Posts tagged voice

Podcasting with Language Learners

At the Little POdcast Logo Thingend of 2011 I travelled up to Innsbruck, Austria to do some teacher training for one of the top language schools there, Die Sprache. We looked at a number of handy ICT tools for language teachers, with a focus on Podcasts. I thought I would share the slides from our training session here on the blog, so that other teachers who are thinking of using pod casts with language learners can take a look through and get a few useful hints and tips.

The presentation is basically broken down into three sections:

  • The first is a quick run through of what pod casts are and why they are (a really good) tool, suitable for language learners.
  • In the second section we look at podcasts used for active listening practice. Personally I think the fact that there are so many different topics of podcast available, as well as those made specifically for language learners, means that there are a great way of introducing regular listening practice to your learners.
  • Then the third and final part of our workshop looked at using the brilliant Open Source sound recording software, Audacity. At first sight audacity can be a bit intimidating. I don’t really mind admitting that I only ever use about 5% of Audacity’s capabilities, but the ability to edit and mix sound recordings really make your recordings sound more professional. At the end of the day I’ve used Audacity with a class full of 15-year-olds, and it went very smoothly. A surefire sign of simple software.

Please feel free to take a look through the slides, and even share them with your colleagues if you wish. If you have any questions or if anything is not quite clear, please do ask any questions in the comment section below (these slides are of course designed to be used in a face-to-face seminar with me present, online they lose something.) Of course, if you would like me to come to your school to deliver this seminar in person, just drop me a line for a quote:

Twitter: @sethdickens
email: i n f o (a t) d i g i t a l a n g . c o m

Finally, I promised the teachers at Die Sprache who taught languages other than English, that I would find a few podcasts suitable for them. I didn’t find a great deal of sites, but here’s what I’ve found so far:

Radio Lingua Language-learning – Possibly the best group of language learning podcasts I’ve seen yet!

Schlaflos in München – der Podcast mit Annik Rubens – A very classy podcast from Munich. – Andreas Auwerter’s Posdast

Podcasting for Learning » Zwei neue Interviewpartner im Bidcast online – Andreas Auwerter’s blog about podcasting
In addition to these links, I also have a list of links that (might) useful for teaching German and Spanish on my Delicious account:

If you know of any more links good for teaching these languages, please do let me know in the comments.


Fring for Teaching?

Fring – Skype calls and more from mobile phones

Many language teachers who use ICT and web 2.0 technology in their lessons , especially those involved in distance learning, will be aware of Skype. It’s a handy way to make calls to many countries around the world at rock bottom prices (as low as €0.017 per minute, pretty good heh?) What’s more, if you and your friends all have Skype on your computers, you can chat for free for as long as you want.

I’m sure lots of teachers have also heard of Gmail and the Google Talk service that Google provide too. Twitter is another useful tool for teaching up and coming service that many people have been talking about recently.

“Eh, so what’s all this then, a list of silly names?” I hear you ask 🙂 No, nothing that droll.

Fring is a wonderful little program that combines all of these chat tools (or silly names depending on your point of view) together in one place. What’s more that place is your mobile phone.

“What?! My mobile phone? With Skype, Google Talk etc all installed on it?”

Yep, absolutely. No more expensive mobile phone voice calls, no more over priced sms and what’s more you can have proper text chats just like you do with MSN messenger etc (which btw is also included in Fring.) Now hang on, is this too good to be true? Well, if you have a 5 year old mobile phone, it might just be. If, however, you have a newer “Symbian” phone or a fancy iPhone (as I think the lucky Carla Arena has) you will be able to use Fring.

“So how do I find out if I can use this Fring thing with my phone?”

Fring has actually been around for more than a year now and is slowly, but surely increasing in popularity. There are many more phones that can now use Fring, and they aren’t actually all the most high tech, whizz-bang models. Have a look at this list of Fring phones to see if yours is on it. There are loads of them from many of everyday manufacturers, not just the fancy iPhone types too! 🙂

“Wow, my phone is on the list, surely there must be a catch somewhere?”

