Thursday, June 28, 2007

TRIPLE FIRSTS: Using Audacity to record reading passages, pbwiki to create a webpage to access them, and Gcast to podcast 'em!

Marian Thacher and David Rosen keep reminding people about wikis and how easy they are to use so I finally decided to try my hand at one. I'd also been thinking about how nice it would be for my students to be able to listen to me read passages from the stories that I use regularly in class for reading practice. I've developed some quizzes (using for certain motivational stories that are featured in "Everyday Heroes" (Beth Johnson, Townsend Press) so I assign the same stories every semester. Once a week, I have "reading time" where I read paragraphs aloud so students can listen for pronunciation (They only listen, I read and then discuss vocabulary and content paragraph-by-paragraph). Unfortunately, students who are absent miss out and I never repeat myself due to time considerations. It's always bothered me that the students don't get to hear the paragraphs as many times as they need to really grasp the pronunciation. (From what I've been reading about the latest learning theories, repetitive listening is important.) Sooooo, to make a long story short, I finally put into action some thoughts that had been bouncing around in my head.

I downloaded AUDACITY and a separate associated program called LAME MP3 ENCODER (the Audacity website explains everything) so I could record passages. I had seen lots of demonstrations of how easy it is to use at the CUE 2007 conference, TESOL 2007 and CATESOL 2007, and indeed, it really is easy to use. (Make sure the microphone is working, click on record, click on stop recording, trim the ends using a simple editing button, click on "export as MP3", save the file to a location on your computer and voila! you've created an MP3!)

I signed up for a free wiki at pbwiki (stands for peanut butter wiki because they say creating a wiki is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich) and created a wiki page for the class. I uploaded the MP3 files of the first paragraphs I recorded directly to the page in paragraph order. (Also easy: click on "attach file", find the file, upload it, etc.)

I signed up at Gcast for a free podcasting service. I uploaded the same MP3 files to my podcast page there so that they can be downloaded to student's devices or computers. (Same story here: click on "upload new audio", find the file, upload it, wait a few minutes and refresh the page and your podcast is ready.)

So it's a start! I have three paragraphs done and available at this moment and hope to get the entire first story completed this week! Please check everything out at the following URL's!

My new wiki page is at

Mr. Bakin's ESL podcast is at

I'm using both because podcasts are displayed in reverse order and I'm not sure if that can be changed, whereas I can display the listings for each paragraph in page and paragraph order on the wiki very easily.

It's now 4:45 p.m. and I've been at this since about 1:30, but that includes downloading all of the software, reading about how to use it, recording three separate paragraphs, uploading them to both websites, and writing and editing this blog post! The nice thing of course is that the reading passages will be available for students to listen to on their own time. I'm hoping that at least some of them will be sitting on the bus sometimes, the text open in front of them, reading along as they listen....

1 comment:

Larry Ferlazzo said...

Thanks for pointing out TheStudyPlace in your post (and I think you did the same on a listserv email). It looks like a good resource.