Audio Resources for pedagogy and research


I find audio-recording and -delivery technology increasingly useful for teaching. I have used audio in research and fieldwork (as well as studio teaching) for decades, but since the advent of the mp3 and of computer-based audio recording I increasingly use audio for pedagogy as well. Reading notes, comments on projects, editorial discussion of prose texts all seem to translate reasonably well--though of course with their own individual necessary adaptations--from the visual to the audio medium. Students consistently and overwhelmingly state that they actually prefer audio to printed commentary (evidence of age-based cognition gap--I find audio confusing, nowhere near as useful or clear as print. To each generation its own medium).

I use an iPod with a small iMic (powered microphone) to record audio live (performances, interviews, etc). The iPod or other mp3 recorder is very convenient, as it is small, portable, self-powered, records directly to a computer format requiring no conversion, and typically has all kinds of add-ons which enhance its usefulness: the iMic is one such. I formerly employed a Sony minidisc recorder, which is still much better fidelity, but suffers because it records audio, and that audio then has to be exported (in real time) to the computer for conversion to mp3.

For recording directly to the computer, I have a Logitech headset microphone which lets you both listen and record speech simultaneously. This makes editing, podcasting, etc a little easier. But you can use a ten-dollar lapel mic from Radio Shack with the same fidelity--just not so convenient.

The software I use to record on the computer is free shareware: Audacity, available as a free download at http://sourceforge.net. This lets you build multi-tracks, mix tracks together, edit, overlap, signal-process, etc, and then save the file either as a work-in-progress, a .wav file (suitable for burning to audio CD), or as an mp3 (slightly lower fidelity, but much smaller and easier to work with).

In all cases, mp3 audio files can be emailed to students, embedded on course websites or blogs, and made available via WebCT for streaming and/or download. For the iPod/on-demand generation, this audio technology is proving to be a remarkably efficient and effective pedagogical tool.