Get over the sound of your voice

When we are asking teachers to make videos for a flipped classroom we are asking them to confront something which is common – the dislike of the sound of their own voice. This is sufficient to create a major block in producing these videos competently or even comfortably. Cyberspace’s answer to that is – Get over it! That simple. Just do it and get over it. You need tips and tricks, though. When you confront a roadblock to learning and productivity you need the stepping stones to get you onto solid ground. Shannon Hernandez (@ShanJHernandez) was an English teacher. He knows what it’s like in a classroom. He knows that vocal confidence is something you can work on  which is invaluable and, as an ex-teacher, he knows how to get you to move forward. His site Shannon J. Hernandez gives ideas and support for podcasts ,recordings and other things digital. He works in radio and he has worked on his voice so that it now is something which allows him to go online and help others. As I said previously, one of my aims this year is to create much better videos. That doesn’t just happen. I have to work on the things which will get me there. One of those things is my voice. I do hate the sound of my voice on video. So Shannon suggests recording yourself into your phone regularly. He suggests listening back. You create a learning feedback loop for yourself which allows you to do something practical but then notice. I should have thought of that myself. I’m a French teacher. Languages classes are always getting students to record and playback their voices. We are always working on articulation, facial expressions, voice exercises. It took Shannon to make me notice and realise I can apply that to myself. I have watched my students become confident and capable language users because we record and play back. It will apply to me, too. My firsts steps then will be:

1. Record myself on a regular basis
2. Play back and notice what I can improve
3. Speak clearly
4. Focus on the message
5. Use headphones

I can do that!

I have a plan

telligamiNothing like a full on, steam rising off keyboard session of #aussieED PD to get the thoughts and ideas flowing. Last Sunday’s session was whizzing by and the amount of energy created would probably have lit up Sydney for the night. For me, it unblocked at least one area of thought where I was stumped and couldn’t find a way forward. Having done that I magically unlocked a second baffling stuck thought. Conversations work. PLNs are life blood and it’s being with empathetic people of your own kind which help you solve problems and create growth in your thinking. Teachers need time to talk! As we chat on #aussieED a lot of side conversations take place and often these resolve issues for people or , at least, allow them to see a path they can follow. For a year now I have sat and wondered what I’d make a video about as a teacher and then, I had done all that work on podcasts and I can’t think of anything to podcast about. Still can’t. That one may remain a mystery for longer. In the meantime, more and more and more and more information has come out about data retention. Enough to make me not want to put my voice and self online incase they pop up somewhere unexpectedly.Nor do I want anyone trawling through my voice  or videos recordings which I have not published…because, basically, they are mine. There’s another issue, though, and I was not alone in that one. I don’t think I am the right person for a video or a voice recording. Some people are naturals at it and some people can learn it but some things can’t change easily. My voice cannot change. I do not like the sound of my recorded voice. I don’t like how I am on video. I have taught enough students to know that some students are just brilliant at video. Others are brilliant at voice tasks. We all have our shiny bits. So Sarah (@sarahtirtilas) suggested Tellagami to me as a way around this dilemma of mine when we were tweeting out our #aussieED answers. I vaguely remembered Tellagami from my year 8 class last year but the students had favoured Puppet Pals and Sock Puppets so we didn’t pursue Tellagami. I have downloaded the free app and dressed my avatar but got no sound when I was recording. That may change because sometimes apps need to settle in. It may not, but still, I shall pursue this and now know I have a way forward with some aspects of what I could do in terms of a voice and video recording. I can put this into iMovie too and enhance it. As I play with that I now have an idea for something I really could do as a video . Not for French. There are millions of good quality online resources for teaching French . I supplement  these with content movies and animated presentations. No. I am going to do something for English. This where the #aussieED PLN broke my stuck thinking. I was thinking French . I was thinking my own voice. #aussieED asked us to think of good activities we had done before which always worked. As it happens , I have a poetry one. I probably won’t use Tellagami for that, but Tellagami will suit other things and a voice synthesiser is what I need to use if I am not happy with my voice. Toys ot play with and things to do. Happy now.

Sound improvement

I didn’t have it  quite right with the connections from my mixer to my computer. What an improvement! This video demonstrates a very similar mixer to my own. The instructions are simple and you understand how to connect this device properly. There are more complicated mixers and I might be interested in one of those down the track, but for now, my little mixer is sufficient for me and what I want to do. It has made a vast improvement to my voice recordings. I still have to thank Travis Townsend and his excellent video for getting me on the right track in the first place. You Tube is where I always end up if I am trying to do something since I am a visual learner and I am always better if I can see what needs to be done and if I can hear someone explaining the reasons why. If I put that together with my own knowledge I am then able to take big steps forward. There are some easy things you can do to improve sound quality. One of my best investments was the dynamic microphone. I can get a pretty good sound with my headset and microphone but it nowhere near compares with the clarity and quality of a dynamic microphone. The are some sound tips on Top Ten Reviews for improving audio quality in voice recordings. One of the things I have learnt about myself is that I cannot just talk into a microphone. I talk easily in face to face or   phone contexts but when I have to talk into the faceless, voiceless void I find it hard. I shall improve the more I do it. At the moment I put a little list together so I sequence my ideas properly. I have then learnt the important skill of how to delete silences and unnecessary bits in a voice recording. That in itself makes for a better recording. I have noticed my students are very thorough when it comes to voice recording. They prepare carefully and they will rerecord things to get a better version of their task. The repetition helps them to retain content.With the information I have learnt I can shortcut some of that for them and one of the things I’ll be looking for or making is a checklist/running sheet for voice recordings. It would be the equivalent of a story board but needs to be simpler or it would interrupt the speech flow.

Sound progress

recording Progress! I have my own little sound studio which packs up under my arm to put away and then I have the lite version with just a headset and microphone. The learning journey has been worth it already:

1. I can make MP4 videos with clear sound
2. I can make very clear voice recordings
3. I can do clever things like play with peak and clearing pops and clicks
4. I did not have to spend a fortune to achieve this
5. My learning path is now very clear

From all of this I am now in a better position to help students with sound recordings. I am a French teacher. It is important we can get clear sound on our audio tracks, particularly if they are for external assessment. I have to say I have found Wave Pad has accelerated my learning because as software it is just so helpful. It is software I shall be able to grow into and learn more with. The free version is more than adequate but the added extras with the paid version are worth it when you have a better understanding of what you need. With the free version I’ll be able to get students to improve the quality of their recordings which are often too soft or muffled. I have progressed to putting voice recordings into little videos with other sound effects and music because that will be the creative side of all this learning. I have proven you do not actually have to learn much, as it turns out, in order to improve what you are doing with sound. What has taken me so long is learning what I needed and why and then how to put it all together. Even at this early stage I feel confident enough to use my sound knowledge in class and put it to good use. Can only get better from here.

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