Thursday, 24 June 2010

Incorporating more audio in lessons

I've recently delivered some m-learning sessions at my MoLeNET colleges and one thing that really sticks in people's minds is how easy it is to create an audio recording using ipadio. With ipadio (, you simply create an account and register your phone. You are provided with a code (to prevent others from ringing up and using your ipadio account) and you simply call the ipadio number wherever you are and create a podcast. (Dave Sugden was the first person I knew to use this service.)
What makes a podcast different from an audio file on your computer, is the fact that a podcast is an audio file that is delivered via an RSS feed to someone's computer. So ipadio makes a recording that is on the web straight away, whereas using software like Audacity means that you have the audio file, but you then need to do something with the audio file to get it out to your audience.
In terms of mobile recording of audio, another good solution is Audioboo which works on the iPhone. This makes a recording on the iPhone which is then uploaded via wifi or 3G to your audioboo account on the web.  (, thanks to James Clay for highlighting this one many moons ago)
Many blog sites make it very easy to embed audio into a post. One thing I've done recently at home is to make a recording using the iPhone's native voice recorder (voice memo) and then emailing the file to This means my .m4a file on my iPhone becomes an mp3 on the web, making it much more accessible to a wide audience, and again, making an offline file into an online one. This is also possible using the native voice recorders on other smartphones - the key is having internet or email access to send the file up to a blog site like Another method is to use dictaphones and to upload the files on to a blog or to a podcast site like
If you're recording using a pc or mac, then you have some software options like audacity. One downside to Audacity is that you have to download the program from one site, then download the lame.dll from another site to ensure you have the mp3 option. If you create an account on, you can download a free simple podcast recorder that has a more user-friendly interface and after the recording, your sound file is published to your account. With Audacity, you have to decide where to send the file. Some people upload it to a moodle, but this isn't podcasting and the file doesn't stream over the net either. The learner ends up downloading the file in order to listen to it, and has to know where the file is to transfer it to an mp3 player. So for simplicity and ease of use for both learners and tutors, I would recommend:
1. ipadio (if you can put up with phone call quality audio)
2. audioboo
3. record on mobile + email to blog
4. record on computer + automatic file upload to podcast account
5. record on computer + manual upload/email to blog/podcast site.

When using methods 4 and 5, this gives you a little less flexibility in the classroom as you will have a mic attached to a computer to make that recording. A mobile device can easily be passed around the class, allowing you to create more interesting podcasts, engaging the learner in the process. One way to get around being tied to the pc at the front, is to pair it up with a Bluetooth headset, and then to pass the headset around like a mic for recording. I have managed to do this quite successfully a few times in training sessions.

Audacity does give you a lot of options for editing your sound files. You can cut out any unwanted sounds, enhance the audio, add a musical intro or jingle or even have that running in the background if relevant. You do have to find some copyright-free music to use, though, and I would recommend searching on for these. Another good thing about using Audacity or Podcast Recorder is that the application can run off usb sticks, so you can bring the recording software with you anywhere you go and use it on various machines.

On my Mac, I find Garageband is the best native application for recording my podcast. I have built-in options for jingles and sound effects and there are fool-proof settings for recording a male or female voice, music etc. On top of that, there is the option to create an enhanced podcast which works like a slideshow with audio on the right mp3 players (like the ipod nano, iTouch or iPhone). My learning journey on this is recorded here:

It's possible to do this on Windows machines as well and I have to thank @mrmackenzie and @damoward for their help via Twitter on a Saturday night for their support!

So, all the above is the basics of what to use to record audio in a lesson. What are some of the ideas for using audio? Deep breath.. I think I'll leave that for another post!