Speaking and writing in the target language are two fundamental goals of the World Languages Department. To that end, our 5th grade Spanish students maintain a class blog (hosted by MICDS and powered by WordPress MU) where they can showcase their language skills. For their first exercise, each student posted a letter that included an audio recording created using Audacity. These posts will, over time, become a portfolio of the students’ progression in Spanish.
Blogging, even without audio, can be an effective and engaging instructional strategy. To get started with your students, you’ll need a blog platform, recording software, and a method for embedding the audio in the blog post. Here are some free and simple suggestions:
- Class Blogmeister. Created as a blogging platform specifically for educators, this free service will get you and your students blogging in no time. An added bonus to this service is that it is rarely blocked by school filters due to it’s specific safety features.
- Edublogs. Another blogging platform made just for educators, this service is based on WordPress, so comes with all the features of WordPress. Another benefit of Edublogs is the short and simple URLs for the blogs that make it easy to share with parents.
- WordPress. Get a free blog with WordPress and you will also have access to plenty of tools such as spellcheck, integrated stats tracker, and spam protection. This is one of the more popular blogging platforms.
- Blogger. Another popular blogging publisher, Blogger is teamed up with Google and offers lots of tools to make your blogging experience easier. You will need a Google account to create a blog with these folks.
- TypePad. TypePad lets you select from thousands of designs and has lots of widgets, custom banners, and more. However, this service is not free. You can take advantage of a free trial before you decide to pay the low monthly fee or annual subscription, though.
Once the blog is created, each student will need to be added as a blog author. To manage posts and facilitate accountability, each student can also be listed as a blog category. When a piece is written, the student posts it to his/her category; with one click the teacher (or anyone reading the blog) can see the student’s entire body of work.
Audio Recording: Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Although any simple recording program will suffice, the ability to edit can significantly improve the final product, especially for students who struggle with pronunciation. To export the recording as an .mp3 requires the use of the free LAME encoder, and installation instructions are available here.
Embedding Audio: Being able to listen to audio without needing an external player improves the overall blog experience. The WordPress Audio Player plugin is easy for students to use and only requires Flash to play. If your blog platform does not include a tool for embedding audio, you can explore several mp3 players at Digital Inspiration.
A Word About Commenting
Having students read, listen to, and comment on each others work should be encouraged if not required. A few minutes spent discussing proper commenting (i.e. digital etiquette) is definitely time well spent. In addition, you may wish to disable comments from outside readers and/or require comment moderation. Don’t let fears of improper behavior keep your class from blogging; be proactive, instructive, and you’ll be amazed at what your students can do!