists are an important organizational strategy.  Services such as and add features which traditional to do lists lack such as access on multiple internet connected devices and integration with other online services such as calendars, social media, and blogging.  And unlike traditional lists and reminders the audio recordings provide another means of accessing and remembering important information.  

Teachers could use these services to broadcast classroom notes and alerts or for personal organization and reminders.  Students can use these services to become more organized but may also benefit from their voice-to-text transcriptions. This may particularly beneficial for students requiring assistive technology such as struggling writers or students who have difficulty using a writing device or keyboard.


"Today I've been looking at a couple of different phone services which I might promote for students who are having difficulty writing things down. Dial2do is a phone service that converts voice to text and transcribes those messages-"
Powered by Dial2Do

Dial2do appears to be moving toward a two tiered pay model and no longer offers a free account. Dial2do integrates nicely with services like Twitter and Blogger. The recordings are limited to aproximately 20 seconds, but the transcriptions are very good. The recordings are in Mp3 format and can be downloaded or listened to directly using the web based audio player.


Here's another test I made today using -

"Imagine using your cellphone to write your next persuasive essay. There's a student sitting at a table. He's looking at the assignment. He needs to write an essay. He pulls out his cellphone. In the future essays may be written by students who call in their paragraphs and have them dictated by a phone."  Link to audio

Unlike Dial2do, does offer a free and paid account model.  It also has an iOS app which integrates nicely with the service and allows voice messages to be recorded and transcribed using an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. The time limit appears to be slightly longer, about 30 seconds, however the transcription did not pick up punctuation at the end of sentences and a few words required correction. One feature which I feel is missing is an embeddable Mp3 player for listening to audio online. Reqall Pro offers integration with services such as calendars, social networking, and Evernote.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Edtechkit: Student solutions for Audio books and text-to-speech ebook readers for the iPod Touch

I've been fielding some questions today about the best solution for students who would like to listen to books read aloud using an iPod touch.  I'm reposting my response below with a few additions and links.  Please comment if you have suggestions or ideas to share.

The Vbookz app would be a great option for students who want to read and listen to books like Huck Finn, Dracula, Pride and Predjudice etc.  The app is a full ebook reader plus text-to-speech engine.  It even magnifies the words as they are being read to help the reader track words as they are read aloud.  The app gives you access to over 30,000 books for free download once installed ($1.99 for the app).  Here’s a Youtube video explaining the app.

Another suggestion is to browse this list of free audio/ebooks for the iPod touch on Appolicious. I've downloaded the Wind in the Willows app and found that it works quite well.  My only wish is that it included word tracking.

I also recommend checking out Lit2go which has hundreds of books read by actors in Mp3 format.  Like Vbookz these are public domain books which are no longer covered by copyright law.  These Mp3 files and the text can be viewed on a computer or downloaded and added to an ipod touch.

But if your students wanted to read the book Hatchet, which is still under copyright, you would need to purchase an audiobook copy through iTunes or from a service like Audible or Amazon.

Finally, I highly recommend checking with your local library online services to see if they are using a service like which allows you to check out ebooks and audio books using your library card.  You can check for libraries using by entering your area code  I used my local library card to check out the audio book version of The Giver by Lois Lowry which students in 10th Grade ELA have been reading at my school.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A teacher’s guide to using audio and podcasting in the classroom

Click here if you are unable to see the audio player.

Audio recordings and podcasts serve a variety purposes in the classroom. They can support instruction by allowing teachers to deliver precise verbal instructions and capture lessons for archival purposes or future listening.  They give students the opportunity to listen to instruction independently, without distraction (when wearing headphones), and at their own pace using play and pause features for as many times as is needed.  Conversely, students can use audio to demonstrate their understanding of learned concepts, create instructional materials and tutorials for peers, broadcast classroom and school news, conduct interviews, and practice fluency reading strategies. Determining which audio and podcasting tools to use in the classroom depends upon your instructional purpose and on your audio recording needs. 

First let’s look at using audio to support instructional delivery.  One use of audio is to record the directions for an assignment or test which students will listen to.  For this purpose you might use Microsoft Word’s “insert audio” feature to build the audio directly into the document.  You might also choose to embed audio in an online Moodle quiz or assignment using Audacity.  On the other hand you may be recording a series of lecture note, study casts, or lesson tutorials which are not directly tied to a single document or assessment but which you would like students to listen to for review and reinforcement.  For these you may wish to use a podcasting site such as Podomatic or ipadio.  Podcast recordings can be accessed by going directly to your podcast website, via RSS subscriptions and iTunes, or by embedding recordings on a class website or blog.

