This too shall pass…

My time has been short the past couple weeks, but my students have been creating a lot of great content.  They’ve also bombed out on a few things.  Last week my 8th graders were working on podcasts for our wave energy unit in physical science.  What started off promising ended as a big buzzkill.

Podcasting

With limited access to the lab and computers dying off in my room, we had to do everything in stages.  Two Fridays ago, the students wrote an essay (on paper) about the things they’d learned and the experiments we did for our wave energy unit.  In one experiment, we generated tones in audacity from 10-30,000 Hz and the students gave each other hearing tests using some borrowed iPods (see picture above).

On Monday, the students got to practice with Audacity in the lab while two students at a time recorded their essays on teacher laptops in another room.

On Wednesday, I uploaded their voice overs to my drop.io.

On Thursday (our next open day in the lab), the goal was for the students to edit and finish their podcasts (1-2 minutes).  Since all we had was audacity and a short time in the lab, I exported a bunch of sound effects and background tracks from Garageband.  I then uploaded these to google docs and shared them with the students.  Being able to upload any file to google docs was helpful because it made it easier for the students to download all the files (for use in Audacity) at once.  Unfortunately, Internet Explorer makes this a 20 step process due to all the permission pop ups and so forth.  This brought the operation to a crawl and prevented any real progress, so I had to rework the plan for Friday.

On Friday, I divided the class in two.  Half of them worked on an independent activity while I reviewed the basics of Audacity with the other half – then we switched places.  The students then headed to their computers class, where the computer teacher was nice enough to let them use the time to work on their podcasts.  Upon finishing, the students were supposed to export their song as a 128 kbps mp3, upload it to google docs, and share it with me.  This proved to be too many steps for most of the class and I ended up with only 4 of 14 shared to me in the proper format.  Of the 4, two used music from their own collections that I deemed inappropriate and 1 had several mistakes in his voice over that he didn’t edit out.

It was a lot of work with not a lot to show.  Though it wasn’t a total loss – the students know how to use Audacity and it led to a good discussion on appropriate use of music – it certainly wore me out.  It’s a new week though and we’re starting a new unit – so hopefully things will start looking up.

4 thoughts on “This too shall pass…

  1. I can certainly relate to frustration in podcasting and lack of equipment. One thing that I have found that sped up the process for me considerably was investing in four Olympus voice recorders. They have the usb and can be plugged directly into the port on your computer. You can then move all the voice files in this way. It is also faster and more convenient for the kids to record this way. Good luck on your next project. Don’t give up!!

  2. Ahh, we all have these stories of grand ideas that turn out to be a flop when actually put into action. It isn’t that they are bad assignments, the learning there is good. But sometimes the tech tools cause problems. For me it has been un-reliable technology or support or inconsistent ability to use the technology. These are always great learning experiences for me about how to do it differently next time. Each year of teaching I get better and better because I am constantly reevaluating the best way to accomplish a task. Projects that used to seem so hard are getting much easier and are even fun. I don’t feel so worn down at the end.

  3. I feel your pain with the computer scarcity. Much of my students’ learning takes place online, and yet we are using these “bricks” that take hours to warm up, and run quite slowly. Even though we are connected to the Supernet, sites run more like dial up. But you have given me some good ideas for student work.

  4. Wow! What a week of opportunities and obstacles. I am impressed at your desire to follow through with the project since you never know where it will take you. The conversations and learning that took place may not have been what you had planned, but it was a great opportunity for learning to take place. Seeing your flexibility and willingness to redo things probably taught a good lesson too! Good luck with your new unit. I can’t wait to read about what happens . . .

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