Monday, 7 April 2014

Using Vocaroo with Language Students

The simplicity of Vocaroo. Useful audio recording tool for language students.

I've revised this post to include a serious of step-by-step instructions for using Vocaroo. I prepared these for some students and thought I'd upload the screenshots here rather than losing them in the depths of my Mac.

Vocaroo is a web-based tool, it's user-friendly and free. I always ask students to use their tool of preference but not all have applications on their laptops, mobiles or tablets that we can use for language learning. The advantages of Vocaroo are its ease of use; no need to sign up; sharing possibilities and the ability to download in several formats. I download files as an MP3 and archive these for  analysis and as a means of tracking students' progress. I've included a link to the British Council website which will take you to a short video demonstrating how to use Vocaroo. They've also provided a lesson plan which can of course be adapted to suit your own teaching context. Russell Stannard has also just recently uploaded a video about Vocaroo to his Teacher Training website. And by the way his site is a great place to check out how to use other online tools. There are also numerous videos on You Tube which you may find helpful.

As a private language teacher, who teaches English virtually via Skype, I'm a true fan of audio tools. I find them extremely useful within my teaching context for providing oral feedback; setting tasks; pronunciation practice; dictation practice; checking on comprehension and as a tool for individual and collaborative work. From this perspective, it's easy to comprehend how a tool of this kind can be used flexibly, creatively and effectively within the context of language teaching and learning. For a few further suggestions, take a brief look at my earlier posts concerning Voxopop, when I was discussing core tools for Skype teaching and 5-minute activities.

Audio tools are also a simple and effective means of asynchronous communication. Personally, I enjoy sending and receiving  audio messages both privately and within my working context. I find there's less room for ambiguities, such as those that can occur in written communication. The added advantage of prosodic features, such as stress and intonation in oral communication can help alleviate the issue of misinterpretation. Given that intonation can be attributed important functions such as attitudinal, grammatical and accentual, it's not surprising that it's sometimes easier to draw more and perhaps precise meaning from the spoken word: a point that is worth considering in the case of language learners. Of course, with lower level students we have to take into consideration that more errors will be made in comparison to higher level language students. I'm certain that we've all got numerous anecdotes to share about students saying one thing whilst meaning another. A misplaced stress or incorrect intonation will impact on what is being said and consequently what is being understood. I suppose there really in some truth in the saying, 'It's not what you say, but how you say it.'

Enough chatting, let's get on with the step-by-step guide to using Vocaroo:

Step 1: Click on this link and follow the instructions in Steps 2 - Step 8. The images below are not interactive. These steps should be carried out on your screen.

Link to Vocaroo:

Step 2: Click on the red dot as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1

 Step 3: You’ll see the following image. Click on allow so Vocaroo can access your microphone.

Figure 2

Step 4:This image will appear on your screen and you are now ready to record.

Figure 3

Step 5: Listen to your recording. If you’re satisfied, move on to Step 6, otherwise click retry and record again. 

Figure 4

Step 6: Save your recording as shown below.

Figure 5

Step 7: Click on Email

Figure 6

Step 8: And finally, complete the boxes 1-4 as illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 7

It's that simple. Your student's recording will arrive in your mail and when you click on the link you'll be taken to the Vocaroo site where you can listen to it. You'll then have the possibility of downloading it to your own files, in the format of your choice.

I've embedded the Vocaroo widget in the left hand column of this blog. You can't send messages from this widget, but it'll give you a taste of what it's like to record your voice and how you sound. 
If it's a tool that you feel is appropriate for your teaching or learning context then visit the Vocaroo site and try it out.

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