As a foreign language teacher, I’ve always struggled with evaluating my students’ pronunciation. Not so much the evaluating part, but more with the logistics of it all. That is, until I learned about the tools I’ll talk about in this post. Before that, one option was to have each student talk in front of the class and I had to write everything down as quickly as I could. Actually, that was the only real option for me because I’ve never had tape recorders in my classroom. The problem was that I couldn’t write and listen at the same time. So, I usually I listened and then assigned a grade without writing any notes. That’s fine until a student asks why he got a certain grade. I could never point to anything specific.
This is a really good example of technology making things easier. Now students can record themselves using a variety of tools. All of which allow me to listen as many times as I need to and play the recording back to the student if necessary. Also, it removes the stress for students who have a hard time speaking in front of others.
I tried the digital route on and off over the years. Always with GarageBand. The students liked it, but it seemed a little too complicated for small tasks like a homework assignment. The students had to export the file to a specific format, then figure out how to hand it in. It just wasn’t simple enough.
That’s why I like Google Voice so much. From a student’s point of view, it’s as simple as it gets. Call a number, leave a message, hang up. From a teacher’s point of view, it’s a little more of a process. It’s still pretty simple: set up a free Google Voice account. It’s well worth the extra five seconds though. With Google Voice, you can group your students and leave them specific messages or ask them for specific information. This alone makes it a great tool many disciplines. Plus, it transcribes all the messages. It’s especially amusing for me to see how Google tries to transcribe Spanish. One thing that could be considered a downfall is the lack of any editing ability. The student only gets one chance. There are a lot of possibilities with this tool, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, give it a shot.
Another really simple tool is Vocaroo.com. It’s very basic, but it works. Students go the the website, record themselves, then send the recording to anyone they want. They can send a link or use the html code to post it somewhere. Students can re-record if they aren’t happy with their recording, so it may be a better choice for longer assignments. There’s not a lot to it, but, as I said, it works pretty well and it’s not distracting to the students.
The last site is Voki.com. This site is probably the most fun to use. Basically, students create their own avatar, record themselves, then watch the avatar say what they’ve recorded. There are also a few options as to how students record themselves. They can record through their computer, type what they want their avatar to say, or record themselves by telephone. The sharing options are very similar to Vocaroo, the student can email a link or use html code. Another cool thing about Voki is that students can type a message and have it read back to them in a variety of different accents. This can be a great way for Spanish students to hear all the different varieties of Spanish from around the world. I would recommend giving your students plenty of time to play around. They naturally focus more on designing the avatar than recording themselves. Keeping them engaged is not an issue with this tool!
Thanks for reading! Please let me know if I’ve missed something. Also, please let me know of similar tools you’ve experimented with.