Thursday, September 15, 2022

Synth is Shutting Down to Focus on Focusable - Other Audio Recording Tools to Try

Synth is a podcasting tool that I've used and shared with countless teachers since 2018. Unfortunately, as the title of this post states, the owners of Synth are shutting it down to focus on their new service called Focusable (a cool service that I'll be writing more about in the next issue of the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter). According to the email sent to users last night, Synth will be shutting down on October 13th. 

If you find yourself now looking for some alternatives to Synth, here are my suggestions for tools to try. 

Simple Audio Recording Tools

I've been using Vocaroo for more than a decade. It's incredibly simple to use. Just head to the site, click the record button, and start talking. When you're finished recording hit the stop button. You can listen to your recording before downloading it as an MP3. If you don't like your recording you can create a new one by just refreshing the homepage and starting again.

Online Voice Recorder offers the same simplicity of Vocaroo plus a couple of features that I've always wished Vocaroo had. One of those features is the ability to pause a recording in progress and resume it when I want to. The other feature is the option to trim the dead air at the beginning and end of a recording.

Twisted Wave
Twisted Wave offers many more features than either of the tools mentioned above. But at it's most basic level you can still just head to the site, launch the recorder, start talking, and then export your recording as an MP3 all without creating an account on the site. For those who are looking for a way to save audio directly into Google Drive, Twisted Wave offers that capability. 

Watch this video for a short overview of all three of the services mentioned above. 


Anchor is a simple and free platform for recording, editing, and distributing podcasts. Recording on Anchor can be as simple as just holding down the record button on your phone or on your laptop and then releasing it when you're done talking. Anchor lets you upload external audio files to include in your podcast. Finally, if you want to distribute your podcast to Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, Spotify (Anchor’s parent company) or any other large podcast networks, Anchor simplifies that process for you. Watch the video here to learn how to publish a podcast through Anchor.

Asynchronous Audio Conversations
Microsoft Flip made its name as a service for teachers and students to use to record and share short videos with each other. But there were some teachers and students who preferred not to appear on camera. To remedy that, for a few years I would recommend that people just cover the webcam when recording. But now Flip has an audio-only recording option. You'll find that option in the "options" menu that appears when you launch the recorder that is built into Flip. See the screenshot below to locate the audio-only option in Microsoft Flip.

Disclosure: The owner of Synth and Focusable is an advertiser on this site. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Three Audio Slideshow Video Projects for Students of All Ages

Tools like Adobe Express, Canva, and good ol' Animoto make it easy for students to quickly create videos. I often use these tools when introducing video production projects to teachers who have never attempted to have their students make videos. Here are three types of assignments that you can build around audio slideshow video tools.

Biographical/ Autobiographical Stories
Have students arrange a short audio slideshow about historical figures they're learning about in your classroom. Canva and Adobe Express offer built-in image search tools that makes it easy for students to find public domain or Creative Common-licensed pictures.

Have students tell short stories about themselves to introduce themselves to their classmates. Students can pull pictures from their personal cell phones or social media accounts to complete this project. (If social media is blocked in your school, ask students to download pictures at home and place them in a Google Drive or OneDrive folder to use in school).

Book Trailer Videos
In place of or in addition to a traditional book report have students create an audio slideshow video about books they've recently read. Students can use images they made or grab images from sites like Photos for Class and Pixabay to use in their videos. 

Video Timeline
Whether they're studying current events or historical events students can create video timelines by arranging images into a sequence that demonstrates the development of a significant event. Ask students to layer text onto their images to include dates and descriptions.

But it's too easy!

The knock against tools like these is that they make it "too easy" for students to make a video and that they don't learn anything by making videos through these tools. As with most things in the world of edtech it's not so much the complexity of the tool that matters, it's the assignment that you give to students that matters.

Moose Tracks and a Lesson on Eyes vs. Cameras

A couple of days ago I was walking down a trail to one of my favorite fishing spots in all of Maine. Along the trail I saw a bunch of moose tracks. I did my best to get a good picture of them. Unfortunately, like all pictures of moose tracks that I've taken over the years, the pictures I took didn't capture the size and detail of the tracks as I well as I would have liked. That frustration reminded me of a TED-Ed lesson that explains why our eyes see things differently than our cameras capture them. 

Eye vs. Camera is a fascinating TED-Ed lesson. In the lesson we learn why our eyes don't always see things the same way that they're captured with a camera. Through the lesson we learn how our eyes perceive and focus on colors compared to a camera. We also learn fun facts like why we can't watch our own eyes shift from side to side in a mirror. The full lesson can be seen here. The video is embedded below.

TED-Ed offers some resources to extend the lesson. Optical Illusions and Phenomena will show students more examples of how eyes perceive light and color differently than is captured by a camera. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

5 Little Things You Can Do To Improve Your Videos

Whether for it is for education or entertainment we are all watching more videos than ever before. We have more tools to record and share videos than ever before. With the tap of an app or click of a link, you and your students can be making videos to tell stories, teach lessons, or to simply entertain. But before your students make their next videos, have them review these five simple things they can do to make their videos better.

1. Make it short and sweet! Two minutes or less. 
It's better to have two videos that are each two minutes long than it is to have one video that is four minutes long. Don't believe me? Check out the research that Wistia published a few years back. Based on data from more than 500,000 videos played more than one billion times, Wistia determined that there is a significant drop-off in viewer engagement after the two minute mark.

2. Landscape, Landscape, Landscape!
Recording on a mobile phone? Turn your phone sideways to capture in a landscape view. We view the world in "landscape mode" so record it that way too. Or think of it this way, you watch your television in landscape mode so capture and publish your video that way too.

3. Background.
If you don't have the time or knowledge for using green screen techniques, pay attention to your background. Are you making a simple video announcement to post on your school's blog? If so, avoid using a plain white wall as your background so that it doesn't look like a hostage video. A bookcase can make a great background. Playground equipment can make a nice background too. Are you recording outside or near a window? If so, make sure you're not washing out your subject with too much background light.

4. Show us your eyes not your nostrils!
When recording with a webcam that is built into your laptop, elevate the webcam to at least eye level. Otherwise everyone is looking up your nose! I have three big books that I put under laptop when I host webinars and Facebook live sessions. On a related note, look at the camera instead of at your laptop's screen.

5. Filter your audio. 
Your phone's or your computer's built-in microphone might be fine for quick "selfie videos," but for other projects you should consider getting a nice external microphone. For under $50 you can get a nice, durable Snowball microphone to plug into your computer. It will filter wind and other background noise. There are plenty of external microphone options for cell phones too. I use one made by Insignia. For ease of use, I prefer an external microphone that plugs into your phone or computer directly rather than through a Bluetooth connection.

225 NASA Infographics

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory website contains a large library of infographics that you can download and print for free. The library contains infographics about spacecraft, exploration missions, planets, moons, the solar system, and comets. I downloaded the What is Comet Made Of? infographic that you see pictured below.

Applications for Education
If printed in color, these infographics could make a nice addition to your classroom walls. More importantly these infographics could provide a model for your students to follow as they create their own infographics about topics in space science.

Popular Posts