Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Use Text-to-Speech to Post Audio Messages on Your Blog

AudioPal is a free service that anyone can use to create short audio messages to embed into blog posts. AudioPal offers three way to create messages. You can record using the microphone connected to your computer. You can record by calling AudioPal's phone system. Or you can create a message by using AudioPal's text-to-speech function. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use AudioPal's text-to-speech function and how to embed your messages into your blog.

Applications for Education
AudioPal could be a good tool to use when you want students to create messages for an audio blog. I've used services like AudioPal to have students record and share short reflections on things that they learned during the school week.

AudioPal does require that you enter an email address in order to access the embed code and sharing links. If you're students don't have email accounts, you could set-up a classroom Gmail account (something like that all students enter. All of the AudioPal messages that your students create would then go to that one email account that you manage.

How Personal Impressions and News Reports Impact Our Thinking About Weather

Even 4WD trucks can get
stuck in the snow. 
Extreme is the word that local TV news stations like to use to describe this winter's weather in New England. There has been enough snow lately for the mayor to Boston to implore people to stop jumping out of windows into snowbanks. But is the weather pattern this winter really that "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The latest Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.

This kind of video is an excellent candidate to be used as part of flipped lesson. VideoNotes, Vialogues, and EDpuzzle are solid tools for hosting discussions around shared educational videos.

Speech to Text in Google Documents

Last week I published a list of ten good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons. This week through a Tweet by Jen Deyenberg I learned of another good one to add to the list.

Speech Recognition is a free Google Docs Add-on that will allow to you speak to create a document. Get the Add-on by selecting "Get Add-ons" from the Add-ons drop-down menu in a Google Document. After selecting the Speech Recognition Add-on enable the permissions then select "start." Once you've selected "start" a new menu will appear on the right side of your screen. Click the start icon again then start talking. The transcription happens almost instantly as you talk.

The Speech Recognition Add-on does have one major flaw. That flaw is that you cannot use voice commands to insert punctuation, indentations, or spacing. To insert those elements you will have to use your keyboard.

Some Relatively Easy Ways for Students to Create Podcasts

Last night I received the following questions in an email from a reader named Pat. I'm sure that Pat is not the only teacher to wonder about these questions so I've turned my answers into a blog post.

I would like to make a podcast where two students are debating a topic. Is this outdated? Is there another platform where we can put audio, possibly some pictures to go with a presentation? A place where students can access it without a log in or having to have an itunes account. Of course, no money and lots of things are blocked by big brother (district). I have some old PCs, one ipad, an iphone 5 and a MacBook Pro.

Podcasting is not outdated at all. In fact, it seems to be making a resurgence after a lull a couple of years ago. If you want to publish your podcasts on iTunes you will have to follow all of the steps that Apple has outlined here. If you simply want to create audio recordings and post them online (on your blog, website, or a service outside of iTunes) then the process is rather straight-forward.

Podcast creation with a MacBook Pro:
The obvious choice here is to use GarageBand if you have it installed. GarageBand costs $4.99 in the Mac Apps Store. Obviously, it's not free but I'm mentioning it because I know of a lot of schools that install GarageBand as part of an image they install before distributing MacBooks to teachers and students.

Podcast creation on MacBook or Windows PC:
If GarageBand is not available to you, try Ocenaudio. Ocenaudio is a free audio editing tool available to use on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. The free software enables you to create audio recordings from scratch and or edit existing audio files. Once the Ocenaudio software is installed on your computer (no registration is needed to download or install the software) you can start recording spoken tracks by pressing the red record button. After making your recording you can click and highlight any section of it to delete it or adjust its sound qualities. If you're looking to adjust the sound qualities and effects of an audio file, you will like the option to preview adjustments before applying them to a file. All files created and edited in Ocenaudio are saved to your computer.

Audacity is probably the best-known open-source audio editing tool available today. There is very little that Audacity cannot do in audio editing. The learning curve is a bit steeper than that of some other tools in this post, but with that steeper learning curve comes development of editing skills that you won't get from simpler tools. A complete set of Audacity tutorials can be found here.

Podcast creation with browser-based tools and mobile apps:
AudioBoom offers an easy way for teachers and students to create short audio recordings that are matched to images. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of AudioBoom to create a short audio recording. AudioBoom also offers free iPad, iPhone, and Android apps.

AudioBoom's education section is full of great examples of using the service in classrooms. is one of easiest-to-use audio recording tools that I've tried. To record on you simply go to the website and click the big record button (you may have to allow pop-ups in your browser in order for to access your microphone). When you're done recording click the share button and you'll be taken to a page on which you can download your recording or grab an embed code to post the recording on a blog. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use in your web browser. is also available to use as a free iOS app or as a free Android app.

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