Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Hoarse Whisperer

Sounding recording in classrooms is a problem.
In ‘Teaching Media in Primary Schools’ I shared the approach I use for making sound recordings with a whole class. In short it’s this:
Set up a microphone (plugged in to your laptop/PC) on a boom in front of a semi-circle of four or five students chairs and in front of your whiteboard. Display the Audacity interface on the board while you are recording. Seat the rest of the students together so that they can see the proceedings. Starting at one end of the semi-circle record each child in turn, each one swinging the microphone to their neighbour when finished. Repeat the process as often as necessary.  The entertainment value of watching their peers ‘perform’ and seeing their voices appearing as waveforms on the board as they speak is sufficient to keep a whole class (of even young children) quiet for a considerable period.

However, it’s important for individuals to do their own recordings too, but until this week I had no completely satisfactory solution to getting recordings from a class of children working on their own projects.
The main two approaches I’ve tried are:
  • Class silent while recording in progress. Theoretically simple but difficult to maintain for an extended period. Students recording tend to feel self-conscious - “everybody’s listening to me”. Recorders finish at different times and since swapping round is noisy you have to wait for the slowest to finish.   It’s hard for the normal work of a class to proceed.
  • Leaving the classroom with equipment (voice recorder or laptop with microphone) and “ finding a quiet corner”. This works, sometimes. But it can be really difficult to find a quiet corner - especially if you work in a tupperware box (aka portacabin school) as we do. Quiet corners are also very tempting places for a quiet chat.
So it’s with enormous pleasure I can announce a Workable Solution He pauses for 
Drum Roll.egg on Aviary.
Sadly, since this was posted the Aviary suite of creative tools has gone off line - boo-hoo

Sound Warning posterClass Whispering.

The whole class stays in the same room and carries on with normal work but everyone whispers - including the teacher.  Ensure students know when it is their turn to record and make sure that they will not be recording at the same time as someone sitting next to them. Recording is carried out close to the mike in a low voice. Demonstrate how to do this – recording with your mouth close to the microphone but slightly averted to avoid ‘popping’. Show them how to monitor their voice level if using Audacity. I also put a poster on the outside of my classroom door, slightly overhanging the door handle – feel free to download a copy (double-click/right-click/Save Picture)

I asked one of my ICT classes to help. We modelled a real-life situation - 5 people recording, everyone else whispering. The microphone is a Logitech USB Desktop microphone. I recorded using the excellent Mynah from the Aviary suite which gives you embed code for your own player, like the ones above and below. Listen and see what you think

hoarse mynah.egg on Aviary.
see comment on link above

Students treat class whispering as a game and once they see the point can maintain it for a considerable period. In fact they rapidly become peer monitors - theatrically sssshhhing when someone forgets themself.
The only drawback I’ve found is that the increased air speed over the larynx tends to dry your throat - and you thought the title of this piece was just a gratuitous pun. Shame on you.