Actually yes, there is. Fring uses the data connection on your phone (your phone’s internet connection.) If you pay a lot for the amount of data you use on you phone, Fring is not for you. However, f you have a free (or cheap) data plan, or if you have a wifi connection on your mobile (like the iPhone) then Fring could be a great idea for you.

Fring for Teaching?

Imagine all the things you or your students could do with Fring. You could organise quick and simple conference calls no matter where you are (no waiting by the computer just to chat to your students.) You could organise regular 10 minute text chat sessions with your students, again you could be anywhere to do this (teaching English from the pub is closer to becoming a reality!) Fring is also slowly starting to introduce file sharing via your mobile too, so you could send a picture or Powerpoint file to your students pre-lesson, then get them to discuss it in a group text chat.

I’ve been using Fring for almost half a year now and I’ve had no problems with it at all. There are two things that I love about Fring: the fact you aren’t tied to a computer and the fact that it rolls so many chat and voice services into one. I’m sure it will take a little while for us to regularly start using it with our students, but in the meantime it’s a great gadget for us cash-strapped tech-teachers to enjoy!

Do post a note here if you try using Fring on your mobile. I’d love to hear of anyone who’s used it with their students too!
All the best,

Voicemail in your blog – Get A Buz

For a While now I’ve been thinking of different ways that students can have asynchronous voice conversations outside the classroom. I’m convinced that this would help a lot of my adult learners to improve their English more quickly, as IMHO it’s the short, weekly exposure to a foreign language that they get in traditional 1.5 hour lessons that is holding them back. If they could get online a couple of times a week and take part in an asynchronous conversation, a bit like an oral blog, I’m sure that it would help them to recall more vocabulary, create interest in what they are learning and give them a focus for their studies.

I wrote a while back about a great called Evoca. But it is a bit labour intensive, requiring the Evoca account holder (the busy teacher) to manually embed the code for any replies they got to their voicemails if they wanted to share them with the rest of the class. This led to me not using Evoica that much after first discovering it.

“Get A Buz,” despite it’s silly name, provides bloggers, MySpace users, and in general anyone with a website to include a voicemail type of widget, that would allow a teacher, or one of the students, to start off a discussion. Other class members can then listen in their own time to the discussion and then add their comments. All of this happend automatically, with the teacher only having to upload the code to the blog once, and then they can simply follw the discussion and reply to their students wherever relevant.

Here’s an example of a “Get A Buz” plugin below. Click on the “Hear My Message” to listen to my recording, then please feel free to leave me a reply too:

The things I like about “Get A Buz” are:

  • It’s a great way to get students speaking L2 outside the classroom. This will be really valuable to them IMHO.
  • It’s pretty straightforward to use. As long as you know how to embed a bide of HTML in your blog page you can use it.
  • Once you have set it up, it “Just Works” there is no need to perform ongoing maintenance on it.

The things I don’t like are:

  • You only get 3, free “Buzzes” per account. This means that you can’t start new discussions over and over again without either paying, or re-registering.
  • With large classes the conversation threads could become a bit lost and it might be difficult to follow who is following who.
  • It’s not possible to get rid of one “pre installed” introductory voicemail which is essentially just an advert.
  • Most Importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of notification / RSS feed etc to let the teacher and students know when a new comment has been left. This could be a a bit of a pain if the teacher has to check the site for new messages.

All told, I think Get A Buz is a cool little tool to use, especially as it’s very straightforward to set up. If anyone uses this, or any tools like it, leave me a comment to let me know what you do with it. I’d love to exchange teaching tips!


Update: Be aware! Get a Buz allows you to create up to three different personalised “greetings” for your voicemail, but each and every voicemail player will record and play the same messages.

In other words if you want to use Get A Buz with more than one class of students, make sure you get several accounts with Get A Buz and use a different account with each class. Otherwise all your messages from all your different classes will become mixed together as one (as has just happened to me!)


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