Audacity is a free, open source software for recording, editing, mixing and exporting (in many formats) audio files. And beware, because its quality is comparable to other professional level softwares! It does not require any sophisticated technological set-up; once the software is installed on the computer, an integrated microphone works well, and any other microphone with a USB tab will configure itself automatically. The basics of Audacity are very easy to learn, and tons of online tutorials may help non tech-savvy teachers. As for the students, I would recommend giving them time in class to explore the tool without any specific purpose in mind, so that they familiarise themselves with recording, importing, and exporting various audio tracks before having them use the tool for a given project. Consequently, everyone starts on the right track and has time to ajust before getting down to the real stuff!
So here it is, the real stuff that can be done in an ESL classroom using Audacity:
– Reflect on language use: By simply recording themselves speaking English and listening afterwards, students may assess their language proficiency. It allows them to check stress, intonation, pronunciation, and the quality of the words they use. (+) The teacher could also provide them a track of well-spoken English utterances and have students repeat after the speaker, recording themselves for evaluation (sort of a CAN-8, DIY style). Anyhow, phonetics are often put aside when learning a language, yet remain essential to understand spoken languages and improve oral fluency. Audacity quickly allows this kind of practice in any classroom.
– Proofreading: Sometimes, revising a written production by reading it over silently is not an infallible technique. Any student, even one who is not of the auditive type, may find it helpful to hear oneself reading a text in order to find possibly forgotten errors. One is forced to be more attentive when hearing a text rather than mentally reading it. (+) This calls upon metacognitive skills. (+)
– Digital storytelling: Audacity can be used to add an audio track to visuals. Students could tell a story over a series of images of their choice (a sequence edited on iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, for instance), describing the images or using them to suggest elements in the story. (+) This sort of activity puts students into a very engaging environment, constantly practicing the language, and encourages creativity.
– Record a play: In teams, students could record a play of their choice (or their creation), using multiple tracks on Audacity. Students may record their lines one after the other, adopting the character’s proper intonation, and add sound effects and background music by creating separate tracks. Alike digital storytelling, this kind of project is very engaging and absolutely fun!
– Listening comprehension: For lower level learners, listening to authentic audio material such as radio shows, news reports, conferences, or scientific capsules may be challenging, as the pace is often too fast for understanding. Well, Audacity solves this problem! After playing the audio file online and recording it simultaneously using Audacity, the excerpt can be slowed down. This technique is great because it does not prevent students from feeding their mind with more complex information, even though their are beginners. (+) Similarly, it exposes students to a variety of resources in the second language. (+)
– Creating podcasts: One of the most praised uses of Audacity! Podcasts may cover anything from news reports to album reviews, readings, interviews, and more. (+) Furthermore, it makes students do a little research before recording the final product. Creating podcasts is awesome because it draws from things people do in real life, which is very exciting for students. Oh, and why not record a fake radio commercial along the podcast? (+)
Possible language learning activities using Audacity are literally infinite. Anything created using this tool will end up corresponding to teachers’ pedagogical objectives and appealing the students. In this day and age, technology is a really big part of kids’ world. They are always grateful for teachers who encourage the use of technology for their learning, whilst the fun of it pushes them to go further, and be curious!