Tag Archives: audacity

If These Walls Could Talk

Every once in a while I’ll get a brainstorm. Well this isn’t exactly a brain “storm” but it might qualify as a brain “shower” or maybe a brain “drizzle”.

This particular bit of mental precipitation comes about as a result of combining three different tools. It’s one of those, “If I take something I made with THIS, put it here using THAT, then I can get one of THESE and THAT would be REALLY COOL” moments.  If you’re confused already, please keep reading. All will be explained in due time, but first let me share the story that brought about THIS, THAT, and THE OTHER THING.

It started with our 6th grade Basic Computer Skills class. To teach the kids how to use Audacity (THIS #1 in this formula) they decided to promote Read Across America day by recording themselves reading popular primary grade books from our library. These recordings will be burned to CD to so our 1st and 2nd graders can listen to their 6th grade buddies read the book to them. Many the recordings these students created were quite good. Some used the “change pitch” feature in Audacity to create voices for the characters. (See my post on Interview an Elf) Others added sound effects to add to the drama of the story.

While this was going on I came across a post on twitter from @shaunaaltman wondering if there was a way to create audio files that would play when you scanned a QR Code. Do you think you know where I’m going with this?

If you take an mp3, way, aiff, or other type of audio file created in Audacity or any other audio editing program and post it online where it can be accessed via a URL (hyperlink), you can also take that link and convert it a QR code. When that QR code is scanned by a reader app, most smart phones and mobile devices will just play the sound automatically.

So, I’ve got an mp3 file. How do I post it online? Enter THAT #2. There are several different options for doing THAT.

1) Save the file in your Public Folder on Dropbox.
2) Post the file to Posterous
3) Use a podcasting tool like Chirbit or AudioBoo to post a file online.

Once the file is online, copy the link (URL) to that file and use an online QR Code Generator  (THE OTHER THING). There are many different options out there for doing this as well.

One way to do THIS is to use goo.gl

NOTE: You must be signed in to your Google Account to do THIS.

Don’t have a Google Account? Or don’t want to login? There are countless other free online QR code generators out there. Here’s one that not only lets you generate QR codes, but it also lets you make them “cute”: Beautiful QR Codes

When you have one of THESE QR Codes on your screen, you can right-click, copy image, and paste the image in any word processing document for printing. Once the code is printed you can do all sorts of things with it. Here’s where my brain started storming.

For our book project, we could take the QR Codes linking to the student recordings and tape them to the inside covers of the books. Parents with smart phones could use their smart phones so their children could listen along to their sixth grade buddies read the story to them.

But there are so many other possiblities…

  • Place QR Codes around your school to create an audio tour. That plaque on the gym wall dedicated to that guy could explain who he was and why he has a plaque there. The mural created by the class of 2012 could have the kids from that class telling how and why they made it. The drinking fountain could explain where the water you are drinking is comes from – if you really want to know?
  • Does your school have student leadership elections? Imagine using QR codes to create talking campaign posters.
  • Teachers could add sound to their bulletin boards – a weekly extra credit challenge or hints to last night’s homework.

I could go on, but instead I’d like you to ponder the possibilities instead. Got any other cool ideas? Add a comment and share your thoughts.

Additional Resource:

If you’d like more info on how to use Audacity to create creative recordings here’s a tutorial: How to Make a Podcast

Interview an Elf

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. Here at my school it means it’s time to bring out my annual holiday project – Interview an Elf. This is a simple activity that brings lots of laughter and joy to elementary kids.  It’s also easy, and can be completed in less than 30 minutes of computer lab time.  Here’s the recipe for this “holiday classic”.

Ingredients:

It’s the week before Christmas and you will be interviewing an elf at Santa’s workshop. You will be the voice for both parts. Record yourself interviewing yourself. Play it back to hear the interview. As you listen, watch the timeline and make note where the elf is speaking.
Highlight the parts where the elf is speaking. Go to EFFECT and select CHANGE PITCH.
Raise the pitch of the elf part. How much you raise it depends on the natural pitch of your voice. Typically you only need to raise it 20-30%.  Listen to the result. If it works, repeat for the rest of the elf parts.


Additional Sweetness:
If you want, you can add sound effects to “sweeten” your interview. I found workshop sounds, sleigh bells, and Santa’s “Ho, Ho, Ho” at Findsounds.com.


Be prepared for lots of laughter in the lab when you try this activity. Kids have a blast creating their interviews. I always allow them some play time to experiment listening to their voice at different pitches – you’ll want some play time too!


For more help using Audacity, check out my wiki with helpful videos explaining how to edit audio and add effects.

The Art of Sound

Remember that guy, Michael Winslow, from the Police Academy movies? The one who made all those strange sounds with his mouth? How many of you have a student like that in your class? As you walk across the room, this is that special child that makes squeaking noises for every step you take, putting his classmates in hysterics. Few things amuse this kid more than the variety of different sounds made by gas escaping from the human body – and he can reproduce any one of them at will. Rather than strangle this child, maybe it would be better to let this unique individual express his talents in a constructive way.

Sound effects are a big part of creating a dramatic audio podcast. They can take your story and give it depth, creating a rich sound picture for your listeners. A good sound effect can create a picture in someone’s mind much easier than it would be to produce that same image on film or video. This is why I like the simple elegance of the audio podcast. You can create a multi-layered soundscape with relatively little effort or resources. No need for expensive equipment, dangerous stunts, or elaborate sets.

Creating sound effects can be fun. Did you know you can mimic the sound of a crackling fire by slowly crinkling a bag of potato chips? Sliding the lid off of a toilet tank sounds just like someone opening an ancient sarcophagus. Rapidly opening and closing an umbrella sounds like a bat flying. And of course any self-respecting Monty Python fan knows that two hollowed out coconut shells are a prefect substitute for a galloping horse.

With all the attention given to student created video I think we should not forget about the power of audio. An audio podcast project can be a great choice if you don’t have a lot of time or resources. Using free software like Audacity you can record your story, add music and sound effects, and export your show as a podcast friendly mp3 file in just a fraction of the time and effort it would take to do the same project as a video production.

To encourage students and teachers at my school to learn to use audio podcasts, I created an online elective course that teaches them about podcasting and how to use Audacity to create their own podcasts and post them on our system. I’ve also taken many elements of that course and posted them online on my wiki so you can share them with your students and faculty too.

Make Your Own Podcast Wiki

Feel free to use these resources and share them with your students and teachers. If you or your students create some great podcasts as a result, please reply with a link so we can all hear what you’ve done.