Student generated audio and podcasts can be facilitated using some of the techniques mentioned above but may also require additional considerations such as managing student podcast accounts, submitting audio recordings for review, and the degree of technical expertise needed to produce the recording.  Using phones to create student recordings can be an effective method capturing student audio and requires very little technical training.  Google Voice and ipadio both allow audio to be recorded using a phone.  Students can also use simple online recorders such as Voki and Vocaroo. Other options include using the recording options on a mobile device such as iPod touch to make a recording and then e-mailing the recording to the teacher, student e-mail, or class blog. 
Once you have determined your instructional purpose for using audio or podcasting you must also determine what audio elements are essential to making the recording such as the duration, ability to edit, as well as adding multimedia such as background music, images, text, or even geolocation.  Most often you will want to create recordings which are brief and simple.  This is especially true when assessing student audio because of the time required to listen to student submissions.  An example might be when you ask students to record lesson reflections or exit interviews. In these circumstances, it is best to use phone or online recorders which limit the time of the recording, do not require editing, and make publishing your audio easy. The insert voice option in Microsoft Word is another example of simple audio recording. Students can use this feature to record smaller written samples to self check for errors and build fluency.  If however, you know that you will be making a lengthy recording where editing mistakes, combining recordings, or adding sounds effects or music tracks is necessary then audio editors such as Audacity, Garage Band (Mac only), and Aviary’s online audio editor Myna may be good solutions.  These tools are particularly useful for polished recordings intended to be published to wider audience or for culminating student projects.

Before learning about and using a particular audio recording and publishing tool you may wish to use the following matrix to evaluate which tool(s) best fit your instructional purpose and audio recording needs.  I also recommend becoming comfortable with several audio applications. Relying on one application may limit your instructional outcomes or cause frustration if that application isn’t working, is discontinued or is no longer free.
The basics
In most cases you will need to either install software on your computer or create an account to begin using a podcast recording service. 

Next you will need to use a microphone to make your recording. Many computers have built in microphones, but external headphones which you plug in via USB or 3.5mm jacks produce much higher quality audio.  If neither of these options is available consider using a phone recording service such Google Voice or iPadio.

In most cases you will want to make an Mp3 audio recording. This is true for anyone who plans to share the recording over the internet or for use on Mp3 players.  Many applications such as Audioboo, iPadio, Podomatic, and Vocaroo do this automatically.  Audacity requires a small program called a Lame file to be installed.  Microsoft Word’s insert audio can be used with the default .wav file setting or be changed to Mp3.

Finally, you will need some means of allowing others to listen to the audio file.  Microsoft Word’s insert audio, the voice recorder option on the iPod touch, and files made using Audacity can be saved locally onto the computer or iPod touch they were created on and listened to directly on those devices.  In most cases, however, the audio file will need to be hosted or embedded on a website, blog, or podcasting site which can be accessed from the internet.  This has the distinct advantage of allowing students to listen to the recording from a variety of devices and locations.  These services also make the creation of audio more flexible as they do not require the user to be on a particular computer or device to make the recording.

Overview of audio and podcasting applications

With these steps in mind the overviews presented below are intended to get a beginning user recording and sharing their audio.  Advanced uses of each particular program or application can be explored through the support documents and video tutorials associated with each application. - my new favorite

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Screencast: Testing Camtasia and Audioboo at the same time

This was a test of running Camtasia and Audioboo at the same time for the purpose of making a training tutorial.  Although Camtasia was able to capture the screen and audio process fine, the Audioboo recording was distorted.  It is possible that this was due to the fact my laptop does not have enough processing power to handle multiple recording applications simultaneously.  Feel free to offer suggestions in the comment section below. To hear the audioboo sample which was created in the screencast click on the following link.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SCCRESA Dateline Schools radio interview #TTDN

This is a recording of my interview with Dateline Schools host Terry Harrington discussing 21st Century Learning and technology in education. We also discuss RESA's Tools for Teaching Digital Natives teacher cohort.

You can also listen to my Dateline Schools interview from last year by clicking here

Dateline: Schools Radio
Dateline: Schools Radio, a daily radio segment aired on WPHM-1380 AM, focuses on a different school program or issue every week.

This program airs three times daily on WPHM 1380 AM with host Terry Harrington.

You can listen to Dateline: Schools at 5:50 a.m., 12:55 p.m., and 6:55 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you are unable to view the audio player, click here.